Thursday, May 08, 2008

ROUNDHOUSE ROUND-UP: FUN WITH ENDORSEMENTS

A version of this was published in The Santa Fe New Mexican
May 8, 2008


Gov. Bill Richardson has had his problems with the state Senate in recent sessions of the Legislature — not infrequently with senators who are, like Richardson, members of the Democratic Party.

But that’s not stopping the governor from helping several incumbent Democratic senators facing tough primary challengers.

And at least a couple of his state endorsements are bound to be unpopular with the Democratic Party’s progressive wing.

Stopped in the Roundhouse hall immediately after his appearance on Larry King Live on Monday night, the governor said he has endorsed several incumbent senators, including James Taylor and Shannon Robinson (both representing Albuquerque districts) as well as Carlos Cisneros of Questa. “I’m mainly helping with fundraising,” he said.

Why these candidates? “They seem to have the most contested primaries,” Richardson said.

The Cisneros primary hasn’t grabbed much statewide attention. The six-term Cisneros is being challenged by Archie Velarde and Erminio Martinez.

Taylor and Robinson have been targeted by liberal reformers who say the two are too conservative. Their challengers — Eric Griego and Tim Keller, respectively — have been endorsed by the Albuquerque-based Democracy for New Mexico blog as well as Conservation Voters New Mexico and several labor unions.
Sen. James Taylor
Taylor, a former majority whip in the House, was appointed to his seat by Richardson in 2004 to fill out the term of Manny Aragon, who left the Senate to become president of New Mexico Highlands University. At the time of the appointment, Richardson called Taylor “one of the best natural politicians in New Mexico.”

But Taylor is being challenged by someone who also has been appointed by Richardson to state office, former Albuquerque City Councilor Griego. In 2005, Richardson named Griego as assistant secretary of the state Economic Development Department. He worked there until last year, when he became executive director for New Mexico Voices for Children, an advocacy group that sometimes has been at odds with Richardson’s economic policies.
Sen. Shannon Robinson
Robinson and Richardson have crossed swords before. During the 2007 session, Robinson angrily withdrew as a sponsor of a Richardson-backed bill to create a new Media Arts and Entertainment Department. Robinson was upset because the governor had appointed former Secretary of State Rebecca Vigil-Giron as head of the state Film Museum. The bill withered and died, and Richardson eventually withdrew Vigil-Giron’s appointment.

But that’s apparently celluloid under the bridge. Recently Richardson appeared with Robinson at Highland High School in Albuquerque at a news conference about traffic safety.
Is that YOU, Richard?
Revenge of the Invisible Man: But one old Richardson legislative ally has decided to endorse Keller over Robinson. Former state Senate President Pro-tem Richard Romero said in a news release this week: “We need to send a true Democrat like Tim to the Roundhouse. I know where Tim stands — he’s ethical and competent.”

Romero never said anything like that about Robinson. In 2001, Romero’s first year in his leadership post after ousting Aragon from the pro-tem position, Robinson made a point of denouncing Romero nearly every day in overheated speeches on the Senate floor. Robinson mocked Romero as “The Invisible Man.”

The Heldmeyer endorsement: Former City Councilor Karen Heldmeyer might have left office in March, but she keeps her old constituents — and apparently reporters — updated on her activities with occasional mass e-mails. On Wednesday, she announced her support for Ben Ray Luján for the Third Congressional District Democratic primary.

“On the (Public Regulation Commission), he has worked for better consumer protection and increased use of alternative energies, work that has earned him the endorsement of the Sierra Club and the Conservation Voters of New Mexico,” Heldmeyer wrote. “Additionally, I have been impressed that he has bucked the old-time Democratic establishment on issues such as coal-fired electric plants and truly universal health care.”

But what was more interesting was Heldmeyer’s blistering rejection of Luján’s rival in the Democratic primary, Don Wiviott.
Don Wiviott, Dem
“Since Don has never been elected to office, the only thing I have to judge him on is his record as a businessman and a developer,” said Heldmeyer, who often voted against development projects while on the council.

“I have to say that I have frequently been appalled by the tactics he has used to push his developments through the city process,” Heldmeyer continued. “He is the master of misrepresentation, last minute bait-and-switch tactics, and manipulation. ... Don is among the worst of the worst. ‘Green development,’ for him, seems to be a business tactic that comes and goes depending on market forces, and there’s nothing wrong with that, but it’s not exactly an unwavering philosophy. The tactics he uses in business cause me to call into question the sincerity of all the statements he is making to put forward his candidacy.”

Heldmeyer didn’t share her opinions on Benny Shendo Jr., Harry Montoya or the other CD 3 candidates.

Wiviott’s campaign responded Wednesday, saying the candidate has worked for more than a decade in Santa Fe trying to improve the quality of life here. “Wiviott has made it a priority to work closely with community members and has redesigned his projects in response to neighborhood concerns. Wiviott is a firm believer in maintaining a constructive approach when it comes to problem solving and never believes in resorting to baseless personal attacks that slow progress. In Congress, Wiviott will bring people together, even those who disagree with him.”

But I’m guessing if Heldmeyer ever runs for office again, she won’t get a campaign contribution from Wiviott — unlike another former councilor, David Pfeffer. Wiviott’s $2,100 contribution to Pfeffer’s 2006 U.S. Senate race is still raising eyebrows among some Democrats, because Pfeffer was running as a Republican.

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