Thursday, June 05, 2008

ROUNDHOUSE ROUND-UP: SHIFTING SANDS

A version of this was published in The Santa Fe New Mexican
June 5, 2008


Could the fall of two longtime state senators from Albuquerque at the hands of self-proclaimed progressive reformers be the birth of a new Senate faction?

Eric Griego Self-proclaimed “Bull Moose” Democrat Shannon Robinson, who has been in the Senate for 20 years, lost by a huge margin to newcomer Tim Keller. Meanwhile, former Albuquerque City Councilor Eric Griego sang “Rockabye, sweet baby James” to Sen. James Taylor, who has served most of one term in the Senate but had nearly a decade in the House, where he rose to the rank of majority whip.

Although it wasn’t exactly a slate, the campaigns of both Keller and Griego were managed by Neri Holguin, a veteran of New Mexico politics since 2000. Both were endorsed by the League of Conservation Voters and Democracy for America/Democracy for New Mexico, a liberal activist group. And both campaigned in favor of ethics reform, not exactly a high priority with Robinson or Taylor.
Tim Keller
It’s easy to imagine the two newcomers banding together with fellow Albuquerque progressives like Cisco McSorley, Dede Feldman and Jerry Ortiz y Pino — plus perhaps Santa Fe’s Peter Wirth, who will be moving from the House to the Senate — and give new life to ethics reform, which for the past few sessions has withered and died in the catacombs of the Senate.

I’ll even go out on a limb and predict that conference committees — the Legislature’s “last bastion of secrecy” — will finally get opened. In 2007, a move failed by one vote to open the meetings where legislators hammer out differences in the same bills passed by the House and the Senate.

(And, as I’ve said before, if they do make this change, the Legislature should designate a meeting room as the “Bob Johnson Open Conference Committee Room” in honor of the late director of the New Mexico Foundation for Open Government who fought against closed meetings for years.)
“May a slanderer not be established in the earth; May evil hunt the violent man speedily.”
Of course, once they get to the Roundhouse, who knows what will happen. Sands shift and alliances rise and fall. There is always pressure to get along and go along. But the constituents who elected the new senators are bound to apply some pressure as well.

Best victory statement ever: State Sen. Rod Adair, R-Roswell, who won a close re-election match Tuesday, had only one comment for blogger Heath Haussamen.

He referred to Psalm 140:11, which says:

“May a slanderer not be established in the earth; May evil hunt the violent man speedily.”

That’s pretty cool, especially when you imagine Samuel L. Jackson reciting it.

The blessings of St. Pete: Outgoing U.S. Sen. Pete Domenici is venerated by fellow Republicans, but apparently that doesn’t mean his endorsement is a magic bullet in a GOP primary. Domenici was 0-for-2 for the candidates he endorsed, Heather Wilson for U.S. Senate and Marco Gonzales for Congress in the 3rd District.

Granted, Domenici’s last-minute endorsement of Wilson might have helped her. She was six points behind Steve Pearce in the Albuquerque Journal poll taken right before the endorsement and ended up within two points of winner Pearce.

Gov. Bill Richardson has taken some blog flack for his endorsements of Robinson and Taylor, who both lost by landslides.

But in fairness, other Richardson-endorsed candidates did much better. In state Senate primaries, he endorsed Carlos Cisneros, Howie Morales, Linda Lovejoy, David Ulibarri, John Pinto and Feldman, all of whom won. In Congressional races, the Richardson-endorsed Ben Ray Luján in CD 3 and Harry Teague in CD 2 were victorious.

In the state House races, he endorsed six candidates, five of whom won. And he endorsed Bernalillo County Clerk Maggie Toulousse-Oliver, wife of Richardson spokesman Allan Oliver, who won.

Mr. Lonely: Poor Dan East is about to learn what it’s like to be a Republican in the 3rd Congressional District. He beat Gonzales fair and square in the primary. But on Wednesday, the National Republican Congressional Committee issued a statement noting the victories of Darren White in CD 1 and Ed Tinsley in CD 2. But they didn’t even mention the heavily Democratic 3rd District, where East will face Luján and most likely independents Carol Miller and Ron Simmons in November.

Get a job: Some influential people are looking at New Mexico politicians for big national jobs.

The Wall Street Journal on Wednesday quoted U.S. Rep. Tom Davis, R-Va., suggested a possible running mate for John McCain: Heather Wilson.

“Davis — who hasn’t been shy about criticizing his party and telling Republicans how they need to turn things around in a challenging campaign environment — said that choosing a woman might help ‘balance the ticket’ and broaden McCain’s appeal, particularly if Barack Obama doesn’t pick Hillary Clinton as a running mate.” The WSJ did note Wilson lost her primary Tuesday.

Meanwhile, Monroe Anderson of EbonyJet.com suggested a chief of staff for Barack Obama: Bill Richardson.

“During the double-digit number of debates among the candidates for Democratic Party nomination for president, the governor of New Mexico demonstrated time and time again that he is both level-headed and a peace-maker,” Anderson wrote.

“Richardson, who was one of the highest-ranking Hispanic appointees in President Clinton’s administration, brings the right blend of experience and respect to keep Obama’s White House in order.”