Thursday, March 11, 2004


As published in The Santa Fe New Mexican

You always have to wonder about coincidences in politics.

But the day the news broke about the bad blood between family members of longtime incumbent Sen. Roman Maes and his challenger Letitia Montoya -- a strange saga involving restraining orders and a Sunday morning confrontation involving mutual allegations of the use of profanity and the throwing of fingers -- two other candidates surfaced for the District 25 Senate seat in Santa Fe.

Both John Grubesic and Geraldine Salazar are making their first runs for political office. Though political novices, both have state-government experience.

In fairness, Grubesic didn't plan on announcing the day after the Maes/Montoya squabble was reported. I contacted him, after hearing that he's been busy getting petition signatures.

Grubesic, a 38-year-old lawyer, is a Santa Fe native who has spent most of his career working for the state Attorney General's Office. He started there under then-Attorney General Tom Udall in 1992, left about three years later and returned to work for Attorney General Patricia Madrid about four years ago.

Grubesic also worked as a prosecutor for District Attorney Henry Valdez in the 1990s and for a short time in private practice.

He's a 1983 graduate of St. Michael's High School, where he was on the all-state football team.

Also joining the race Wednesday is Salazar, 50, who is a former director of the Behavioral Health Services Division in the state Department of Health during the last Bruce King administration, and as the outreach coordinator for the Santa Fe Rape Crisis Center.

Salazar also has worked as director of Pojoaque Pueblo's Early Childhood Center.

Neither Salazar nor Grubesic have filed any restraining orders against other candidates -- or had any filed against them.

But the race is still young.

District 25, which includes most of the city of Santa, plus outlying areas including Tesuque and Eldorado, is attracting lots of candidates. In addition to the four Democrats, there's a contested Green primary with longtime party activist Rick Lass and newcomer Joseph Niesley. An independent named Robb Hirsh is trying to get on the November general election ballot.

From Bill to Max: Several folks, inside and outside the Roundhouse expressed surprise that Gov. Bill Richardson had nothing but a pointed "no comment" about Max Coll's decision last week to leave the Legislature. That was the word from not one but two of the governor's press aides.

But apparently Richardson had a change of heart over the weekend. At a Monday morning press conference the governor publicly thanked Coll for his 32 years of service and wished him well in his retirement.

Asked afterward why he couldn't have said that on Friday, Richardson replied, "I was traveling." Indeed he was in EspaƱola and Taos signing bills.

Then again, House Speaker Ben Lujan was traveling with the governor also. But somehow, the Speaker and his staff managed to release a page-and-a-half written statement praising Coll.

From George to Barbara: The national Republican Party isn't letting off New Mexico's First Lady Barbara Richardson.

Last year this column revealed that Mrs. Richardson got a letter from the Republican National Committee calling her a "strong grassroots Republican" and saying "... President Bush and Republicans can win only if GOP activists like you give our candidates the support they need to compete."

In reality, Barbara Richardson, like her husband, is a Democrat. She sent them back a good-natured letter explaining that fact last year.

But that didn't stop the Republicans in their effort to woo her. Recently she received a letter signed by -- well, it looks like it was signed by -- George W. Bush himself asking her to contribute $25 or $50 to his campaign.

"Thank you for your friendship and may God continue to bless America," the president's letter said.

But this time the letter didn't identify Barbara as a Republican.


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