Thursday, June 09, 2005


As published in The Santa Fe New Mexican
June 9, 2005

MANCHESTER, N.H. — New Mexicans upset by those reports a couple of years ago indicating Gov. Bill Richardson orders his state police drivers to go 100 mph on our roads shouldn’t feel alone.

According to one New England journalist, our governor does this in Nuevo Hampshire too.

On Wednesday morning, a freelance photographer from Cambridge, Mass., working for The New Mexican to document Richardson’s visit here this week, tried to follow the governor’s entourage from a public radio station in Concord, N.H., to a meeting in Portsmouth, N.H. “I tried to keep up, but I gave up at 95 mph,” Jodi Hilton said.

No, the New Hampshire police didn’t stop him. In fact, a New Hampshire State Police officer accompanied Team Richardson on his travels.

Richardson spokesman Billy Sparks denied the governor was going that fast. “I was in the car behind him, and we didn’t go over 70,” he said.

The Richardson Posse: Richardson, of course, didn’t go alone to New Hampshire. Traveling with him, according to Chief of Staff Dave Contarino, were four staffers and two state police officers assigned to the governor.

The Democratic Governors Association, which Richardson chairs, is paying for the travel — except the police, who are paid by the state. So far, there have been no audible objections from other Democratic governors — though that could change if any other D-guv jumps into the presidential race.

Keeping the trains on time: Also with Richardson was Michael J. Stratton, a political consultant from Littleton, Colo. Stratton has worked for the Carter and Clinton administrations and has managed campaigns of several Colorado Democrats, including last year’s successful U.S. Senate race by Ken Salazar. He’s now a consultant for the Democratic Governors Association.

“I do a lot of (Richardson’s) out-of-town appearances,” Stratton told me shortly before Richardson spoke at Tuesday’s New Hampshire Latino Summit luncheon. “We’re old friends. I’ve known him for about 30 years, since he first moved to New Mexico.”

Stratton, according to a March article in The Hill, a publication about Congress, is a new member of a Democratic National Committee’s commission studying possible changes to the strange process by which the political parties choose our presidential nominees. The publication noted that Stratton assembled a coalition of Democrats in eight Western states, including New Mexico, to petition the DNC to push for a Western regional primary.

Richardson repeatedly assured New Hampshire audiences, who are a little touchy about the subject, that he’s in favor of keeping the New Hampshire primary first.

Stratton was modest about his role in Richardson’s current trip. “I’m just an advance man,” he said. “I make the trains run on time.”

Another familiar face: Also popping up at several Richardson stops here was Walter “Butch” Maki, a Santa Fe businessman and lobbyist as well as a former staffer of Richardson’s when he served in Congress and a longtime associate.

Maki told me he was in New England helping set up a branch of his security business. Maki, a New Hampshire native who still owns land there, invited several relatives from the area to Richardson’s Politics and Eggs speech Tuesday.

Recycling jokes: When you hire joke writers for $12,000, you don’t just want to use a joke once and throw it away. One of Richardson’s best-received routines here is one where he explains in both English and Spanish his position on running for president. “No, I will not run for president,” he says in English. Then, switching to Spanish, he adds, “Seguro que sí, ¡voy a ser candidato!” (”Of course, I will be a candidate!”)

Luckily few people, if anyone, attending Tuesday’s New Hampshire Latino Summit had been at the annual Gridiron dinner in Washington, D.C., when he premiered the joke a couple of months ago.

Courting the I-man: Speaking of jokers, at a Wednesday breakfast for a group of French-American New Hampshirites, someone asked Richardson whether he would seek the support of national radio-personality Don Imus, who operates a ranch for children with terminal diseases in San Miguel County and also broadcasts some of his shows from there.

Richardson described his relationship with the acid-tongued broadcaster: “In the early days of our relationship, he made false allegations about me — that I was fat. I wondered why I should go on his show when he pillories me.” After Richardson appeared on Imus in the Morning, however, Imus wasn’t so rough on him, Richardson said.

Richardson, who is a frequent guest on countless national television-news shows, said he gets more comments from Imus listeners than from all the other shows. “People are always telling me, ‘I heard you on Imus,’ ” he said. “Or Imus was making fun of you, ha-ha.’ ”

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