Saturday, July 02, 2005

A COUPLE OF POLITICAL STORIES

Here's two political stories I wrote for today's paper that didn't make it to The New Mexican's Web site:

A version of these were published in The Santa Fe New Mexican
July 2, 2005


With a new Supreme Court vacancy two ideological sides are preparing in New Mexico for a possible political battle — and the focus is on one man who could make a difference — U.S. Sen. Jeff Bingaman.

The U.S. Senate must confirm whoever President Bush nominates. Bingaman, a Democrat has been known to vote against some Supreme Court nominees of Republican presidents.

One of the likely areas of contention is the issue of abortion.

NARAL Pro-Choice New Mexico, an abortion rights group, is organizing a rally in Albuquerque Tuesday to gather petition signatures, which they plan to deliver to Bingaman’s office. The rally is scheduled for noon Tuesday at Fourth and Central.

NARAL will be on the Plaza Monday during the annual pancake breakfast to distribute petitions urging Bingaman “to protect the balance of the United States Supreme Court,” NARAL director Giovanna Rossi said Friday.

Rossi said most people assume that the state’s other senator, Pete Domenici, a Republican, will support whoever Bush nominates. “Bingaman is a swing vote,” she said. “He’s a national target.”

Meanwhile, a newly-formed Republican consultant business called Gordian Strategies is representing a national organization called Progress for America, which has vowed to spend $18 million nationwide to promote whoever Bush nominates to the Supreme Court.

Robin Dozier Otten, a former cabinet secretary in the administration of Gov. Gary Johnson, talked to reporters in the state reporters about the campaign earlier this week — several before Justice Sandra Day O’Connor announced her retirement.

“My job is not to convince Jeff to vote for the president's nominee,” Otten said Friday. “It is to convince Jeff's constituency to convince him to vote for the nominee.”

Bingaman’s spokeswoman Jude McCartin said Friday said the senator hopes Bush will nominate a qualified candidate acceptable to both sides. “We’re hoping this will be done as it should be,” she said. “It doesn’t have to be a divisive time.

She said that Bingaman recently signed a letter from Senate Democrats urging Bush to consult with senators from both parties before making a nomination. The Democrats haven’t heard back from the President McCartin said.

Bingaman released a statement Friday saying, “ “It is my hope that the White House works with the Senate to find a nominee of the same caliber as Sandra Day O’Connor.”

Both Rossi and a Republican law professor at the University of New Mexico said Friday they hope a nomination fight can be avoided.

”We really want to stress that we hope there’s a consensus,” Rossi said. “He could do this by putting names out who have mainstream records. If he does chose the course of an extreme nominee, we’re ready to put up a battle. But we would rather have consensus.”

Lisa Torraco, a former Santa Fe prosecutor who teaches law at UNM. “What should happen is that (senators) defer to the system and recognize that the president was elected by a majority and he has the right to make a nomination. The Senate should have an up-or-down vote. Don’t reduce the judiciary to a political smear campaign. Protect the integrity of the jurists and the integrity of the Supreme Court.”

XXXXXX
(Here's the other story ...)

City Council David Pfeffer, a Democrat-turned-Republican who is considering running for U.S. Senate, said Friday he’s still in the “exploratory” mode of his possible candidacy,” meaning, among other things, he’s looking at fundraising possibilities.

But — as is the case for virtually anyone who challenges a incumbent member of Congress — he’s got a lot of exploring to do before he catches up with the man he hopes to run against.

More than a year before the general election, Sen. Jeff Bingaman in his latest campaign finance reports shows he has more than $1 million cash on hand. Democrat Bingaman, who first was elected in 1982, announced earlier this year he will run for re-election in 2006.

“There is no way we’ll beat Bingaman on the dollar,” Pfeffer said Friday. But he said he thinks he can beat Bingaman with “a smart campaign.”

“It’ll be a strong grassroots campaign,” he said. “I’ll make it obvious for everyone to see the differences between Sen. Bingaman and me on what is role of America in the world, what are the dangers confronting America, our views on protecting the border, Supreme nominations, Social Security, and what the character of America is and what it ought to be.”

A spokeswoman for Bingaman said Friday, “Sen. Bingaman works hard for New Mexicans and hopes they will continue to support him next year.”

While Pfeffer hasn’t officially announced his political intentions, he talks increasingly like someone running for Senate. Asked if he’d ruled out running for re-election on the council, he said, “My focus now is on the Senate.”

Many local political observers say Pfeffer would have hard time winning re-election for council in a city where Democrats enjoy a 3-to-1 registration edge over the GOP.

Pfeffer would be the second Republican who once was a Democrat to announce for next year’s Senate race. Former state Sen. Tom Benavides of Albuquerque threw his hat in the ring earlier this year. Benavides is something of a perennial candidate, running unsuccessfully last year for his old Senate seat and for state auditor in 2002. In 1990 he was the Democratic candidate who ran against Republican U.S. Sen. Pete Domenici.

Pfeffer, an architect and Vietnam veteran, was elected to his north-side District 1 council seat in 2002, defeating incumbent Jimmie Martinez. Pfeffer was known mainly as an advocate for recreation facilities before he got elected.

Once elected he frequently found himself in clashes with other councilors when the governing body discussed resolutions about national issues such as The U.S. Patriot Act and the Iraq War.

About a year ago he announced he was supporting President Bush for re-election against Democrat John Kerry. Early this year he announced his party switch.

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