Thursday, December 13, 2007


A version of this was published in The Santa Fe New Mexican
December 13, 2007

Gov. Bill Richardson got a bum rap on The Huffington Post this week.

“Mum’s the Word: Bill Richardson Opts Out Of Taking The Political Courage Test,” the headline said. It was accompanied by an unflattering photo of a consternated Richardson holding a hand to his head. (I stole the photo to the right from Huffington, which apparently lifted it fro the Associated Press. God bless the Interwebs!)

Wow. Seems kind of bad for a governor who rarely issues a news release without using the word “bold” to describe himself, one of his programs or positions to be afraid to take a “courage test” — actually a questionnaire from a nonpartisan organization called Project Vote Smart.

But it’s not until the bottom of the post that we learn that “out of 17 presidential candidates in the Democratic and Republican parties receiving serious media attention, only John Edwards, Chris Dodd and Mike Gravel took the test.”

So it could be said that Richardson boldly placed himself in the mainstream by ignoring the Political Courage Test.

Richardson apparently was singled out because the post originally was published as an article in The Weekly Alibi in Albuquerque.

Courage! Actually, Project Vote Smart runs a handy little Web site on which you can look up voting records, rankings from interest groups and other information about officeholders and candidates on the federal and state levels.

And it even asks legislators and other state officials to take the Political Courage Test.

Here in New Mexico, it looks as if our legislators might be presidential quality — that is, by and large, they also declined to take the test. In 2006, only 11 New Mexico House members participated.

Among Santa Fe-area lawmakers, only Democrats Sen. John Grubesic (who isn’t seeking re-election) and Rep. Peter Wirth (who’s leaving the House to run for state Senate) took the test. State senators were last questioned in 2004, when they were last up for election.

But in this respect, our state legislators actually are better than our congressional delegation. No U.S. House member from New Mexico returned a Project Vote Smart questionnaire last year, and neither senator participated before his last election.

Political connections: Santa Fe County Commissioner Harry Montoya, who is running for the Democratic nomination for the House District 3 seat, is founder and chief executive officer of a nonprofit drug-education organization called Hands Across Cultures Corp.

According to federal tax documents filed this year, the corporation’s board of directors includes one Ben R. Luján.

Montoya confirmed Wednesday that this indeed is Public Regulation Commissioner Ben Ray Luján — who plans to formally announce Friday that he’s running in the CD 3 Democratic primary as well.

However, Montoya said, Luján has resigned from the board. “He told me he was resigning about two years ago, but I didn’t get a letter until last month,” Montoya said.

Raising funds: Democrat U.S. Rep. Tom Udall — who is leaving the seat Luján and Montoya are vying for to run for Republican Pete Domenici’s Senate seat — doesn’t have Albuquerque Mayor Marty Chávez to worry about anymore, but he’s still preparing for what’s bound to be an expensive general election race.

Udall is having a fundraiser Friday night at the east-side Santa Fe home of lawyer Stephen Durkovich. It’s an invitation-only affair, a campaign aide said Wednesday, with a $2,300 “suggested donation.”

A lump of coal for state employees: Late last month, Arcy Baca, president of American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Local 477, wrote a nice letter to state legislators asking for a study of the impact of the high cost of living in Santa Fe on state employees.

“A number of my members had moved to the surrounding areas seeking the opportunity to purchase a home and try to make ends meet,” Baca wrote. “… State employees working in Santa Fe are struggling to pay for just the basic necessities. A significant number of employees, me included, have had to resort to taking a second job.”

He’s not kidding about that. In fact, for the past year, Baca has been working weekends for this newspaper’s circulation department.

“Many of the state employees who work in Santa Fe but cannot afford to live in Santa Fe are burdened with burdensome costs of commuting,” Baca’s letter continued. “I am concerned about how the cost of living is going to impact keeping state jobs in Santa Fe and keeping our locals employed.

As I said, it was a nice letter. The copy I saw was on a holiday letterhead with red Christmas ornaments. Or maybe they’re holly berries. Whatever, it was nice.

However, it apparently wasn’t nice enough to sway the Legislature.

“The budget came out today, and there is not even an extra dime to conduct a study to help state employees with the high cost of living in Santa Fe,” Baca said Wednesday. He said he hadn’t heard a word — not even a single “Bah humbug” — from any lawmaker.

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