Inside the Capitol

Thursday, March 30, 2006

4-12 attachment

Syndicated Columnist
SANTA FE -- Let's take a look, today, at some of the more intriguing House races around the state.
Luciano "Lucky" Varela of Santa Fe is running for his 11th term. Usually he is unopposed, but this time, he has two tough Democrat primary opponents -- Ouida MacGregor, a former city councilor, and Andrew Perkins, a CPA and treasurer of the Santa Fe County Democratic Party.
How did that happen? Varela first decided to run for state treasurer, which meant giving up his House seat. Then he changed his mind and by that time four strong Democrats were in the race for his House seat.
Two dropped out when Varela dropped in -- Santa Fe Mayor Larry Delgado and hospital union official Elizabeth "Dolly" Lujan. The icing on that cake was the immediate endorsement of Varela by Lujan's union.
But Varela still is left with a race in which he will have to break a sweat for the first time in many years. If he does that, he's a good bet to win many more terms.
Varela says he got back in his House race because that is what people asked him to do. That would be the diplomatic people. Others are said to have told him their fears that the thought of one more unknown Hispanic in the treasurer's office would not sell well to voters.
There won't even be a race in the district being vacated by Rep. Sandra Townsend of Aztec. The only person to file was fellow Republican Paul Bandy, a rancher who sells hormone- and antibiotic-free, grass-fed beef. I'm "green as grass" Bandy, says.
That wouldn't normally be what you'd expect to hear from a Republican candidate but the San Juan County GOP chairman calls Bandy a "perfect fit" for the heavily Republican district.
Then again, Bandy may fit the mold of a previous occupant of that seat, rancher Tweeti Blancett, who didn't always follow the Republican line when she was in the state House. She now fights with gas drillers, whom she claims, misuse her grazing land. Bandy also is in that group.
Rep. Townsend, who is leaving the seat, has had her problems with the state GOP, resulting in Republican challengers every election. Bandy may want to savor this one free ride to his seat. He realizes it is very unusual for a rookie to be unopposed, but says maybe it is because the job doesn't pay anything and every time you vote someone gets mad at you.
In Rio Arriba County where they take their politics seriously, Rep. Debbie Rodella is being challenged again by former county commissioner Moises Morales. It shouldn't be too tough a battle for Rodella. But she has undergone some embarrassing publicity lately.
In late February, State Police Chief Carlos Maldonado unexpectedly retired "for personal reasons." A few days later, KRQE-TV reported that Maldonado was forced to retire after the husband of a state legislator produced evidence of an affair between his wife and the chief.
A month later, Espanola's Rio Grande Sun revealed that it had obtained records of Maldonado's state-issued cell phone calls showing that he had phoned Rodella at least 19 times during the four months before his retirement.
KRQE didn't reveal the identity of its source or of the legislator. The Sun can't say that Maldonado and Rodella weren't discussing business. But it does say many of the calls were not during business hours.
Rep. Rodella's husband, Tommy, is running for magistrate judge, a position from which he stepped down when Gov. Bill Richardson, who had appointed him, learned of Rodella's questionable handling of a case and of his departure as a state policeman a few years ago after numerous controversial incidents.
With melodrama like that in real life, there's no reason to watch the soaps on television. Just read the papers.
WED, 4-12-06

JAY MILLER, 3 La Tusa, Santa Fe, NM 87505
(ph) 982-2723, (fax) 984-0982, (e-mail)



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