Inside the Capitol

Friday, June 30, 2006

7-5 Dendahl5

WED, 7-5-06

SANTA FE -- John Dendahl wasted no time getting into full swing after being selected as pinch hitter for the New Mexico Republican gubernatorial team.
Within minutes of his Saturday selection, he was making statements to the press. Within hours, he was making fundraising calls and lining up appearances.
Early Monday morning, he was on radio talk shows attacking the rest of the media for its bias against him. He no longer likes being called an attack dog or a pit bull, two common descriptions of him during his days as state GOP chairman.
Dendahl didn't object to those terms then, but now he is trying to appear more gubernatorial. He admitted during an unsuccessful GOP gubernatorial bid 12 years ago that perhaps he wasn't cut out to be a politician because of his outspokenness.
But now he wants another shot at diplomacy. He especially resents being called a bomb thrower by Gov. Bill Richardson's campaign chairman Dave Contarino. But Dendahl is proud of a Wall Street Journal article calling him a lightening bolt thrower.
There is a difference, obviously, between people who throw bombs and gods who throw lightening bolts. Lightening bolts may have a more destructive capacity, which could be a negative, but they also might be thought of as enlightening, which John would obviously like.
Right off the bat, Dendahl also attacked gubernatorial press aide Pahl Shipley, who fired off a quick blast at Dendahl on Saturday as soon as he learned of his appointment. Dendahl noted that Shipley is a state employee and that New Mexicans don't appreciate their tax money being spent on such blatant politics.
Dendahl asked Gov. Richardson what sort of policies he might have to cover this ethical matter. It is a very good question and by the time you read this, Richardson would be wise to answer.
Shipley replied that he sent out the release on his own time on his personal computer. Obviously, it was a Saturday, but anyone who knows Gov. Richardson, knows that his employees, especially in the press office, have no time of their own.
Dendahl also attacked state Democratic Party Chairman John Wertheim, saying he doesn't have to answer any charges from "that boy." Completely disregarding the chairman of a major political party seems a bit odd, coming from a former state party chairman himself.
Wertheim is 38 and holds a law degree. John Sanchez, whom Dendahl championed as the GOP gubernatorial candidate four years ago, was a year older, at the time. Sanchez, by the way, says he intends to get back into politics someday, possibly in another run for governor, or maybe the U.S. Senate.
For now, the Albuquerque roofing contractor is keeping a finger in politics. He oversaw a five-state reelection effort for President Bush two years ago and is helping Sen. Pete Domenici raise money for his 2008 campaign. Sanchez recently hosted a $2,500 a person fundraiser at his spacious new Northeast Heights home.
Wertheim asked Dendahl to come up with one positive idea for this campaign. Although Dendahl would not answer Wertheim, he told the Wall Street Journal he plans to seek a constitutional amendment restraining taxing and spending. New Mexico already has a constitutional provision requiring a balanced budget and prohibiting a deficit, so this would go farther.
National Republicans proposed a balanced budget constitutional amendment back in 1994, when they took over Congress. But that never got very far.
Dendahl also pointed out to this columnist that when he ran for governor in '94, the centerpiece of his campaign was personal income tax reform very similar to what Gov. Richardson has used to get himself portrayed as a "tax-cutting Democrat governor."
And he noted that another of his proposals was to amend the constitution to place the Department of Education under the governor.
Richardson accomplished that one too. Maybe these two guys aren't so far apart after all. But they'll still find plenty to fight about.



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