Inside the Capitol

Saturday, January 13, 2007

1-17 Bill Making all the Right Moves

SANTA FE -- Several weeks ago, this column advised readers that if they aren't sure why Gov. Bill Richardson is taking an action, they should look at it from the point of view of a presidential candidate.
We know that is the way our governor is thinking 24/7 and we should expect him to be making all the right moves to enhance his potential candidacy. Let's take a look at some of his recent moves.
Global warming. Why would a governor get excited about a subject that takes national and international action to address? It's a big issue for Democratic activists who choose presidential nominees. So Richardson appointed a diverse 40-member climate advisory group to make recommendations on what New Mexico can do.
Governmental ethics is a hot issue at both state and national levels. Neither Congress nor the New Mexico Legislature did much about it last year. The new Democratic Congress appears to be going full steam ahead. So Richardson is proposing a long list of state reforms proposed by an ethics task force he appointed.
Eminent domain is a big item for both Democrats and Republicans after a U.S. Supreme Court ruling opened the door for private developers, in concert with state or local government, to have private property condemned for private economic development purposes. Richardson appointed a task force on this subject also.
Election reform has been a major federal concern since the Florida recount fiasco of 2000 and the Ohio electronic voting problems in 2004. Richardson succeeded last year in pushing the state back to paper ballots in order to create a paper trail. He's hoping that by working out the bugs in that system, he can claim national leadership in restoring voter confidence.
Emergency preparedness has been a big deal since 9/11 and Hurricane Katrina. Gov. Richardson tried to show off his readiness by activating the state Emergency Operation Center and declaring a state of disaster for our second big snow that began on Dec. 27. Some say it wasn't good enough.
Travelers headed east from Albuquerque on I-40 complained the road was closed far too long. Hearing the state Homeland Security director explain that we had an unprecedented amount of snow made those travelers even more upset. They responded that they didn't need an expensive new office to explain the obvious. They needed an office that didn't take three days to clear 20 miles of road through Tijeras Canyon.
Richardson may have struck out on that one, although the emergency office did wake up in time to start helping ranchers with starving cows. There may be some validity to charges that the office is staffed by too many political appointees. "Gifts from the north," they are called.
The governor finally says he will push for a ban on cockfighting in the 2007 Legislature. Richardson has stayed out of that battle the past four years, explaining that there wasn't time to deal with the issue plus his long list of priorities.
So count on a chicken fighting ban taking even more legislative time than usual this year. It is a highly charged issue that takes not only time, but an emotional toll on lawmakers because both sides will fight to its death -- or passage.
Albuquerque Mayor Martin Chavez says a governor cannot win the presidency if his state is one of only two allowing cockfighting. That may not be true. Animal treatment doesn't rank particularly high on lists of national priorities, but the governor likely would prefer to see the issue out of the way.
National pundits agree that Richardson has built himself a golden resume. But that isn't the only way delegates or voters pick candidates. Emotional attachment to a candidate is important and Richardson hasn't found the "easy button" to activate that.
Being a likable Hispanic candidate with a great resume normally should work. But right now the first serious female candidate and an inspiring African-American candidate are trumping him.



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