Inside the Capitol

Saturday, November 29, 2008

12-3 Changing Administrations Is Hard To Do

WED, 12-4-08

SANTA FE - To paraphrase an old love song, "Changing administrations is hard to do." It's especially true in tough times after a long romance of voters by both sides.
We are getting smarter, however. When Franklin Roosevelt beat incumbent Herbert Hoover in 1932, he had to wait until March to take over. Now the date is Jan. 20. New Mexico switches over on Jan. 1. That may be an even better idea.
This time around, it appears New Mexico will get an opportunity to see a Jan. 20 switch in its administration as Gov. Bill Richardson waits until President Barack Obama is sworn in to give up his reins of New Mexico government in order to accept a federal position. If he could hold both jobs, do you suppose he'd try?
At this point, Gov. Richardson says he will deliver New Mexico's State of the State address on Jan. 20, the day Obama is inaugurated and also present his budget to the Legislature that day, even though it will be our next Gov Diane Denish, who will be in charge of getting it passed and implemented. That's assuming Richardson gets the U.S. secretary of Commerce post he is seeking.
President George W. Bush has been making magnanimous gestures toward President-Elect Obama and his family, although there is plenty going on behind the scenes. There are time limits on when certain administrative changes can be initiated before the end of the president's term.
The Bush administration has begun efforts to drill and conduct mining activity closer to national parks. Those actions will be harder for the new president to overturn.
This also is the period when presidents issue many pardons to old friends and acquaintances.
Some nations make the changes more quickly that we do. It appears that the attacks on Mumbai, India might have been scheduled to occur during our nation's clumsy interim.
At the state level, the expected handover from Gov. Richardson to Lt. Gov. Denish is similar but with some interesting twists. There is no statutory date for the transfer to occur. Richardson appears to want to hold onto power as long as absolutely possible.
Developments during the course of this year indicate that the relationship between Richardson and Denish has become strained. Richardson says he has met briefly with Denish on the transition but nothing else. Denish says she is ready to take the lead.
The situation may dictate that Denish take the lead on the transition also. With the air of uncertainty floating heavily around the Roundhouse, the situation is ripe for turmoil, anxiety and mischief.
Denish must appear to be in command as she takes over and not be a deferential lieutenant waiting to be handed the reins. It won't be easy because Richardson is going to want to do it entirely his way.
If Denish becomes governor, she will have the power to replace all of Richardson's appointees with her own. It is going to make for a very unsettling situation. Blogger Joe Monahan predicts many of her new appointees may be women.
A constitutional amendment passed last month gives the new Gov. Denish the authority to appoint a lieutenant governor. That will be a very big decision. It needs to be the person she feels will best serve her in the 2010 election when she will run for the governor's office. It is an incredible gift to her to be able to balance her ticket. It is something no other governor ever has had the privilege to do.
Some of Richardson's current staff won't get fired by Denish. She won't have the chance. Richardson will take them with him to Washington. Who and how many that will be are yet to be known. Past New Mexicans who have taken office in Washington have taken staff with them. Richardson is somewhat different in that he spent many years in Washington. There may be staff back there whom he may have in mind.

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