Inside the Capitol

Sunday, May 31, 2009

6-3 More Enter Statewide Races

Syndicated Columnist
SANTA FE -- As predicted, additional candidates are announcing their commitment or interest in running for top-of-the-ballot offices next year.
Shortly after I listed possible candidates a month ago, former state GOP chairman Allen Weh announced he has formed a gubernatorial exploratory committee to take a long, hard look at the race.
Weh is the chief executive officer of CSI Aviation services in Albuquerque and a retired U.S. Marine Corps colonel. A primary focus of Weh, 66, will be recent corruption cases involving state Democratic officials.
Also announced in the GOP gubernatorial primary is Greg Zanetti, an Albuquerque financial adviser and New Mexico National Guard brigadier general.
Seriously considering the GOP gubernatorial race is former U.S. Rep. Heather Wilson, a former Air Force officer with a strong intelligence background.
That may complete the GOP gubernatorial field. Former Rep. Steve Pearce, a former Air Force pilot, is talking about the race but many of his actions indicate that an attempt to recapture his 2nd Congressional District from current incumbent Harry Teague is a more likely possibility.
Notice the amount of military brass among these for possible candidates. They'd all be an even pick on that basis. But one advantage Wilson might have is that all three men are strong conservatives while Wilson is more moderate. That could help her in both the primary and general election.
State Land Commissioner Patrick Lyon and state Rep. Janice Arnold-Jones also have expressed some interest in the GOP gubernatorial race,
On the Democratic side, Lt. Gov. Diane Denish may have it all to herself. She's now raised over $2 million and late comers are putting themselves in an increasingly difficult position in terms of fund raising and familiarity with voters.
The word in state office buildings is that something will happen soon in the grand jury pay-to-play investigation. Disagreement still exists about whether it will be good or bad for Gov. Bill Richardson. Either way, it could mean that he may be gone before the end of his term a year from December. If that happens, Denish will be running as an incumbent.
The 2010 elections will be especially important to both parties. The governor and Legislature elected then will determine congressional and legislative redistricting. Many changes could be made to affect either party's numbers in either direction.
The lineup of Democrats wanting to run for lieutenant governor on a ticket with Diane Denish continues to grow. Nearly all of them are male Hispanics from Albuquerque and north. Conventional wisdom says that would be a well-balanced ticket.
The exceptions are state Sen. Linda Lopez, of Albuquerque, who already has started her campaign and former Secretary of State Rebecca Vigil Giron who talked early on about a run.
Only two males have officially announced for lieutenant governor. Santa Fe County Sheriff Greg Solano has been running for lieutenant governor as long as Diane Denish has been running for governor. That means ever since the 2006 elections ended.
The other male Democrat is state Sen. Jerry Ortiz y Pino of Albuquerque. He finds himself in an interesting situation. Although he has been involved for decades with advocacy groups, charities and governmental agencies that deal with the Legislature, he never ran for the Legislature until 2004 when he was elected to the Senate.
Now in his second term, he sees it will be many years before he has the seniority to make an impact. So, at 67, Ortiz y Pino has set his sights on the lieutenant governor's office to make that impact. He says he has no ambitions to move up farther than that.
Others who have expressed interest are longtime top government chief executive Lawrence Rael, state Auditor Hector Balderas, state Rep. Lucky Varela, state Veterans Department Secretary John Garcia, Espanola Mayor Joe Maestas, Pojoaque Pueblo Gov. George Rivera, Sandia Pueblo Gov. Stuwart Paisano and former chief counsel to Gov. Richardson, Geno Zamora.
WED, 6-03-09

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


Thursday, May 28, 2009

6-1 Manny's Buckhorn & Geronimo

Syndicated Columnist

SANTA FE -- There I was, just the other day, sniveling in a column about how New Mexico never gets any respect and then my cousin Margene Harris, from San Antonio, NM tells me that Food Network star Bobby Flay had a crew in town for three days in mid-May to film a show about Manny's Buckhorn Tavern.
The Buckhorn's owner Bobby Olguin. was challenged to a hamburger cook-off by the nationally known Flay. We won't know who won until the show airs and we won't know that date until Olguin gets a call later this month. He says he'll let us know.
So how did a national network get to know about the Buckhorn Tavern in a little town of 700 people? Well, Olguin already has made some top 10 lists of the best burgers in the nation.
In case it surprises you that there is a San Antonio in New Mexico, look about 15 miles south of Socorro, just off I-25. But I'll bet you have heard of San Antonio. It's the home of another famous hamburger joint, the Owl Bar, just across the street. Both cafes are absolutely worth giving a try. Locals I have talked with say they prefer the Buckhorn.
San Antonio was the boyhood home of Conrad Hilton. His parents ran a hotel there and Conrad helped carry people's luggage from the train stop. Hilton later became famous for his great granddaughter, Paris.
San Antonio also is the closest town to Trinity Site, location of the world's first atomic detonation. When workers tired of chow hall food, they would go into San Antonio for a burger and a beer. Both the Buckhorn and the Owl date back that far.
In other New Mexico news, the former Apache warrior Geronimo is still in the spotlight. Last February, on the 100th anniversary of Geronimo's death, his New Mexico descendants filed suit to bring his bones back to his birthplace in the Gila Wilderness.
Recently, the descendants who remained at Fort Sill, Oklahoma, where they were incarcerated, filed motions to intervene in the case. It is likely Geronimo's bones will stay where they are.
The problem is that some of those bones may not still be at Fort Sill. The infamous Order of Skull and Bones at Yale University has long been said to have robbed them back in 1918 to display in their clubhouse, called "The Tomb."
It is known that some members of the Skull and Bones were stationed at Fort Sill following World War I. One of them evidently was Prescott Bush, father and grandfather to two U.S. presidents. All three were members of Skull and Bones.
That society has been named in the New Mexico descendants' suit, which relies on the Native American Graves and Repatriation Act that requires any institution receiving federal funds to acknowledge and repatriate skeletal remains and artifacts derived from Indian graves.
Skull and Bones doesn't receive any federal funds but it's clubhouse is located on the Yale campus. Yale also has been sued.
Robbing Indian graves was stylish at the time and there is no doubt that the Skull and Bones club sought out Indian skulls.
A National Park Service retiree reports that Geronimo's grave was unmarked in 1918 so the society members couldn't be sure who they were digging up. If they have a skull and bones from the Fort Sill Indian Prisoner Cemetery, it is an anonymous Indian that they pretend to be Geronimo.
Regardless of whether it is Geronimo or not, it is time for the Order of Skull and Bones to stop the foolishness and disclose and repatriate all the skeletons it has collected over the years.
Geronimo was an interesting and controversial person, even among his own people. Historians still are trying to comb through all the myths and reveal the true Geronimo.
One historian known to be working on a Geronimo story right now is former New Mexican Robert Utley.
MON, 6-01-09

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


Wednesday, May 27, 2009

5-29 NM Has to Keep Introducing Itself

Syndicated Columnist
SANTA FE -- New Mexicans are always having to introduce themselves to the world. An astonishing number of people don't realize we exist.
Gov. Bill Richardson did a good job of introducing New Mexico to the political world two years ago but those memories are fading quickly.
On May 2, three cowboys from New Mexico introduced us to the horse racing world and were greeted with about as much enthusiasm as Gov. Richardson at the Iowa caucuses.
The owners, trainer and the undersized horse with an odd name, weird feet and peculiar gait, really weren't supposed to be there according to odds makers, tipsters and the elite of the horse racing world.
But Mine That Bird came out of nowhere to spoil the party at the Kentucky Derby. The victory was darned near impossible and couldn't happen again at the Preakness Stakes two weeks later, detractors said. But it almost did.
Mine That Bird closed within a head of the Preakness winner and might have won again if the short race had been a little longer. The third jewel in the triple crown is the Belmont Stakes on June 6.
That race is much longer and many owners of Derby and Preakness horses are debating whether to take on the challenge. Meanwhile the little New Mexico horse is ready to run.
The only problem now is that someone has to ride him. And typical of the respect the little guy has received so far, his handlers are having to look for their third new jockey in three races. The other two jockeys have previous commitments. That's probably some sort of world record.
But look for Mine That Bird to make New Mexicans proud. A victory would also do good things for the career of Bloomfield trainer Chip Woolley and for the Roswell Double Eagle Ranch, owned by Mark Allen and Leonard Blach.
So much for the political world and the world of horse racing, New Mexico state government recently has introduced itself to the movie industry through some generous subsidies to companies that agree to film here.
The most generous of those subsidies is a 25 percent rebate from the state for all qualified production expenditures. That rebate was passed by the 2002 Legislature and signed by Gov. Johnson during the last year of his administration.
In its first year of existence, the rebate cost state taxpayers $1.1 million. Last year it cost $47 million -- evidence that New Mexico has introduced itself in a big way.
Some lawmakers have asked whether in tough economic times, the state still can afford the expenditure when cuts are being made in so many areas of the budget.
A bill, introduced in the 2009 Legislature by Rep. Dennis Kintigh of Roswell, sought to repeal that rebate. It didn't go anywhere because of pressure generated by Gov. Richardson and the state Film Office.
But the matter does deserve further consideration. Two studies of the cost of film industry subsidies found that the state gets back either 15 cents or $1.50 for each taxpayer dollar invested.
Obviously some serious questions need to be asked of the people who conducted the studies. A vehicle for doing that before the next legislative session was passed by the House during the 2009 Legislature.
It recommends to the legislative leaders the creation of an interim Film, Art and Culture Committee to consider not only film subsidies but how the total range of art and cultural activities benefit the state and what the state can do to most effectively support them.
New Mexico is the third largest art market in the country. Significant tourism is generated by our many cultural attractions. We need to understand these industries in terms of what they contribute to our economy and what it is worth to the state to help them flourish.
The committee should be appointed and should be composed of lawmakers who are willing to ask some tough questions.
FRI, 5-29-09

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


Monday, May 25, 2009


I'll be back with you on Fri, 5-29.

Fw: Memorial Day column



Syndicated Columnist


                SANTA FE -- Did you know that Memorial Day is commemorated in different ways and on different dates throughout our nation? The observance had its beginnings during the Civil War, which is a good hint that there would not be uniformity.

                More than two dozen cities and towns lay claim to being the birthplace of Memorial Day, and each had its own customs. There is evidence that organized women's groups in the South were decorating graves before the end of the Civil War.

                Following the war, towns in the North decided it would be a good idea to honor their military dead also. In 1868, "Decoration Day" was officially proclaimed. It was so named because the emphasis was on decorating graves of fallen soldiers.

By 1890, it had been adopted by all northern states. Most southern states refused to observe the national day because of lingering hostilities. They continued with their own state observances, spread throughout the year.

                It wasn't until after World War I that the South began recognizing the federal Decoration Day. Many men from both North and South gave their lives in that war, making unification finally possible.

                In 1967, approximately a century after the first Decoration Day, the name was changed to Memorial Day. A year later, Congress passed the Uniform Holiday's Bill, which moved four holidays from their traditional dates to the closest Monday in order to create some three-day weekends.

                All states have now adopted the holiday, although most southern states still observe a separate day to commemorate those who died fighting for the Confederacy.

                Memorial Day customs in various areas of the country still differ. In most areas, the emphasis is on honoring the dead from all wars our nation has fought.

Some communities, however, want to pay their respects to all their dead by cleaning cemeteries and decorating all graves. The practice may help distinguish the observance from Veterans Day.

Recent Memorial days have meant more to Americans as our young people are dying again in the service of their country. The shift in the nature of warfare has meant that fewer lives are being lost than before.

Most of us do not have a close family member who has been killed in any war and the media is prohibited, until recently, from showing the flag-draped boxes bringing young Americans home.

                But the cost of our nation's defense is still counted in lives and not in dollars. The real cost of liberty, the real price of the freedoms that too many take for granted, is measured in lives that won't be fulfilled.

                New Mexico has contributed its share and more to the defenders of freedom. Even before we became a state, our predecessors proudly joined the Rough Riders who charged San Juan Hill with Teddy Roosevelt.

A half century later, we were the fighting 200th Coast Artillery, that slowed the Japanese march down the Pacific until our nation could recover from the devastating losses at Pearl Harbor.

Few of our World War II veterans are still with us to remind us of their sacrifices. But we must remember because it is those memories that put into perspective the consequences of future actions.

Mothers remember. It has been said that if mothers were in charge, nations would get along better. The same can be said of generals, who understand the horrors of war. Our problem is the swaggering politicians, most of whom avoided military service and haven't had to suffer the loss of sons or daughters.

So this Memorial Day, before we launch into a celebration of the summer's first long weekend, let us remember the sacrifices of those who gave their lives to protect the constitutional guarantees we take for granted.

And let us also remain ever watchful that no government ever uses a national crisis to justify taking away any of those rights and freedoms.

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Fw: 5-22 More Races Filling Up

FRI, 5-22-09

SANTA FE - A recent report speculated that actor Val Kilmer is cooling on the idea of running for governor of New Mexico. But on its heels came more reports that that Kilmer is still talking excitedly about the prospect to friends and political consultants.
And get this, some of those friends think it's such a great idea that they are now making plans to run for governor of California. Evidently American voters are such celebrity lovers that actors are beginning to see themselves as well qualified to lead a state or nation.
While doing a little more research on Kilmer, I discovered he not only is a poet, he's also an accomplished singer and songwriter and much of his work is available on CD and DVD.
Before U.S. Sen. Pete Domenici's unexpected retirement from Congress, it appeared that state Land Commissioner Patrick Lyons might be the logical GOP candidate for governor since he was the party's only possible candidate with successful statewide election experience.
But now that Steve Pearce and Heather Wilson are in the picture, blogger Joe Monahan reports Lyons is looking at the Southern New Mexico slot on the Public Regulation Commission that Republican David King is term-limited from seeking again next year.
We haven't heard what Bernalillo County Sheriff Darren White will be running for next year but anyone looking for a bet that he won't run for anything is not likely to find any takers.
White lost a congressional bid last November to Democrat Martin Heinrich but it was a bad year for Republicans and White has the political bug. He'll run for something. Meanwhile, White is starting a Saturday afternoon radio show on conservative talk radio KKOB-AM just to be sure no one forgets about him.
Another sure bet is that the GOP primary will be hotly contested. I've already made my prediction that former U.S. Rep. Steve Pearce will run for his former House seat, although he'd still like to be governor. I'm betting Heather Wilson gets in that race.
Gen. Greg Zanetti already is in and working hard. And now we hear that Doug Turner, a former campaign manager for Gov. Gary Johnson, may jump in the race as another new face of the Republican Party.
New blood in the Republican Party may be just what the Grand Old Party needs to change an image that hasn't been working too well for it except in the Deep South. Some more new GOP blood has surfaced in the person of Bob Cornelius, of Lea County, who was briefly in the 2nd Congressional District race last year.
Cornelius says he'll run for either the southern district post on the Public Regulation Commission, which would pit him against Land Commissioner Pat Lyons or for Lyon's current position as land commissioner.
New names in the already crowded Democratic Party primary for lieutenant governor are Sen. Jerry Ortiz y Pino, Rep. Pete Campos and state Democratic Party Chairman Brian Colon.
Sen, Ortiz y Pino is a member of the New Democrats who have been able to successfully rebrand themselves as progressives instead of liberals. It seems to be working for them, so far. Maybe the GOP can pick up a few pointers.
If the Democratic far left can rebrand and succeed, maybe the GOP far right at the national level can too. Right now, it appears they've chosen a subject - secession. Several states, led by Texas, are considering secession as their answer to the way America has been headed the past four months.
That sounds pretty far out to those of us who remember the past effort of some states to do that. But the practice isn't too unusual in countries less stable than ours.
In Barcelona, Spain, 18 months ago Jeanette and I witnessed and even unwittingly participated in a Sunday separatist parade and rally that looked like a lot of fun until posters of the king and Queen were set on fire and the paddy wagons arrived.

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5-19 Caldera's Big Mistake Was Secrecy

 SANTA FE - Louis Caldera's OK of a low-level flyover of New York City by a 747 on a photo shoot may have gotten him in trouble even if he had gone through proper White House channels but at least it would have kept him from having to accept the final responsibility.
 Someone along the White House chain of command surely would have seen it as a dumb move in the middle of an economic crisis to spend $329,000 to get a new picture of a plane sometimes used as Air Force One flying near the Statue of Liberty.
 Caldera did inform the proper local authorities of the misguided mission. But his big mistake was in ordering those officials to keep it secret. Had the people of New York City known it was just a propaganda stunt, they wouldn't have gone running into the streets fearing another 9/11 terrorist attack.
 Why in the world did Gen. Caldera think it necessary for New York authorities to not to tell their citizens that a large aircraft would be circling the city for an hour at 1,000 feet with two military fighter jets accompanying it? Were they afraid terrorists would shoot it down? Did they think no one would notice?
 It is difficult to come up with an explanation. The best I can figure is that as a former Army chief of staff and University of New Mexico president, Caldera was accustomed to not having to get permission from anyone higher. And as a former military official, Caldera was accustomed to all of his moves being secret, whether there was any good reason for it or not.
 It was the secrecy that got him in big trouble. It is secrecy that always seems to be getting our government in trouble. In case you hadn't noticed America's Wild West culture always has been open and independent. Those aren't good traits for keeping secrets. 
America is not good at keeping secrets. When we try to keep secrets from our own people, we always suppose the worst. The New York City flyover is a good example. When we try to keep secrets from our friends and enemies, they find out anyway because we're not a culture of keeping secrets or stealing secrets.
Most of our major, and no telling how many of our minor, military secrets have been stolen. Stalin knew we had a nuclear bomb before Harry Truman did. The Soviet dictator was reported as not a bit surprised when President Franklin Roosevelt told him about our bomb, but Truman was blown over when he found out about it after becoming president.
Russian spies infiltrated Los Alamos before the American people knew the place existed. And while we were still saying, "Gee whiz," when the military showed us movies of the Trinity Site explosion, Soviet scientists already were building their bomb from blueprints smuggled out of Los Alamos.
The Chinese seem to be at the far end of the cultural spectrum from us, with an ancient tradition based on patience and a long-range approach to problem solving. They are willing to wait decades for their moles to work their way into positions from which they can be of the most help. They also are content to gather small nuggets of information from numerous sources.
Americans aren't good at doing this or at understanding others who operate in such a fashion. Imagine a spy thriller that takes 20 years to unfold. We want the action over in two hours.
Our nation needs a strong defense and a strong nuclear deterrent. World peace is not likely to break out any time in the next millennium. But if our national security system has the primary effect of keeping the American people in the dark, while remaining porous to foreign spies, we lose more than we gain.
Government secrecy in the name of national security creates public distrust and bureaucratic inefficiency. It would be nice if we could learn from the Caldera incident.

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Thursday, May 07, 2009

5-18 Finally, A Fun-Filled May Day

Syndicated Columnist
SANTA FE -- At last, New Mexico had its first fun-filled May Day weekend in 50 years. May Day was fun when I was growing up in Deming, NM.
Before I was school age, my mother would make little baskets of flowers, then have me deliver them to little girls' houses, ring the doorbell, then run and hide. It was fun even though I hadn't figured out why girls were special yet.
When I got to school, we always had an afternoon assembly to watch the sixth graders wind the May Pole. We never were taught why we celebrated May Day, probably because it never had been anything more than a pagan rite of spring.
But dark storm clouds were gathering. In big cities and in many nations around the world, the first day of May was a time to honor workers. Then communist nations chose it as a time to parade their military might. And everything changed.
The United States already had changed its Labor Day to September. Any remaining workers' celebrations on May 1st were discontinued. May Day was also sometimes called Loyalty Day to distinguish us from communists and from rowdy labor demonstrations.
Then the American Bar Association came up with Law Day, which they got President Eisenhower and Congress to officially declare. We don't hear much about the day but the Albuquerque Journal, and maybe other papers around the state had a two-page spread advertising the day this year.
But this May Day weekend was different for many New Mexicans. In Silver City, world champion bicyclist Lance Armstrong and two of his team members were given permission by the International Cycling Federation at the last minute to enter the 23rd annual, five-day Tour of the Gila.
It was a warm up for a major race in Spain, leading up to the Tour de France. Armstrong and his team had been training near Aspen but the weather was much nicer in the Gila Wilderness.
Cycling fans came from all over the world to watch or participate in the event. Foreign television stations covered it. Needless to say, Armstrong's presence and his pleasure with the area was an economic boon and made residents very happy.
Then there was the special May 2 launch by UP Aerospace of a rocket laden with educational experiments. Students from high schools, colleges and universities throughout central New Mexico had been planning for this for months.
A large crowd turned out to witness the spectacular launch of the 20-foot tall rocket. It didn't quite reach space but it went far enough to provide sufficient data to make the experiments worth it.
In another space related item, UFO investigators at Roswell announced that they have uncovered artifacts at a site where a SciFi Channel dig occurred in 2002. They are now trying to get it identified.
In perhaps the weekend's most exciting news, a New Mexico owned and trained horse won the Kentucky Derby going away. Mine That Bird, owned by Mark Allen's Double Eagle Ranch and Dr. Leonard Blach's Buena Suerte Equine in Roswell confounded all the tipsters who had picked him to run last.
Mine That Bird was trained by Bennie "Chip" Woolley of Bloomfield and ran at Sunland Park, south of Las Cruces. So, much of the state had reason to celebrate.
The Kentucky Derby elite weren't sure a bunch of cowboys from New Mexico had any business even being at their Derby. They reported not exactly receiving a warm welcome but the world knows who they are now.
Mine That Bird's two races in New Mexico were stakes races at Sunland Park in which he finished second and fourth. What got Mine That Bird into the Derby was three victories as a two-year old at a track in Toronto Canada. Maybe a fourth place horse from Sunland, who wins the Derby will bring a little recognition to Sunland.
To top it off, New Mexican Garrett Gomez rode Pioneer of the Nile to a second place finish.
MON, 5-18-09

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

This will be the last column for awhile. I should be able to get some to you from Maui. cell phone usually works. 505-699-9982.

5-15 Who Is the King of Pocket Vetoes?

---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------By JAY MILLER
Syndicated Columnist
SANTA FE -- Gov. Bill Richardson is getting considerable press and blog space for being the "contemporary king of pocket vetoes," as Dave Maass of the Santa Fe Reporter puts it.
When a governor vetoes a bill, he includes an explanation of why he is overriding the collective thinking of a majority of lawmakers. But if he completely ignores a bill passed by the Legislature, it automatically dies at the expiration of the 20 days after a legislative session the governor is allotted for acting on legislation.
Many governor's act on every bill that comes to their desk. They feel they owe that to the sponsors and the majority of lawmakers who voted for it. Maass reports that there were no pocket vetoes between 1976 and 1995.
That covers all or part of the terms of Govs. Jerry Apodaca, Toney Anaya, Garrey Carruthers and Bruce King. Former Gov. Gary Johnson was surprised to learn that he had pocket vetoed a few bills.
He wanted to drop the hatchet on as many as he could and enjoyed being Gov. No. Possibly the bills arrived from the Legislature too close to the deadline for Gov. Johnson's consideration.
But the pocket veto is a tool Richardson has used often -- 258 times according to Maass. That's almost as many as President Franklin Roosevelt pocket vetoed in over 12 years in office, he says.
Gilbert Gallegos, Richardson's deputy chief of staff, told Maass he doesn't understand why pocket vetoes are a big deal. Gallegos explains Richardson will write a veto message if he believes it is necessary and practical. If there is no reason for a message, he will use his pocket veto authority.
Many of Richardson's vetoes involved what Gallegos says was the Legislature overstepping its authority. That could include lawmakers forming committees to oversee or share administrative functions or even take then over completely..
Virtually all governors veto bills that erode executive power. Our original state constitution created a weak executive, with power shared among several statewide elected officials. All governors have fought to keep as much of their remaining power as possible.
The only difference is that other governors would simply write a short veto message telling lawmakers that they were treading into executive branch responsibilities. Micromanaging some would call it.
In citing examples of legislators whose bills were pocket vetoed this year, Maass notes at least one who said as soon as his bill passed, he knew it would be vetoed. That would seem to prove Gallegos' point that there was no reason for a message.
But with current administrative scandals being investigated, there is a strong probability that the Legislature will continue working toward more legislative oversight -- and with more public support than they ever have had before.
Blogger Mario Burgos has another slant. He says Richardson uses pocket vetoes "to avoid putting himself in the crosshairs for making unpopular decisions. It's a way for him to appease legislators or special interests instead of making the hard decision by vetoing it."
But as Gallegos argues, "A veto is a veto." It doesn't matter whether it is a pocket veto. The governor takes the heat either way.
It appears Richardson definitely is the contemporary king of pocket vetoes, but for all time honors among New Mexico governors, former Gov. Edwin L. Mechem may be the champ.
I haven't been able to find the figures but during the almost eight years he was governor between 1951 and 1962, Mechem's name was synonymous with pocket vetoes.
I don't remember the reason Mechem gave for his inaction. I was a teenager during much of that period but I do remember that the street word was that Big Ed was just too lazy. Governors had much smaller staffs in those days so maybe Mechem didn't have much help.
But judging by his distinguished career on the federal bench in later years, I would guess that he figured a lot of bills didn't need to become law and most of those didn't even deserve an explanation.
FRI, 5-15-09

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


Tuesday, May 05, 2009

5-13 Will Gov Run for Another Statewide Office?

Syndicated Columnist
SANTA FE -- Except for the land commissioner contest, all of New Mexico's down-ballot statewide races have incumbents seeking office again.
Secretary of State Mary Herrera, Attorney General Gary King, Treasurer James Lewis, and auditor Hector Balderas all are in their first term of office and eligible to seek a second four-year term.
Democrats sometimes draw opposition from within their own party in primary elections. Republicans almost never challenge their own. Republican Greg Sowards was severely chastised by the GOP state party chairman for challenging fellow Republican, U.S. Rep. Joe Skeen back in the '90s.
Sometimes Republicans aren't even able to recruit a candidate for some of those races, especially treasurer and auditor. From time to time, proposals have been made to eliminate some or all of the down-ballot offices.
But New Mexicans like to have as much say-so as possible about their leaders. Never mind that they usually have no idea who the candidates are. A governor, on the other hand, tends to know the people he appoints.
A system, similar to the federal government model, in which the president appoints his entire team, could work especially well for Republicans in New Mexico.
The GOP never has been especially keen on the idea but since 1950, Republicans have held the governor's office for 24 years and could have appointed their entire team instead of having to deal with Democrats in all, or nearly all, those offices.
The one open race next year will be to replace term-limited Land Commissioner Patrick Lyons, a Republican. Former land commissioner, Ray Powell, Jr. already has announced that he wants back in. Powell is a Democrat who held the office from 1993 to 2002.
Being the only Republican officeholder who has won a statewide general election, Lyons may decide to run for higher office. It is sometimes said that Republicans don't have much bench strength, meaning that they don't have a pool of possible candidates who have won statewide general elections for the down-ballot offices.
For awhile it was thought that Attorney General Gary King might decide to take another crack at the governor's office. Several Democratic names quickly were in the mix for that contest. We heard Rep. Al Park, who has briefly been in other statewide races; former state Democratic Chairman John Wertheim; Geno Zamora, Gov. Richardson's former chef counsel and District Attorney Lemuel Martinez, who four years ago ran unsuccessfully for attorney general.
Secretary of State Mary Herrera might get some Democratic primary opposition from Santa Fe County Clerk Valerie Espinosa. According to Espinosa, many county clerks are not pleased with the inefficiency of Herrera's office.
Espinosa says other county clerks don't want to criticize Herrera since they have to work with her but she's ready to point out the problems. Espinosa says she may run against Herrera next year. If she doesn't, she'll run in 2014.
Question: Next to Lt. Gov. Diane Denish's campaign war chest of almost $2 million, who has the next biggest state campaign account? Blogger Joe Monahan points out that it is none other than Gov. Bill Richardson, who has over $500,000 and still is collecting and spending money.
What for? He can't use it for federal purposes. He had a separate account for his presidential run, which he finally has paid off. But Richardson has been raising money and spending it on consultants.
Is he considering running for governor again in 2014? Will he run for one of the state offices we've been discussing? Former Gov. John E. Miles set a precedent for that back in the '40s when he ran for and won two land commission races.
Miles' famous announcement explained that he'd already been governor and now he wanted the most powerful office in the state. The land office manages 9 million acres of surface land and 13 million oil, gas and mineral acres.
WED, 5-13-09

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


5-11 Full Dem Field For Lt. Gov. Expected

Syndicated Columnist
SANTA FE -- If the field of Democratic lieutenant governor candidates is anywhere near the length of the list of hopefuls who expressed interest in being appointed to the post by Diane Denish last December, the size of the ballot will have to be increased.
Back when it appeared Denish would soon be our next governor, there was no scarcity of New Mexicans who thought they'd make a fine lieutenant governor.
Now that they have to run for the position, how many still will be interested? So far, only two have formally declared. And one of those likely was not on Denish's list of applicants.
First to declare was Santa Fe County Sheriff Greg Solano, who has been looking at the lieutenant governor's contest for a long time. To get some statewide notice, he started a blog several years ago, which he and his wife have developed into quite a production, complete with their own cartoons.
Two years ago, when U.S. Rep. Tom Udall vacated his seat to run for the U.S. Senate, Solano took a crack at that. In fact, the laundry list of candidates for that Democratic nomination may be a good clue to who we'll see in the lieutenant governor's race.
Conventional political wisdom tells us that a female candidate raised in Hobbs and who spent her first years of married life in Farmington would do well with an Hispanic male, preferably from the North. That was a good description of Denish's list of applicants.
The other declared candidate is state Sen. Linda Lopez of Albuquerque. She's Hispanic. Being from Albuquerque won't hurt, although that's where Denish has lived in recent years. But New Mexico may not be ready for two women on a ticket to head state government.
A few years ago Arizona celebrated the election of women to the state's top five offices. New Mexico hasn't gotten that far but some states considered more traditional than New Mexico in gender relations already have had women governors.
Lopez doesn't think a two-woman ticket would be a handicap but she wasn't mentioned as being a candidate for a Denish appointment last December.
Another reason Lopez may have stayed away from requesting a Denish appointment is that in 2002, both were lieutenant governor candidates until Denish successfully challenged the sufficiency of Lopez's nominating petition signatures and knocked her off the ballot.
Denish began immediate efforts to smooth out that relationship. Lopez is a popular politician in Albuquerque's South Valley, an area Democrats could not afford to lose.
State Auditor Hector Balderas headed the list of appointees it was thought Denish might choose. He already had experience winning a statewide race. Under the present circumstances, however, he will seek reelection to his present post.
Lawrence Rael was another top possibility for a Denish appointment. As executive director of the Mid-Region Council of Governments, he has been one of Gov. Bill Richardson's top go-to guys.
He heads the Rail Runner project. And when the Region III Housing Authority scandal arose Rael was asked to take that over too. Rael also has served in top staff positions for Sen. Jeff Bingaman and three Albuquerque mayors.
Others who have expressed interest or whose names have been suggested are state Rep. Lucky Varela of Santa Fe, Department of Veterans' Services executive director John Garcia, Espanola Mayor Joe Maestas, former Secretary of State Rebecca Vigil-Giron, former governor's chief counsel Geno Zamora and New Mexico State University regent Javier Gonzales of Santa Fe.
Joining this long list of Hispanic males from the north, are governors of two of New Mexico's most successful pueblos, George Rivera of Pojoaque Pueblo and Stuwart Paisano of Sandia Pueblo.
Some wise guy even suggested that if actor Val Kilmer wants to be New Mexico's governor, he should run for lieutenant governor this time and get some experience.
MON, 5-11-09

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


5-8 GOP Gov Race May Draw Crowd

Syndicated Columnist
SANTA FE -- Assuming Lt. Gov. Diane Denish doesn't move to the top spot before next year's elections, 2010's gubernatorial race will not have an incumbent.
That usually brings out a number of candidates from both major parties. Richardson managed to scare everyone out in 2002. Denish is trying the same thing this year and appears to be doing a pretty good job.
But the Republican side of the ledger appears headed for a full house. Greg Zanetti, an Albuquerque financial adviser and National Guard brigadier general is the only candidate to officially form an exploratory committee but several hopefuls are sniffing around right behind him.
Former U.S. Reps. Steve Pearce and Heather Wilson gave up their seats to seek the GOP nomination for the post held by Republican Sen. Pete Domenici.
Pearce won that nomination but lost in the general election to Democrat Rep. Tom Udall. Very soon after his defeat, Pearce announced that he wasn't through with politics and would run either for governor or his former congressional seat in 2010.
Pearce says he has his eyes on the governor's race but that may not be where he ends up. He beat Wilson in a head-to-head senatorial primary last year and may be able to do so again next year for governor.
Wilson's battle cry in last year's primary was that, as a moderate. she stood a better chance of winning the general election than Pearce, an unwavering conservative.
Pearce likely would have an easier time winning his old seat back, which he had won by comfortable margins. Hints that he might continue this route are that he has kept both his Washington office and house.
Another consideration might be that any money he might have left over from his House or Senate campaigns can be used for another congressional run but he can't use the money for a gubernatorial race.
Money isn't a major problem for Pearce but he doesn't seem to like digging in his own pocket for campaign expenses. Rep. Harry Teague, the current 2nd Congressional District office holder didn't mind digging deeply for his two tough campaigns last year.
It's all a matter of preference for the moneyed. Both Pearce and Teague are in the oil business. Former Gov. Bruce King, a successful rancher, said if he couldn't raise enough campaign money from his friends, it meant he wasn't strong enough to win anyway.
Heather Wilson could have moved to Washington and done well in defense and intelligence consulting or lobbying. But she wanted to keep her family in Albuquerque. She has not mentioned running for her former seat again, but she is considering the governor's race.
Wilson was one of the moderate Republicans mentioned by Arlen Specter when he listed Republicans who had been abandoned by the GOP in party primaries last year.
Land Commissioner Patrick Lyons has also thought about the governor's race. He is the only Republican who has been able to win statewide in the last two elections. Party chairman Allen Weh also has been mentioned.
But for now Gen. Zanetti has it to himself on the GOP side. He's been making the best of it, traveling the state and setting up organizations.
Zanetti isn't new at this. Back in the early '90s, he was part of a group of conservative Christian Republicans who took over the Bernalillo County Party and threatened to rewrite the state GOP platform.
In talks with Sen. Pete Domenici and other party leaders, they proved to be reasonable and non-threatening, just interested in keeping Christian values in the forefront. It was a big disappointment to those of us in the media who wanted to cover a good fight.
Zanetti went on to run unsuccessfully for lieutenant governor in 1994 and later served as Bernalillo County GOP chairman. His wife, Theresa, was a member of the New Mexico House for three terms.
FRI, 5-08-09

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

We're leaving Fri. for two weeks in Hawaii with kids and grandkids. Will get several columns to you in next few days and will be sending from Maui also.

Sunday, May 03, 2009

5-6 Does Denish Have Dem Nomination In Bag?

Syndicated Columnist
SANTA FE -- The time has come for serious candidates to begin making public announcements about their intentions to run for office.
For incumbents, that's relatively easy. Put out the word you plan to run again and make sure your previous supporters are still with you.
But for non-incumbents, there is much to be done. Supporters must be lined up before another candidate grabs them. Fundraising must start before donors get tapped out.
Most importantly, candidates must get their name out before potential voters. Some candidates already have started doing that. In this and some future columns, we'll begin reviewing the races for you.
There will be no U.S. Senate contest this year so the governors' race will be at the top of the statewide ballot.
First among likely Democratic gubernatorial candidates is Lt. Gov. Diane Denish, who has let her intentions about that office be known for years. She has been raising money for some time and reports to the public more often than is required by state law.
It's not a bad way to let voters know you're serious and it might make some potential opponents check their hole cards. At this point, Denish has raised almost $2 million.
Denish has served as lieutenant governor for almost seven years, during which she has skillfully presided over an independent minded Senate. During her first four-year term, Gov. Bill Richardson involved her in his decisions and operation as much as any governor ever has.
During the first two years of his second term, he was out of state campaigning much of the time. Even though that made Denish acting governor, the shots were still being called by Richardson in phone conversations with top aides.
Last December, when it appeared Denish would be governor by late January, everything changed. Richardson mentally checked out while future Gov. Denish made preparations to hit the ground running. She appointed a transition team and asked for resignations from the hundreds of Richardson appointed job-holders.
A massive switching of loyalties ensued and then suddenly everything was off. But it didn't go back to normal. Too much had happened during that month.
Denish didn't disband her transition team. Would Richardson be indicted? Would he be cleared and off to another job in Washington? Would the grand jury drag on and Richardson accept a lucrative job outside of government?
So far, the answer is none of the above. It could remain that way for 19 more months or it could change tomorrow. People at the top of government are still on edge and relations between Richardson and Denish are understandably strained.
Gov. Richardson did make an appearance recently at a Denish fundraiser. It was a sign of a possible thaw in their relationship. But Richardson also has made encouraging comments about the possibility of actor Val Kilmer running against Denish.
Kilmer doesn't appear to be tremendously serious although he has made moves that lead one to think he could be a potential candidate. He has made public appearances in the state. He has talked with a high-powered Washington public relations firm. His entire ranch on the Pecos River up for sale. And now a push poll has been conducted by someone citing Kilmer's political negatives.
And there is now a Val Kilmer blog. He doesn't write it but it is done by someone close to him who has used Kilmer writings and interviews that speak poetically about love, spirituality and the beauty of New Mexico. It's a perfect counterpoint to the interview excerpts that have brought him so much grief around the state.
The blog sounds vaguely like the Kilmer I experienced recently when I ran across a 1987 inaugural issue of Southwest Opinion and Review, which contained a poem by Kilmer, written while on location in New Zealand.
A celebrity like Kilmer can get in the game late. Others can't. Albuquerque Mayor Martin Chavez and Attorney General Gary King toyed with a gubernatorial run and decided instead to seek reelection to their old offices.
Senate majority floor leader Michael Sanchez is keeping the door open a crack but precious time is passing.
WED, 5-06-09

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