Inside the Capitol

Wednesday, May 09, 2012

5-14 Will GOP beat itself again?

51412 Repubs behaving badly?

SANTA FE – Now's the time for all the stops to come out. There's two weeks left in the 2012 political primaries. If you're going to do something, do it now.
Admittedly, there aren't many hot primary races. Our pitiful redistricting process puts both Republican and Democratic incumbents in districts as safe as can possibly be justified by the rules. This means having uninteresting primaries and even less interesting general election campaigns.
And there's no way to fix it in New Mexico. Some states allow voters to rebel and put their own ideas out for public vote. Those states have independent redistricting commissions, which make districts as competitive as possible.
But Congress was afraid that Wild West New Mexicans couldn't be trusted so the elites were put in permanent control – and we always will be under their control.
Since politics is a very dirty business, even well-designed plans, such as the redistricting plan in Arizona, is being subverted by a governor and legislature who don't like what is fair and are making illegal moves to subvert the redistricting.
In New Mexico's few contested primaries, we do find some rather good battles. Democrats are fighting over Speaker Ben Lujan's coveted seat. Current Santa Fe Mayor David Coss is one of the combatants.
Senate Majority Floor Leader Michael Sanchez is being opposed by Rep. David Chavez in a Democratic primary. Chavez said just before declaring his senatorial candidacy that his law practice was so good that he was leaving the Legislature.
Why the sudden change of heart? Several sources report that Gov. Susana Martinez wants Sanchez out because he has sunk much of her priority legislation, such as not allowing driver's licenses for illegal aliens.
It also is reported that political consultant Jay McCleskey is the driving force behind anything Gov. Martinez does politically. McCleskey's influence also goes further than pitting Republicans against Democrats or Democrats against Democrats. It even extends to pitting Republicans against Republicans.
Last month, it was reported that Martinez and McCleskey were trying to unseat Senate Republican leader Stuart Ingle for not having fought hard enough to get Martinez's legislation through the Senate. That didn't work well. Ingle is highly respected by both sides in the Senate.
Then it was reported that Sen. Clint Harden of Clovis had been pressured into retiring. Harden is a nice, affable guy but that may not have fit into the Republican game plan for taking the Senate or at least getting priority legislation passed.
Angie Spears, the niece of Public Regulation Commission Chairman Pat Lyons immediately announced for the seat and was endorsed by Gov. Martinez. But then Republican businessmen Pat Woods and Mark Myers protested that the seat should be open to anyone interested and not to just the GOP establishment.
Gov. Martinez countered that she merely was endorsing the first person to announce for the seat. That did not satisfy Woods and Myers. Myers then dropped out and threw his support to Woods, saying they'd fight the establishment together.
Back in the 1970s, southern Democrats at the state and national level began heading toward the Republican Party, in what was then called Richard Nixon's southern strategy.
In New Mexico, it began as coalitions, first to take over the state House, then Senate. Later, Republican legislators began changing parties, first in the House, then in the Senate. Republicans and a group of opportunistic Democrats ran the House for most of the 1970s and '80s.
The Senate finally got its stuff together in the '80s. But it didn't last very long before three disgruntled Republicans didn't feel they got a fair shake in the coup and went over to the Democratic side.
Then came the 1988 elections, when George H.W. Bush handily won the presidency but New Mexico Democrats just as handily took back the Senate.
Will we see a repeat of that GOP overreach this year or will things mellow out?


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