Thursday, April 9, 2009

Roundhouse Roundup: Grand Slam Dems & Other Fun With Politics

A version of this was published in The Santa Fe New Mexican
April 9, 2009

Every time Santa Fe County Democrats get together to conduct business, they seem intent on affirming that famous Will Rogers quote: "I am not a member of any organized political party. I am a Democrat."
Will Rogers
The local Dems got together Tuesday night at Santa Fe Community College to elect a new county chairman, vice chairwoman and 42 members of the state party Central Committee.

It was chaotic, long and frustrating — nearly causing me to blow my deadline — but, as always, it was fun to see who showed up and who didn't.

For instance, Secretary of State Mary Herrera, a resident of Bernalillo County, was there for a while. But Santa Fe County Clerk Valerie Espinoza, who says she's considering running against Herrera in the next primary, didn't show. Espinoza said Wednesday that she attended her Democratic ward meeting the week before but got too busy at work Tuesday to make the meeting that night.

The only declared candidate for lieutenant governor, Santa Fe County Sheriff Greg Solano, showed up and spoke to the crowd. Later, he was elected to the state party's Central Committee.

Lt. Gov. Diane Denish was there. She got a laugh when she said party members must elect a strong Democrat as governor next year, "no matter who she is."

She was the only gubernatorial contender there. Actor Val Kilmer was nowhere to be seen.

Among the other past and present officials who showed up Tuesday were Public Regulation Commissioner Jerome Block Jr. and his father, former PRC member Jerome Block Sr. Only hours later, both were indicted by a grand jury on multiple felony counts related to the younger Block's campaign finance reports from the last election.

Dems at Denny's: I had to leave to go write my news story after the results of the chairman's race was announced. Retired lawyer Richard Ellenberg defeated longtime Dem activist José Morfín in a bitterly-fought contest.

But apparently the Dems also were forced to leave shortly after I took off.

In his blog, Solano wrote, "The voting for State Central Committee lasted until 10 p.m. and the college then threw the Democrats out for the night. The elections committee took the ballots for State Central to Denny's to have breakfast and count the votes."

Should we call them the Grand Slam Democrats?

"I checked in on the vote counting at midnight and it was still ongoing," Solano wrote. The sheriff later told me he didn't find out until Wednesday that he won a position on the committee.

The reason it took so long to count the Central Committee ballots is because of the complex formula by which those members are chosen. The rules call for equal numbers of men and women, while one seat goes to someone from the small portion of the 1st Congressional District in Santa Fe County. (The vast majority of the county is in the 3rd Congressional District.)

Good words for Val: Speaking of Kilmer, I got a lot of response to a story I wrote a couple of weeks ago about a mysterious telephone poll from those who say he'd be a great asset to the state and some who just use half of that word.

Two positive letters stood out. One was from former American Indian Movement leader Russell Means, who quoted his old lawyer William Kunstler, who represented Means during the Wounded Knee trials in 1973: "When you are in a struggle, any news is good news."

Wrote Means: "This is good for the Kilmer Gubernatorial camp if there is one. Because if you are a threat, they come after you. I know I have been there. I for one am mis-quoted often. Remember the media doesn't tell the news they 'sell' the news!"

Means in 2002 unsuccessfully sought to get on the gubernatorial ballot in New Mexico representing a third party called the Independent Coalition Party.

Then there was an e-mail from Boulder clinical psychologist Mark E. Kilmer, the actor's brother, declaring Val Kilmer to be the man to fill "the enormous shoes" of Gov. Bill Richardson.

"Mr. Kilmer is morally and ethically righteous, creative, erudite, and passionate; both in his own private life, and in his ambitions and dreams for the great state of New Mexico," the e-mail said.

That would sound as if Val is running. But in fairness, I don't always know what my brother is up to.