Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Roundhouse Roundup: Tommy for Sheriff?

A version of this was published in The Santa Fe New Mexican
April 30, 2009

Tommy Rodella lost an important vote before the state Supreme Court less than a year ago. The high court unanimously ousted Rodella from his position as Rio Arriba County magistrate judge.

But Rodella plans to go before another body next year — Democratic primary voters in Rio Arriba County.
Tommy Rodella
The retired state police officer this time is running for Rio Arriba County sheriff. He told me that Saturday, during the state Democratic Party’s Central Committee meeting in Albuquerque.

Rodella, who attended the meeting with his wife, state Rep. Debbie Rodella, D-EspaƱola, said he expects a crowded field in the race to replace Sheriff Joe Mascarenas, who can’t seek a third term in 2010.

A crowded field didn’t hurt Tommy Rodella in 2006, when he won the Rio Arriba Democratic primary for the Magistrate Court seat. He beat five other opponents, ending up with 24 percent of the vote, 231 votes more than his nearest rival, Rio Arriba County Probate Judge Marlo Martinez. (Martinez, who also was at the Central Committee meeting Saturday, said he’s backing Rodella to fill the sheriff’s job, which is likely to be determined in the primary.)

The magistrate seat was ill-fated for Rodella from the beginning.

Gov. Bill Richardson had appointed him in March 2005 to replace retired Magistrate Judge Tony Martinez. Just four months later, however, Richardson’s office announced Judge Rodella resigned after meeting with the governor about a case in which Rodella drove from EspaƱola to the Tierra Amarilla jail to free an acquaintance suspected of driving while intoxicated.

But things didn’t get easier for Rodella after he became judge again.

The state Judicial Standards Commission investigated him and said he was guilty of misconduct in three cases. The commission recommended his removal from office.

Last May, the state Supreme Court heard the case. Most of the questions from justices were about a case in which Rodella was accused of improperly telling an alleged victim in a domestic violence case she didn’t have to show up in court to testify against her husband.

During the commission’s investigation, Rodella and his lawyers in court documents strongly implied that the charges against Rodella were politically motivated because Richardson wanted him out of office.

At one point during the Supreme Court hearing, Justice Richard Bosson asked Rodella’s lawyer if he was saying the commissioners are “political stooges of the governor” and demanded if he had any evidence of that. Pennington admitted he didn’t.

The court ruled that Rodella should be removed from office and that he not be allowed to run for judicial office again.

But that ruling doesn’t prevent him from running for sheriff.

You say you want a resolution: At the Central Committee meeting, the main concern for many delegates I talked to was a “gay marriage” resolution. The resolution put the state party on record in its official platform as actively supporting and advocating “on behalf of marriage equality and equal rights for all regardless of sexual orientation.”

With very little discussion, the Democrats thwarted an attempt to remove that resolution and voted 309-35 to approve the platform — marriage equality and all.

But that was only one of 38 platform resolutions approved. With even less discussion at the meeting, the Dems also voted in favor of resolutions to:

* Support the passage of HR 676, which would establish a national single-payer health insurance system, which would be publicly financed and privately delivered.

* Support the efforts of U.S. Rep. John Conyers and U.S. Sen. Patrick Leahy “to investigate possible crimes and misdemeanors of the Bush Administration.”

* Save the College of Santa Fe. The state should consider temporary state ownership of the embattled college then later “re-privatize” it.

* Repeal the 1996 Telecommunications Act and enforcement of the Sherman Anti-Trust Act to discourage media consolidation.

* Use diplomacy, not force, in Afghanistan.

That’s just a few of them.

Of course, most political platforms, state or national, are promptly forgotten shortly after they are written. Candidates aren’t bound to follow any of the planks.

But just because a lot of the candidates won’t be reading the platform doesn’t mean you can’t. You can find that document online HERE.