Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Roundhouse Roundup: Bingaman Stands By Public Option

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

Sen. Jeff Bingaman has been a strong proponent of a government-sponsored “public-option” health insurance plan that would be available to all Americans. He voted last month in the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee for a health care bill that included such a plan. Just last week, his office, at my request, sent several statements Bingaman made in favor of the “public option.”

So I was surprised this week to read a report from ABC News’ Z. Byron Wolf that Bingaman and other Democratic members of the Senate Finance Committee are backing away from the public option plan.

“And while the bipartisan negotiators, led for Democrats by Sens. Max Baucus of Montana, Kent Conrad of North Dakota and Jeff Bingaman of New Mexico, are not ceding some key liberal talking points,” Wolf wrote in ABC’s The Note, “ ... they are moving toward a series of non-profit, non-government co-ops to compete with the insurance industry instead of a government-run health plan.”

On Wednesday, Binagaman’s spokeswoman Jude McCartin explained in an e-mail to me, “Yes, Sen. Bingaman continues to support — and work for — a strong public option. It was clear from the start that the Finance Committee would have a different approach than the HELP Committee. The goal is to work toward getting a strong public option in the bill that reaches the president’s desk.”

Sounds like there could be some detours before such a bill gets to that desk.

Son of a Gun: I was bemused Wednesday to read a story in The Hill that the National Republican Congressional Committee had named former U.S. Rep. Steve Pearce, who is challenging Rep. Harry Teague for his old Southern New Mexico congressional seat, as one of its 13 “Young Guns.”

Pearce, a “Young” Gun? Western movie buffs might ask if this means he’s as old as Billy the Kid. (Actually Pearce will turn 62 next month.)

According to The Hill, Young Guns is a training program to help non-incumbent GOP congressional candidates. The candidates “must demonstrate a base of support, develop a media messaging plan for the race and show they are capable of raising enough money to get their message out,” the article says.

Among those 13 Young Guns is Jon Barela, 49, who is challenging Democrat freshman Martin Heinrich for the 1st Congressional District seat.

Adam Kokesh, the only Republican challenging Rep. Ben Ray Luján — at least so far — didn’t make the Young Guns, even though at 27 he really is young. And being a former Marine, he knows something about guns.

But the NRCC has a habit of ignoring the heavily-Democratic 3rd District. As reported in this very column last year, the day after the 2008 June primary, the group issued a statement congratulating GOP primary winners Darren White in CD 1 and Ed Tinsley in CD 2. But they didn’t even mention Dan East, who won the Republican primary here.

Matthew Padilla
Speaking of primaries: One of the most crowded next year is likely to be the Democratic lieutenant governor’s contest. I ran into state Sen. Jerry Ortiz y Pino recently, who predicted six or seven contenders for the position besides himself.

Another name just popped up this week, and I don’t think he was even part of Ortiz y Pino’s calculations. That’s Matthew Padilla. Originally from Albuquerque, he’s served as an intern for Bingaman as well as U.S. Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, D-Rhode Island. He’s also a former Naval officer.

In an e-mail to “New Mexico bloggers” (including me), Padilla wrote, “I have been thinking very seriously about running for Lt. Governor of New Mexico.”

Besides Ortiz y Pino, other candidates for that job include Santa Fe County Sheriff Greg Solano and state Sen. Linda Lopez. State Auditor Hector Balderas and Mid-Region Council of Governments executive director Lawrence Rael have said they are considering the race, and state Democratic Party chairman Brian Colón has been mentioned as a possibility.