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Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Ellen Wedum Guest Blog: View of Jennings from SE New Mexico

EWedumThis is a guest blog by Ellen Wedum written in response to a recent guest blog by John Wertheim. Ellen was a candidate for State Representative in HD 59 this year, but lost to incumbent Republican Nora Espinoza. She chairs the Democratic Party of Otero County.

It is really easy for people like Wertheim, who have lived and worked “north of I-40,” to comment on what goes on in the neglected SE corner of New Mexico. Wertheim wrote in his blog: "Why are Jennings and Papen so afraid of the progressive agenda..."

Wertheim ignores the reasons that were stated by Senator Tim Jennings and makes up his own. The big question in my mind is, WHO authorized the 'push poll' that led to Jennings’ reaction? I doubt very much that it was authorized by Senator-elect Fischmann. I would expect him to also condemn this dirty tactic.

Now my campaign for House District 59 was negatively affected by Democratic Senator Nava of Las Cruces, as she allowed my Republican opponent, Nora Espinoza, to sign on to SB 31, Nava's bill to expand the number of schools in dual-credit programs. This doubled Espinoza’s total of bills she can take credit for passing in her first two years in the legislature. Big whoop there. Espinoza also tried to sign on to the $5 million bailout for flood damage that passed in the special session, but Senator Tim Jennings, the true sponsor of the bill, apparently told her no, as she hasn't bragged about that. Jennings also donated $300 to my campaign. Only two other legislators helped me out: Representatives Chasey and Lundstrom. Espinoza received $500 each from Republicans Keith Gardner and Dub Williams, and $250 from Boitano, plus small donations from over 20 PACs.

Remember that Espinoza was the Republican representative who not only voted against House Bill 9, the Domestic Partnership bill, but also spoke against it in the Senate and ‘turned’ Democratic Senators Rainaldi and Taylor, who both voted against HB9 in the Senate Judiciary committee and prevented it from receiving a Senate floor vote. Apparently Rainaldi got so much flack for his harsh questioning of Representative Stewart that he did not even run for re-election (I was there and heard it all), and Taylor was defeated by Eric Griego.

And by the way I am very glad Rawson was defeated, he was one of those ‘snipers,’ like Carraro, Foley and Candy Spence Ezzell, who would waste time, and our tax dollars, with nasty comments and stupid questions during the floor sessions. Carraro and Rawson are now gone and the Republicans, mainly due to the investment of $200,000 by Big Oilmen like Mark Murphy, got rid of Foley for us. Republican Dennis Kintigh, his replacement, is a pretty decent guy, more like the new minority whip Keith Gardner. (Gardner has been given the title “the gentle giant of the quad counties” for his size and mild demeanor.)

So let’s not attack our Democratic legislators because they get upset when dirty tactics are used. I doubt that news of the nastiness that went on in the Albuquerque area in the three races Wertheim mentioned ever reached “south of I-40.” Both Bernalillo and Valencia counties are comfortably, if not overwhelmingly, Democratic, while Tim Jennings is the ONLY Democratic legislator from Chaves county. I’d appreciate it if you Albuquerque area folks would give more support to Democrats like George Peterson and me that are running in the tough districts down here, and help us get rid of Ezzell and Espinoza, instead of trying to remove Democratic influence from Chaves county entirely. It has long been absent from Lincoln county and from most of the eastern side of New Mexico. And also think about supporting special ed teacher Doug Post of Alamogordo in Otero county, who got nearly 46% of the vote against Republican representative Gloria Vaughn. That should be an interesting race in 2010.

This is a guest blog by Ellen Wedum. You can see an Alamogordo Daily News profile of the HD 59 race and the candidates here and here.

Guest blogs provide an opportunity for our readers to express themselves on topics of interest to the political discourse here, and may or may not express the views of the DFNM blog. If you'd like to submit a post for consideration as a guest blog, contact me by clicking on the Email Me link on the upper left-hand corner of the page.

November 18, 2008 at 10:08 AM in 2008 NM State Legislature Races, Democratic Party, Guest Blogger | Permalink


This misreported notion of a "push poll" needs to be put to rest. Conservation Voters NM Action Fund conducted a live persuasion ID phone program in SD 37 as part of our PAC voter contact program, and our script DID NOT contain the word alleged by Senator Jennings. If the voter said they were undecided or could change their mind about which candidate they would support, we DID point out that Rawson had used capital outlay (as reported in the LC Sun) to pave a road outside of his district and clear across town in front of his family business. In contrast, we stated that Steve Fischmann will work for ordinary New Mexicans that live in his District and will work to create new jobs in the renewable energy sector. I don't believe these are "dirty tactics" as Ellen calls them. Voters deserve to know these distinctions and they spoke clearly on election day in favor of Steve Fischmann. BTW, we've reviewed our universe of phone numbers and can't find Senator Jennings published home phone number in Chaves county nor anyone with the last name Jennings in our phone program universe, so its unclear to us how he supposedly received our call outside of the district....Sandy Buffett, CVNM Action Fund

Posted by: Sandy B. | Nov 18, 2008 10:35:01 AM

The plain truth (OK, my NSH opinion) is that Jennings flat out lied to campaign for a Rethuglican. If I had done such a thing for whatever reason I would be stripped of my position as Democratic party Ward chair. Now, Sen. Jennings is an elected official, not a Democratic Party official. Nobody can take that from him, at least not for another four years. His leadership post in the Senate is another matter. He should be removed as president pro-tem post haste.

Posted by: Proud Democrat | Nov 18, 2008 10:58:16 AM

Good that Sandy Buffet took the time to put the facts here. Jennings lied and he thought only of trying to keep his power position when he did it. He should be ashamed of himself and no Democrat should make excuses for him.

Posted by: JJ | Nov 18, 2008 11:18:49 AM

I am very progressive, but after reading this post I am not sure this person is fit to run for office. She is mad at Nava for getting bi-partisan support for a bill and mad because she apparently didn't know how to fundraise? She is also sadly mistaken if she thinks Taylor was thrown out of office because he didn't support Domestic Partnership. Also, the "big three races" that she cited as "comfortably or overwhemingly" democratic actually consisted of a race that a Democrat (RAIGOZA) LOST because of DIRTY TACTICS by the Repubs and Valencia IS a swing county. Judging by her post, she probably had a lot to do with the lack of monetary and electoral support.

Posted by: REX | Nov 18, 2008 11:49:42 AM

Wedum does seem awfully mixed up about how the legislature works and what co-sponsoring bills is all about. She takes on faith that some kind of push poll was being used when that is not the truth. Something tells me she's friends with Jennings and not as progressive as she suggests.

Posted by: LT | Nov 18, 2008 11:54:27 AM

I agree. This post is good evidence of why she probably wasn't taken very seriously as a viable candidate.

Posted by: AGREE | Nov 18, 2008 11:56:36 AM

The facts on the ground are these. The Republicans descended to unprecedented depths of viciousness in their attack mailers and robocalls used against Democratic state senate candidates Victor Raigoza and Tim Eichenberg in particular -- yet not a peep of protest was heard from Senator Jennings. John Wertheim is much too kind to Jennings in this regard. No, this is not about Jennings applying a double standard. This is about lying.

Jennings lied about the existence of a "push poll." He lied about receiving a voter contact call of any kind at his Roswell home for a state senate campaign in Las Cruces. So why did he lie?

He lied in a desperate attempt to save Rawson and preserve the tacit conservative coalition that blocks reform in the state senate. He lied to defeat a Democrat because he believed it would help him hang onto his position as President Pro Tem.

And this was the biggest lie of all -- that his actions were motivated by principle, when in fact it was solely about power.

This episode leaves Jennings stripped of any integrity he once had. At this point, the idea of the Democratic Caucus putting forward his name as its candidate for Pro Tem would be joke and a disgrace. While I wish to believe that Ms. Wedum herself is an honorable person, I am flabbergasted by her extreme gullibility on this one.

Posted by: luis | Nov 19, 2008 10:29:19 PM

Oh, and BTW let me just add that Ms. Wedum is also sadly ill-informed about the politics outside of Chaves County. Her characterization of Bernalillo County as "comfortably Democratic" is asinine. How does she explain 16 years of Manuel Lujan, Steve Schiff and Heather Wilson in Congress then? Raigoza and Eichenberg were challenging Republican incumbent state senators. In the case of Eichenberg's district (SD 15), it has NEVER been held by a Democrat. Thank goodness Wedum was not making the strategic spending decisions for the Democrats.

Posted by: luis | Nov 19, 2008 10:51:30 PM

Correction: That's 26 years -- not 16 -- of Lujan, Schiff and Wilson in the "comfortably Democratic" Bernalillo County dominated CD1.

Posted by: luis | Nov 19, 2008 10:56:02 PM

Folks, I served as House Majority support staff in 2007 and attended the legislature at my own expense during the short session in 2008 when Republican objections denied me employment. I know from personal experience how hard the secretaries work, and I know, from attending many committee hearings and sitting in the gallery in 2008, some of what goes on in the legislature. I'll bet the commenters above don't even know the difference between a SR and a SJR.

Bernalillo county is certainly not 100% True Blue, but you DO have Democratic legislators. Bernalillo county voted 60% for Obama, that's comfortably Democratic.

For Obama in Chaves county we get 37.1%, Lincoln 36.5%, Otero 39.6%, those are red counties. In these three counties, the total of Democratic legislators is Tim Jennings and (in Otero) 2 precincts represented by Nate Cote--which he lost. Cote made up his losses in Dona Ana county. Jennings ran unopposed.

The frothing at the mouth comments above just demonstrate what we Democrats in SE NM have always known--Bernalillo Dems neither know or care about struggles in our part of the state to bring Democratic influence to our area.

Posted by: Ellen Wedum | Nov 20, 2008 6:29:24 AM

how can the same person write this

I also phoned Bingaman's office, and pointed out that when the Republicans were the majority party THEY did not make Lieberman chair of this committee!

Well, we can only hope that Dems will oust Lieberman if he makes any more disloyal moves. They can then say they did give him a chance. I would prefer they just use the nuclear option and throw out the tradition of the filibuster altogether.

Posted by: Ellen Wedum | Nov 18, 2008 12:02:36 PM

and then turn right around and write this

So let’s not attack our Democratic legislators because they get upset when dirty tactics are used. I doubt that news of the nastiness that went on in the Albuquerque area in the three races Wertheim mentioned ever reached “south of I-40.” Both Bernalillo and Valencia counties are comfortably, if not overwhelmingly, Democratic, while Tim Jennings is the ONLY Democratic legislator from Chaves county. Posted by: Ellen Wedum | Nov 20, 2008 6:29:24 AM

Posted by: | Nov 20, 2008 7:46:25 AM

To continue insisting that Bernalillo County is comfortably Democratic by citing this year's historic Obama blow-up is the exception that proves precisely nothing. Obama blew the roof off the joint everywhere in our state -- except in the oil patches of SE NM and San Juan County. My heart truly goes out to courageous Dems like Ellen who toil in such inhospitable country where the only "Democratic" legislator is really a Republican.

Knowing and caring about your struggles, however, doesn't translate into a desire to throw good money after bad. All of which only serves to validate the wise resource allocation decisions made by Democratic strategists. Strategic use of resources helped to shift areas which leaned Republican for years in Bernalillo, Dona Ana and Sandoval counties (Eichenberg, Fischmann, O'Neill, Cote, Steinborn and Sapien) and finally tilted them Blue. Hallelujah! At the end of the day, we are now up 3 seats in House and 3 up in the Senate. And that brings us back to the real issue here. These Democratic gains were NOT welcomed by Sen. Jennings -- especially the ones in the Senate. Democratic gains threaten his hold on power. Ellen, Tim Jennings is not on our team.

Posted by: frothing luis | Nov 20, 2008 7:59:00 AM

If by "our" team you mean the Bernalillo county Democratic team, you may be right. But down here among the struggling Chaves Co Democrats, Senator Jennings is a solid supporter. Note this from the most recent financial report of the DPCC: $1,500 donation by Tim Jennings. And as I posted earlier he donated $300 to my campaign (in August).

The way I read it, he was protesting on behalf of the honor of the Democratic party, that they should not use what appeared to be a poll (polls are traditionally supposed to just COLLECT information, right?) to campaign for a candidate. The Conservation Voters NM Action Fund calls it a "persuasion ID phone program," not a poll.

What is still really murky is how Tim Jennings was made aware of this and exactly what his robocall said. As Ms. Buffet points out, he was not on their call list. SOME unknown person may not only have contacted Jennings, but may also have misrepresented the contents of the "phone program" script.

Let me also point out that I have no great affection for the state party allocation of resources, at least under the former chair. Brian Colon has made a great effort to reach out to all the counties in NM, BUT when I ran in 2006, before he was chair, I distinctly remember the "training" session that the DPNM conducted in Chaves Co. I had been working hard to attract some volunteers for my race, and recommended that they go to the training, and I went too.

Imagine my horror when they stripped me of all volunteer support and reallocated these precious people to other precincts (outside of HD 59 in Chaves co) in order to help statewide candidates who did not really need any help, as they were bound to win big in the northern part of the state.

Jennings also turned the tide during the 2008 spring session when he alone, of all the Democratic Senators, voted against Rawson's SJR 2 when it came up before the Senate Rules committee. SJR 2 (which Rawson had introduced before) would have put a constitutional amendment on the ballot to pay the legislators 15% of the US Congress' salaries (which as you know are increased every year, UNLIKE the minimum wage). I spoke before the committee and presented an alternative proposal, that they continue to receive "reimbursement," but that the amount (which currently ALSO is increased every year) be tied to the annual minimum wage in Santa Fe, so that it would not increase unless the minimum wage increased. I think our legislators should be mindful of what our low-income workers have to live on.

Jennings voted against SJR 2 mainly because I opposed it, specifically mentioning the "Republican objections" to my being hired--which I believe, but cannot prove, came soley from my Republican opponent, Nora Espinoza. All the Republicans on the committee voted against it too, and it died right there. It was a very strange episode.

So my opinion remains that Jennings acted out of his own perhaps quirky sense of honor, not, as Wertheim assumes, because he was "fearful of losing his President Pro Tem job."

Posted by: Ellen Wedum | Nov 21, 2008 11:00:32 AM

after reading all of this I am sure people will be lineing up to help with your next run for office

Posted by: G | Nov 21, 2008 12:53:51 PM

By "our team" I mean a sufficient number of Democratic legislators to pass a progressive agenda, particularly on the big issues of ethics and health care reform, while also standing up to block reactionary legislation. Over the last two cycles, the elections of Cote, Steinborn, Fischman and Sapien have advanced that cause significantly. Please note that the first three are from Dona Ana County, the last from Sandoval. So come on. This Bernalillo County bogey man argument you keep trying to peddle is simply hogwash.

Jennings stood up for you personally. You're loyal. An admirable trait. Obviously you have developed a great affection for the Senator from your home county and find it difficult, despite a preponderance of evidence to the contrary, to question his motives in the Rawson matter. Fine. But seriously, what you seem to feel is a Bernalillo County-centric world view on the part of your critics really boils down to your "it's all about Chaves County politics" obsession. Anyway, that's how it appears. Woo-hoo for Jennings for writing a small check to your county party. Given that he's run unopposed for the last eight years, it's not like he can't afford it -- if not a whole lot more.

The real problem here is that Jennings holds, and aspires to keep, his position as a leader in a STATE party legislative caucus. He seeks once again to be its nominee for Pro Tem. This is why his actions have a lot of good Democrats around the state "frothing".

Not done yet. It should be heartily acknowledged that there a lot of good Democrats in Chaves County. And I gotta say that from what I hear from many of them, the idea that Jennings is even a true-blue Chaves County Dem is open to question. Why? Jennings made no secret in Roswell and in Santa Fe of his support for the re-election of GOP Representative Candy Ezzell this last go round. And two years ago, he treated Ezzell's Dem opponent, Pablo Martinez, like he was radioactive. Bottom line: This whole thing smells.

Posted by: luis | Nov 21, 2008 1:57:52 PM

Well, there's a lot you don't know about Chaves co politics and the infighting among Democrats (and Republicans). Check out the history of Pauline Ponce, the Democrat who used to represent HD 57 (now represented by Ezzell).

Posted by: Ellen Wedum | Nov 23, 2008 1:33:01 AM

Whoops, make that HD 58.

HD 57 is the seat formerly held by Dan Foley (R), now held by Dennis Kintigh (R). DK raised and spent around $230,000 to defeat Foley, then spent less than $20,000 to defeat Democrat Mary Barron. Mary raised and spent around $10,000, about 20% of that her personal loans to her campaign. You have to be a dedicated Democrat to run in Chaves county.

Posted by: Ellen Wedum | Nov 23, 2008 3:23:00 AM