Wednesday night's "Heart of the Heights" mayoral forum ended in a two-fer for The Almighty Alcalde - he dodged questions from a hundred constituents and managed to get a little payback from former loyalist Councilor Sally Mayer.
The story in a nutshell is that The Mayer invited the mayor and his challengers R.J. Berry and Richard Romero to her semi or sometimes monthly constituents meeting. The meeting is routinely promoted by the city using email and postcards paid for by, well... all of us. Of course the two challengers agreed to attend, but the candidate, who wasn't a candidate, but is a candidate now didn't respond until late Wednesday evening.
Predictably, The Almighty didn't descend from his perch on the 11th floor to communicate directly with the councilor, but sent a message through PR flack Joanie Griffin. According to our Eyes, the mayor (through Griffin) asserted that the use of taxpayer funds to promote a political event was an ethics violation and that one would be forthcoming. As of this morning, no complaint had been filed.
As many readers may know, we've been critical of Councilor Mayer on a number of occasions for a number of reasons. If Wednesday's event is a violation, then any appearance by any elected official promoted using city resources is an ethics violation because a politician cannot be separated from politics.
Actually, the whole non-affair is pretty funny. Think of it. Martin Chavez, the man whose face graces every city billboard, every city television commercial, every ribbon cutting, and park opening, is worried about a few hundred bucks used to promote an event where some of his constituents would have a chance to question him and his competitors.
Marty certainly didn't worry about spending HUNDREDS OF THOUSANDS of dollars on the city's Tri-Centennial Celebration - which he conveniently turned into campaign events by starting the celebrations a year early. As every city logo proudly declares, Albuquerque was founded in 1706. A majority of Marty's Tri-Centennial Campaign, uh... Celebration events took place in 2005 - coincidentally, an election year.
The truth is, attending a forum where an incumbent is on stage with their opponents carries with it a significant risk - a risk that most campaigns will want to minimize. That's because the only way for an incumbent to go is down.
At the same time, The Almighty Alcalde was able to damage Councilor Mayer by generating the specter of an ethics violation. That move benefits his choice for District 7 - challenger Michael Cook.
Two years ago, Marty got heavily involved in the council elections. All of his Martycrat candidates - Katherine Martinez, Paulette de Pascal, and yes... Joan Griffin - were soundly defeated. This year the mayoral hand has been a bit more subtle, but that doesn't mean that he isn't trying to influence a couple council elections.
Our Eyes tell us that this time around the mayor is working through attorney and political strategist Doug Antoon. Mr. Antoon is running two candidates - District 5's Dan Lewis and District 7's Michael Cook, and is associated with Marty's Fundraiser-in-Chief and ABQPAC Bagwoman Terri Baird.
Mr. Antoon first cut his teeth in Republican circles back in 2007 when he ran the successful recall defense of Councilor Don Harris. He also served on the Executive Committee of the Bernalillo County Republican Party in 2008. Oddly enough, according to OpenSecrets.com Antoon contributed $200 to the Martin Heinrich campaign while ostensibly promoting Republican candidates in the 2008 election. Our memory may be a little fuzzy here... but we're pretty sure that Heinrich wasn't a Republican and we're damn sure he wasn't the Republican nominee last year.
Antoon's duplicity concerns us. Even though $200 is a piddlin' amount - particularly in a Congressional race - his responsibility while serving on the Bernalillo County Republican Party Executive Board was to support Republican candidates.
The District 5 race and the District 7 race feature either a filed ethics complaint or a threatened ethics complaint. We don't believe that it's a coincidence that Mr. Antoon is involved in both of those races.
Ironically, Antoon had to deal with an ethics complaint against his client two years ago when he represented Councilor Harris. Apparently, he's learned that an ethics complaint generates a fair amount of earned media. Earned media is the name of the game when you're tied to a fixed amount of taxpayer provided money.
All in all, Marty's refusal to attend Mayer's Wednesday forum was a shrewd move. It protected him from uncomfortable questions and from himself, while advancing the campaign of one of his confederates. It looks like The Almighty Alcalde was campaigning Wednesday after all...
----- Another Thought -----
Just like any citizen, Mr. Antoon has the right to support what ever candidate he chooses, in what ever way he chooses. Our criticism is about his choice to support a Democrat in an important race over a well qualified Republican at a time when he held a partisan position in the Republican party.
We would have the same criticism if a member of the Democratic party chose to support a Republican candidate. At issue is the job they volunteered to do and the appearance of giving aid and comfort to the enemy.
Working for either county party carries with it the obligation to support the slate of candidates selected by the party. If nothing else, it looks bad to have an executive committee member supporting a candidate from the other side.
Just this week, Democrats removed Robert Aragon from his position as a ward chairman after he endorsed Republican Jon Barela in next year's 1st Congressional District race. If you hold a partisan position of leadership, expect the troops to be a little put out when you support a high profile member of the other team.
The same goes for elected officials. Everything is partisan at one point or another and a partisan challenger may make an issue out donations that cross the isle. However, elected officials represent constituents from both parties while party executive committee members are elected to serve the members of their own party exclusively.
The whole thing is more than a little annoying. Republicans are not going to have substantive gains in New Mexico until they can figure out what team they're on. We've heard more than one Republican say that they'd support Cadigan over Lewis, or Chavez over Berry. Frankly, we would prefer Lewis and Berry to win. But if Chavez wins, we don't want Lewis to be another councilor in Marty's pocket.
The Almighty Alcalde owes his 12 year occupation of city hall to Republicans. He has masterfully manipulated the Rs on the council and in the public. At this point, all indications are that the man behind the D5 and D7 curtain is no Doug Antoon but Marty Chavez by way of Doug Antoon.
Quote of the Day
Does this sound familiar? This is right from the dictionary and seems to describe Albuquerque, Berry and Schultz. Fascism (f ash ,izem) noun An authoritarian right wing system of government and/or social organization. (in general use) extreme right wing, authoritarian, chauvinistic and/or intolerant views or practices. Fascism tends to include a belief in the supremacy of one group over another, national, ethnic, especially social strata or monetarily; a contempt for democracy, an insistence on obedience to a powerful leader, and a strong demagogic approach. Compliments of one of our Eyes