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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Land of Disenchantment

It’s been a tumultuous Sunday for the Obama administration and New Mexico Democrats, as NM Governor and Commerce Secretary-designate Bill Richardson removed himself from consideration for the Cabinet pending the completion of a federal investigation of road contracts granted to a Richardson political contributor.
It’s unclear at this point how much if any evidence of wrongdoing has been gathered. The timing of any continuing “pay for play” investigation is obviously bad, thanks to Rod Blagojevich. We also don’t know if Richardson jumped out of the Commerce nomination or was pushed. Certainly the amounts of money involved in the suspected quid ($110,000 in contributions to two Richardson political funds) or the suspected quo ($1.48 million in state highway work) were not very large.
This development, however it turns out, is a definite bummer for New Mexico’s Democratic Lieutenant Governor Diane Denish, who was preparing to take office. Richardson has made it clear he will resume his gubernatorial duties, but he’s term-limited in 2010. Denish will almost certainly run for the job then, but apparently without the benefits of incumbency, if incumbency really is a benefit to anyone trying to govern in the current economic environment.
There’s no hint of names so far to replace Richardson as Commerce Secretary; since his was one of the first announcements made, speculation had not developed very far as to alternatives. One political problem for Team Obama is that the putative Cabinet has now lost its most prominent Latino.

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