Sunday, August 6, 2006
N.M. Lobbyist Moves to N.H.
By Michael Coleman
Journal Washington Reporter
REPORTER'S NOTEBOOK: MANCHESTER, N.H. Butch Maki, a Santa Fe lobbyist and Bill Richardson loyalist, is spending almost all of his time in New Hampshire these days but insists he's not there to set up a ground operation for Richardson's possible 2008 presidential campaign.
Maki says he's a New Hampshire native and moved home for a while to drum up business for Santa Fe Protective Services, a New Mexico-based security consulting firm run by his daughter.
"I've only been back to Santa Fe two weeks since Memorial Day," Maki told me last week.
Maki attended most of the events during Richardson's recently concluded two-day trip to New Hampshire, the site each year of the nation's first presidential primary. And at each event, Richardson made a point of introducing Maki to the audience.
Formerly Richardson's congressional chief of staff, Maki said he helped set up one event for Richardson in New Hampshire and will tout the governor's credentials for president when asked.
"Of course I do, he's a friend of mine," Maki said. "I get asked about him quite a bit."
Amanda Cooper, Richardson's fundraising chief, and David Contarino, his gubernatorial campaign manager, also denied that Maki was in New Hampshire to lay the groundwork for a Richardson presidential bid. Several key Democrats told me last week they hadn't heard of Maki yet.
"We've got a re-election; we still have to campaign" in New Mexico, Contarino said.
NEW ENGLAND DRIVERS: The state police who serve as Richardson's security detail are known to put the pedal to metal when driving the governor to various events, but they seemed to ease off the gas a little bit last week in New Hampshire.
Although the governor's detail has been clocked doing more than 90 miles per hour on more than one occasion in New Mexico, his driver basically drove the speed limit last week.
Richardson joked (or was he serious?) that his driver didn't speed because New Hampshire's two-lane highways are congested, and a reporter tailed behind them in a rental car everywhere they went.
"I came up from Concord under the speed limit you can't help it," Richardson said at a Friday morning fundraiser for a New Hampshire state Senate candidate in Keene. "I always observe the speed limit. I have an Albuquerque Journal reporter who is following me around, so I've got to be a little restrained."
KEENE CONNECTION: Speaking of Keene, it happens to be the hometown of Rep. Heather Wilson, a New Mexico Republican.
Wilson's bio says she graduated from high school in Keene population 22,000 before heading off to the Air Force Academy. It's a beautiful little town, just like you would imagine on a New England postcard, with stately homes and tree-lined streets.
At the fundraiser, a woman who declined to be identified said Wilson "still has a lot of friends here and returns from time to time."
THE HORSE WEIGHS IN: Presidential handicappers have said that one of Richardson's potential liabilities could be his, um, profile. Traditional wisdom says Americans like their candidates svelte, not portly.
Richardson joked about his size during appearances around New Hampshire last week.
At one stop Richardson said radio host Don Imus likes to tease him about his weight.
"He thinks I weigh too much, and he's right," Richardson said while discussing Imus' influence on American politics.
Later, Richardson said he likes to ride his horse, Sundance, when he's not governing. But Sundance isn't always as enthusiastic as the governor about the rides.
"After I ride him a while he says, 'All right, Guv, get off. You're a little heavy,' '' Richardson said, laughing.
TAKE A BREAK, BILL: During one of last week's appearances, Richardson said he wakes up, listens to the news and gets depressed. Well, one woman in the audience an artist of some renown in New Hampshire told him he should turn off the TV.
"I'm sorry, governor, but you're in a rut," said Anne Stoltz. "You need poetry, you need to take a walk in our woods or in the mountains in your beautiful state."
Richardson seemed taken aback by the comment, but recovered, after admitting he actually could use some poetry in his life.
"You're right I'm already depressed at 7 a.m., but I'm also energized to make a change, and as a governor you can really do good things," Richardson replied.
TRAVELING LIGHT: The only state employee making the trip to New Hampshire with Richardson last week was a single state police officer, who served as his driver and security detail. Also making the trip from New Mexico were Cooper, his political director, and Contarino, his re-election campaign manager.
The trip was paid for by the Democratic Governors Association, Richardson's office said.