Alibi V.13 No.52 • Dec 23-29, 2004 

Guest Editorial

Brothers in Arms

Payne and Gomez make cozy bedfellows

What a sad state progressives are in when we are getting advice from freshman state Rep. Greg Payne and his protégé, City Councilor Miguel Gomez (RE: “Payne's World,” [“City Council presidency highlights conflict between Gomez and Griego"]).

Payne and Gomez, longtime friends and political allies, have worked hand-in-glove since Gomez's days as a City Council staffer. In Payne's latest display of political strategery in the Weekly Alibi, these two are tag-teaming again. They have decided to adopt the same, tired mantra we have heard from progressives in Albuquerque for years—“It's anyone's right to run for office! Don't squash democracy!"

Thanks for the civics lesson, Greg and Miguel.

Before everybody starts hand-wringing, let me clarify one point—it is certainly anybody's right to run for office. It's also anybody's right to own a gun, get an abortion, dress up like Elvis Presley or listen to Marilyn Manson's music. It doesn't mean you have to do it.

Moving beyond the simplistic soundbytes gets us to the real issue at hand: Why progressives, more often than not, shoot ourselves in the foot by avoiding the most basic electoral arithmetic. What generally has happened to progressives is that in our zeal to be super-democratic, we in fact split the vote and allow someone awful to win, almost as a mathematical certainty. This willingness to be wholly idealistic and utterly unpragmatic has been our curse.

Of course, Payne's motives are clear and have always been—let's keep the progressives splitting the vote, so his preferred Republican candidate gets elected. That's why Payne's Republican Party attorneys have provided consistent, free legal support to the Green Party despite widely divergent beliefs and values. It's laughable that Payne all of a sudden became a facile promoter of everyone's God-given right to run for office. Elections are all about winning, and that's what Payne's column was really about—trying to divide progressives.

Gomez' motives are not as clear. For two years now, he has chosen to side with Councilors Sally Mayer and Tina Cummins in the vote for Council presidency, costing the progressives control of the presidency, committee appointments and control over how bills are handled.

It's useful to look back at the history. In July 2001, before Gomez even publicly declared his candidacy for his first City Council run and way before he eked out the narrowest victory of any of the Council races that year, he tried to corner then-candidates Eric Griego and Michael Cadigan into supporting him for Council president, claiming to have "delivered" the progressive coalition with whom they were allied. Unfortunately, Gomez only had two votes for president that year—his own, and then-Councilor Greg Payne's. But 2001 was just the first of what would become a yearly dance to keep together a progressive coalition, only to be sabotaged by Gomez.

Gomez's peculiar actions over the years have alienated him from his four most logical Council allies: Martin Heinrich, Debbie O'Malley, Cadigan and Griego. Councilor Griego, on the other hand, has mustered four votes in each of the past two council presidency races—with Gomez, the lone dissenting Council progressive, taking great joy in torpedoing Griego's attempts to lead the progressive coalition.

I don't quite understand how all this politicking jives with Payne's assertion that Gomez "might be even more consistently liberal than Griego."

Payne and Gomez are crafty creatures, however. Maybe Gomez's real allies—Councilors Mayer and Cummins and former Councilor Payne—will in fact, someday lead progressives to the promised land. I wouldn't hold your breath.

Perhaps there is a second lesson here for progressives—the fact that our personalities too often get in the way of our politics. Progressives talk so much about "unity" but in actuality, it is Payne's Republican Party that has repeatedly shown unity (at least with one another) on Election Day.

One thing is clear in all of this behind the scenes politicking. Payne and Gomez's actions are helping Mayor Martin Chavez. It's no secret that Councilor Griego, now that Hess Yntema is no longer on the Council, has been the consistent, vocal and often times lone thorn in the side of Mayor Marty, standing up to his unethical behavior with ABQPAC (which Councilor Gomez delicately side-stepped) and pushing through a landmark Inspector General bill. Despite the mayor's objections, the bill will create an independent watchdog to guard against unethical behavior in our elected officials.

Having Councilor Griego as president of the Council would have at least slowed Marty's ability to ramrod through legislation that benefits sprawl developers and perhaps even, gasp, Marty's potential re-election campaign.

In fact, maybe what Payne and Gomez have in common is their desire to re-elect our illustrious mayor. If that's the case, we're in much deeper, uh, trouble, than the comparatively parochial issues like the Council presidency and the state of progressive politics about which Payne and Gomez wax so insincerely.