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Speculation on Obama’s New Mexico Appointment

Is Governor Bill Richardson going to take a cabinet secretary position in President-elect Obama’s administration? I think it depends on which one he is offered. If Bill Richardson were offered the position of Secretary of State, I think he would jump at the chance. It’s a high profile position in a tumultuous time that would allow him to travel the world and play the Diplomat – both things he loves to do.

However, I don’t see him chomping at the bit for any of the other cabinet positions. Instead, if he serves on the transition team, it would be more likely for him to encourage our next President to appoint Senator Bingaman as Secretary of Energy.

Senator Bingaman has always been something of a policy wonk. He has served for a very long time as Chairman or ranking member of the energy committee. He was instrumental with Senator Domenici in crafting and passing the last energy bill, and after serving 25 years in the Senate, he is in the sunset of his career. So, why not go out with a bang?

We are at a critical juncture with regard to energy policy in this country, and being at the helm as Secretary of Energy during this historic time could provide a lasting legacy for Jeff Bingaman – a man who spent much of his political career in the shadows of Senator Pete Domenici.

What would Governor Richardson do if this were to happen? He would naturally appoint himself to the position of U.S. Senator. Normally, this goes over with voters like a ton of bricks. But, as much as it pains me to admit it, I think the voters of New Mexico would likely forgive Richardson this transgression, and he would gain membership in the world’s most exclusive club that he could in all likelihood keep until the end of his career.

Lt. Governor Diane Denish would take over as Governor and appoint State Auditor Hector Balderas as Lt. Governor. Denish is going to be a formidable candidate in 2010, and adding a Hispanic Northerner like Balderas to the ticket will make her that much stronger. Their biggest problem will be overcoming the looming budget crisis that they will inherit from the departing Richardson.

Now, I’m sure I’m not the only one who has thought of this scenario. In fact, I’d be willing to bet that this scenario has crossed NM House Speaker Ben Lujan’s mind:

If Gov. Bill Richardson is appointed to serve in the administration of Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama – should Obama win Tuesday’s general election – New Mexico could find itself reaping the benefits.

That’s according to House Speaker Ben Lujan, D-Santa Fe, a longtime Richardson ally who recently told the Journal a Washington D.C. job could be the governor’s for the taking.

“I think if (Richarsdon) wants it, Senator Obama would find a place for him in the White House,” Lujan said. “With him being in the Cabinet or being part of the national administration, it would be very beneficial to our state.”

See, it makes perfect sense for Speaker Lujan to push for Richardson to take a position with the administration. With Richardson out of the way, Congressman-elect Ben Ray Lujan would be the Democrats natural choice to replace Bingaman when he does decide to retire. And, we all know that his father has always done a heck of a job of clearing out the candidate field for his son.

Of course, the biggest question is if Governor Richardson and Senator-elect Tom Udall are sworn into the Senate on the same day, who gets stuck with the role of the Junior Senator from New Mexico? On second thought, based on personalities, it’s not hard to figure out who would steal the limelight from whom.

I usually resist making predictions, but it’s not too difficult to envision this scenario playing out.