Indian gamblers target green lawmakers

  • New Mexico

    Diane Sylvain
 

Note: This article is a sidebar to a feature story.

It's not sagebrush rebels who have environmentalists and their candidates on the run in New Mexico this election - it's Native American gambling interests. Angered by the state Legislature's refusal to sign gaming compacts, some tribes have thrown considerable resources into campaigns to defeat key opponents, some of whom are strong environmentalists.

"It sounds funny, but gambling is the biggest threat to New Mexico's environment," says Gregory Green, a lobbyist for the Conservation Voter Alliance, a statewide PAC and lobbying organization.

Green says number one on the gambling industry's hit list is Democratic state Rep. Max Coll from Santa Fe, who as chair of the House appropriations committee has carried the ball for environmental programs and fought off attempts to weaken environmental regulations. Coll has also been a vocal opponent of Indian gaming. "They've even called (Coll) a racist, and this is a guy who supports gay rights and social programs," says Green.

Though gaming interests may succeed in knocking off some powerful legislators, they will probably not significantly change the solidly Democratic makeup of the Legislature. But bills on takings and risk assessment will stand a much better chance of becoming law, warns Green.

On the national level, Republican Sen. Pete Domenici, who has pushed a grazing bill on behalf of public lands ranchers, is expected to easily defeat Democrat Art Trujillo and Green Party candidate Abraham Gutmann.

On the ballot: U.S. SENATE: Pete Domenici (R-incumb.) vs. Art Trujillo (D) and Abraham Gutmann (Green). U.S HOUSE: 1st District - Steven Schiff (R-incumb.) vs. John Wertheim (D); 2nd District - Joe Skeen (R-incumb.) vs. E. Shirley Baca (D); 3rd District - Bill Richardson (D-incumb.) vs. Bill Redmond (R).