I had refrained from blogging about the loss of Governor Bruce King and now I have lost another political mentor and friend. Eli Senna, after attending his funeral mass on Saturday I started reflecting on both Eli and Governor King.
Eufemia Solano (Grandma)
During the summers we could not afford any type of daycare so I would go to work with either my uncle who was a jockey at the Santa Fe Downs Racetrack or I would go to the State Capitol Building with my Grandmother. I was pretty much allowed free rein though out the capitol from the nursery which used to be above the rotunda and was used to grow plants for the building, to the parking garage underground. I remember Governor King catching me in the hallways or in the lobby to his office and telling me lets go! We would go to the lunchroom or the nearest vending machines where I would have my pick of treats on his dime. Sometimes I was invited into his office to hang out for a few minutes or to get the latest giveaway stuff. These gifts ranged from Smokey the Bear coloring books and crayons to little Highway Department toy cars.
Up until graduation from High School I was a page or just hung around the roundhouse every year usually during summer or winter school breaks. I went through the administrations of Dave Cargo, Bruce King, Jerry Apodoca, and Toney Anaya. While all treated me good, I have especially fond memory's of Governor King who always went out of his way to pay attention to me or find something to give me. As everyone who met him knows he was down home folksy and the kind of man who made you feel like you knew him all your life even if you just met him.
I have told a few people these stories and I am often asked if this is where I got the bug for politics. I don't really think so because I never thought I would get involved in politics until the early ninety's when my stints as Union President and Vice President of the City Police Union forced me to get involved. Yet I do think I learned a lot from those days hanging around the Roundhouse. I actually saw the back slapping, making deals in the hallways, and learned that by the time things got to the floor of the House or Senate the outcome was usually a done deal. One thing I did learn from Governor King was to keep grounded in your cowboy boots and remember that you are one of New Mexico's people not one who is elevated by the people. I also learned that you are always campaigning even when you are not running and you never leave a room until everyone has met you and received a hand shake. For those aspiring to a political office who have never seen Governor King in action you will never realize what lessons you have missed.
Eli Senna ( My Brotha)
I first met Eli Senna on my second run for office in 2002. I first ran for Sheriff in 1998 and lost to Sheriff Raymond Sisneros. When I ran the first time I had no idea what I was doing and ran a very limited campaign with little money and only close friends and family helping. I came back in 2002 to run again and by this time I had broadened my base and become more involved in the Democratic Party. One of the people I credit with my win, Charlene Rodriquez, made sure I met every politician and every person who was involved in the Democratic Party in Northern New Mexico. One of those people she introduced me too was Eli Senna. Eli was easy going and extremely knowledgeable in Northern New Mexico Politics.
He made sure he got to know you and everything about you. He got your phone number and called to check up on you from time to time. There was two reasons he called you, one to just say hi and see how you were, and two, to get what ever information he could glean from you on the latest political happenings. By the same token if you needed to know something political in New Mexico, Eli had the answer or could get it in a few minutes. He ran for Magistrate Judge in 2006 and I supported him and to this day I think he would have made an excellent Judge. Eli was one of the first people I met who made a living getting people elected. I never hired him because he was already working for another politician in every election I was involved in.
My wife and I enjoyed having dinner with him after a many a Democratic meeting or during some function and I learned more about current politics in five minutes from him than any newscast, newspaper or blog. When he made his periodic check on me phone calls he always started the conversation with " hey Brotha how are you doing?" As soon as I heard this phrase I knew it was Eli. Brotha, Antoinette and I will miss you but I will always remember your insight and your political teachings. In your memory I will try and pass them on to the next generation who unfortunately will not have you around to guide them.