Tuesday, August 31, 2010

State Of The State House: Key Races To Watch, Plus: Susana's New Tube: Soft Enough? Also: Jeff's Bucks & Harry's Nice Hit

Let's kick it off today with the outlook for the state House in Campaign '10. Currently there are 45 Dems and 25 R's in the 70 member House. Based on reports from Alligators, Insiders, Wall-Leaners, Wanna-Be's and other political creatures, it appears the R's could shrink that margin this year, if only a bit.

The no-brainer prediction this cycle is the ABQ mid-NE Heights seat of freshman Dem Rep. Karen Giannini. She won election in 2008 when the Obama wave seeped into this normally GOP district. If Republican attorney and former Senator Domenici aide Nate Gentry doesn't take this one, the predictors will have to eat the broken glass from their crystal balls.

Another freshman--Dem Rep. Ben Rodefer of ABQ's West Side and Sandoval County is #2 on the most endangered species list. R's are solidly behind contractor David Doyle who hopes to reclaim this seat for the GOP which Rodefer won in the Obama wave. Rodefer loves being in the Roundhouse and will fight to the last breath, giving him a chance to hang on to what is a very weak limb.

How about an endangered Republican? We've got one for you. Roswell rancher Candy Spence-Ezzel is facing a spirited challenge from Dem Chaves County Commissioner Michael Trujillo. He is the third-generation owner of El Charro, a tortilla factory and Mexican food store. Candy was first elected in 2004, but this is a swing district.

Julian Luna ousted incumbent Dem State Rep. Elias Barela in the June primary in Valencia County, but now Luna faces a tough campaign to keep the seat in the Dem column. Republican Alonzo Baldonado, a Los Lunas realtor, is the GOP's hope for this one. Definitely on the watch list.

Back in ABQ, both parties are geared up for a battle for the seat of Dem State Rep. Bill O'Neill. He is another member of the D freshman class of 2008. He works for the Juvenile Parole Board, loves politics and is walking the district. Newcomer and Republican Justin Horowitz is an attorney with the Rodey firm who has thrown a bunch of his own cash at the contest. This one is ranked a toss-up.

Putting it all together, a conservative estimate is that the R's pick up two House seats when we're done cleaning up the confetti November 3. A more aggressive estimate would give them four or five. That would still not put them anywhere close to taking power, but it's a whole lot better than falling back.


On the Guv front, several of our campaign watchers were somewhat surprised to see GOP Guv nominee Susana Martinez come with a hard-hitting spot, the tone of which reminded them of some of the stuff she ran in the GOP primary which is dominated by conservative voters.

In this latest piece Susana defends herself from TV charges that she should not have used federal border security funds for staff bonuses at her Dona Ana County district attorney's office. She then smacks Di for not pledging to revoke driver's licenses given to illegal immigrants. Denish has said she will not continue the policy.

All this is delivered with ominous sound effects and an accusatory and stern narration. Well-produced for what it is, but what happened to the softer Susana, the one posing with kiddies in the classroom? At the end of this spot she brings back former Bernalillo County Sheriff and current ABQ Public Safety Director Darren White. He is joined by three other tough-looking lawmen types who walk behind Susana in slow motion. It looked menacing the first time and looks even more like the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse the second time around. (Actually, it is a total of five lawmen parading in slow-motion, but we took poetic license.)

In recent weeks Martinez seemed to have begun talking past her GOP base--to the swing and Dem voters she needs to win. This spot takes her back to what got her in the main event, but it may not be the tone or approach that is going to close the deal.

Denish also came with new TV, defending herself from Martinez's charges that she overused her riding privileges on the state jet. Denish then goes on to zing Martinez on now familiar ground. She says the GOP nominee would "give public school dollars to wealthy private schools."

The Di camp has been hammering Susana for weeks over her switch on school vouchers--or what they say is a switch. The Denish camp received important support on this when the Associated Press pointed out differing statements Martinez has made on the matter.

The more soothing tone in the Denish ad stands in marked contrast to the latest Martinez effort. Susana and her conservative consultants need to not only get comfortable with going to the middle of the political spectrum, they must embrace it emotionally and intellectually. That's not easy when the state GOP has been as far right as it has been the past decade.


Times may be tough for a lot of New Mexicans, but Senator Bingaman has escaped the ravages of the worst recession in decades. The Hill newspaper says Jeff's net worth is around $6.7 million, making him the 42nd wealthiest member of Congress in 2009. From the article which ranked the 50 wealthiest members:

Bingaman played the stock market well in 2009 and saw his minimum net worth rise by almost $2 million...

(He) has investment funds at Goldman Sachs worth at least $1 million and $250,000. His wife, Anne, chips in with an investment fund at Eaton Vance worth at least $1 million...

Bingaman also has property in Santa Fe that is worth at least $250,000 and a 50 percent state in more than 58 acres of land in Alamogordo, NM

And what of southern NM Congressman Harry Teague who made the Hill's list of the wealthiest members of Congress last year. Well, his net worth has plunged to around $5 million. That's just below the amount the 50th member on the list is worth.

Teague's oil based businesses have suffered from the bear market, a boycott by Republican businessmen in the area and the change in management to his son. Still, Harry is not in the poor house, but is net worth has plunged, according to Politico, from $40 million to $5 million.


One member who won't make the list is ABQ Dem US Congressman Martin Heinrich.The freshman lawmaker enjoys a salary of around $174,000 a year and his wife Julie helps the household budget with a salary from a local government job. But still the Congressman sleeps in his DC office in order to save money.

Jeff, do you think you can spare a loan for Martin so he can get out of that sleeping bag? That is, if he is back there with you after November...


Is the worst over for the Dems? The new Rasmussen survey is being closely eyed by operatives for NM Dem US Reps Heinrich and Teague. It says:

A new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey finds that 45% of Likely Voters would vote for their district's Republican congressional candidate, while 39% would opt for his or her Democratic opponent. The survey data was collected on the seven days ending August 29...

The Republicans have been consistently ahead in the Generic Ballot every week for over a year, but this is the smallest advantage the party has held since mid-July...

But hold your horses. Gallup disagrees with Rasmussen and comes with this:

Republicans lead by 51% to 41% among registered voters in Gallup weekly tracking of 2010 congressional voting preferences. The 10-percentage-point lead is the GOP's largest so far this year and is its largest in Gallup's history of tracking the midterm generic ballot for Congress.

So what's a Dem to do? Well, running like your life depended in it is usually sound advice for a political campaign.


We haven't held back in blogging of the travails of Harry Teague, pointing out time and again (with the help of Politico) his many vulnerabilities. But a score is a score, and Tuesday, when President Obama disembarked Air Force One at the El Paso airport for a brief visit to Fort Bliss, embattled Harry scored.

Even though he does not represent El Paso, Teague was there with a big smile to greet the President who stopped at Ft. Bliss to pay respect to the troops. Teague is a member of the Veterans' Affairs Committee. Obama lingered with Teague and two other congressmen and it was carried live at around noontime on El Paso TV. Photos of the meet and greet were sent out on the national and local wires. (The one we have posted is from the El Paso Times which is heavily read in the Las Cruces area).

This is important because Dona Ana County, the largest county in the second congressional district and home to many Dems, get their news from El Paso TV, not ABQ. It was nice advance work by the White House and Teague's team to take effective advantage of such a brief stop over.

Insiders close to Teague tell us he is more energized about the race. He is pleased with his polling and that of the ABQ Journal which shows him three points ahead of Republican challenger Steve Pearce. He told one of our Alligators recently, "We're going to surprise, Steve."

Of course, Harry needs all the optimism and spunk he can get in his tough battle, but if Obama's visit was the start of his fall offensive in Dona Ana County, it was a good one.


We've been telling you about First Community Bank being on life support in the aftermath of a slew of commercial real estate loans gone bad in the ABQ area and how it is time to pull the plug and end the suffering. Executives at the bank have been pushing back, but now the Feds have given them a 60 day deadline to either raise $150 million to restore the bank's health or sell yourself to another bank.

The stock of the parent company of First Community is down to almost a dime a share. Can't the executives and board of directors sell this thing so we can get on with getting over this real estate depression? It's not like this is the only bank having problems. (The bank now says it has found $150 million from new investors).


We haven't received a definitive answer yet, but we've been told that the Secretary of State and the Secretary of Defense are not permitted to take part in fund-raising for political candidates. The issue came up when we mentioned suggestions that Diane Denish have Sec. of Stare Hillary Clinton campaign for her. Can Hillary campaign, but not raise money? E-mail us if you have a certain answer.


Not surprisingly, we received quite a bit of email on our Tuesday blog questioning comments from Dr. Estevan Rael-Galvez of the National Hispanic Cultural Center. He said there is a "Spanish heritage fantasy" in the state. So far, most of the mail disagreed with our criticism of Rael-Galvez. It makes for interesting reading and we'll post some on the Friday blog.

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Monday, August 30, 2010

The Down Ballot Races: Dems Appear To Have Upper Hand, Plus: The Promises Di & Susana Can't Keep, And: A Spanish Fantasy Or A Wayword Historian?

We've heard the numbers on the congressional and Guv races, but what about the down ballot contests like attorney general, secretary of state and state treasurer, and land commissioner?

Well, the ABQ Journal usually doesn't poll that deep but this cylce they have come with an attorney general survey. It shows Attorney General Gary King with a comfortable lead over Clovis area District Attorney Matt Chandler. Gary scores 48% to Matt's 33%. Nineteen percent remain undecided giving Republican Matt some hope, but still making him the decided underdog. But it's going to be tough. The King name has cachet and while he has been taking some recent heat in the ongoing controversy at the Secretary of State's office, it is not enough to throw him off course.

King also has independent wealth that can be tapped if he runs into trouble. Chandler will need hundreds of thousands to make the big move he needs to make. Maybe some out of state groups can help him, but the R's are concentrating on the Guv's race this year. That's where the money is headed.

No Republican has been elected attorney general since 1986. It was thought that with Dems suffering nationally some of that unpopularity might bleed down to the lower ballot offices. It isn't happening.

We've also looked at a poll conducted for King by Lake Research Partners in the fist week of August. It shows almost identical results as the Journal survey with King getting 47% of the vote and Chandler 28%.

The other ABQ Journal polls taken last week and being released this week show Democrats, who have over 50% percent of the state's registered voters, are holding up against the sour national mood toward their party. Nothing is certain in this game, but that indicates all the down ballot races--not just attorney general--are likely to stay in Democratic hands--as they usually do.

There could be one switch, however. The R's control the state land office, but former land commissioner Ray Powell Jr. is favored to take it back as Republican Matt Rush is not showing the money.

The likelihood of a clean sweep of the statewide executive offices--AG, Auditor, Treasurer, Secretary of State and Land Commissioner remains high. Not bad for Dems in a year when they are threatened with losing the US House, the New Mexican Governorship as well as our state's southern congressional seat.


The Alligators are on the loose in the ABQ congressional race between Democrat Rep. Martin Heinrich and Republican Jon Barela. They are again declaring this is not a toss-up race, that it is clearly a lean Democrat race.

Heinrich has a six point lead in the Journal poll taking 47% of the vote. Barela needed to do better than 41%. It's true Heinrich came with TV shortly before the poll, but it appears to be working. Not good if you believe Heinrich's race can be nationalized. For Barela there is a price to pay for running six behind--money.

The R's need money to get Steve Pearce in the US House and Susana Martinez in the Guv's chair. Barela will face not only local competition for funding, but also on the national level as R candidates with better polling argue to the national committees that they should get the TV money, not Barela.


We've been on this one for a while and now the AP comes with a report that elaborates. The question is whether GOP Guv contender Susana Martinez or Dem nominee Diane Denish will be able to keep their campaign promise not to cut the public schools budget. And will they be able to keep their pledge to also keep the mammoth Medicaid program off the chopping block?

What's the size of the projected shortfall for the budget year that stars in July 2011 anyway? About $250 million, maybe $350 million if the economy goes further south.

Denish has announced plans to cut about $90 million a year. Martinez has not come with a concrete figure. Will either of them have a plan to cut the state budget by at least $250 million a year before this campaign is over? The odds on that are about the same as the UNM Locksley Lobos finishing first in the Mountain West this year.

We've blogged how Martinez's pledge not to cut the public schools budget is especially thorny because she is crossing swords over it with her own Republican legislative leadership. For example, since we commented on this potential fissure, we've been told by Republican Alligators that Roswell GOP State Rep. Keith Gardner, the House Minority Whip, is quite uncomfortable with the Martinez pledge.

Now State Senator John "Dr. No" Smith, chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, is calling out both the Guv candidates for making budgetary promises he says can't be kept.

He predicted Martinez or Denish will "have to break 50 percent of their campaign promise," based on current revenue projections.

As we've noted here, the public schools and Medicaid make up nearly 60% of the state budget. Is Martinez delivering "bold change" when she refuses to take a look at waste in those huge line items? And is Denish any different than Big Bill when it comes to kicking the budget can down the road?

Not that we're advocating cutting the two programs, we're just thinking, along with Dr. No, of exactly how these two potential Governors plan on addressing the chief issue they will face upon being sworn in January 1.

(We blogged recently that we were unsure of Denish's stand on Medicaid cuts. Th AP reported: Both candidates also have said they would protect Medicaid from cutbacks.)


Someone might want to send some new history books over to Dr. Estevan Rael-Galvez, the executive director of the National Hispanic Cultural Center. Why? Get a load of what he had to say about Spanish influence in New Mexico:

The Spanish heritage fantasy is really about denial and not based on history...Spanish identity, as it is thought about today, was somewhat of a fabrication. Spain may be the least of what has shaped our heritage of converging streams. The people here were deeply caste and irrevocably mixed within a mere two centuries of Spanish occupation, roots drawn from numerous indigenous nations. The effects and legacies are thus as much institutional as they are biological, aesthetic as much as they are ideological...

Hey, we know that the Spanish influence was diluted, but that doesn't make it a Disneyland fantasy. For the record, Doc, Spanish explorers came here from Spain 400 years ago. They brought with them their culture and heritage. They mated with Mexicans and Native Americans. The Spanish culture was merged with the others, but Spanish blood still courses through the veins here.

Now, is that so hard to say, Doc? If this historic revisionism of Rael-Galvez is what they're teaching our kids at the National Hispanic Cultural Center we might as well move the place to Anaheim--the home of Disneyland.


A reader writes:

...It's a shame that Susana Martinez feels she needs to distance herself from vouchers and also make a promise not to cut funding for education. As a taxpayer, I'm tired of all the money I pay in property taxes for APS and higher education, and not seeing any return on my investment.

A recent news article about New Orleans and its recovery said that prior to Katrina, only about 28% of students were tested as proficient and now, just 5 years later, almost half are. The article went on to say that about 61% of students are on some type of voucher, the schools are NON-UNION, and parents have a say in where their kids can go to school. That's the kind of reform that needs to happen here, and if that means cutting funding, or re-directing it to private schools (which are not all "wealthy" as Diane Denish purports), then so be it. The candidate that will say things like that, and do them once elected, is the kind of candidate I want to support.


Reader David Vittoria writes of the decision of Lowe's not to open a long-anticipated home improvement store at a new shopping center at Coors and Central in ABQ that would have employed 500:

The target audience was the city's southwest mesa which I call "subprimeville." Unfinished homes, short sales and foreclosures all over the place. Who needs a Lowe's?

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Sunday, August 29, 2010

New Polling: Heinrich Breathes Easier; Teague Leads Pearce, Plus: VP Biden To ABQ For DI, And: Lots More On Your Big Monday Blog

Rep. Heinrich
After a summer of uncertainty the first re-election bid of ABQ Dem Congressman Martin Heinrich appears to be back on track. The freshman lawmaker has a six point lead--47% to 41%--over Republican rival Jon Barela in the first ABQ Journal poll and that's a welcome relief to Heinrich and state Dems. Both were freaked out by a SurveyUSA poll July 26 that showed Barela leading the incumbent 51% to 45%.

We said at the time that Barela should enjoy that poll and raise all the money he could from it because it was unlikely to last. Now that it hasn't the GOP challenger has his work cut out for him.

Not that Heinrich is completely out of the woods. Pollster Brian Sanderoff notes the sour national mood for congressional Dems and the danger that poses to a freshman like Heinrich. Also, Barela is scoring 33% of the Hispanic vote to Heinrich's 54%. If Barela could build on that he could be formidable.

Still, Heinrich was scoring 45% with critical independents to Barela's 31%. These voters tend to be on the conservative side and for Heinrich to be so nicely ahead with them this early is perhaps the most significant "tell" in this race. It could cause fund-raising headaches for Jon.

Heinrich has also begun to localize this contest to survive any GOP tsunami wave that splashes down here. His first TV ad is abut the time he spends in the district, not the votes he takes in Washington.

Barela has run a bare-bones campaign thus far and is expected to soon launch media. But he only had about $500,000 in the bank at last report. That would be all right if he were closer, but Heinrich is only three points away from the magic number of 50% and has over a million in cash with more on the way. His 47% beginning reminds us of how former ABQ GOP Congresswoman Heather Wilson started most of her campaigns, and she served ten years.

This poll sets the record straight--Barela is going to need more than the anti-incumbent environment to take Heinrich out. Until he shows us what, if anything, is up his sleeve, Heinrich remains in pretty decent shape to be re-elected.

Rep. Teague
Harry Teague has been left for dead by every political handicapper from DC to Deming, but somehow the freshman Dem still breathes. In fact, in the Journal poll he does more than breathe. He manages to step on the windpipe of his Republican challenger. He tops Republican Steve Pearce 45% to 42% with 13 percent undecided. That tops expectations as the R's see this as a great pick-up opportunity.

Teague's chief asset is his personality. He is extremely likable and fits the southern good ol' boy district like a glove. And like Heinrich he has been working hard to keep the race away from unpopular national issues and focus on the what he has done in the district and the time he has spent there.

But there could be big trouble to come for Teague in the conservative south. Harry has had major issues with his oil related businesses in Hobbs. Stuff like health insurance being cancelled for his employees while he takes a big bonus.

If the negative message is delivered effectively, it could make Harry of Hobbs much less likable and ultimately less electable.

But former Congressman Steve Pearce who left the seat in 2o08 to unsuccessfully seek a US Senate seat has his own baggage, not the least of which is his decision to leave the House. Also, he is more gruff than likable and a heavy negative attack on Teague is not a sure thing.

The race remains a toss-up. Maybe Susana Martinez running strong for the GOP n the Guv race in the south might be a plus for Pearce, but New Mexicans can be such notorious ticket-splitters that we wouldn't give that much weight.


It's a good bet the Prez will touch down here before Campaign 2010 heads to the history books, but first things first--or in this case second things second. That's because it appears it will be Vice President Joe Biden making a political pit stop here before his boss. The Veep will campaign (well, mostly raise money) for Dem Guv hopeful Diane Denish in ABQ's North Valley at historic Los Poblanos on September 30. From the Di invite:

Now is the time to get energized and dig deep. We have a plan to win this race, but we need all the help and resources we can get.

One of the benefits of being a member of the Denish Cabinet is that you get early notice of upcoming events, and I have a special one to tell you about. Vice President Joe Biden will be in Albuquerque on September 30th at a luncheon for Diane that will be held at Los Poblanos...

The suggested contribution for this event will be $1,500 per person for the photo reception and lunch or $500 for just lunch. However, for Cabinet members in good standing it will be $1,000 per person and $1,500 for a couple for the photo reception and $250 per person for lunch...

Denish needs to especially energize female Dems. Some observers have suggested that she bring in Hillary Clinton for ABQ and the north. Others thought Dolores Huerta, former president of the United Farm Workers, would be good for a southern swing.


President Obama will be in the New Mexico media market Tuesday morning. He is stopping at Fort Bliss in El Paso to thank the troops for their service in Iraq. El Paso TV serves Dona Ana and surrounding counties in southern NM.


On the Guv TV ad war front, the big out-of-state money is now pouring in. The Democratic Governors Association came with a new ad based on a recent ABQ Journal article that pointed out Martinez, the Dona Ana County district attorney, used Federal border security funding to hand out large staff bonuses.

Martinez's camp says the bonuses the DGA ad scores her for were to reward staff for doing extra for prosecuting border crimes and were merited.

This ad is part of the meme that the Dems are trying to establish about Susana--that she is just another "Republican politician." They scored earlier when news broke that Susana had inked a sweetheart contract with a member of her office staff for office supplies.

While the DGA was making Susana out to be a bonus baby, she was doing some attacking of her own and again relying on the symbol of the state's gravy days--the state jet. Here's her latest ad hitting Di for being a jet setter.

Anti-jet sentiment is obviously playing well in the polls and focus groups for Martinez. She's been reheating those leftovers all summer. For some in a populist mood the use, or abuse of the state jet, nicely sums up their anger.

Notice something? All the TV ads so far are about character. Even the Di ads pounding Susana for switching her position on school vouchers seems aimed a much at showing Susana as as flip-flopper than trying to gain points on the actual issue.

The economy and jobs lurk as the defining issue of our time, but the campaigns, candidates and consultants continue to go for the jugular and the emotional rise. That's just the way it is--and the way we are.

Young Susana
Susana Martinez's Hispanic heritage gives her natural entry to the Hispanic vote, but she apparently does not want it broadcast too loudly that she was born and raised in El Paso.

Texas has been the object of derision in northern New Mexico for generations. In this photo of Susana as a young girl, the caption reads "Born and Raised in the Rio Grande Valley." Well, yes, but not the Rio Grande Valley in New Mexico. As provincial as that may sound, it will be an issue in some quarters. Why else does Martinez continue to camouflage her actual birthplace?

Republicans tout Martinez as proof of the diversity of their party and point out she would be the first elected Hispanic woman Governor in the nation's history. If so, why are they not telling the public about her heritage? Knowledge of her personal biography remains remarkably blank to nearly all New Mexicans at this stage of the campaign.

Denish's camp came this week with a fund-raising pitch from one of the state's most prominent Democratic Hispanics---politico and former US Ambassador to Spain Ed Romero. Ed said "it's hard to believe anything Susana Martinez says" and pointed to, among other things, her changed position on school vouchers.

By the way, Ed was born in southern Colorado.


If you listened in on the GOP Guv primary you might have thought illegal immigration was the be-all end-all issue of 2010. But it isn't among the general electorate, especially in the ABQ area where immigration has rarely, if ever, become a front and center matter in the race for Congress. ABQ GOP congressional hopeful Jon Barela came with this muted statement on the topic as he faced off with Dem US Rep. Martin Heinrich at a recent debate:

On immigration, Barela said he supports a guest-worker program along with heightened border security. He said Americans should not judge illegal immigrants too harshly, however.

This is maybe where I break ranks with many conservatives," Barela said. "I happen to believe in the goodness of many of the immigrants that are here in this country. They contribute to the economy in many ways."

Barela can only pull off the upset of Heinrich if he challenges him for the middle ground. He has done that somewhat with immigration. Now, will he have the moxy to go further and where?

We've suggested Barela might find fertile ground with swing voters by challenging Heinrich on the no-end-in-sight-war in Afghanistan which he can frame as fiscally irresponsible. That's a gamble, but Barela and the R's need to go beyond the standard Republican platform.

It's true that a mid-term election produces a more conservative electorate which will benefit Barela, but the district's moderate heritage remains intact.


In the southern US House contest, Dem Rep. Harry Teague appears to have gotten the debate monkey off his back. There are two TV face-offs now slated between Teague and GOP challenger Steve Pearce. KOAT-TV will host one at 6 p.m. October 24 and KRWG-TV in Las Cruces will air another one the evening of the 27th.

Teague is not known for being comfortable on the tube so Pearce is seen as having an advantage in the debates. There will be squabbling between the two camps over having more debates but with two scheduled, the issue is neutralized.


Word has arrived of the passing of Oscar Donisthorpe. He was a Farmington area attorney, a student and teacher of La Politica, husband of former GOP State Senator Christine Donisthorpe and a father of four, including government consultant Bruce Donisthorpe whose political analysis has often graced these pages.

Some of that analysis was filtered through "Daddy Donisthorpe" who loved to crunch the numbers. After long hours of doing just that, he made the call months before Election Day that the 2006 Wilson-Madrid ABQ US House race would be decided by 300 votes. Wilson took it by less than 800 in what turned out to be the state's closest congressional race ever.

In 2008, he gave then-Congressman Pearce his county-by-county goals for his GOP US Senate primary election with Heather Wilson. Pearce met most of those goals and took the nomination.

Oscar also handled the details behind his wife’s many victorious campaigns--four for state senate, two GOP National Committeewoman contests and two Bloomfield School Board races.

He was a WWII Navy veteran, a 50 year member of the NM Bar Association and a devoted fan of the San Franciso Giants.

The never-ending book of La Politica opens for the entry of Oscar Donisthorpe.

He was 83.

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Saturday, August 28, 2010

Trend Confirmed: Journal Poll Has Martinez Leading Denish by 6 points; It's 45% to 39%; Undecided At 16%; Analysis & Context Are Right Here

Diane Denish has to call the Democratic party home or else she's going home--for good. That's the message in the first ABQ Journal poll of the 2010 gubernatorial contest. It shows Democrat Denish trailing Republican Susana Martinez 45% to 39% with 16% undecided.

It was the third major poll this month in this political poker game and Martinez has now laid down aces in all three.

Pollster Brian Sanderoff reported that with over two months to go until Election Day the Dona Ana County district attorney is claiming Hispanic support that is unusual for a Republican nominee. Denish is garnering only 44% of the Hispanic vote in the Aug. 23-27 survey with a margin of error of plus or minus three points.

This poll confirms what the earlier polls showed--Martinez has locked down GOP support. Combine that with about 20% support from Dems, a lead among all voters over 34 years old and a 38% to 32% lead among independents and she comes in at 45%.

Some exceptionally good news for Martinez came out of the ABQ metro where she led 45% to 39%. Even though Denish is a native of Hobbs, she has spent most of her adult years in ABQ while Martinez has never left Las Cruces.

Martinez put away the male vote--many of whom are R's--but it was a dead heat among women--42% for Martinez--41% for Denish--and that will be the battleground demographic in the months ahead.

In the Rasmussen Poll conducted Wednesday Martinez came with a five point lead--48% to 43%. And in a mid-August poll conducted by a statewide candidate and leaked here, Martinez had a 12 point lead over Denish.

While Susana can take a moment to smile over the results, she can't stop working. She remains far from the magic 50% level and it may not be easy getting there as Denish has a $2 million plus war chest to try to increase Democratic turnout in this mid-term election.


There is wind in Denish's face and it's being blown there by Big Bill. His approval rating in the Sanderoff poll is down to 33%, significantly lower than the 40% approval registered in the recent Rasmussen. And get this. Among Dem voters who don't like Bill 47% of them are voting for Susana.

In much the same way that Al Gore suffered in 2000 when he sought the presidency after serving under Clinton for eight years, Denish chafes under the pressure of Richardson.


Martinez, 51, is talking more moderate as she looks for the final five points that would give her the Fourth Floor. She has bended on the public schools budget and the Medicaid program, pledging not to cut them. She has also shied away from earlier support for school vouchers and is not talking as tough on immigration. If her conservative base holds steady, those positions can be amplified in the final months while still keeping a foot on Di's neck by reminding voters of the lieutenant governor's service under Richardson.

The Dems need to more sharply define Martinez and do it in a way that doesn't make it look like an Anglo woman beating up on an Hispanic counterpart. Di already is having trouble getting enough Hispanic votes.

There are already troubling signs for the Dems that voters may not be listening much to the negative about Martinez and are in a strongly anti-incumbent, throw-the-bums-out mood. Martinez has suffered body blows from several news developments, but they do not appear to have slowed her. Some of this can be attributed to ethnic voting. Denish, 61, must identify Martinez as too conservative for Hispanic and Native Americans so that those ethnic ties are diminished.

Denish also needs to start talking to base voters about the troubled economy. These are the lower income and less educated Democrats who may have come out and voted for Obama in 2008, but don't see the importance of this election. She will have to prove Martinez is a captive of the wealthy and of the same Republican Party that they rejected two years ago. And she will have to generate some emotion as she goes about it.

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Thursday, August 26, 2010

The Summer Is Susana's: Rasmussen Has Di Five Down, Plus: King & Lewis May Lead Dem Ticket, And: More Opinions On Di & Hispanic Vote

Two polls down and one to go. Rasmussen released a New Mexico Guv survey Thursday that showed Dem Diane Denish trailing Republican Susana Martinez by five points--48% to 43%. Three percent name others and six percent are undecided. The poll, taken Wednesday, comes on the heels of the news here of an insider candidate poll from mid-August that had Di trailing by a dozen points and days before Sunday's ABQ Journal poll which is now expected to confirm the summer Susana trend.

Senior Alligator Analysis:

--We have a long way to go. Susana is below the magic 50%, although she Tweeted that the race was 51% to 44% when Rasmussen counted the "leaners" and ignored the 48% to 43% spread. That seemed like an overreach and a sign perhaps of too much cockiness on her part. She is also trying to spin that she is over the magic number--and she clearly is not.

--The narrative continues to be that Susana has consolidated much of the conservative vote early. She has 86% support among Republicans; 76% of Dems backed Denish. It may be easier for Denish to pick up what's left of the undecided than Susana.

--Obama is at 57% approval in New Mexico in the Rasmussen poll taken Wednesday. That's too high. Usually Rasmussen skews a bit Republican, but this time he skews Dem. Because of that Di may actually be a point or two lower.

--Even if Obama is at 51 or 52 percent statewide, he is still higher than that in the north and an asset there to Denish. This is a presidency with strong appeal to Hispanics and Native Americans. We expect to see the Prez in El Norte for Di before the final bell.

--Susana getting to 48% is solid. Even in a Republican friendly year, it is a major accomplishment for a GOP Guv candidate to be this far ahead this early in a statewide poll.

--The Dems are paying for their ineffective June TV attacks on Martinez. If they had held her back some then, she might be at the more comfortable 45% mark, not inching toward 50%. In the last Rasmussen in late June, Martinez was ahead by two points--44% to 42%.

---Di beat Susana by 21 points in Rasmussen among Hispanics. But we want to see live polling on this sometimes hard to reach demo. Denish still has much work to do with this base Dem group.

--Negative campaigning by both sides will begin in earnest following Labor Day.

King & Lewis
The insider pre-Labor Day polling for the Dems has been generally miserable, but there is some good news in the numbers for the majority party. Attorney General Gary King and State Treasurer James B. Lewis are both performing well in the surveys. Both Dems are seeking re-election this year. King is being challenged by Clovis are District Attorney Matt Chandler and Lewis will face former Dona Ana County Treasurer Jim Schoonover.

King toyed with the idea of running for Guv this year, but deferred to Diane Denish. Now she may be calling on him even more to help her in her hot race with Republican Susana Martinez. And on that front...

As we've been telling you this week, the early polling shows a lot of undecided voters among New Mexico Hispanics, prompting worries that Dem Guv nominee Denish is in danger of ceding to many of these traditional Dem voters to Martinez. Some Dems expressed concern here that Denish does not have enough Hispanics in her inner circle, but her campaign operatives push back against that notion.

Our office staff consists of 7 members, 5 of which are Hispanics. There's plenty of Hispanic influence in our office and just because we are not part of the Rio Chama crowd doesn't make us less influential- I can assure you and your Alligators of that.

For the uninitiated, the Rio Chama is the bar in Santa Fe across from the Roundhouse where assorted hangers-on and wall-leaners chew the political fat.


And another Denish take on Hispanic involvement in her election effort:

Hispanics hold key senior-level positions both on the campaign and in her Lt. Gov office. Furthermore, there are a number of Hispanic leaders who serve as informal advisers to Diane--and that’s a group that she consults with on a very regular basis. Democratic Party Chairman Javier Gonzales has been a valued political adviser, inside the circle every step of the way, along with other key current/former elected officials, community leaders and campaign veterans.

There have been, and will continue to be, many events in the Hispanic community - particularly in the North...For several months now, the campaign has been airing radio ads on stations popular in the Hispanic community (both English and Spanish language stations). This has focused primarily in North-Central New Mexico and in Dona Ana, but recently expanded to ABQ/Bernalillo metro area radio as well.


Chaos, backstabbing, criminal allegations, employee suspensions and more. No, it's not an episode of the Sopranos, but direct from the NM Secretary of State's office--for the second day running.

SOS Mary Herrera tried to quiet things down by calling a news conference, but then she refused to answer questions. We have a question. Did this "news conference" take place in Santa Fe or Havana?


A contrary view from ours that ABQ District Court Judge Bob Schwartz should head for the exits after news of his "romantic fling" with an assistant public defender broke. From reader Dan Klein:

...Just what discipline rules are you using to remove him from the bench? The woman involved did not complain. She has said she was not offended. It was Judge Schwartz who came forward and reported himself...He was having issues with his medication and asked his employer for help, and now you want to remove him? Exactly what did he do wrong here? If the woman is not upset and he recused himself from her cases, while reporting himself to his employer, just what are you basing removal on?

...I would hope the State Supreme Court reaches out a helping hand and realizes judges are people too. They have mental and physical issues just like the rest of us. It was honorable for Judge Schwartz to report himself. It is a shame the media and others want to hang him for it.

(Yes Bob Schwartz is a friend of mine, but I would defend others in the same position).

One other thing on the Schwartz blog. We said he was a Republican, but readers inform that while he was an R, he has since switched back to D. In fact, he ran in a Democratic primary in 2008. Schwartz served eight years as Bernalillo County district attorney as a Republican. In 2001, he ran for mayor of ABQ as an R.

Back here Sunday with a special report for you on the first ABQ Journal poll on the 2010 race for governor. Meanwhile, thanks for stopping by this week.

Reporting to you from Albuquerque, I'm Joe Monahan

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Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Emotions Roused Over Poll Showing Di Lagging Susana, Plus: Judge Gone Wild: What To Do With Bob Schwartz, And: Bear Market Still Grips ABQ

  • Rasmussen poll released Thursday afternoon has Susana Martinez with a five point lead over Diane Denish. Martinez polls 48% to Denish's 43%. The full poll is here. The survey among likely voters was conducted Wednesday, Aug. 24
Denish & Colon
Democratic emotions erupted in the wake of the news passed along here Wednesday that our reliable sources tell us that Republican Susana Martinez held a double-digit lead (12 points) over Dem Diane Denish in a mid-August automatic phone poll conducted by a candidate for statewide office.

Never mind that we explained that much of this lead is because voters naturally friendly to Martinez--R's and conservative independents- have come home to her early and that the poll was taken a couple of weeks ago and could be long in the tooth. That didn't stop the alarm bells from being sounded and the email circuits from getting clogged with concern.

Many politicos apparently spent the summer in their hammocks, unaware that this is a rough year for Democrats. We're happy to give them a wake-up call; we just hope they didn't spill their umbrella decorated drinks on themselves. We don't have a budget for dry cleaning bills.

Several of our emailers joked that we ought to charge veteran ABQ Journal pollster Brian Sanderoff a promotional fee because interest in his first poll on the Guv race to be released Sunday is now as highly anticipated as the latest edition of the Sports Illustrated swimsuit edition. (Well, maybe not quite).

With polling frenzy mounting, we decided to check in with two old hands of La Politica and seek some consensus on what that poll will show when the papers drop on the dew-moistened lawns this weekend.

Veteran Dem pollster Harry Pavlides offers reassurance to his political brethren. The Journal poll, he predicts, will reveal a four point lead for Martinez. He bases that on his knowledge of the poll's methodology--who they poll--and his own gut instinct for the race.

"The Democrats have to learn how to effectively attack Martinez in the final two months" He declared.

Another of our analysts for the cycle, former ABQ GOP City Councilor Greg Payne, offered no Pavlides palliatives. He said Dem newspaper readers Sunday will get heartburn with their Huevos Rancheros, prognosticating not only that Martinez will sport a 10 point lead over Denish, but that Susana will be right at the magic number of 50%.

"We will be surprised by how well Martinez is doing in Bernalillo County," he argued.

We wonder if Payne's prediction for our Democratic readers is really a form of torture. To keep him honest, if he is too far off he's buying lunch for a posse of Alligators.


Speaking of Alligators, we heard from one of the Senior and Democratic variety in response to our analysis on how various polling is showing Denish having problems nailing down the Hispanic vote--a usually reliable Democratic block.

Your column really nails the Denish problem. If she doesn't do what you and others have recommended regarding the North we can kiss the Gov race goodbye. She should have shaken up her campaign staff right after the primary and brought more Hispanics in to key positions. I am reminded of the (former Governor) Bruce King inner circle that didn't exactly embrace Hispanics. To some extent he overcame it personally with his memory for people and warmth. But it was old school.

We all know that (Denish campaign chair) Ted Martinez hasn't been a player in Diane's strategic operation. But Ted represents the past and not the present reality. There is indeed a deficit in the Denish's likability in the North and the chickens coming home to roost. However, Dems know the stakes are high so they may pitch in and help if she reaches out.

Denish isn't tone deaf. Posted with this story is a flyer (click to enlarge) for a mid-September Matanza in the village of San Jose, south of Las Vegas. Denish will be feted at the event which is sponsored by State Senator Phil Griego. Dems are hopeful the party will attract several thousand people the old fashioned way--with free food. Heck, with this economy they may run out of chicharrones.


More from the email and a Senior Alligator who favors Martinez:

The Democrat political class have a vested interest in a Denish win that gets in the way of what is best for New Mexico. There must be punishment at the polls in November for the excesses of the past eight years...A Denish election would mean a signal to the miscreants that there is no price to pay for corruption. The voters will not so signal. Instead, they want someone with balls and brains to clean up Santa Fe and let the chips fall where they may. The Democrat political class who hope to keep business as usual after November are delusional about the voters intent.

Finally, Hispanic attraction for Susana is not a momentary flirtation where we eventually go home with Denish. She will not be taken home at closing time.


Here's a good one. You're a district court judge in ABQ and take to the sack (or try to) with the 29 year old assistant public defender who represented defendants in your courtroom. On your first date you give her a "gag gift" of a book titled,"The One Hour Orgasm" with a picture of yourself in judicial robes pasted over the picture of the book's author.

And to make sure you make a good first impression you also give the lady a pair of purple latex gloves that she can use to masturbate herself. Isn't that special?

But it's no joke. It's the latest from ABQ District Court Judge Bob Schwartz, a former Bernalillo County district attorney, who says he got off his meds and soon after became a role model for "Judges Gone Wild."

So what happens to a member of the court who flips out like this on the bench? If it's around here, apparently not much. The NM Judicial Standards Commission is mulling over a 60 day unpaid suspension for the 60 year old wayward jurist.

Everyone knows Bob Schwartz and he's a darn likable guy, but he is unfit to be a judge. He needs to be removed pronto. Before this incident, there were his bizarre entanglements with current District Attorney Kari Brandenburg.

Chief District Court Judge Ted Baca has apparently put on the same blinders the judges used when former Judge John Brennan was busted for coke possession six years ago. For years Brennan's colleagues ignored or covered up the judge's drug and alcohol abuse. Baca argues that Schwartz is "well-suited to sit as a judge." What? Maybe a judge for a beauty contest, Ted, but not the stuff you're elected to do.

The sex case could end up before the State Supreme Court. Can Chief Justice Charles Daniels keep a straight face if he upholds a slap on the wrist punishment recommended by a flaccid standards commission? Can the judiciary around here retain its credibility with Schwartz bobbing in and out of rehab and slapping courthouse hotties on the posterior?

Justice Daniels really needs to come to the rescue and put Judge Bob out of his misery and out of the public's life. Do you need the number for the Judicial Standards Commission, your honor?


It seems like that could be the new title of Secretary of State Mary Herrera. To the videotape:

A top official for the Secretary of State has been suspended in what his attorney is calling a retaliation for going to the F.B.I. with information on inner workings of Secretary of States office.

Deputy Secretary of State Francisco Trujillo says office manager Manuel Vildasol has been placed on leave for an unspecified personnel matter, but told Eyewitness News 4 that the suspension has nothing to do with Vildasol visiting the F.B.I.


Another sign that the bear market is not giving up its grip on the ABQ metro. Five hundred jobs thought to be in store for Central and Coors at a planned Lowe's home improvement store are out the window. The national chain has decided not to open. They aren't saying why but its pretty obvious the lousy economy here played a part.

This is a blow for ABQ Mayor RJ Berry and City Council President Ken Sanchez.
Berry has been office for nine months, but has yet to get announce any major additions of jobs. City unemployment remains near nine percent, an unheard of level in the post WWII era. Sanchez represents the lower and middle class area which is commercially under served. He nurtures hopes to someday become mayor. This didn't help.


Not only was the city of Rio Rancho hoodwinked by the financials of GreenV2, the solar star-up that promised 1,500 jobs, but the state of New Mexico was being coaxed to put up $100 million dollars to help finance the deal. Reporter Rosalie Rayburn investigated. Fortunately, the request did not get past the gatekeepers at the State Investment Council.

How about this--the next governor of New Mexico freezes the investment of any of our state permanent funds in private business plans for a period of at least one year.

We have $14 billion in those funds, Santa Fe, and need to preserve and protect that money. Rapid growth is not the priority and neither is becoming the neighborhood bank with all the risk that entails. Wasn't the near-looting of our funds by hedge fund hucksters enough to get us off our keisters?

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Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Large Martinez Lead In Mid-August Poll Revealed; Denish Has Hispanic Problem, Plus: Wanna Buy A Jet? And: Happy Birthday, Steve, Have A Waffle Cake

GOP Guv hopeful Susana Martinez had a 12 point lead over Dem nominee Diane Denish in a mid-August automatic phone poll conducted for one of the statewide campaigns for another elected office, according to reliable Alligators. But Susana was below 50%, the point where a candidate starts to put a race away.

Martinez has consolidated the Republican vote and added to it a pile of independents. These groups are the ones expressing the most anger this cycle and have come home early. But Martinez is also benefitting from Hispanic support higher than usual for a GOP candidate.

Most of the undecided in the poll were women and Hispanics, groups that traditionally go Democratic. That's why despite the 12 point deficit Denish staffers have not been seen jumping out of windows. They see Denish as positioned to eventually pick up that vote.

Another tidbit from the poll. Harry Teague was running a couple of points ahead of Steve Pearce in the southern congressional race. Dem Rep. Teague, however, was not at 50%. He was doing well in Dona Ana County, the district's largest, which explains his lead. By the way, Martinez, even though Dona Ana is her home county, was not blowing the doors off there. Denish had a pretty good lead in the traditionally Dem area.

And more news from this poll. ABQ Dem US Rep. Martin Heinrich was running a couple of points behind Republican challenger Jon Barela, confirming a surprising trend first seen in the SurveyUSA poll taken in late July that had Barela leading 51% to 45%. Jon was not at 50% in this poll and we are told by insiders that his own internal polling shows the race to be about tied.

Top Dems remain confident of Heinrich's prospects, pointing out that he has now started TV ads while Barela has not and also has a large financial advantage. They are also taking comfort because this race also has a lot of undecided Hispanics and Democrats who usually lean Dem, but in this unsettled climate are on the fence. Still, the unknown Barela could not be running in a better year for Republicans. Let's see what he can do with the wind at his back.

The ABQ Journal is in the field this week and will come this Sunday with their first poll on the Governor's race to be followed by the congressional contests. It should do much to give us a clearer picture on where the big races stand at the Labor Day starting gate.


Denish definitely has a white bread problem--she is a native of Hobbs in the SE and lacks a natural connection to northern Hispanics who have been instrumental in keeping the state Democratic.

Hispanic consultants are now telling us that it is too late for Denish to become well-liked in the north. They say she needs to use Hispanics running for lower elective offices such as county sheriff and assessor to carry water for her. That would mean hosting affairs for her at their homes and campaigning with her when she is in their areas.

Consultants, inside players and Alligators are now telling me that State Treasurer James Lewis and Attorney General Gary King are polling strongly in the north and could be used by Denish to make breakthroughs in the critical counties. They also urge deployment of area state legislators on Denish's behalf.

Denish, they say, suffers from an "approachability" problem in the north and it is also noted that no Hispanics are in the lieutenant governor's inner circle. Her campaign chairman is Ted Martinez, but he is an old school politico adept at fund-raising. She does have a Hispanic field director--Joseph Casados--who worked in the 2004 Kerry presidential effort.

Dem Lt. Governor nominee Brian Colon is not a native Hispanic, a point that was circulated widely in the Dem Light Guv primary. He is well-respected and liked by Dem Party types, but also lacks the longtime northern connection that can make a difference.

Martinez is performing well in the north in the polling. If she received 40% or more of the Hispanic vote it would be a superior performance and perhaps make her Governor. However, some experts say early Hispanic support for Martinez could be soft because she is only now being identified as a Republican. Also, some of that Hispanic support is based solely on her last name and could be turned as Hispanic Dem voters are told more about her.

The Denish campaign knows all of this and more. It is how they execute their northern Hispanic strategy that will be of critical importance in the closing two months of Campaign '10.

Denish's first negative TV attacks in June backfired. The ads had factual problems, but she also overreached. Denish's Hispanic base was not there and she was seen more as an Anglo woman attacking a Hispanic than as a possible future governor.

Denish is now treading carefully before unloading nuclear TV ads on Martinez. Her latest approach is to respond to Susana's negative attack and add a charge of her own, not initiate her own TV attack. We'll see what happens when we hit September.


GOP Guv candidate Susana Martinez is stepping on the populist pedal, coming with this billboard urging that the state's $5.5 million jet be sold to the highest bidder.

The jet and who flies on it has become a symbol for Republicans of wasteful state spending.

It kind of reminds us of 1994 when R Gary Johnson beat up on Dem Bruce King over an increase In the gas tax that Bruce supported.

Dem Diane Denish has also been getting more populist in her rhetoric, accusing Martinez of favoring "wealthy private schools" over the public system.


It's not only the R's coming with the graphics. Here's a "waffle cake" courtesy of the state Dems as they help former GOP Congressman Steve Pearce celebrate his 63rd birthday this week. The Dems are ribbing Steve over his waffling statements regarding partially privatizing Social Security.

But Pearce supporters say they expect to be the ones having their cake and eating it too, predicting that public polling to be released next week will show their man leading Dem US Rep. Harry Teague.


We think the Dems have a better chance enticing voters with their waffle cake than they do with this second negative TV spot produced against Pearce by the Defenders of Wildlife Action Fund.

Of course, now that we said that Teague will probably move up ten points.


Our Media Mavens report Guv contenders Denish and Martinez are still knocking heads over fall TV debates. None have yet been scheduled as the campaigns negotiate over details such as how late in the cycle they should be held.

All three Big Three affiliates--KOB, KRQE and KOAT--are expressing an interest in hosting a debate.

There is still plenty of time for posturing and we think we will end up getting some debates, but the intransigence over them.

A couple of months ago KKOB-AM radio asked me if there was cause for concern that there would not be that many joint appearances between Denish and Martinez. We answered that in the end we though there would be plenty,

We're beginning to wonder. We based our prediction on past experience covering Guv races the past several decades. Joint appearances at major event such as the Oil and Gas Association were taken for granted. In 1998, Gary Johnson and Dem Marty Chavez seemed to appear together on every street corner in ABQ. in 2006, Big Bill leading in the polls, refused to debate R John Dendahl, but we saw that as an anomaly. It would be a shame if there are only a handful of times we get to see Martinez and Denish together.

We aren't expecting a Lincoln-Douglas series from these two, but they owe us (and our democracy) more than a couple of cursory engagements.


As election forecasts grow ever more gloomy for Democrats, the R's are getting increasingly confident--and cocky. Here's a photo circulating on the net that drives the point home (no pun intended, really) and shows the Democratic donkey is definitely at the mercy of the Republican elephant.

Well, if only Republicans could have the election today. But the Dems say they are just getting started and the climax of Campaign 2010 will be in October, not August.

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