Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Our Exclusive Poll: Martinez Holds Ample Lead Over King; Duran And Oliver In Tight Battle For Secretary Of State, Keller Leads Aragon In State Auditor Contest; The Numbers And The Analysis On Your Wednesday Blog 

The race for the governorship of New Mexico remains static with Republican Governor Susana Martinez continuing to hold an ample lead over Democratic challenger Gary King, according to a poll conducted for New Mexico Politics with Joe Monahan Tuesday night (Oct. 21).

Martinez garnered 56.2% to King's 37.4% with 6.4% undecided.

In the ABQ Journal poll of Sept. 9-11 Martinez polled 54% to King's 36%.

Our poll, conducted by BWD Global led by Bruce Donisthorpe, was taken with just two weeks before election day Nov. 4 but already over 50,000 New Mexicans have opted to cast ballots at early voting sites and by absentee ballot. Over half the total vote is expected to be cast early, leaving King little time to reverse the course of the contest.

Martinez has run a relentless negative TV and mail campaign against cash starved Attorney General King who only recently came on TV with a single ad after an absence of over a month. That barrage of ads and the lack of any major news coming out the campaigns has played to Martinez's benefit who won election in 2010 with 53.29% of the vote.

The poll was taken on the heels of Sunday's televised gubernatorial debate but it appeared to have no measurable impact on the contest. BWD Global president and pollster Donisthorpe says:

King's inability to respond to the Governor's negative attack is key. The public is seeing a very one-sided  campaign and our survey reflects that. Martinez continues to trend toward re-election.

In Bernalillo County, the state's largest, Martinez leads King 57% to 35%. A glimmer of good news for King is that the undecided should break mainly his way, getting him over the 40% level, but still leaving much ground to cover.

Of the 1,077 likely voters BWD Global surveyed by automatic phone calls in the governor's race, 205 of them said they had already voted. Also, unlike some automatic phone polls, we do not randomly dial voters and ask them if they are registered to vote. We use the phone numbers of a list of confirmed likely voters--those who have cast ballots in both the 2010 and 2012 elections.

The margin of error in our Tuesday night polling is plus or minus three percent.


Duran & Oliver
The race for secretary of state will keep you interested. Our poll of 1,027 likely voters shows Republican Secretary of State Dianna Duran holding a 47.6% to 45.0% lead over her Democratic challenger Maggie Toulouse Oliver. 7.4% are undecided.

Analyzed Donisthorpe:

Duran is getting more Democratic support than you might expect, but that could change as the race enters its most intense phase and Oliver's TV takes hold. Duran has to be concerned that as the incumbent she is not at the 50% mark yet and much of the undecided vote is Democratic and independent. This is going to be a race to watch.

Oliver is the two-term Bernalillo County Clerk. She leads Duran here 50% to 43%. She will work to up that margin here in order to overtake Duran. Third party TV money is playing in both sides of the race.

In 2010 Duran became the first Republican elected secretary of state since the 30's.


In another closely watched down ballot race Democrat Tim Keller has opened up a 51% to 42% lead over Republican challenger Robert Aragon. 7% are undecided in the poll of 1,007 likely voters. Keller, an ABQ state senator, recently unveiled a TV ad in which he goes negative on attorney Aragon. Donisthorpe said:

Keller is over the magic 50% mark. Aragon's support among Republicans is not what it needs to be and that's probably due to Keller's TV ad which Aragon has not responded to. Keller is beating Aragon 55% to 37% in Bernalillo County so his ad is paying big dividends here. Also, it's been nearly 50 years since New Mexico elected a Republican state auditor. That history helps Keller.

The polling memo and complete crosstabs for all the races is here.

Donisthorpe has successfully polled for us since 2008. This cycle he has also polled for a number of Republican and Democratic candidates. He has done no polling for any of the candidates for Governor, secretary of state or state auditor which are featured in today's report.


There has been controversy this cycle over the partisan composition of the electorate that is used in state polling. Our poll by BWD Global is comprised of 50% Democrats, 38% Republicans and 12% independents. This is based on the results of the 2010 election, the last off-year election. Our weighting is very similar to the polls being conducted this year by the ABQ Journal.

The early voting trend confirms this weighting model. Of 39,000 votes cast at early voting sites as of last night 47.2% had been cast by Democrats, 42.1% were Republican, 8.2% independents and 2.3% from other parties, If anything, Democratic performance--at least in the early going--is lagging the ultimate performance number we see them achieving--50% of the electorate.

Some Democratic consultants and pollsters are arguing that Dem turnout will comprise more of the electorate this year because in 2010 fervor for the conservative Tea Party movement was at its zenith. But pollsters Donisthorpe and Sanderoff point out there are fewer competitive contests to drive voters to the polls compared to 2010. The governor's race being the prime example.

As for the Tea Party voters, Donisthorpe points out they haven't gone away. Anti-Obama sentiment is getting them into the voting booths.

In a presidential election year, the polling models do reflect a higher Democratic turnout--about 53% of the electorate in 2012. This, of course, is not a presidential election year.

Also, unlike some automatic phone polls ours does not randomly dial phone numbers and ask the person who answers if they are registered to vote. We use phone numbers from a list of confirmed likely voters--those who have cast ballots in both the 2010 and 2012 elections.


The King campaign has been unable to muster the funds to answer Gov. Martinez's relentless TV and mail attack campaign so his supporters have turned to social media. They land some solid blows in this 2 minute video that uses Martinez's 2010 campaign rhetoric against her. In it she says if you like New Mexico being 49th in a variety of categories, you should vote for Democrat Diane Denish. Four years later the state is 49th or 50th in more categories than when she took over. . .


A local news producer responds to criticism from reader Hal Gershenson that the media did not cover a large teacher rally over the weekend. Gershenson wrote:

Albuquerque teachers were not surprised by the media black-out of their massive rally on Saturday, but not to get a mention from you....that hurts.

The media responds: 

Failure to alert the media to your event does not constitute failure on our part but a failure on the planners' part.  As someone who was working Saturday, there was nothing in our planner about this event. And EVERYTHING goes into the planner regardless if we plan on going to it or not.


The NYT came with one that caught our eye:

Political analysts keep urging the Republican Party to do more to appeal to Hispanic voters. Yet the party’s congressional leaders show little sign of doing so, blocking an immigration overhaul and harshly criticizing President Obama for his plan to defer deportation for undocumented migrants. There’s a simple reason that congressional Republicans are willing to risk alienating Hispanics: They don’t need their votes, at least not this year. Republicans would probably hold the House — and still have a real chance to retake the Senate — if they lost every single Hispanic voter in the country, according to an analysis by The Upshot. Such a thing would never happen, of course, but the fact that the Republicans may not need a single Hispanic vote in 2014 says a good deal about American politics today.


The Indian gaming casinos are hanging in there during the long economic stagnation, but it isn't what it used to be. Take a look:

Buffalo Thunder Development Authority, the economic arm of the Pueblo of Pojoaque, is offering holders of current notes an exchange for some due in 2022 with a higher interest rate. According to a news release, the authority has begun a private exchange offer to holders of its outstanding 9⅜ percent senior secured notes due in 2014 to exchange those notes for its newly issued 11 percent senior secured notes due in 2022.

The state reports gambling revenue at the Indian casinos has been basically flat for several years. Pojoaque is battling with the state over a new gambling compact. The pueblo wants to serve liquor to gamblers and lower the gambling age to 18 from 21.

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Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Two Weeks To Go For Campaign '14; Thoughts On Bond Issues And Conny Amendments, Plus: King Supporters Push Back Against Pundits On TV Debate, And: Michelle's "Ass Kicking" 

Two weeks to go which means the most emotional phase of Campaign '14 is kicking in even as many ponder why there isn't more passion and emotion over the future of New Mexico in this election.

Is it a sign that the public has lost so much faith in government and politics that they turn away? Maybe. But in the face of a life-changing economic and social decline for a large swath of the state's population, the politicians are offering cautious baby steps and failing to ignite the imagination of the electorate. Passion and emotion will come back when leaders emerge with those qualities--and with big ideas. . .

Given that backdrop, it's hard to take the side of those who criticize NM pollsters Brian Sanderoff and Bruce Donisthorpe for underestimating the number of folks who will cast ballots and the conservative tilt of their voter turnout models. The state's problems are epic but the election is pedestrian as well as being a nonpresidential year.


We don't endorse candidates but we do care about the future of the state and each election have thoughts and opinions on the bond issues and constitutional amendments. Here's some for this year:

One of the proposed constitutional amendments on the ballot this year sums up how Santa Fe is missing the forest for the trees. It would permit the giant $14 billion Land Grant Permanent Fund to have more than 15 percent of the fund invested in foreign stock markets. Sure, let's invest more in Zaire, but not use the fund to improve very early childhood right here in our own backyard where the social conditions crisis seems to worsen by the hour. And just forget about those expert findings that over time an investment in early childhood delivers returns far greater than the stock market averages.

And then there's the little fact that 46 percent of the revenue of the companies in the Standard & Poor's 500 index already come from foreign operations. The Permanent Fund already has more than enough foreign exposure. Enough said. For us it will be thumbs down on Amendment # 5. . .

As for the other four constitutional amendments, we see no urgency for any of them and will vote against. (The Legislative Council Service does a good job outlining the pros and cons of each of the amendments.)

On the other hand, you can vote with a clear conscience and confidence when deciding the Bernalillo County and state bond issues. The state bonds total $167 million. The county bonds total $27.5 million. We don't see a stinker in the bunch and their approval, besides improving the state, will also give us some sorely needed stimulus. . .

But then there's the Bernalillo County proposal to raise property taxes to finance open space acquisitions. Nix that one. The metro isn't going to get out of recession by raising taxes of any kind.

And even though it's only an advisory question, we'll be voting against the proposal to raise the county gross receipts tax by an eighth of a cent to finance mental health programs.  The gross receipts is the most regressive tax of them all, slamming lower income people disproportionally. The county needs to better prioritize its budgeting and hound the Bernalillo County legislative delegation to bring home the bacon to get this important task done.

Then there's that other "advisory" question on the ballot--to decriminalize the possession of small amounts of marijuana. We agree with the intent and even though we often find ourself in agreement with conscientious County Commissioner Debbie O'Malley, we don't this time. Advisory questions need to remain in pubic opinion polls--not placed on election ballots.


Gary King took heat when at Sunday night's TV debate he used his one and only opportunity to question Governor Martinez to ask her why she has hired out of state cabinet secretaries. Too soft, came the yell from the bleacher seats. A reader weighs in on that and more:

You get so much more info with visual cues than just words. Martinez gave off a very bad vibe visually. She has absolutely lost her luster to all but her base. With a massive lead she should have been calm and above the fray. She was not. She came across as angry, pinched and lacking in confidence. In short, not the way a leader looks. King didn't do any or much better, but the bar was set way lower for him because he has been hammered for his incompetence so much that not being on the mat at the end was a win.

King really only needed to convince the Democratic base that he wanted to be there. I think he did, although clearly he could have been stronger in how he did it.  He did the out of state cabinet question for a reason. It was to show the teachers and those hit by the behavioral health mess that he gets what the problem is. Mentioning both Public Education Secretary Skandera and Human Services Secretary Squier was strictly targeted to the reinforce what the base has been saying. Mirroring them in theory should help get them to the polls.


Most of the pundits, including us, thought King did OK at the debate but were looking for a stronger performance to perhaps change the dynamic of the race. But not all agreed. Back to the email:

I totally disagree on the debate summations, yours, TV, etc. King come off like a genuine caring fellow; no he is not the  brightest star in the galaxy of hopefuls, but he is all the Dems have and I will support him; frankly because Martinez comes off as self-centered and egotistical. When she walked away from the podium she walked off with an "I'm all there is" swagger. All she has done is throw up negative, backstabbling ads. Not once has she given any real solutions to the fact that New Mexico is the only state in the West that continues in a recession. The same for our lower pay, lack of good paying jobs, lack of real industry potentials, poor educational objectives, solutions for our college graduates continuing to leave the state for good jobs, more poverty than NM has  ever had and the inability for homeowners to sell their homes without having to sell for less than the purchase price. . .  I won't throw my vote away and will vote for Gary King.


An independent group took to the TV airwaves to take on Republican Secretary of State Dianna Duran and call her "reckless" and incompetent." Now an independent group is using the mail boxes to take on her Dem challenger Maggie Toulouse Oliver:

A new Albuquerque-based "independent expenditure" group calling itself New Mexicans for Honest Leadership last week sent out mailers praising Republican incumbent Secretary of State Dianna Duran and criticizing her Democratic challenger Maggie Toulouse Oliver over the issue of voter identification.The mailer features a picture of a smiling man putting a ballot into a box. "He could be casting YOUR vote," the big-letter caption blares."

Oliver has to be wondering if that's all her foes are coming with because you know she was expecting something much more harsh. Stay tuned.


It's true that blogging and reporting on politics has often been reduced to following the TV ads and money. Reader Hal Gershenson weighs in:

Albuquerque teachers were not surprised by the media black-out of their massive rally on Saturday, but not to get a mention from you....that hurts. Nearly 800 teachers, family, friends and other union supporters marched down Central to vote early at the SUB. Nearly the entire Dem ticket was there from King to Keller to Keirnan and everyone in between and no one in the press seemed to notice. While the pundits and bloggers have been focused on the money and TV, this election is really about the ground game. Teachers, state employees, and families that were hurt by the behavioral health debacle are angry and active. If someone polled a sample of those groups they'd find a huge turnout, with plenty of Republicans voting for King. There's an underground campaign going by the victims of the Martinez administration that on that "those in the the know" seem to be missing.


We were surprised to hear that ABQ GOP congressional candidate Mike Frese had kicked the ass of ABQ Dem US Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham. We do hope her derriere withstood the force of his shoe leather. From the Frese campaign:

Sorry for the language but Mike Frese kicked ass in today's debate! The Republican candidate for New Mexico's 1st Congressional District, Dr. Mike Frese, faced off with Democrat Michelle Lujan Grisham during a live, televised debate today. KOB-TV aired the debate live at noon. Mike went on the offensive when it came to showing contrast between his solid conservative values and Michelle's liberal agenda. Please help us keep momentum while she's still on the defense! Donate Now!!

Come on Mike Frese, you need to know the rules of La Politica. The following physical actions are permitted: backbiting, finger pointing, pouting, gnashing of teeth and supervised mud wrestling. Ass kicking is strictly prohibited.

Mike, since you have violated this rule in such cavalier fashion, Michelle will now be permitted to engage in the previously prohibited behavior of waxing away your chest hair and moustache. Ouch. Now behave out there. . .

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Monday, October 20, 2014

King And Martinez Spar In Final Debate, Romney To Campaign For Guv, Weh Answers Udall's "So What?" Ad And Balderas Is Bashed By National R's  

Susana Martinez may have lost the cult of personality that elevated her to the Governor' office in 2010 but she did not lose last night's final debate to Democratic challenger Gary King. Martinez played as much offense as King--if not more--and escaped the podium with a few minor scratches. King lost by not winning as he seeks to close a large polling gap with the incumbent.

Martinez has never been a strong debater. Last night presented an opportunity for King to score if not a knock out at least a punch that made her lose her balance and give voters a reason to take a second look at the contest. But when it came time for King to pose a question directly to Martinez he wondered why she had been appointing cabinet secretaries from out of state. You could practically hear the jaws drop over that softball question that Martinez swiftly dispatched and with it any possibility of a game changing night.

The King question--coming against the backdrop of ongoing economic disintegration-- reflected what everyone knows--the Democratic Party never intended to mount a serious challenge to Martinez and haven't (Remember Sam Who?).

Dem analyst Harry Pavlides spared neither contender, saying Martinez seemed like an empty vessel with a mean streak. He battered King for being a modern day version of Herbert Hoover (remember him?)  disconnected from the audience and unable to humanize the economic decline gripping the state.

Still, Pavlides sees King gaining from sharing the stage with the incumbent and arousing the Democratic base some. King has been polling below 40% so it won't be hard for him to pop up from that level and the debate may have eased that path. But victory? That's somewhere over the rainbow.

Independent analyst Greg Payne said Martinez secured her base by "creaming King" on the issue of tax cuts and said of the debate as a whole:

Martinez connected with her base emotionally, while King was the aloof policy wonk. Gary needed to weave a theme and come with some one liners for undecided voters to take something away from the night. That didn't happen.

The debate, like the entire campaign, was a joyless, humorless affair. King, however, did get off an impromptu one liner that some might have greeted with a chuckle. When Martinez quoted the ABQ Journal about his record he glanced at the Journal's debate panelist and quipped. "The Journal doesn't always get it right."

At the top we called last night's Guv debate the "final" one but it was really the only one. The pair met before a business group but they answered questions given to them beforehand. And then they debated on Spanish language TV which is accessible to only those who speak Spanish.

The New Mexico governor's race is ranked likely Republican.


Speaking of the paper, it examines the Guv candidates stances on education and reports:

The governor counts among her education policy successes an increase in overall public schools education spending, bringing the total education budget to about $2.7 billion this year – the largest K-12 public education budget in state history.

But it doesn't report this:

New Mexico is still spending 8 percent less per pupil on K-12 education than before the recession. That translates to $633 less being spent per student than funding levels in 2008, when adjusted for inflation. That’s according to a report released by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP), a non-partisan policy research organization based in Washington, D.C.

Now you know. .


You wonder if Allen Weh will pop in on the Thursday lunch featuring Mitt Romney and in support of Gov. Martinez's re-election. Mitt made his "47 percent" remark his political calling card when he lost the presidency in 2012. US Senate hopeful Allen Weh has enshrined "So what if they're making four bucks an hour" into the political vernacular. Weh does not believe workers under the age of 26 should get the minimum wage. The Sen. Udall campaign made a scorching and effective TV ad and mail piece from that statement. Maybe Mitt and Allen can exchange war stories. . . or at least compare investment portfolios. . .

Well, four bucks isn't going to get you anywhere near Mitt Thursday. Try $2,600 a couple for the Mitt meet and greet at the home of ABQ doctor Randy Briggs. Not that Martinez is cash starved and needs the dough. She reports recently having $2.7 million in her bank account while Gary King had $124,000.


Back to Weh and his now infamous "So what" comments. It is hurting him as evidenced by his decision to come with this response ad, the hallmark of which is repeating the phrase that got him in so much trouble:

In a recent ad my words were taken out of context. I spoke for all New Mexicans frustrated with the Udall-Obama agenda when we’re told, 'so what if we have 24% Hispanic youth unemployment. So what if we owe $18 trillion. So what if 30,000 New Mexicans lose their health coverage under Obama-care. So what if we don't take care of our veterans. So what if we have no strategy against ISIS. So what if there's no leadership. And so what if we can't live the American dream.' Change Washington. Change your Senator.

But the ad never rebuts the four bucks an hour comment or Weh's opposition to the minimum wage for workers under 26. And the repetition of the "so what" phrase seems to backfire, reminding voters of the contemptuous tone that Weh used when he made the original comments before a business group and was caught on audio tape. Also, several Alligators wondered why Weh waited so long in coming with a response.

Weh has vindicated himself by running a tough and well-organized campaign--more so than many observers thought he would. But. . .

The "So what" phrase remains the defining moment of the 2014 US Senate race and the contest remains ranked safe Democratic.

Meanwhile, Udall keeps it lighthearted in his latest TV outing as he labors to bring this one home. It's narrated by an 84 year old who says of Udall." I appreciate this young fella."

Say what? Tom is 66 and well into his Social Security years. Weh turns 72 next month. Well, one supposes at age 84 you get to call everyone a young whippersnapper. . .


A reader writes from the ABQ NE Heights and North Valley House district where all guns are blazing:

Have you looked at the District 15 race?  Democratic Rep. Emily Kane is showing $150,000 raised this year  and Republican Sarah Maestas Barnes is showing $130,0000 raised. the other day I received five glossy mailers from the candidates and PAC's working the district. And Sarah even has a TV ad going on for this district. Also, the "polling" calls are incessant. I am going to early vote just to get some peace and quiet...

If the R's ousted Kane their chances of controlling the NM house for the first time in over 60 years would soar. That's why the huge spending.

But a lot of campaign money is being wasted and reader Rich Talley has one reason why:

I wonder what's going to happen as the so-called millennials come to dominate the electorate. I'm much older (my sons are millennials) but my viewing habits are like theirs. I don't own a TV. The little TV I watch is on my iPad. I rarely listen to local radio anymore; I listen to Internet radio. As such, the paid part of this campaign season has passed me by. 

I've seen a couple of on-line ads. The only political ads I've seen are are some bloggers linked to as particularly good or bad. I don't have a land line, so the pollsters don't reach me.  I have already voted, so I'm reading your blog and other coverage simply as an bemused and amused observer.

Bemused and amused. That's a pretty good analysis of Campaign '14, Rich. 


Hector Balderas held a 48% to 41% lead over Republican Susan Riedel in a poll of the attorney general race conducted for us by BWD Global on Oct. 6 and 7. But the national Republican Attorneys General Association (RAGA) isn't ready to throw in the towel. They come with this TV hit on Balderas centered on a lawsuit dispute between Balderas and Attorney General and Dem guv nominee Gary King. The TV ad is vague about the lawsuit. It is based on this news from 2008:

It began with an anonymous complaint to the Auditor’s Office hotline in 2008 that Balderas used a staffer as a babysitter on work time, made improper office equipment purchases and wrongly required workers to use a time clock. The auditor contended the allegations were “completely frivolous,” but he forwarded them to the attorney general for review. When the attorney general apparently broadened the inquiry and served Balderas with a grand jury subpoena for documents, the auditor’s office refused to comply, saying it wouldn’t let the attorney general “simply rummage through its files.” According to Balderas, the attorney general abused his authority by requesting information related to other audit matters. . . No charges were brought against Balderas and the matter was resolved – but since court hearings were held behind closed doors and a judge ordered documents sealed because of grand jury secrecy, the details have never been public.

We blogged a couple of years ago that the big legal fees Balderas's office was shelling out over the secret lawsuit with King could become a campaign issue. And it has. The TV ad asks "What is Hector Balderas hiding?" and also throws up a picture of Big Bill and Balderas, saying Bill "hand-selected" Balderas for the auditor job. Balderas was selected by the by the Democratic Party to replace Jeff Armijo who withdrew his candaciy amid scandal. Richardson was governor at the time.

Balderas, who has run an aggressive TV campaign, wasted no time responding to the hit and and came with this ad narrated by former NM State Police Chief Robert Shilling:

If you want to know why out of out of state special interests are attacking Hector Balderas, it’s the same reasons cops like me support him. Because Hector Balderas is independent, and he knows that no one is above the law. Hector Balderas prosecuted violent criminals, wrote laws protecting children from predators, and as Auditor, he cracked down on corrupt politicians – from both parties – to protect taxpayers. That’s why law enforcement trusts Hector Balderas for Attorney General.”

The hit from RAGA raises doubts about Balderas, but it comes quite late in the cycle and his quick response will dampen the effect. The AG's race is ranked likely Democrat.


Reader Chris Cervini, a former NM Dem consultant,monitoring the action from Texas, comments on the erroneous mail piece put out about northern Dem Rep. Stephanie Garcia Richard. It came from a GOP PAC supporting House candidates and led by former District Attorney Matt Chandler. Even though the piece on Richard's voting record was found to be in error, Chandler did not retract it, prompting this from Cervini:

That hit on the Garcia Richard false attack sums up why the political system is completely broken and does a disservice to all citizens.You can basically lie about someone, put it out in an expensive mailer (or TV spot) and the damage is done. A strong press used to be a good referee with an ability to shame lying candidates into more responsible hit pieces that were based in facts. But with dark money feeding the beast and newsrooms generally giving up on political coverage (not to mention a populace that is fundamentally less engaged in how their leaders are chosen) and you have a perfect storm where some hack like Chandler can attack, be called out, but then pivot back with a lame "well, she's bad nonetheless" response. It's gross and shameful. But, the damage is done -- the voters cannot unsee the piece and the dark money will not issue a correction.


Reader Jim Richards writes from DC of reader Peter Ives Friday comments on green chile:

Peter Ives asks if the Texans have lost the “e” versus “i” debate over the spelling of chile. They lost it a long time ago. I don’t have to ship green from home anymore. Several grocery stores, largely due to the efforts of Jeff Witte at the NM Department of Agriculture and NM chile producers, are carrying and properly roasting fresh Hatch chile right here in Virgina. New addicts are being created daily in the greater DC area.  Back to Mr. Ives. He should know that our divine food is a fruit not a vegetable as he stated. Red or Green? Yes….

And we thought spending was the only thing they were addicted to in DC. . .

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Friday, October 17, 2014

Big Weekend For Campaign: Heavy Early Voting Starts And We Get The Only Real Guv Debate, Plus: SOS Race Gets Out Of Gate; A Reader Predicts Winners and Losers, And: Ben Hall's Campaign Haul Questioned 

Campaign '14 grinds on with a big weekend ahead. 18 additional "My Vote Centers" will open for early voting in Bernalillo County on Saturday and stay open through November 1, 2014. Hours of operation are Monday through Saturday 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Thousands of votes will be cast on Saturday alone so candidates without their media act together could suffer. . .

On Sunday Governor Martinez and her Democratic challenger Gary King will face off in what will be their only real debate of consequence. It will air on KOAT-TV Sunday at 6 p.m. and will be King's last chance to force a gaffe or at least drum up more interest in the race among the Democratic base.

Well over half the votes of this election are expected to be cast early. That is before Nov. 4. We had about 607,700 total votes cast statewide in the last mid-term in 2010. For this election yhe Alligators are setting the early "over-under" betting line at 600,000. . .

The women who would like to be the states's chief election officer are out of the starting gate. Incumbent GOP Secretary of State Dianna Duran joins her Dem challenger and Bernalillo County Clerk Maggie Toulouse Oliver on the air with her first ad. In it she says she deserves re-election because she cleaned up mess left behind by her Dem predecessors.

Third party national money also came into the contest this week. Super PAC SOS for Democracy is airing this spot calling Duran "reckless and incompetent" for turning over the names of 64,000 registered voters to the state police. She thought they might be involved in voter fraud but nothing ever came of it.

Insider polling in the SOS race has it starting tight. However, Oliver is ahead in her home county of Bernalillo. The race could hinge on how well Oliver performs here. A big score and it will be hard for Duran to make it up elsewhere. All three TV ads in the race thus far--Oliver's, Duran's, and the independent group's--are strong. The other foot to drop in the race is what negative Duran hits Oliver with.


The WaPo's Chris Cillizza wrote this about The national election scene but it especially applies to New Mexico:

The election is boring, sure. But it's more than that. It's vapid and inconsequential at a time when the world's challenges suggest a need for something more. We now live in an era of political smallness mismatched to the big-ness of the societal issues we face. It's no wonder everyone is so anxious about the future. It's as fuzzy as it's been in a very long time.


The high-tech age continues to change the way candidates talk to the voters:

The Albuquerque-based tech firm microIT Infrastructure, LLC, is pleased to announce the release of a free mobile app for the iPhone, iPad, iPod, and iTouch platforms in support of the Jefferson L. Byrd for U.S. Congress, New Mexico, campaign for the 3rd congressional district. The app can be download in the Apple App Store.

Byrd is the Tucumcari rancher who is making a second attempt to unseat northern Dem Congressman Ben Ray Lujan who is a heavy favorite for re-election.


From the trail in the North we learn of the super PAC supporting the GOP state House candidates getting sloppy, but it doesn't seem to much bother former Clovis area District Attorney Matt Chandler who heads the PAC:

A Super PAC mailer targeting incumbent state Rep. Stephanie Garcia Richard blasts her for voting in favor of expunging criminal records. The problem? She actually voted against it.

The glossy mailer, sent to residents in Garcia Richard's hotly contested House District 43, which includes Los Alamos and part of Santa Fe County, comes from Advance New Mexico Now. It features a dark photo of a classroom with the ominous words "A violent criminal working in a day care center ... And no one knew?"  On the back is a photo of Garcia Richard, a Democrat who won election to the more conservative district two years ago. Next to the photo are words accusing her of voting "to HIDE arrest records from employers like daycare centers and schools."

Matthew Chandler, who heads Advance New Mexico Now, doesn't deny that the PAC got the facts wrong. But he says Garcia Richard's voting record on public safety "swings back and forth depending on who's in the room." 

But, Matt, if her vote "swings back and forth" why didn't you say that instead of getting it wrong on your mailer?

Garcia Richard faces Los Alamos County Councilor Geoff Rodgers. Richard has the edge with insider polling and talks with political professionals pointing to her re-election.


Ben Hall
Dem attorney and activist Robert Lara reacts to the news we broke here this week that southern NM GOP Public Regulation Commissioner Ben Hall appears to be paying himself and his wife a salary from his publicly financed campaign account:

The goal of public financing is to provide for clean elections that prohibit wealthy interests from purchasing influence in political races. Candidates are required to not only raise seed money to qualify for public financing, but are limited on how much they can spend on a race once they voluntarily accept the taxpayers money. Once the candidate is given this money, they are obligated to comply with not only the rule of the law but the spirit of the law.

As a former finance director for several campaigns I can tell you that no candidate I have ever heard of has paid themselves a "salary" out of the funds being raised for the campaign. The standard is that campaign funds are used for campaign expenses and that these expenses are justified, documented, and necessary for the furtherance of the campaign and not the personal benefit of the candidate.

A review of the other campaign finance reports of every other candidate running for the PRC this cycle show that expenditures included fuel costs, printing, advertising, meals, lodging, phone banking....all the normal costs of a campaign. All of these expenses should come with a invoice or receipt and the proper taxes are included in the transactions.

Commissioner Hall's reports show he had most of those normal expenses but in addition to those there are several "campaign work" expenditures. However there is no detail in the report to show what "campaign work" or "campaign consulting" was done. Whatever work was done it was handsomely rewarded out of the taxpayers pocket. I find it difficult to believe that, as his report shows, you can incur, in a one week period, a salary of $2580.00 in one week. That would be an annual salary of $134,160.00! Nice work if you can get it! At this rate none of the public's funds given to Commissioner Hall will be left over to return to the Public Election Fund.

So my question is why is it that the Commissioner feels that his state issued $90,000 + benefits and pension salary as a PRC Commissioner needs to be supplemented by funds reserved for campaign expenses? Using public money for your private benefit is a slap in the face to the people you are elected to represent in District 5. As one of those constituents, I am appalled at this behavior and know that the citizens of NM want their money spent on clean and fair elections, not the private piggy banks of our elected officials.

And we await Commissioner Hall's response. He faces Dem Sandy Jones for that PRC seat.


Reader Gil Armijo is first up with fun political predictions for 2014, He claims an 84% batting average:

This is a low-low turnout election cycle. That is the lowest type of turnout models. All of the time wasted on targeting low propensity voters or wasting time on voter registration is exactly that; a complete waste of time, human resources and in some cases, precious campaign money.

Voter behavior strongly favors R voters. These voters are perhaps the only group of voters who have an issue which motivates them to the polls. In this regard, it is all about Obamacare with R voters.

I do not see any tipping point in this election cycle. It will be almost perfectly textbook. Low, low turnout with R voters more motivated than any other group.

Translation: Despite the fact that bottom down ballot positions are largely non-competitive races; D's as a whole will under-perform and there could be as many as two bottom down ballot positions going to the R win column.

The House will stay D. That is because the Navajo Nation will send a superbly qualified D to Santa Fe, replacing the R incumbent. It will end with the House D's holding a razor thin margin of 1 vote.

The governor's race is already yesterday's news. Although I predict that Gov. Susana Martinez will be offered a Cabinet position following the 2016 presidential election. And it will be a POTUS-R after 2016. And I further predict she will accept.

So there is some good news to look forward to in the near future because as you know better than most from your extensive experience; New Mexico politics is never more interesting when there is a shakeup in the Roundhouse with their accompanying appointments, etc.

Some of that is pretty wild, Gil. But keeping it interesting its what it's all about.


Reader Tony Davis writes in defense of Dem State Land Commissioner Ray Powell who is being lambasted from one end of the state to another by his Republican challenger Aubrey Dunn:

Aubrey Dunn, Jr. has implied that Powell's poor land management has resulted “in overgrown forests, then massive forest fires and flash floods [which] impacts all New Mexicans.” He cites as examples the Las Conchas fire and the Little Bear fire.

I’m sorry, Mr. Dunn, but those fires began on Forest Service land, not State land, and if you are to become Land Commissioner, you should learn the difference. As someone evacuated before the approaching Little Bear fire, I resent that you assume we voters would not know.

In his ads Mr. Dunn has also accused Commissioner Powell of being a “career politician”. Ray Powell has run for State Land Commissioner four times and served three terms, two from 1994 to 2002 and 2010 to the present. Mr. Dunn has run for office three times: he was a Republican candidate for US Congress, CD-2, in 2008; he was the 2012 Republican candidate for District 39 of the New Mexico State Senate; and now he’s running for State Land Commissioner.

So you could call Mr. Dunn a career politician as well, since he has run for office almost as many times as Ray Powell – he just hasn’t won.

Dunn vs. Powell--one of the key races we'll be watching Election Night.


Reader Peter Ives writes:

You might be amused to see that the 29 Sept issue of The New Yorker (p.11, "Chile Pepper Festival") referred to our sacred NM veg as chile and not chili. Is this a cultural turning point--or just a new style book detail? Have the Texans "lost"? Will wonders never cease?

Good one, Peter. And you've heard this one:

In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. Then He turned around and someone else made Texas.

Thanks for stopping by this week.

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Thursday, October 16, 2014

Blogging Campaign '14: The State House Money Explosion, Oil Price Slide Could Slam Santa Fe, Is Hector Missing Someone? More On Tim's TV Timing And A Matanza Alert 

The explosion of money in the battle for control of the NM House was expected but it's still startling to see it play out. The engorged super PACS have so much cash--too much--that they are now buying radio ads that reach only a tiny fraction of their intended audiences in the key battleground districts in the ABQ metro.

It's what happens when you have a nearly unregulated campaign finance system. Legislative races that not long ago might see $30,000 in total spending will now see $200,000 or more. Well, economically challenged New Mexico has at least one growth industry between now and November 4. . .

Our challenges could get even greater as the price of oil craters. Crude oil is trading down near $80 a barrel--almost a four year low. The experts at the Legislative Finance Committee in Santa Fe (hat tip to David Abbey) tell us the state budget for the current fiscal year that ends June 30, 2015 is based on an average oil price of $92 a barrel. For the budget year that begins July 1, 2015 the state is counting on an average price of $88 a barrel. We have pierced both of those support levels.

If oil were to stay in the current range or lower for a number of months, it would impact energy royalties the state heavily depends on. Economist Gerry Bradley with NM Voices for Children tells us for each $1 change in the price of a barrel of oil--up or down--the impact on the state treasury is $6 million.

So while New Mexicans enjoy what amounts to a big tax cut at the gas pumps, their state services could get squeezed if this oil downturn becomes a full-fledged bear market and not just a short-term correction. . .

Back on the battle for the state House for a second. Since most of the super PAC radio ads are not posted on line, the best way for a political junkie to keep up with all them is by checking out 770 KKOB-AM in ABQ. Most, if not all, of the  PACS have bought time on the 50,000 watt conservative talk station. . .

The newshounds are already complaining that they can barely keep up with the flood of TV ads that is pouring forth as we approach the final two weeks of Campaign '14. That's in addition to the deluge of other campaign news that starts to come this time in the cycle. More politics watchers are relying on Twitter for breaking campaign news. Here are the Twitter handles of some of the NM reporters who follow the action:

@steveterrell, @bmasseyAP, @DanBoydNM, @AlexG_Reporter, @NMTelegram, @RussContreras and  @Peter_StCyr. And, of course you can find us at @newsguy44.

While it is getting busier, we have to say this has not been a campaign year that has been exceptionally busy. The low-key race for governor has a lot to do with that. . .

Gary King takes a lot of heat for not being very telegenic, but in this interview with public TV's Lorene Mills, King comes to life in a way that not many New Mexicans have had a chance to see. . .


You know there is no love lost between State Auditor Hector Balderas and Attorney General Gary King, but now that Hector is the Dem AG nominee and Gary is the Guv hopeful, the split is more notable. Look at this campaign missive from Hector:

I head out to northern New Mexico and I hope you will join me in supporting our great Democratic ticket--Maggie Toulouse Oliver, nominee for Secretary of State, Tim Keller, nominee for State Auditor, Tim Eichenberg, nominee for Treasurer, and Kerry Kiernan, nominee for NM Court of Appeals.

We're sure the omission of Gary's name was purely unintentional and just a typo. If not, we propose a peace meeting between the two at Barelas Coffee House following the election. Hector, you're buying--and here's why:

Democrat Hector Balderas holds a more than 8-to-1 campaign cash advantage over Republican Susan Riedel in New Mexico’s race for attorney general. Balderas spent nearly $334,825 in the past month, with three-fourths of it for television advertising, according to the latest campaign finance reports. Balderas had cash on hand of $601,692 as of last week, and Riedel had a balance of $69,627. Her campaign spent more than $161,527, with about 90 percent for ads. Balderas is a two-term state auditor, and Riedel is a former prosecutor and district judge from Las Cruces. The reports filed with the Secretary of State’s Office cover contributions and spending from Sept. 2 through Oct. 6.


The Wednesday blog detailing how Dem State Auditor nominee Tim Keller went negative on his Republican opponent in his new TV ad got them talking. Veteran Dem consultant Harry Pavlides thought it was unnecessary for Keller to go negative on the tube. Here are some different takes:

The Dem base has all but given up hope that there is a Democrat with enough moxie to call things out as they are. Keller did just that. Aragon is an unethical tool of Martinez, who as state auditor would target Dems and ignore her admin's wrongdoing. Further, the ad is clearly one that will cause people to talk. The more discussion about an ad the more impact it has. Clearly that is an ad that will generate a lot of buzz.

And another:

Not only is it a good, creative ad. I have been waiting for someone to do a "Breaking Bad" tie-in, which even got him some national attention. It shows he has some chutzpah and is not afraid to go after people. Plus with only so much money you can raise in an Auditors race, you've got to use it wisely, which makes it hard to do with a full positive ad. Overall, I think it is one of the better ads I have seen in NM this cycle.

As that reader mentioned, the ad also drew attention because Keller filmed part of it at an ABQ car wash featured in the TV series "Breaking Bad." While that drew a lot of attention among the millennials dominating social media, the reference probably had little punch with the off-year NM voter whose average age is near 60.

Insider polling has Keller trailing Aragon by about four points, but that's before any media in the race. The survey does show the power of ethnic voting and the turnout problem the Dems have this year and that's why Keller went negative. We go back to consultant Pavlides for a reaction to our email writers.:

If Keller did not have enough money to do a positive spot to introduce himself and follow that up with a negative one on Aragon he could have pursued a different strategy--do a positive TV ad and use the mail to attack Aragon. It would be less costly and  just as effective and leave Keller out there as a positive personality.

As for Aragon, he responded to the Keller attack this way:

Aragon called the charges in the ad half-truths, and said that by using Breaking Bad it implies he’s a criminal. Aragon has previously disclosed the tax liens against him, and his law firm and has said the liens were the result of an audit. Aragon said the firm had employees to handle tax matters. “But I take responsibility. ... Every dime they said I owed, I paid.”

The tag line to Keller's ad is "the clean choice," not the clean "candidate" as we originally blogged. And. . .

Several readers wrote in to tell us it was Presbyterian Medical Services, not Presbyterian Health Services that had the behavioral health issue with the state and that they are very different companies. We erred in our first draft.


Can you be a candidate and be paid to consult your own campaign? That question arises from a look at the campaign fiance reports of southern NM GOP Public Regulation Commissioner Ben Hall. He reports spending $20,042.58 to pay himself and his wife--Maria Cottom Hall--for campaign expenses
and campaign work. (In his first report he said the purpose was for campaign expenses and in the second he said for campaign work).

Hall chose public financing for his race against Democrat Sandy Jones and received $50,000 to run his campaign.


Campaign '14 has been a pretty joyless affair so surely it's time for a matanza to perk things up:

Please join us at our 3rd Annual Senator Michael Padilla Matanza and BBQ. This community event will be held on Saturday, October 18, at 10:30 AM, at 7241 Isleta SW. Enjoy fresh chicharrones, beef brisket, pork loin, papas, beans, chile, tortillas, cobbler, and biscochitos. Mariachi Tenampa will play New Mexico favorites. And, win one of fifteen sacks of New Mexico green chile roasted during the event.

This invite appears to be in order but we had a number of questions so we convened a special meeting of the Committee on Chicharrones of which we are an honorary gringo member with no voting power.

We queried the Committee about the 10:30 a.m starting time for the Matanza. Isn't that too early? No, the Committee ruled. 10:30 a.m. is fine, although it is the earliest starting time permitted. Also, beer consumption is not permitted until 11 a.m. However, those stirring the chicharrones are allowed beer before 11 a.m. but the Committee stated it can only be difficult-to-find cans of Coors that require a can opener. After 11 a.m. all attendees can have the beer of their choice.

Also, the Committee notified matanza organizers that speeches from the political candidates are strictly limited to 90 seconds each. Violation of this rule could result in the cancellation of next year's 4th Annual Matanza.

It goes without saying that the Committee reiterated the mandatory requirement that the chicharrones be stirred with a wooden paddle and not metal of any kind. Photographers from the Committee on Chicharrones will be present to ensure compliance with all rules and regulations. It is ordered that they be fed first and reimbursed for any expenses from Senator Padilla's campaign fund. Now go enjoy the matanza. . . .

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Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Prudent Or Panic? Keller Debuts TV That Slams Aragon In State Auditor Race; Low Turnout Fears Seen Driving Dem Campaign Decisions, Plus: No Cash Dash For Gary, And: On Fantasy Island With John Sanchez 

You know it's a quandary for state Democrats when their candidate for state auditor goes negative on his GOP foe.

Tim Keller, a popular ABQ state senator, is up on TV slamming Republican challenger Robert Aragon. It tells you just how spooked the Dems are about turnout for this election. A Republican hasn't been elected auditor since 1966.

Keller has a double-barreled problem--a low turnout combined with possible ethnic voting for Aragon. Usually the Democratic auditor nominee is Hispanic--there hasn't been an Anglo nominee since 1986. That still would not be a big
problem if the Democrats were not having such trouble getting voters interested in the top tier races. The Udall-Weh Senate contest is a yawner and the governor's contest has also been a snore.

That brings us to a historic crossroads where Dems have to fight for offices they used to be able to take for granted.

Many will say they brought the apathy upon themselves as they sought to placate the the Republicans and in the process lost the messaging battle. At the same time a new generation of strong local Democratic leaders that could fire up the Dems (ala Bill Richardson, Marty Chavez) have yet to emerge. But it's easy to forget that there was a Dem turnout panic during this year's gubernatorial primary, but it proved baseless. And Democrats and their interest groups still have plenty of money, manpower and time to motivate the base.

Dem analyst Harry Pavlides--who believes there will be a low turnout--still wonders if Keller isn't over reacting:

The voters are already tiring of the negative TV campaign and turning it off. Did he need to associate himself with it? I think at this point a positive commercial would be more effective.

But Keller, who has had a nasty battle or two in his state senate district, isn't prone to taking any chances. He does not have enough cash to do a positive ad first and then follow it up with a hit on Aragon. So. . .

Keller's ad touts his own credentials in fighting corruption and then scores Aragon--a former ABQ Democratic state legislator who turned Republican--for being sued by legal clients for "fraud and negligence." And it adds that he "failed to pay over a quarter million dollars in taxes." The ad concludes by calling Keller "the clean choice."

Aragon's latest finance report shows he has less than $10,000 in cash so Keller's preemptive strike is also based on the fear that the Gov. Martinez political machine could give Aragon some financial aid. Keller, 37, is often cited as a future statewide Dem leader. Let's see if the Machine takes the bait and goes up on the air for Aragon.

The spot is not without risk for Keller. This is his first statewide exposure and an Anglo attacking a Hispanic candidate--whether they be Dem or R--can backfire in some quarters. But for Keller, as the old saying goes, "it's first things first. . . "

The ABQ Journal's Deborah Baker profiles the auditor's race here.


There will be no dash for cash for Gary King.

Democrats turn your heads away. Republicans lick your chops. Here's the latest finance report covering the period Sept. 2 through Oct. 6:

Martinez reported cash-on-hand of $2.7 million as of last week, while King had $123,651. Martinez spent $1.9 million from Sept. 2 through Oct. 6, including $1.2 million on TV and radio advertising, $221,000 on targeted mailings to voters and $87,000 on polling. In contrast, King spent nearly $205,849 but nothing on TV ads in the past month. He launched a new ad late last week after the reporting period covered. . . 

Dem secretary of state hopeful Maggie Toulouse Oliver reports $149,000 in cash on hand as of October 6. Incumbent GOP Sec. of State Dianna Duran reports $206,000 in cash. Oliver has launched her TV campaign. Duran is expected to join her today.

Will we see independent groups weighing in on the secretary of state's race on both sides? That's what we're hearing.


We said there would be a debate between US Senator Tom Udall and his Republican challenger Allen Weh. But if you were expecting a prime time duel with bells and whistles, forget it. The duo will debate October 31 on KOB-TV's noon news. The pair will also debate on public TV KNME-TV. . .

Upon hearing of the disappointing debate time on KOB, Weh shouted, "So what!?". . . .Just kidding.

By the way, in case Allen pulls off the upset and defeats Tom, we have a press secretary in waiting for him. KRQE-TV political reporter Alex Goldsmith says he has not yet reached the ripe old age of 26--the age at which Allen says the minimum wage should kick in and for which Udall is attacking him.

We don't know if you can get Alex for your famous four bucks an hour, Allen, but we're sure you fellas can work something out. . .


Incumbent Dem land commissioner Ray Powell continues to get hammered on TV by Republican challenger Aubrey Dunn over the flooding of the Dixon apple orchard, and Powell says he is responding. But not with a TV ad of his own on the topic but with this radio ad.

We blogged Tuesday that Powell was not on TV, but he says he has two TV ads airing talking about his accomplishments. Dunn is buying top-tier over the air broadcast media. That's one of the reasons we've ranked this race lean Democrat rather than likely Democrat.


We've got a free ticket to Fantasy Island for Lieutenant Governor John Sanchez who writes:

New Mexicans are better off today than they were four years ago. Just look at what we've accomplished since 2011: We're restoring faith in government, graduation rates are improving faster than any other state, we have created 32,000 private-sector jobs and we've seen budget surpluses three years in a row.There's still more work to do. But we have proved that by working together, we can make New Mexico a better place to live, work and raise a family.

Restoring faith in government? John, did you not read the recent story about how Presbyterian Medical Services was held up by the state in the behavioral health scandal? And 32,000 jobs in 4 years? That's one of the worst records in the USA. A better place to live? Then why are we for the first time in modern state history experiencing an out migration of residents?

New Mexico knows all of this but it has stopped listening--to both Republican and Democrats. It awaits leadership that will show them a better path.


We carried that gloomy Gallup polling outlook for the Dems Monday. It said turnout could be even lower than usual for a mid-term election. But on the glass is half-full side, we get this from a Dem reader:

In 2010 the Democrats had an enthusiasm gap of 25 points below GOP enthusiasm. Taken from that perspective, 12 points is much less problematic, especially in a state with a large imbalance in voter registration by party affiliation like NM has. What all the prognosticators fail to note is that it is the GOP that has had the real large drop in enthusiasm, not the Dems. With no real exciting races to draw them out, the GOP is just as likely to stay home on Election Day. And more importantly, the GOP leaning independents who outnumber Dem leaning independents have nothing lighting a fire under them to turn out in significant numbers. This is born out by the large drop off in GOP primary voter turnout. In 2010 there were about 124,000 GOP primary voters, in 2014 there were 64,000. Even in an uncontested primary, an enthusiastic base would have turned out just to drive up the numbers like an informal poll. They didn't. I suspect the polling models for 2014 will prove to be faulty come election night.


petite filet
It's true we should have known better than to give promotions Tuesday to the NM Court of Appeal judges by calling them "justices." That title is reserved for the five members of the NM Supreme Court. If Judge Rod Kennedy would buy us lunch once in a while we probably wouldn't make such errors. . . And here's the correct link for the Las Cruces newspaper coverage of this year's contested appeals court race between Kerry Kiernan and Miles Hanisee. . .

Speaking of lunches, Guv political adviser Jay McCleskey could afford to take the entire campaign staff to lunch at the ritzy ABQ Rancher's Club. Martinez paid $1,353,484.17 to McCleskey Media Strategies from September 2 through October 6. If he commissioned all of that at a low 10% rate that would still be about $135,000. Let's see. . . We'll have that petite filet, Jay. Go for the T-Bone, Judge Rod. . . .

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