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Monday, June 06, 2005

Fast Breaking And Hot: The 05' ABQ Mayor's Race. So Much Exclusive, Insider Stuff, It's A Double Blog Monday. Come On In, You're Gonna Stay A While 

Judy Espinosa
With the weekend entry of former state cabinet Secretary Judy Espinosa, the field for the 2005 ABQ mayoral derby appears set. Never say never, but the 5800 signatures and the gobs of dough needed to run in this thing should keep the field to the announced five, say the political pros, who add that they expect Dem David Steele to be the first to falter (if anyone does) and get out. So now what? That's what I asked the Senior Alligators of La Politica; those who have tasted the sweetness of victory in the rough and tumble world of Duke City politics and those who have been consigned to the halls of ignominy to suffer their rejection alone. Who better to tell the insider tales of the campaign ahead?

WINTER AND THE R'S

Is the Republican National Committee (RNC) ready to back the candidacy of GOP City Council Prez Brad Winter? Has he been promised their bucks and that's why he dived in? And what of that hastily called news conference to announce his candidacy Thursday that left media pros shaking their heads and his opponents thinking they dodged the first bullet from Winter's gun? Now, the answers.

My insiders report the RNC may very well come in to this race by coming up with cash to pay for anti-Chavez and/or pro-Winter literature and TV. Even the name of regional RNC operative Jay McCleskey is being tossed around as a key player in this scenario. That's the guy who ran the controversial and unsuccessful hit campaign against Winter and other City Council hopefuls in the 03' city election. If he climbs in the Brad bed, it will give new meaning to that old saying, "Politics makes for strange bedfellows."

"The most likely route for national Republican money is hits on (incumbent Dem Mayor Marty) Chavez. There is some paranoia that if he gets re-elected (ABQ Republican Congresswoman) Heather Wilson could be his next target. There's a school of thinking that he needs to be stopped now. Also, some R's would like to have an R mayor in ABQ when the governor seeks re-election next year," disclosed a top Republican operative at the highest levels of political power (not in NM).

But there are already rumblings from conservative R's about Winter's 'liberal leanings.' "Marty is seen as the conservative candidate by many businesspeople. Not Brad," offered up an insider.

WINTER TO PLAY COOL?
Winter
Winter is being advised to not personally attack Chavez and being told the third party GOP cash and the forces of Dems Eric Griego and Judy Espinosa can be counted on to do the job. But Winter's tepid opening (subdued press coverage, unfocused message) has slowed the momentum his candidacy was building prior to his announcement. Before he worries too much about an attack strategy on Chavez he has to revive his own viability in the eyes of the Alligators who are merciless in their assessments of those who climb on to the well-lighted stage of their beloved La Politica.

If Winter starts showing he has the right stuff, the spotlight will go on his money. Who's giving and how much? Enough to make this a real game? Big third party money to attack Chavez is one thing, but Winter will need his own seed money to puff himself up. In politics, promises without cash are what clouds without rain are to a farmer.

MAYOR MARTY

There's no hemming or hawing in the Chavez camp over those RNC rumors. They flat out say they believe the money is coming in to take their man out and they are manning the battle stations. "Brad's weak first performance has them sighing some relief, but this is the start of a long race and they can't expect him to keep giving freebies, especially if the hard ball players take up his cause," noted one Marty sympathizer.

But Chavez may be getting some 'third party' support of his own from the one and only Big Bill. The Dem Guv made kissy with Marty at a joint news conference the day Winter announced. Coincidence? And then there's my deep insider report that Marty will accompany Big Bill on his European tour next month. "Everyone in politics knows there's no love lost between those two, but if the Republicans are going to play, Marty and Bill become natural allies. Bill knows their ultimate target is him and having an ally in the high profile ABQ mayor's office is more important than whether he and Marty can have quality time together," wryly commented an Alligator with several decades of experience on the treacherous playing field of New Mexico politics.

The Chavez money advantage is big, but if outside groups are going to play he may need all of his half-million and more. "Remember, the ABQ police union put up $60 thousand four years ago when they endorsed Marty and that money went into TV ads. If he has groups coming against him it will keep him busy on the fundraising circuit," noted another deep insider.

Of course, outside groups, according to the law, are not allowed to "coordinate" their message with the individual campaigns, nor directly endorse a candidate. But the money genie is out of the bottle when it comes to ABQ campaigns so prepare for the worst.

JUDY AND ERIC

"She did good," deadpanned an insider who has no life and spent the weekend monitoring developments in the Judy Espinosa mayoral announcement and then reported to us via e-mail. "She put on a decent event. That contrasted with Winter's nonevent. She also got a pretty good write up in the Sunday ABQ Journal, although for some reason Marty and Brad got the front page when they announced and she got the front back page of a back section. She seemed engaged and informed in the TV news clips and the crowd on hand was not great but good enough. It's clear that Eric and Judy are both credible candidates with the liberal wing of the Dem party and they are going to slow each other down. Judy will need to flex her financial muscle soon and often if this thing is not going to narrow quickly," summed up our dedicated junkie.
Griego
Meanwhile, back on the bridge, it was City Councilor Griego stopping traffic and telling motorists not to forget him or his hot-button idea to consider toll roads to handle ABQ traffic. He hit with that a day before Judy announced, leaving observers to speculate that it was a reminder to his liberal base that he's the real deal and not to be romanced by the diminutive yet feisty Espinosa. "Eric's camp believes they have new life, that Winter in the race will slow down Chavez. But money and Judy are still big worries," reported an Alligator familiar with the Griego situation.

According to my reliable insider sources, there's also "third party" money talk in the Griego camp. "There's noise being made about the labor unions coming in to blast Chavez, allowing Griego to stop fighting so much with the Mayor," reports our source. Which leads me to ask just who will be running this upcoming campaign. If all these third parties come in we may get an outsider consulted, cookie-cutter campaign, the kind we all witness and despise every two years for the state's congressional seats.

IS THAT ENOUGH?

There you have the big picture of this coming campaign. With a multi-candidate field and a run-off election if no one gets 40% of the vote, this one is going to have the Alligators dizzy figuring the angles. Aren't you glad you just have to vote?

OK. If this double blog hasn't been enough to satisfy you, I strongly recommend group therapy for political addiction. But if you must have more, check out this ABQ Trib piece from Erik Siemers featuring yours truly and fellow insatiable political junkie Brian Sanderoff.

Rest up. Back tomorrow with more from the always spinning world of New Mexico politics.

(c)NM POLITICS WITH JOE MONAHAN 2005
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