Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Campaign 06' Kicks Off; R's Fret Over Possible Dem State Sweep, Plus: Armijo's Withdrawal; Dems Get Nervous; Could He Stay In? 

Despite an epic ethics scandal that will again move into the limelight today, and rapidly increasing spending that has raised concern over our state's future economic health, Mr. & Mrs. New Mexico appear to be in no mood to shake up the political landscape. In fact, Alligators on both sides of the aisle are saying if the election were held today the most likely outcome would be a Democratic sweep of all statewide offices.

The latest evidence that the ethics card may turn out to be a joker comes in the ABQ Journal poll on the Governor's race in which Big Bill is getting 57% support, compared to R John Dendahl's 28%. This follows blow out re-elect numbers for Dem Senator Bingaman and a 14 point lead (40-26) for Dem James Lewis over Demesia Padilla in the Treasurer race, the one contest you would think the R's would be best positioned for after the historic scandal. The only good news for the R's is that there is time, but not much. Early voting starts Oct. 10.

Against this backdrop we called one of our veteran R blog analysts, Greg Payne, to frame Campaign 06' from his perspective. The former state legislator, ABQ city councilor, consultant to Gary Johnson's 98' Guv campaign, as well as a bevy of local contests, had a crystal clear crystal ball in 04' when he called all the major races on this blog and nailed the Electoral College Prez vote. But what has he done for us lately? Let's put him to work.

"The Governor's race is an uphill battle for Dendahl, but we all knew that. The concern now is the impact on the down-ballot races, especially for land commissioner." Said Payne who is now transit director for the city of ABQ.

That race features GOP incumbent Pat Lyons who pulled off the upset in 02', giving the R's the spot for only the second time in decades. This time he faces Dem and ex-commissioner Jim Baca who is underfunded compared to Lyons' $500,000. Monday night the ABQ Journal hit with its first poll on the race, showing Baca leading, but by just five points. It was Baca 41% and Lyons 36%. The Journal did not print the undecided, but we assume it is the remainder, or 23%. But, Payne explains, the extreme weakness at the top of the ticket, with the R Guv and senate candidates polling in the upper 20's this close to Election Day, is a red flag for Lyons and all down-ballot R's.

"John needs to consolidate the Republican vote, and fast. The most telling number in the Sanderoff poll is the 83% support (GOP U.S. Rep.) Heather Wilson is getting. That compares to Dendahl's 53%. The hangover from the drug legalization controversy and other internal party battles when he was chairman is clearly there. I think he should focus on government overspending and border security--issues Republicans can rally around. An all-attack campaign on Richardson, which may be coming, will probably not be enough.

"I do expect Richardson to attack Dendahl. He wants the 60% to launch his presidential ambitions. As things stand now, I expect him to get there." Analyzed Payne.


Payne said the R's have solid statewide candidates, pointing to political newcomer and attorney general candidate Jim Bibb as one of them, but he said Bibb's profile has been too low. Bibb did start TV ads recently, but otherwise has been quiet. He has been touted as a GOP Golden Boy, but Dem Gary King is now heavily favored, with the ABQ Journal poll released Monday night giving King a 20 point lead, 47% to Bibb's 27% and 26% undecided. Also, if Bibb starts to move, the King camp can be expected to remind conservative voters that Bibb is the son-in-law of former Democratic Guv Toney Anaya who has been supportive of drug legalization and who has taken an active role in the campaign.

Traditionally, the R's come alive late in the game, Payne explained. But with the candidates starting so far back there may simply be too much ground to make up.

While R's losing all the statewide contests would be painful, if not unusual, Payne is most concerned about Rep. Wilson. "She is running a letter-perfect campaign, but I have never seen the national environment so challenging. I expect the Democrats to take the U.S. House. I don't have a call on Heather, except to say she needs to continue what she is doing and more of it."

Thanks, Greg, one of my many veteran analysts who are helping us bring home Campaign 06'.


Nervous Democrats are awaiting the formal withdrawal today of Jeff Armijo from the state auditor's race, the last day under state law that he can get out. Nerves are frayed because chatter began circulating Labor Day evening that Armijo is thinking of reversing his decision of last week to resign the ticket after it was revealed he faces charges of making unwanted sexual advances towards a 21 year old woman and had earlier faced a similar charge that was dismissed.

Two high-ranking Dem sources told me that Armijo is considering staying in, but they could not say with any confidence whether he was serious or just venting frustration.

"He has said it. Will he do it? I don't know," said one of my sources.

Armijo withdrew after a meeting with Big Bill and is now reportedly saying he felt pressured by the Governor. Obviously, if Armiijo, who has been making some volatile statements in recent days, did stay in, it would be a major development, with the other Dem candidates facing pressure to disavow his candidacy. The deadline for Armijo to file a withdrawal statement with the secretary of State is 5 p.m. today. We'll keep you posted.


Meanwhile, insiders are also saying that the Guv is treading carefully in that battle for the Dem state auditor nomination that is scheduled to be decided this Saturday by the Democratic Party State Central Committee, if Arimjo does indeed withdraw. State Rep. Hector Balderas of the north, ABQ City Councilor Ken Sanchez and ABQ attorney Daniel Ivey-Soto are all in the fray.

The Alligators report Balderas and Sanchez have been on the phones to the committee members. Balderas and Ivey-Soto each had a recent meeting with Big Bill, but the Guv may have more to lose than gain if his fingerprints are too noticeable on the intra-party contest.

The winner of the Dem nod will face R contender Lorenzo Garcia who will do his best to capitalize on the Treasurer scandal. The winner of the Dem slot (unless it is Armijo) can be assured the party and the Guv will rush to help so they don't lose control of the position the R's could use as a launching pad for financial probes of the Guv's administration.


Political eyes coast-to-coast are on the Wilson-Madrid ABQ congressional race. The nation's largest newspaper, USA Today, (circulation 2.3 million) is one of the latest to take a look. I interviewed for the piece with reporter Andrea Stone which has some good color. And, if you were away and missed our gathering of experts on the Madrid-Wilson poll results, scroll down. It's a must-read for everyone interested in that face-off.

Bill Maher
Liberal comedian Bill Maher set down in ABQ for a Labor Day weekend show at the Kiva Auditorium that attracted the anti-Bush brigade. Maher didn't disappoint, drawing big laughs from his Duke City audience with lines like this: "George Bush is all about business. In fact, he would sell the Red Cross to Dracula if he thought it was good business. And one more that had the crowd roaring: "We now have female suicide bombers. When they get to heaven they get 72 pairs of shoes!"

And so it goes as the official campaign season gets underway. Stay with us. It's going to be a whole lot of fun. And send me your news and comments from the email link at the top of the page.

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