Wednesday, September 13, 2006

This Could Be It: Sources Say Armijo To End Auditor Bid--Really, Plus: The Iraq Crack: Heather Seeks Cover, Plus: Even More NM Politics 

Speaker Lujan
Is this finally the end? It seems so. Sources checking in here late Tuesday night said an ABQ news conference is set for 8:30 this morning at which embattled state auditor candidate Jeff Armijo will once again withdraw from the race, but this time it will be for keeps.

NM House Speaker Ben Lujan, Dem Party Chair Wertheim and Armijo are set to appear, say the sources, at the news conference at a hotel near the ABQ Sunport at which Armijo will finally throw in the towel. That would mean State Rep. Hector Balderas would take his place as the auditor candidate and avoid a nightmare for the Dems who fear sexual misconduct allegations against Armijo would mar the November ticket.

Armijo filed suit when the Dems replaced him on the ballot saying his Aug. 29 withdrawal announcement sent via news release was not a legal withdrawal and he wanted to stay in. The Dems balked, naming Balderas as his replacement and also filing suit to make that move legal. The court cases would become moot if Armijo bails out this morning.

If this comes down as we are being told, it would mean the Balderas northern House seat would go vacant after November. No Republican is running. Tomas Garcia, a staffer for Dem Rep. Tom Udall, has been mentioned as a possible Balderas replacement. The pick would ultimately be made by the Governor.

We will update the story with fresh details as they become available.


There were interesting primary election battles across the nation Tuesday night.
All the latest results are here.

Heather Wilson
When there's blood on the streets and coffins coming home, it can't be ignored. And it won't be in Campaign 06'. After two months of clobbering her Dem opponent over ethics, GOP ABQ Congresswoman Heather Wilson is starting to stake out new ground on the number one issue facing the USA: the no-end-in-sight, no-way-out Iraq war. She did so in an interview with ABQ Tribune D.C. correspondent James Brosnan, asserting that in 2002 and contrary to a Madrid TV charge, she did indeed question the pre-war intelligence on the war at a behind-closed-doors meeting with CIA officials and was skeptical about what she heard.

Asked why she has not previously revealed this, Wilson said: "No one asked me."

Well, just about everyone is now asking what went wrong including, of course, Wilson's foe, Attorney General Patricia Madrid who is pounding Heather on the war as hard as Heather is hammering Madrid's alleged failures to investigate state corruption.

Asked why she went ahead and voted to authorize the war when she was skeptical of the intelligence, she said because "CIA Director Tenet did assure us he had a "high degree of confidence" that Iraq was developing biological weapons."

That sounds like a co-ordinated Republican response, as Vice-President Cheney also recently pointed the finger at the now long-gone CIA director.

Readers here won't be caught off-guard by Wilson's shift. We predicted as much when we scanned polling numbers in early August and wrote:

"With these polling numbers, Heather's hawkish tone (on Iraq) could be subject to change--not much, but some. Don't say we didn't tell you."

With the polling numbers still not where they need to be, we could be in for Wilson breaking even more new ground on Iraq.


Heather's new statements come as Madrid airs TV ads saying the congresswoman never questioned the Prez's Iraq policy. So far, Wilson has not cut ads to directly respond, apparently preferring not to ignite a full-scale debate on the issue which cuts deeply against her and the R's. But her newspaper interview signals she is now seeking cover on the war; the most serious threat to her congressional career since she took the seat in 1998. In other words, Iraq could be to Wilson what ethics could be to Madrid.

Wilson can be expected to continue her ethics mantra, but she had to be disappointed to see the latest ABQ Journal poll, reporting that 61% of New Mexicans did not believe there is any more corruption here than in other states. Voters seem numbed by all the shenanigans here and in D.C.

Ethics matters, no doubt about it. But the historic and unpopular war matters more as thousands of young men and women perish or are wounded. Madrid, with the help of a disgruntled electorate, has forced Wilson to crack the door on Iraq, but she will need to get more than her foot inside. Whether she does, could determine the outcome of the contest.


Madrid's decision not to do a series of live TV debate comes to mind as Wilson backtracks on Iraq. The live forums could have been used to ignite the war issue, but the Madrid camp simply did not see anything to gain.

"This is probably a 52% to 48% race by Election Day, with Heather in the lead. The thing that it will turn on is who gets their voters out. A lot of TV debates would not change that," said one Dem operative close to the action.

One TV debate between the two ladies has been agreed upon for October 24 on KOB-TV. That face-off could also be broadcast nationally by C-SPAN since Madrid has turned down Comcast Cable's offer for a mid-October debate Comcast hoped to air on the cable public affairs network.

Also on TV, that big buy for Patsy from the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee is set to go up this week. The RCCC will come for Heather.


And what is this? An official campaign Web site for Heather? It's a late start--perhaps because she wanted to be viewed as the incumbent and not a candidate for as long as possible--but it is now up and reflects the campaign on the airwaves with lots of zingers at Madrid whose Web site has been live for many months.


This is a tricky campaign for Rep. Wilson. I am not from the school of thought that says she is a deeply experienced campaigner. Why? Because she has never been in a real nail-biter. All her victories have been sizeable, although some have had brief scares. This campaign is one long scare. Having worked on and reported on many tight contests, I know how frustrating it can be when you have worked it hard, but the numbers stall and the race stays in play.

I don't believe Wilson has ever really had that experience. She has had easy prey. In the next seven weeks, if the race stays alive, she is going to be forced to make decisions in a pressure-packed atmosphere. Madrid has been there, done that. And I think she may actually have the advantage in that aspect of the psychological warfare. None of this is meant to predict the outcome--I have a terrible batting average at that and have long ago forsaken the crystal ball and turned it over to my Alligators--it is just a sidebar to the action that I find fascinating and keeps the blog beat more exciting than ever.


They say in politics timing is everything and in that category Big Bill is on a run. No sooner does he get a Chicago journalist released from captivity in Sudan than a nice puff piece hits in the state's largest newspaper noting his past diplomatic success. The national magazine insert "American Profile" is carried by the ABQ Journal and other papers across the country.

While the piece was puffy, there was an interesting quote from Mrs. Big Bill on why her Guv husband, who has been criticized for being anything but diplomatic when he gets certain state legislators behind closed doors, has had so much success with tyrants around the world.

"He's bicultural, and that gives him an insight into dealing with people, especially in tough situations," says his wife, Barbara. "If you can't do it one way, let's look at another way to achieve a goal. He points out that you have to walk in that person's shoes and know what it is that person needs when you are in negotiations."

Maybe when the playing field tilts aginst the Guv his vaunted talking skills come to the fore, but when he holds most of the cards, as he often has with the outgunned NM lawmakers, dictation replaces the diplomacy.


Finally, on this beautiful late summer New Mexican day, take a look at this news item quoting NM secretary of state spokesman Ray Baray on what will be done with a bunch of old voting machines,.

"Baray said that hundreds of old (voting) machines which New Mexico still owns will be stored at an old mental hospital in Los Lunas."

Maybe the voting machines have gone mad after seeing some of the names on the ballot around here for the last twenty years or so. If so, I know Mr. & Mrs. New Mexico empathize. Maybe Ray and company can grant the voting machines visiting privileges so we can comfort them in their final days. On second thought, let the machines rest in peace. They don't need any reminders of what they have been through.

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