Monday, October 23, 2006

Lyons & Baca Keep The Suspense Going; They're Neck & Neck, Plus: Can Heather Regroup? And: Early Voting; How Is It Going? 

Thanks Pat. Thanks Jim. What would we do without them? With the Guv's race long gone, the senate battle a bust and even Heather Wilson slipping and sliding, the closest race left is the fight for land commissioner featuring incumbent Pat Lyons and Democrat and former land commissioner Jim Baca. The latest Journal poll released today has the two old pros taking it down to the wire. Baca is at 42%, Lyons 40% and 18 % undecided.

Baca is up with his TV buy. Lyons has that and more. Lyons has shrunk Baca's lead from five points in early September. This appears to be the race that will keep us up Election Night.


Insiders report the Guv's campaign has identified 40,000 "weak" Dems statewide and presumably mailed them absentee ballot applications. A weak Dem is considered one who has voted in the Presidential race, but not in an off-year election like this one. We saw a pretty good pop in the Dem absentee ballot request count in Bernalillo county on October, 10, apparently reflecting the Guv's get-out-the-vote effort.

"It's not that the R's are not voting absentee; it's that it appears more Dems than usual are," said one of our experts monitoring the action.

How many of those 40,000 will end up voting is guesswork, but it could be an important factor in that tight land commission duel and in the ABQ congressional race.


Gary King for Attorney GeneralYou want more Heather and Patsy? OK. You got it. Let's ask this question: Where does Heather go from here after the first poll in ABQ Journal history showed her in deep trouble, trailing Patsy Madrid by three points and getting hammered by Democrats and Hispanics. (See my special Sunday blog below.)

Most of my Alligators believe Heather has hit bottom and will begin clawing her way back in the final days. Most, however, feel Madrid is now positioned for a small win as reflected in the Journal survey.

They add the caveat that the election is not today and something big could still happen. But it is now clearly an uphill climb to prevent a historic defeat of the four-term Wilson. For example, nine percent in the poll are undecided. Many of them won't vote. Suppose five of the nine percent do go to the polls. Heather would need to get an overwhelming number of them in order to win. A tall order indeed.

So what can Heather do? It's a head scratcher among top pros I consulted. One pro advised a "Hail Mary" tossed to conservative Hispanic female Democrats using direct mail, not the more high-profile TV, to show a sharp contrast over the abortion issue between Heather and Pasty.

"She's now down to having to cherry pick Democratic votes. Maybe using some wedge issues can win back some Dems who have abandoned her," said our informed Alligator.

Wilson was polling only 11% of the D's in the Journal survey, a number that is sure to grow, but even if it doubles she would not make it across the finish line, according to historical turnout.


The Journal did not poll the contest for attorney general this time around, but it likely will when it does its final poll to be released two days before the November 7 election. Campaign watchers say they see the race between Dem Gary King and R Jim Bibb tightening up as Bibb comes with a flood of TV ads, many of them negative, and King responds with his own hit pieces on Bibb.

Bibb reported raising a total of $600,000 for his campaign as of the end of September. The King campaign thinks Bibb has come up with more cash and expect his total TV buy to be well over $500,000.

In the last poll Gary was at 55% to Jim's 24% and 21% undecided. What at first looked like a 57% to 59% win for King could come in lower, given the big Bibb budget, but King is still heavily favored for the victory.


Most voters don't seem to be having much trouble with the new all-paper ballot system judging from reports we received about the first day of early in-person voting which kicked off around the state Saturday. There was, however, a bit of confusion that forced some voters to have to cast second ballots.

"The most common problem was people voting for both candidates in a contested race. They filled in both circles. When that happens the ballot is rejected by the optical scanner and they have to re-vote the entire ballot," said one poll worker.

Another note of interest. There were no poll challengers from either the D's or the R's at the polling site we surveyed. As for voter ID, voters fill out a card listing their birth date and the last four digits of their Social Security number. That info is compared to what is in the clerk's computer and if it matches, they are allowed to vote. No photo ID is requested, although some voters were presenting those ID cards mailed out by the secretary of state earlier this year which were approved by the Legislature but not required to cast a ballot.

"The process is slower than the electronic touch-screen machines we have been using. It takes longer to fill out the ballot and we had quite a long line." Reported another poll worker. And, they added: "Some of the young people complained about the paper ballots. They preferred to vote on the touch-screen machines. They are used to being on computers and using a marker to fill out a ballot was seen as old-fashioned and too slow."


Marlo Melanie
Not all of the campaign is negative. Terry Brunner, campaign manager for Dem U.S. Senator Jeff Bingaman, reports wife Leigh delivered the latest member to the Brunner Casa Saturday. She's Marlo Melanie Brunner (pictured here) and weighed in at seven pounds eight ounces. It looks as if Marlo Melanie has good timing as Uncle Jeff is about to score another of his big re-elect wins. Marlo Melanie will be able to run for the senate in 2036. Do you think Bingaman will be done by then?...

And veteran NM lobbyist Bob McBride wants to set the record straight on who is the longest serving member of the NM Legislature. We blogged the other day that it was retiring Valencia county Rep. Fred Luna. McBride points out that Fred is indeed the longest serving member in the House, but is tied for longest serving for the entire Legislature with State Senator Ben Altimirano who will have the title all to himself when the Legislature convenes in mid-January. As for longest serving lobbyist, that has to be McBride who has leaned on the walls of the Roundhouse for decades.

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