Friday, April 07, 2006

Tracking the Trends In Election Year 06,' Veteran Pollster Weighs The Numbers; It's All Up Next On Your Friday Audio Blog 

What's going on out there? You can put your finger to the wind, listen over the fence to your neighbors or, if you hang out around here, check in with longtime New Mexico pollster Brian Sanderoff. We recently crystal balled state political trends with Sanderoff, who has tracked the action for the ABQ Journal since the 80's, in a series of e-mail exchanges. You're invited to eavesdrop by clicking on the Friday audio blog. Enjoy.
this is an audio post - click to play

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Thursday, April 06, 2006

The Heinrich Maneuver: ABQ Liberals Look To Pass Torch To Council Prez As He Keys In On Minimum Wage, Plus: Mayor Marty's Musings 

Councilor Heinrich
He may be a reluctant torch-bearer, but Albuquerque liberals seem ready to pass their torch to ABQ City Council President Martin Heinrich who has negotiated his way through a thicket of opposition and appears poised to deliver a higher minimum wage to workers in the state's largest city.

ABQ liberals have been in mourning since last October when the mayoral campaign of ex-city councilor Eric Griego went down in flames, but with Heinrich taking center stage on an issue near and dear to their hearts, they are naming him as the new Duke City poster boy for the liberal cause in the years ahead.

Heinrich, just 34, downplays his new position on the brightly lit stage of La Politica saying he is "taking issues one at a time" but he does not disagree that he follows in the path of Griego and ex-ABQ mayor Jim Baca who was first in this line of high-profile liberal city voices when he took the mayor's chair in the 93' election.

"I think people first look to see if you have a set of core beliefs. Whether you are liberal or conservative is less important. They want someone to stand up for what they believe in," Heinrich asserts.

When it comes to the minimum wage this Democrat representing ABQ's SE Heights has done that and more. He's been fighting the good fight for better than a year, seeing the measure go down in the city council and then die again in a hard-fought referendum last year. It then received another death blow when Big Bill's statewide minimum wage proposal failed in the final moments of this year's legislative session.


Today Heinrich is "cautiously optimistic" that he has the five council votes needed to boost the hourly minimum to $6.75 an hour and a bit more in future years. If he prevails, it will be one of the most significant economic measures passed in recent city history and will place him on the short list of future mayoral candidates. Not that he wants to be there.

Heinrich is up for re-election next year. He told me he is leaning toward the run, but it is still early. He toyed with the idea of running for land commissioner this year, but chose to stay out of the battle of the heavyweights for the Dem nomination featuring Ray Powell and Jim Baca.

A friend of Heinrich's told me the land commission post, rather than the mayor's job, has more appeal to the environmentalist politico.

Whatever his ambitions, by owning the minimum wage bill the first term councilor has grabbed the limelight from ABQ Mayor Marty Chavez who consistently opposed the measure and who only recently played catch-up by saying he would sign the Heinrich bill or something very similar.

"I respect the mayor for changing his mind," Heinrich said. But the mayor and his political advisers may be kicking themselves for letting this one go.


Something the liberals like about Heinrich that they did not like about Griego and Baca is his personality and his penchant for working with others.

"He is not contentious and is a good listener. He has moved the council meetings along and has welcomed comment at the meetings from the mayor and his administration. He's off to a good start. Let's see where it leads," offered one of my tapped-in sources who is a regular fixture at the downtown Government Center.

Heinrich was recently appointed New Mexico's Natural Resources Trustee by Big Bill, replacing Jim Baca. And Big Bill has been a presence in this minimum wage battle. "He has advised me to work with all the sides and I have tried to do that," Heinrich said of the Governor.

Getting the wage boost is important to Big Bill who would like to make up for his legislative defeat and avoid the matter again going to a city referendum in the middle of his re-elect campaign.

Heinrich says he does not see himself as the city's new "liberal leader." But when the working poor start seeing more bucks showing up in their paychecks, Heinrich will be the political beneficiary. And once the liberals and progressives see he can deliver, they will naturally expect more. Whether Heinrich likes it or not, there's a torch out there to be passed and it appears to be etched with his initials.


While Mayor Marty may be sidelined on the minimum wage measure, he's still plenty busy. And he's letting everyone know about it on his new blog. Chavez is a rarity in modern politics; a politician who writes a lot of his own stuff and is good at it. His Honor even allows you to leave comments, but before you get any indecent ideas, be aware that they are screened by a moderator.

Also, if you post a derogatory comment your computer is tracked by APD, your business license is examined by Chief Administrative Office Bruce Perlman, your photograph is published in the ABQ newspapers and your car is towed.....Just kidding. We missed April Fool's Day around here. All of that is false except the parts about Marty blogging and Perlman examining your biz license.


How about some Friday audio blogging? Come back tomorrow when we will take a look at some tantalizing tidbits from veteran New Mexico pollster Brian Sanderoff. That's tomorrow on your audio blog.

Thanks for joining me here today. I appreciate the company and your e-mails.

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Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Dem AG Race Set To Heat Up; King Prepares For Attacks, Plus: News On the Luna House Seat, And: Some Bottom Lines 

Gary King
Get ready for down and dirty action in the three way battle for the Dem nomination for NM attorney general. So say the campaign insiders as they prepare for all out battle for the prize that features three strong contenders who came out of the preprimary convention vitrually tied and who now see this race as anyone's to win.

All three camps agree that Gary King has the lead before the fireworks begin. A poll released to us by the Geno Zamora campaign shows Gary garnering 44%, Santa Fe's Geno 9% and Lem Martinez 8%. Undecided is put at 39%. But the Zamora poll, conducted in late February, claims King's support is "very soft" and if Zamora has the resources to "effectively communicate" he can take the race.

"They are laying the ground work for a negative campaign against Gary," asserted a King operative. "We are ready."

The Martinez camp also sees the fur flying and soon. But it may be headed in Geno's direction, not Gary's. "Geno is the heartthrob of the Democratic Left, but when they hear about his record as a private lawyer, they may not feel that way anymore," teased a Martinez insider.


King released a poll late last year that showed his support in the mid-30's, so the Zamora poll actually shows him growing. But King's third place finish at the preprimary when expectations were that he would finish first has helped Martinez and Zamora on the fundraising circuit. It appears both campaigns will have the money to take this thing negative on statewide television.

The Zamora poll also "pushed" voters to see how they would react to negative information about King. After that, voters moved to the Zamora camp and he took the lead. The campaign did not say what kind of info voters were fed before the went south on Gary.

"Let's face it. As the solo Anglo, Gary has the lead. But if they think his support is soft the only way they are going to find out is to attack him, and they will," analyzed another Dem insider.

Martinez, district attorney for Sandoval county, thinks the recent murder of a Bernalillo county sheriff's deputy will make voters more likely to support a prosecutor such as himself. "They (voters) are a lot more worried about crime than they were two weeks ago" asserted the Martinez operative.

With little action at the top of the ticket, the Dem AG's race is the one to watch. And it could get complicated with each of the candidates firing away at their two opponents. But first expect a wave of positive "image" spots touting the credentials of the trio. Once they establish themselves, katy bar the door; we're going into war mode. Expect the first wave of TV ads in a week or two.


The contest to replace the dean of the NM State House, Fred Luna, just got a lot less complicated. Salomon Montano has withdrawn, leaving newcomer Elias Barela as the only Dem in the race. That word comes from the Barela campaign. Barela will face R Jackie Farnsworth who twice challenged Luna but each time came up short. The R's have targeted this one saying Jackie may have lost last time but she came close and the Valencia county district is getting more R. But the Barela camp is spinning that this one is theirs, saying Democratic performance for the Luna seat is 56%. Luna announced he is retiring after a 35 year career in the Legislature's lower chamber.


Sen. Fidel
They say you learn from your mistakes, And that seems doubly true when it comes ot NM politics. Take Monday, when I blogged that the chair of the state Senate Finance Committee was Hispanic. Not true. And I should have known better having profiled Chairman Joe Fidel and his Lebanese descent back in November of 03'. I know. They say the memory is first to go.

In any event, Joe's son, ABQ attorney Mark Fidel, e-mails in to remind us that his dad, now 82, is indeed Lebanese and that the senator's family came over around 1920 and was given the name “Fidel” by Ellis Island officials, who commonly changed names they could not pronounce. Fidel is regarded as a Spanish surname for “faith” so the senator is often thought to be of Hispanic descent, but his original name is Fadal.

Mark says his father, who represents the Grants area, is a pretty good Spanish speaker, “more so anymore than Arabic.”

I wonder if “Fadal’s” family would even make into the USA today given the paranoia since 9/11. Their story prompts the question: What if no one wanted to come to America? The fact that so many do means the dream is still alive and freedom rings. May it ever be so.

E-mail me your latest politcal news, comments, corrections by using the link at the top of the page. I look foward to hearing from you.

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Tuesday, April 04, 2006

South Of The Border, Down Mexico Way; Awaiting Astorga & Any Politics To Follow, Plus: Barnett Postal Job Draws Fire 

New Mexico political junkies awoke Monday ready to tune in on the ABQ visit of First Lady Laura Bush on behalf of GOP Congresswoman Heather Wilson, but what is thus far the top New Mexico news story of 2006 screamed back into the headlines in the wee morning hours with the capture of accused cop killer Michael Astorga. The junkies dropped Laura and got their fix weighing the political implications of Astorga's capture, who Big Bill's opponents hope will be New Mexico's Willie Horton.

But Big Bill is not one to let events overtake him and he swung into action saying he will use his touted diplomatic skills to try to get Astogra "expelled" from Juarez so he can face the death penalty. That's an issue because Mexico has a law banning extradition of fugitives who face the death sentence. Astorga was expelled to the U.S. around 2:30 a.m. today. Terms of any agreement had not yet been announced.)

"The Governor is trying to get back to even," offered one of my Senior Alligators. "He has taken a hit because the state parole board released Astorga from prison. If he can help persuade Mexico to give up Astorga and still have him face the death penalty, the governor will have scored." He analyzed.

That would still leave the Guv's operatives to deal with the parole board issue, but a diplomatic coup would go a long way toward defusing it. And, if the GOP track record of ineffectual attacks on Big Bill extends to the Astorga case, it could end up a wash in the coming campaign. (His national foes could be more persuasive.) The irony that Astorga's break to Mexico gave the Guv the opportunity to get back on the offensive was lost on no one.


Early parole and murder of a sheriff's deputy are incendiary and emotional items for campaign lit and TV. One campaign veteran told me last night he recalled that the R's used the notorious 1996 ABQ Hollywood video murders to help defeat Dem House Speaker Raymond Sanchez in 2000. (By the way, Ruidoso, NM defense attorney Gary Mitchell, who was named Monday to defend Astorga, was the attorney for Hollywood killer Shane Harrison.)

"A letter from a relative of one of the murder victims was sent into the district faulting Sanchez for blocking tough-on-crime measures," he recalled.

As for GOP Bernalillo County Sheriff Darren White who is up for re-election this year and known to nurse other future political ambitions, the capture of Astorga was a mixed bag. They got their man. Sort of. It was the Mexican police that made the bust. Astorga successfully eluded the sheriff's posse for nearly two weeks. But a win is still a win and with Astorga behind bars, White's deep sigh of relief was loud enough to crack the still, gray dawn of a memorable New Mexico morning.


Ex-Rep. Roberts
As they promised, former NM legislators Earlene Roberts and Ron Godbey have gone public in their efforts to thwart the White House nomination of ABQ GOP lawyer-lobbyist and former NM GOP National Committeeman Mickey Barnett as a governor of the U.S. Postal Service.

Roberts, who lost her seat when a breakaway faction of the GOP led by Barnett fielded a primary foe against her, let loose in a letter to GOP Maine Senator Susan Collins who chairs the Senate Homeland Security Committee which must pass on the Barnett nomination.

"Mr. Barnett is a paid special interest lobbyist. In his work for his private clients, he has practiced the politics of personal destruction and intimidation. This has included threatening state legislators with primary opponents when they do not vote for his legislation even if it requires voting against their constituents or the Republican Party platform."Blasted Roberts, the former House Minority Whip of SE NM.

And ex-Bernalillo county State Rep. Ron Godbey, who ardently opposed Barnett and GOP Guv Johnson when they advocated legalizing drugs, is also on the warpath.

"Mr. Barnett has ignored my request to voluntarily withdraw his name for consideration from the Presidential appointment to the Postal Service. I've contacted former legislators familiar with Mr. Barnett's chicanery. Eight (for sure) have agreed to come on board with letters to the Senate committee opposing Barnett's confirmation." Scalded Godbey from his new home in Texas.

Mickey did not respond to an e-mail seeking comment.

The well-know lobbyist and former NM state senator may have reason to worry about his White House appointment. The ex-legislators point out that confirmation by the senate is not a no-brainer and that several nominees in recent years failed to make the cut. Hearings have not yet been scheduled.

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Monday, April 03, 2006

New Hampshire Rates Big Bill: "Perfect Resume," But "Unfocused," Plus: Hispanic Factions Hit Guv: Fair Game? And: My Bottom Lines On A NM Monday 

Big Bill's New Hampshire excursions have put him on the map in the nation's first Prez primary state, but what do Dem voters who have had a chance to give him a look make of him? We get the first clue from a focus group of Democrats recently conducted in the Granite State by GOP pollster Frank Luntz. It indicates that the initial reception to the NM Governor is good, but D's question whether he's ready for primetime:

"Gov. Bill Richardson's story "is the complete package. The question is, is that enough? His resume, for those who know it, is perfect. He's an outsider with an insider's knowledge. But despite his stellar credentials and easy speaking style, his presentation is seen to be somewhat unfocused, and his greatest challenge is to prove that what he did in the small state of New Mexico can translate to a national stage. He's got a good message and the right platform, but the delivery isn't quite right -- yet."

The favorite in the Luntz focus group was Virginia Guv Mark Warner.

Back here on the ranch, Dems are starting to play down expectations that Big Bill will top the 60% percent mark in his re-election bid. This in the wake of that insider poll we reported on last week giving the Big Guy a 56% approval rating.


You would think some of the most scathing criticism of the Guv in this election year would be coming from the NM GOP. They are doing their share, but surprisingly it is several Hispanic groups, the Hispanic Roundtable and La Lucha, that are scoring this Governor for allegedly turning his back on Hispanics. To the chagrin of the Guv's political operatives, they re doing it in a very public way.

Take this recent opinion piece from Ralph Arellanes of La Lucha in which he rips the Guv's Spaceport and commuter train plans saying the millions could be used to improve the lot of Hispanic New Mexicans who he says suffer a 34% poverty rate. And Both groups tear into Big Bill for not hiring enough top-level Hispanics in his administration.

The Guv's operatives see these groups as outside the mainstream and are not about to engage them in public. For Richardson the line of attack is nothing new. When he first ran for Congress he was chided by some NM Hispanics for being a "carpetbagger" from back East. He worked relentlessly to shed that image, but his national ambitions have stoked old resentments. And it can make for odd alliances; these Hispanic groups and GOP Chair Allen Weh both disapprove of the Spaceport and the train deals, revealing one of the many crosscurrents in our complicated La Politica.

You cannot argue with the Hispanic Roundtable and La Lucha that Hispanics come up short in all the key rankings, education, child poverty, etc. But that is not something that has just occurred the past few years. Unfortunately, it has been that way for generations.


Should La Lucha and the Hispanic Roundtable hold other Hispanic politicians, as well as the Governor, responsible for their complaints? It's a fair question. The last we checked the Speaker of the NM House, the Senate President Pro Tem, the State Auditor, the Attorney General and the Secretary of State were all Hispanic. Back in the Legislature, the Senate Majority Leader, the House Majority Leader, and the chairmen of key committees are all Hispanic. And the list goes on, topped off by the fact that probably well over 70% of the state government workforce is Hispanic.

No one politician is responsible for New Mexico's perennial cellar dwelling in important quality of life measures. It is a burden shared by the entire political structure.


Is it a sign of things to come? A bunch of Republican U.S. House members, including our own Rep. Steve Pearce, was recently stuck together in a Capitol elevator. After half an hour in the the lift one of the lawmakers reported it was starting to get "pretty gamey" in there. Being from Hobbs where there are no elevators, one wonders if Pearce was the most freaked out by the incident, but having been an Air Force fighter pilot, one suspects he escaped any lasting trauma. As for the incident being a harbinger of things to come, maybe it is for some of Pearce's fellow R's, but not him. He is a cinch for re-election to a third, two year term....

When I profiled her last week, GOP State Treasurer candidate Demesia Padilla told me what she could about the origination of her first name. But leave it to the Alligators to fill in the blanks. From deep in the historic ABQ South Valley comes the story of the roots of Demesia:

"Demesia's name derives from the Greek Goddess Demeter who was goddess of the Earth's fertility and harvest. The Roman equivalent is Ceres from where the word cereal comes from. The candidate is not the only Demesia. One Demesia Padilla who is very much alive is a member of Rio Grande High class of 65'. She is a Democrat. Demesia was a fairly common name among the Spanish of the ABQ South Valley when it was agrarian. With the decline of agriculture, the name fell into disuse."

When you run for political office you sometimes learn things about yourself you never knew, at least around here....

Thanks for the company. Drop me an e-mail with your latest news. There's a link at the top of the page.

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