Friday, October 19, 2007

The Early Campaign Flubs: Nervous Newcomers And Grizzled Veterans Fight To Find Sea Legs Aboard New Mexico's Rocking Political Boat 

It's a whole new ball game, and there are a lot of new players on the field, so it's no wonder we're seeing some early errors as the candidates try to find their footing amidst the aftershocks of the political earthquake set off by the retirement of NM GOP Senator Pete Domenici. There's not only the race to succeed him but the contests for two US House seats that have opened up as a result of Pete's parting decision as the incumbents try to move up the ladder.

The first display of political nerves came from ABQ GOP US Heather Wilson whose camp was already leaking word of her desire to replace Pete even before Domenici made his retirement official. She made her own candidacy official a mere 24 hours after the Senator gave a poignant speech saying he was retiring for health reasons. Insiders now say that Heather's dash to declare did not go down well with certain members of Pete's family who felt she would have shown more respect by waiting a couple of days.

Whether this is a mistake or not will be debated, but media mavens are taking note that US Rep. Steve Pearce, seeking the GOP Senate nod along with Heather, made his first New Mexico newspaper comments on his soon to be official candidacy not to the state's largest newspaper, the ABQ Journal, but to the much smaller and possibly soon out of business ABQ Tribune.

It's a mistake if you think Pearce should be currying favor with the Journal and its Republican readers, but maybe it's wise if you believe Pearce knows the Journal is likely to endorse Heather in the primary no matter what he does. Whatever the case, the newspapers, like the candidates, are dealing with a whole new set of circumstances.


The campaign of ABQ congressional candidate Martin Heinrich is the scene of the first casualty of Campaign '08. Philip Muller, campaign manager for the ABQ city councilor, is out. He left in a dispute over the direction of the campaign, leaving Heinrich to pick up the pieces and find new leadership. Heinrich spent a lot of money on Muller. According to FEC records, the consultant was pulling down $6400 a month.

Well, live and learn, but first pay up. Muller says he walked away from the campaign with a financial settlement.


Michelle Lujan Grisham, also seeking the Dem nomination for the ABQ Congressional seat, gets the photo of her announcement posted on your blog again because of the error it shows. Can you tell what it is?

The photographer Mark Bralley did as well as several emailers. They pointed out that the American flag is incorrectly positioned. They even sent us the U.S. Flag code.

"When displayed either horizontally or vertically against a wall, the union should be uppermost and to the flag’s own right, that is, to the observer’s left. "

Michelle says her rookie error was actually caused by an overeager supporter who hastily applied the flag to the podium.


Another early campaign "mistake" that not everyone will agree on is Darren White's call for "victory" in Iraq when declaring his candidacy for the GOP nomination for the ABQ House seat. Polls show Americans aren't buying the traditional notion of victory, so why didn't the Bernalillo County Sheriff describe in his opening statement just what constitutes "victory?"

State GOP Chair Allen Weh, a retired Colonel in the United States Marine Corps Reserve, says the omission was "unfortunate," but explained that Darren was not trying to leave the impression that a "Jeffersonian democracy" would take hold in Iraq, but foresees "a situation that secures the national interests" of the USA. That prompts the #1 question in America: How long will that take?


Getting nervous is for the candidates, but we were plenty excited by the grand political events of the past few weeks and made mistakes of our own. We got it wrong on how Michelle Lujan Grisham is related to former GOP Congressman Manuel Lujan and his brother Edward. The Lujan cousin connection comes from her father's side. Her mother's' maiden name was Jackson and she was from Indiana.

Friends and family of Earl Greer, Sierra County GOP chairman, email in to inform that there is a possible Hispanic GOP contender for the southern congressional seat, and it's none other than Earl Greer. "He is a Montoya from his mother's side," wrote one. He added that Greer is "as Hispanic as Bill Richardson" who also has a Hispanic mother and an Anglo father.

Alysha Greer-Smith, Earl's daughter, pointed out that we said Democrat Joseph Cervantes was the only Hispanic candidate looking at the southern race. Will we be hearing from more and just how many limbs of New Mexico's family tree are we going to let fall on us?

Like some of the candidates mistakes, this one is open to judgment. Will turnout in the state GOP primary approach the 38% level we said was a consensus number? We could be high on that. Pollster Brian Sanderoff promises us some further analysis.

We've also flubbed a few issues on campaign finance laws too complicated to explain here. We are somewhat relieved that our experts tell us they are not entirely sure how these new federal laws work either, but we think we'll skate around the topic until we take a brush up course. Maybe we'll learn about it when the candidates start accusing each other of violating the rules which is probably closer than our first snowfall.


We broke the news a couple of months ago that ABQ's Spiro Vassilopoulos, an oil industry investor, was contemplating challenging Pete Domenici in the GOP US Senate primary, so we should let you know that Spiro told us earlier this week that he is not going to run and he endorses Steve Pearce over Heather Wilson. To which Heather might say, " Steve, beware of Greeks bearing gifts...

Email your news, comments and criticisms. We welcome them all.

Reporting from Albuquerque, I'm Joe Monahan.

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