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Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Bill Diverts Troops To Iowa For Final Push; Plus: Di's Dollar Disclosure, And: Those Wacky Polls; We Look Again 

With the clock ticking ominously, Big Bill has decided to marshal his forces and descend on Des Moines. His Prez campaign announced Tuesday his Nevada staffers are being moved to Iowa, the state that will hold the first Prez caucus January 3 and where it now appears only an upset showing by the New Mexico Governor will keep his long shot bid alive. The Guv is polling at about the 7% level in Iowa.

The move is logical. If John Edwards is do or die in Iowa, why not Richardson? Although he is keeping staff in New Hampshire and campaigning there, the Guv will have no momentum if he does not shake up the Hawkeye State. He can do nothing less than go all in and hope for the unexpected and be there to take advantage.

Look on the bright side, Guv. If it all ends January 3, you will have plenty of time to write your State-of-the-State speech for the opening day of the Legislature! Now that is sure to cheer the Big Guy up on the dark winter nights to come.

VOLUNTEER PAINS

Getting New Mexicans to brave the cold climes of Iowa is not easy under any circumstances, but with the caucus coming so close to the holidays some potential Bill Iowa volunteers are having second thoughts as we hear from one of those prospective volunteers.

"The Gov was seeking hundreds of New Mexicans to go to Iowa to help. I, along with all the other NM volunteers, cannot commit the December holidays to the weak Richardson campaign. That timing will hurt the candidates like Richardson who rely more on volunteers than paid workers that the big guys and girls can afford. I'll report back..."

STAFF INTRIGUE


Keeping your staff glued together can be a challenge when polling shows you going nowhere fast. So it is with the Guv. One national blog is going after him for kissing up to Hillary, asserting that a key Bill staffer is one of the reasons.

Richardson seems to have retooled himself into running hard for a spot on Clinton's ticket. In the recent debates, when others aggressively attacked Clinton, Richardson praised her and seemingly tried to fend off those candidates who did challenger her...The "Suck up to Hillary" strategy appears to be the brainchild of Richardson media consultant Steve Murphy. Murphy...would like to be picked-up for the Hillary entourage once Richardson is either crushed or The VP candidate. Whether it should be attributed to Murphy or others in the Richardson camp, Richardson is not acting these days like a real challenger...

Besides the ongoing Veep speculation, Bill has also been in the middle of the speculation over the open NM US Senate seat, insisting he is not running. Veteran insiders are still not willing to say if northern NM Dem US Rep. Tom Udall is coming in because they are hearing it out of Washington and not on the ground in NM, but those saying he is in say so with firm conviction. He would be joining ABQ Mayor Marty Chavez. Certainly, the candidates hoping to replace Udall in the House believe he is coming in; we're told one of them has already hired a couple of consultants.

MORE SENATE STUFF

Let's go back to Monday's blog on Udall and Chavez that drew plenty of reaction. The point was not that Udall should not do all in his power to "clear the field." The point is when you try to do it before you are 100% committed to the race, you look like you're afraid to get in unless another guy gets out. That's not an emotion you want to convey when seeking a U.S. Senate seat.

Once Udall gets in the long knives will come out to choke off Chavez's national cash and to tie up Dems to beat out the ABQ Mayor at the March pre-primary convention. That is expected when you are all suited up. But threatening to do it without actually getting in the game is a different story.

DI'S DISCLOSURE
Denish
If Diane Denish can keep it up, perhaps "pay to play" politics will not loom quite as large over the state. The Light Guv has decided to release regular reports on her campaign fund-raising for the 2010 Guv's race, even though state law does not require regular disclosure until the election year. Her first report shows no five figure contribution. You can download the report here.

There is no limit on contributions here, but the largest one Denish reported taking was for $5,500 from the Dem Lt. Governor's Association. She also picked up Five Grand from Downs at Santa Fe owner and Big Bill pal Paul Blanchard. That contrasts with some of the huge donations we saw in last year's election.

Denish and other members of the Guv's ethics task force have been advocating limits on contributions and more open disclosure, but the politicians on the committee have ignored calls for them to set an example and voluntarily release information or limit their own contributions. The Light Guv is the first major candidate we can recall releasing a campaign report when not required, and is going to score political points, particularly with liberal Dems who have been the staunchest advocates of ethics reform.

Lady Di's war chest is healthy, showing about $1.2 million in cash and $260,000 in debt. She raised $221,000 in the quarter and spent $79,000. One of her larger expenditures was about $15,000 and went to the political consulting firm HildebrandTewes.

With the race for Guv starting four years before the election and millions set to be raised, the hole in the state law requiring little reporting is as big as the hole they made to build the Pit. Denish has done her part to fill it. Can our state lawmakers now pick up their shovels?

FINALLY IN

It took long enough, but we finally have an official GOP candidate in the race for the Steve Pearce US House seat. Restaurant owner and rancher Ed Tinsley of Captain sent out a press release Tuesday announcing his bid. He said the top issues in the southern congressional district are: "immigration reform and border security, health care, small business and family tax relief and the safety of Americans."

Interesting that the #1 issue in the USA--the no-end-in-sight Iraq war--is not mentioned. Pearce also did not emphasize the "I" word in his announcement for Senate.

THOSE WACKY POLLS


More today on SurveyUSA's polling in the NM US Senate race. Pollster and consultant Harry Pavlides said the latest survey was a "stinker" because it was so widely divergent from SurveyUSA's early October poll. Hal Hensley was one of several readers to make this point:

...There is a legitimate argument regarding the effectiveness of the methodology, but Pavlides has no basis in saying this most recent poll is a "stinker." It could just as well be the previous poll was the "stinker." ...The most recent poll has a larger sample which would lead me to put more credence in its results, but the bottom line is: I would recommend waiting until Survey USA comes out with its next poll before determining what does or does not constitute a "stinker."


Pavlides responds that he is not happy with either SurveyUSA Senate polls because of the methodology. He says he believes the poll is most useful when it deals with candidates with exceptionally high name ID like Governor Big Bill and Senator Pete Domenici, but less reliable when measuring candidates not already very well-known by the general public.

"The results involving very well known candidates often does not diverge greatly between registered and non-registered voters because everyone, not only the more informed registered voters, is familiar with them." He said.

INSIDE THE POLL

Survey USA asks by automatic phone call whether the respondent is registered to vote. There is no guarantee that the respondent is providing accurate information. Pavlides believes SurveyUSA will become more accurate as the campaign progresses because the difference in opinion between registered and non-registered persons will diminish as the Senate race becomes "high information." There is no way to know how many respondents are answering incorrectly when they say they are registered voters.

But even by the "very well known" standard, the latest poll seems askew as it gives Big Bill a 52% approval rating, his lowest ever and with no events to explain the drop. Despite the low approval, the poll says the Guv still trounces Wilson and Pearce with around 59% of the vote. Also, his approval rating is much higher in other polling. That's why they are calling this particular survey a stinker.

Pavlides said he agrees with Hensley that the SurveyUSA poll released this week is the more accurate of the two. It shows Chavez narrowly beating Wilson and Pearce. The first poll had Pearce beating Chavez by 18 points and losing to Wilson by four. But none of the politicos we spoke with are putting much stock in any of these numbers.

The problem is no NM or national news organization is currently polling the state with a firm scientific method--screening for registered voters and using live phone interviewers. Until we get that, SurveyUSA will be welcomed, but greeted with the proverbial grain of salt by the picky eaters of our cherished La Politica.

THE BOTTOM LINES

In Las Cruces Tuesday night, Democrat Ken Miyagishima appeared to have upset Republican Mayor Bill Mattiace by 74 votes out of 11,416 cast. Miyagishima received 5,745 votes, or 50.3 percent to Mattiace’s 5,671 votes, or 49.7 percent. If the results hold, the Mayors of NM's four largest cities--ABQ, Las Cruces, Santa Fe and Rio Rancho--will all be led by Dems.

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(c)NM POLITICS WITH JOE MONAHAN 2007
Not for reproduction without permission of the author

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

New Poll: They Call It A "Stinker," But It Depends Who's Smelling, Plus: Bill & Senate Update, And: The Jose Campos Mini-Movida 

The latest SurveyUSA poll showing wild differences with one conducted just three weeks earlier was being labeled a "stinker" by sharp-eyed observers, but the smell certainly didn't offend ABQ Mayor Marty Chavez. He jumped on the results like green chile to an enchilada when he heard the survey had him beating GOP US Senate candidates Steve Pearce and Heather Wilson. Never mind that the October 8 numbers showed Chavez being waxed by Pearce by 18 points. It now has Marty beating the southern NM congressman by five (48% to 43%). And never mind that he was losing to US Rep. Wilson by four in the first poll, but now beats her by four (48% to 44%). Chavez was not about to lose an opportunity to take on his number one problem--the perception that he can't win a statewide race.

The poll, as shaky as it was, nevertheless comes as northern Dem NM US Congressman Tom Udall weighs getting in the race against Chavez for the US Senate nod, providing Chavez with a hook to keep the money coming in while Udall ponders. It also highlighted the importance of being on the field and in the game for the coveted Senate chair. Chavez is able to crow about the poll, use it to raise money and there is no one around to challenge him. It's the kind of thing that drives his many critics up the wall. For Chavez it's just another day at the office.

Veteran political analyst and consultant Harry Pavlides said the methodology of the poll--random dialing by automatic phone call into households not screened for registered voters--is bound to deliver inconsistent results.

"Once in a while you are going to get a stinker using this method, and that what we have here," explained Pavlides.

He said Pearce going from 18 up to four back is the most glaring example, but he also said the Chavez-Wilson match-up is jumping around because of the polling method, not because of news or campaign events. He sees it as a potentially close race, with no clear front-runner. (Udall was not included in the survey conducted last week. In an earlier survey, he beat both Pearce and Wilson handily.)

There is a consistency in the two recent SurveyUSA polls that Pavlides said merits attention. Dem Guv Big Bill is trouncing Pearce and Wilson in mock Senate match-ups. He beats Heather 59% to 37%. Against Pearce the Democratic Governor wins 58% to 37%. The first survey showed similar results, with Richardson a notch stronger.

BILL AND THE SENATE

And that brings us back to Bill. Is Richardson reluctant to give a firm answer to Tom Udall on his Senate plans? And is that causing heartburn for Udall? Udall is saying the Guv has "definitively" ruled out a Senate race, but some Richardson insiders are saying they have been told to keep their powder dry, indicating that the Senate is still on Bill's radar. I asked one of these "insiders" who it was that told him to cool his jets. "It came from the top," he said. The Governor? I asked. "The top," he replied."

What is especially worrisome to the Udall camp is statements like these from politicos close to the Guv. "Even if Tom gets in the race, I wouldn't rule out Richardson running. Bill Richardson is going to do what is good for Bill Richardson." Said one.

Tom Udall has something to lose--a comfortable US House seat. If Richardson is turned away in his bid for the Dem nod for President and his chances for Veep look dim, he could very well join Marty Chavez in singing that Bob Dylan line: "When you ain't got nothing, you ain't got nothing to lose."

NAME DROPPING

We don't want to start breaking their hearts so soon, but the multitude of candidates floating their names for the southern congressional seat and the one up North, have little chance of making it to the June ballot. Remember that 20% thing? You need a minimum of 20% at the March pre-primary convention to get on the ballot. As comedian Bill Maher would say: "New Rule."

It means we will probably have no more than three, perhaps four, candidates ultimately running for the Dem nominations down south and, if Udall leaves his House seat, the same number for the Dem nod up north. Same for the R's down south. The northern House seat is overwhelmingly Dem and will likely attract only one or two serious GOP contenders.

THE MINI-MOVIDA
Rep. Campos
Would State Rep. and Santa Rosa Mayor Jose Campos really give up his seat to go for the Dem nomination for the Pearce House seat? Probably not, say the Alligators. But it may have the intended effect of freaking out Dem State Rep. Joe Cervantes who is preparing to announce his candidacy soon. Campos would eat into Cervantes's Hispanic support. The Gators point to NM House Speaker Ben Lujan to explain this one. Cervantes opposed the Speaker's re-election and now the Speaker's friend Jose is talking of opposing Joe.

Hey, you and I can be pretty sure that Campos won't do it, but Cervantes may have to hit Walgreens for the Sominex. And that is what they call a "mini-movida."

Meanwhile, Speaker Lujan's son, Ben Ray Lujan, chairman of the NM Public Regulation Commission, is hitting the phones talking to Dem Central Committee members seeking support for a run for Udall's House seat, but Udall, according to one of our informers, has called the leading candidates and told them not to jump in before they get word from him.

BACK TO THE NAMES

Hobbs Mayor Monty Newman is having his name tossed around as a possible Republican candidate for the Pearce House seat. GOP Restaurant owner Ed Tinsley tells us he is going to talk to reporters Wednesday about his planned run. The son of Roswell area rancher Aubrey Dunn tells us his dad will make his plans for the GOP race known by mid-month. Bob Cornelius of Tatum in Lea County has already announced. Others are toying with it. Another Bob, Bob Gallagher of the NM Oil and Gas Association, is also a possible for the Udall seat on the Dem side.

Tom, you better hurry up and make up your mind. The dam is about to burst.

THE BOTTOM LINES

State GOP chair Allen Weh says we jumped the gun when we said the current leadership of the NM GOP is in the Heather Wilson camp when it comes to her Senate race with Steve Pearce.

"That’s a broad brush statement that would logically implicate me since I’m the chairman. Not only is there no “proof” of my boosting Heather (excepting prior support and contributions as a member of the House running for re-election), you will find this chairman is neutral and focused on keeping the debate civil and on the issues."

News? Comments? Send them our way and help keep the politics coming.

(c)NM POLITICS WITH JOE MONAHAN 2007
Not for reproduction without permission of the author

Monday, November 05, 2007

Udall's Stall: Wants Field Cleared, But Chavez Prepares For Battle; Will Anyone Blink? Plus: Pearce's Hat Trick; Complete Blog U.S. Senate Coverage 

Udall & Chavez
Call them the doubters of Thomas. A slightly tentative tone creeped into the speech given by Dem US Rep. Tom Udall Saturday when he addressed the NM Democratic Party State Central Committee, and it was enough for the arm chair analysts and Alligators to reopen the betting line on whether Udall will really give up his northern NM US House seat and run for the US Senate. At the same time, reliable insiders said Udall's camp is hoping that ABQ Mayor Marty Chavez can be persuaded to get out before Udall makes a final decision. Udall now says he will take two weeks to decide which would put an announcement no later than November 16th.

Udall, who Thursday said he was "reconsidering" whether to seek the Senate seat, was not expected to formally announce Saturday, but by most accounts he also did not deliver a speech that indicated he was strongly leaning toward a run. He said before committing he wanted to consult Dem NM Senator Bingaman and the Senate Democratic leadership and wanted assurances that he would start off with some stroke. Udall would be giving up a slot on the powerful House Appropriations Committee if he were to be lucky enough to take a Senate seat.

But what assurances can he get? Promise a first year freshman senator a seat on the powerful Senate Appropriations Committee? Good luck. That would be a promise not worth the cocktail napkin it was written on.

MOVING MARTY

Top Democratic Party insiders said they agreed that Udall's initial foray into the public arena following his decision to reconsider a Senate race was more muted than expected. They also said they believe he is taking two weeks not to just talk to the Senate leadership, but to see if D.C. Dems intent on getting ABQ Mayor Marty Chavez out of the race can work some magic on Udall's behalf. Again, good luck.

A cross section of Dem power players agreed putting pressure on Chavez via the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee and its chairman, New York Senator Chuck Schumer, would only make Chavez dig in his heels.

Mike Santullo, a NM talk radio pioneer and a native New Yorker with 35 years of NM political experience, put it this way:

"If Tom Udall wants this seat he is going to have to be prepared to fight for it. It is not going to be given to him nor is it his to assume by hereditary right. Senator Schumer would be well-advised to heed the words of (former NM Territorial Governor) Lew Wallace. 'All calculations based on our experiences elsewhere fail in New Mexico.'

Santullo also framed the race as "Chavez's brass knuckles against Udall's boxing gloves."

"You must fight for the right." He maintained.

Udall's father, Stewart Udall, was a U.S. House member from Arizona from 1955 to 1961 and then served as U.S. Interior secretary from 1961 to 1969.

CEMENT AND THE PILLOW

Another political veteran offered her assessment where the Chavez-Udall situation stands.

"Chavez sleeps on cement. This is it for him. He is going to do whatever it takes. Udall has a soft pillow with his congressional seat. That's the difference." She said.

Others chimed in that Udall's two week stall could have the effect of drying up Marty's cash and also keeps the focus off of Big Bill who has been wounded by speculation that he might seek the Senate seat if his Prez campaign falters.

GAMING THE RACE

If the national Dems insist on risking building sympathy for Chavez, they could call on personalities such as former President Clinton and Hillary to lobby him to get out. But it would likely be for naught. If Chavez folded because Bill Richardson was getting in, that would be one thing, but to fold for Udall would forever mark him in the history books. If Senator Schumer thinks differently, we suggest he switch his brand of scotch.

Could Chavez be threatened out of the race? It's hard to see. The three term ABQ mayor has been accused of just about everything and he is still standing. What are they going to throw at him that he fears, and that they have the stomach to take before the public?

Udall's caution is legendary. He rarely looks for a fight. It is not in his character, but a fight it will likely be if you really want a hand in leading the American nation.

If he is indeed planning a run, he may have made a tactical error by appearing at the Saturday meeting and not stepping up the rhetoric. Also, if the goal is to generate news and build statewide name ID for two weeks, you want to be darn sure what you're re putting out emphasizes your strength, not the element of your personality that could cause trouble.

On this one, we break with the conventional wisdom of the Washington press, the anti-Chavez brigades, and the coterie surrounding Chuck Schumer which all have Udall definitely in this race. Our gut and our Alligators have us planted firmly on the fence. We are agnostic until we are shown the proof. And we won't surprised if it goes either way. Neither should you.

PEARCE PLACE

For Steve Pearce a Senate run by Big Bill remains on the table. The southern NM GOP Congressman says he still sees Richardson possibly getting in the race, or at least believes that's how he should conduct himself.

"If you're a high-school football team, you don't prepare to play against Jal if your opponent's going to be Albuquerque High," he said.

Yes, Big Bill lurks. Until Udall utters, Bill's possible presence in the Senate race casts a long shadow. And even if Udall gets in, the noise won't go away until after the February 12 filing deadline. The stakes are that high.

THE HAT TRICK
Cargo
Pearce, facing a primary battle with ABQ Congresswoman Heather Wilson, had a hat trick at his formal entry into the race Friday afternoon in ABQ--he pulled out former NM Governor Dave Cargo. The most prominent moderate Republican in the state introduced Pearce. It was Pearce looking to invade Heather's territory in the big metro area and the Spanish North and fight perceptions that he is too conservative to win a general election.

State R's are split into factions over the Wilson-Pearce race. The current leadership, Senator Domenici's operatives and associated consultants and hangers-on are boosting Heather. Pearce is attracting the reform wing that made an unsuccessful play this year to replace GOP Chairman Allen Weh. Cargo, 78, is not a conservative Pearce type, but is willing to go with him as Pearce will assume leadership of the party if he wins the nomination.

You old-timers will note the Cargo appearance with Pearce for another reason. The ex-Guv sought the open US Senate seat in 1972 when Democratic Senator Clinton Anderson retired. Who beat Dave for the GOP nomination that year? None other than Pete Domenici. Now, 35 years later, Cargo is back to put the needle in.

Truly, our beloved La Politica is a game for a lifetime.

IRAQ? WHAT'S THAT?

Pearce's announcement was also notable in that he did not once mention the word "Iraq." He threw out just a chunk of red meat, not the whole steak.

"We need conservative leadership in Congress that will say ‘NO’ to socialized medicine and runaway spending, and ‘YES’ to allowing our troops and their commanders to make military decisions – not politicians," he declared.

Pearce knows Iraq is the emotional trigger for all that has gone wrong in the nation and why polling shows record numbers feel the country is on the wrong track. His down-the-line support for the unpopular war is a major obstacle to his ultimate election.

Pearce won live TV coverage of his speech on KOB-TV, but he was lucky. He was not ready when the cameras came to the podium at the top of the 4 p.m newscast. But the station came back 10 minutes later when he was ready and carried his entire 10 minute speech. Also, Pearce's wife, Cynthia, was not positioned in the shot with Pearce, losing an opportunity to introduce her to the state and also soften his own tough image.

The congressman also used up valuable statewide airtime by taking several minutes to thank just about every person in the room, all of them unknown to the viewing audience. The 60 year old Pearce found his footing when he got into the heart of his speech.

THE SHAKY STARTS

We have a solid field of contenders for the US Senate, but viewing the last month through the rearview mirror, you can see why Pete Domenici was the undisputed champion. His retirement speech in early October at ABQ's St. Mary's High School Gym came off without a hitch, even as the 75 year old struggled with an incurable disease that has slowed his gait. The advance work for the speech was on the mark and the event, broadcast on all three network TV stations, was as smooth as silk.

Contrast that with the rushed and wobbly entry of Heather Wilson who, barely 24 hours after Pete dropped out, announced in a small hotel room with no message. Then there was Mayor Chavez's ill-conceived decision to announce at a private business. Never a good idea anytime, but especially reckless as the financially insecure Eclipse Aviation bit the Mayor days later by announcing layoffs. And we've mentioned today the Pearce media missteps and questioned the wisdom of Tom Udall showing up on statewide TV and perhaps hurting, not helping, his possible bid for the Senate.

Sure, the candidates were taken by surprise by the Domenici retirement, but their helter-skelter debuts raises questions. Where are all the vaunted and expensive consultants? Didn't anyone thinking of paying a couple of grand and having them help for a day or two? What are the ridiculous amounts of money for? And where are the streetwise congressional staffs?

Pete Domenici knew how to shape perceptions by commanding the public stage with confidence, authority and attention to detail. And his staff responded. The choppy media starts of his would-be successors are an acute reminder of how big the Domenici shoes are. They will not be filled with one fitting.

MY BOTTOM LINES


Former GOP NM Attorney General Hal Stratton ('87-90) ends his public career on a down note with the WaPo hitting hard on Stratton's term as head of the Consumer Product Safety Commission and his acceptance of industry paid trips...The candidates hoping to replace Tom Udall in his congressional seat if he decides to run for Senate are stacked up like cordwood...Photog Mark Bralley took today's political photos over the weekend. A tip of the hat to him...

This is the home of New Mexico politics. Email your news and comments.

(c)NM POLITICS WITH JOE MONAHAN 2007
Not for reproduction without permission of the author

Friday, November 02, 2007

Come On In Tom, The Senate Water Is Fine, But Watch For Alligators, Plus: Diane Says No To Senate Bid, And: Pearce's Radio Buy; Let's Blog This Place! 

Rep. Udall
After a brief lull events are again cascading like a waterfall, sending the New Mexican political community into a frenzy and burning cell phone minutes faster than Al Unser racing at the Indy 500. On Thursday alone, Dem US Congressman Tom Udall said he has renewed his interest in seeking the Dem nomination for US Senate, Lieutenant Governor Diane Denish said she will not go for the Senate and Republican Steve Pearce released a radio commercial indirectly jabbing his opponent for the GOP Senate nod, ABQ GOP Congresswoman Heather Wilson. Also, businessman Ed Tinsley was preparing to become on Monday the first declared Republican candidate for Pearce’s House seat. Let’s go to the action...

The headliner was Udall "reconsidering" a run for the Senate nomination, as the "Anybody but Chavez" movement continued unabated, but the camp of ABQ Mayor Marty Chavez made clear Udall or no Udall he is in the race to stay, setting up a potentially bloody intra-party contest.

Udall has not yet pulled the trigger, but he is close. "New Mexicans have urged Tom Udall to reconsider running for the United States Senate, and he's doing just that," spokeswoman Marissa Padilla said. (We analyzed the developments with KOB-TV's Stuart Dyson.)

In Washington, the chairman of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, New York Senator Chuck Schumer, all but endorsed Udall or any other Dem over Chavez, saying the committee is not ruling out the possibility of endorsing a Democrat in a contested Senate race. That is rarely done and the possibility drew a sharp rebuke from Chavez's campaign. The race, the campaign said, would "be decided by New Mexicans, not New Yorkers."

Folks, we just checked Ticketmaster and the Udall-Chavez bout is a sell-out.

EXCLUSIVE INSIDER ANALYSIS


Udall would be a very strong candidate for the nomination but victory, if it comes, would not be obtained without a price.

Udall knows he has only so long to toy with the notion. Only minutes after word spread of his renewed interest, the names of at least a dozen northern Dem names were floating as possible successors to the 59 year old congressman. Santa Fe's Don Wiviott was one of them. The current Senate candidate was seen folding his hand if fellow northern liberal Udall gets in and perhaps going for Udall's House seat.

If Tom does go, New Mexico, in 2008, for the first time in its history would have three open US House seats and and open Senate seat. Political junkies were having orgasms over the prospect and TV station managers were drooling over the millions to be spent.

Those not involved in the heat of battle, however, worried that our state now faces the prospect of having all freshman lawmakers in the US House as well as a freshman US Senator. For a state that receives more federal government money per capita than any other, it was not a comforting thought. Udall would be giving up a coveted seat on the House Appropriations Committee to run. Senator Bingaman would be alone in having significant seniority in the state's delegation.

Udall has $800,000 in the bank he could use for a Senate run, plus internal polling showing he could beat Chavez and win the general election over either Wilson or Pearce. The public SurveyyUSA poll shows him trouncing either of them by 18 points, but that is before the inevitable attacks.

The top insiders say he is leaning towards the run, but he must look deep to see if he has the fire in the belly. Running against Chavez and coming out winning but wounded is the key consideration. He can't dally for long, perhaps a week or so, because the Alligators are lining up in the north ready to start feasting on an open seat. If he keeps them waiting too long, they could start feasting on him.

BILL'S PLACE

Big Bill is still the great hope for the Dems to secure the Senate seat. Udall's daughter, Amanda Cooper, is in the middle of this one as she serves as a deputy campaign manager for Bill and is called on to advise Dad. If Udall goes, a Big Bill entry becomes extremely unlikely. The nagging will finally stop and he can get on with his Prez campaign, but if Udall turns out to have made a false start, Bill is again dragged back into the guessing game. Is Udall throwing off false signals to deflect the Senate buzz surrounding Bill and which is choking the Guv's Prez effort? Unlikely, but in this atmosphere crazier theories are being heard.

DI'S DANCE

While Udall was waltzing onto the dance floor, Light Guv Diane Denish was dancing off, clearing the path for him if he chooses to jump. She will formally announce today that she will not seek the Senate seat, staying squarely focused on the 2010 race for Governor. It was one of the most expected announcements of the season, but with everyone on tippy-toes over everything, the news was greeted with relief that at least one scenario of a thousand was being retired. Di's dance card has been filled by national Dems trying to get her into a potentially ugly race against Mayor Chavez. She was last seen walking into her massage appointment softly muttering, "He's all yours, Tom."

PEARCE STRIKE

Steve Pearce is wasting no time trying to frame his primary battle with Heather Wilson. He released a radio commercial even before he formally announced his run in Hobbs at noon today and at 4 p.m. in ABQ. It's the first paid electronic media of the 2008 US Senate race, coming seven months before the June primary. (Download the spot here.)

Predictably, the southern NM rep portrays himself as the "Consistent Conservative," a jab at Wilson and a play for the more conservative GOP voters expected to be likely primary voters. Here's an excerpt of the 60 second spot voiced by Pearce.

"In Congress I fought to eliminate wasteful spending and worked to lower taxes to help families. I’ve supported reforms to restore trust in America and to make healthcare affordable while opposing big government schemes which promised socialized medicine, even for illegal aliens, at taxpayer expense.

I’ve worked to secure our borders, defend America from terrorists, and have been proud to stand up for our traditional New Mexico values. We need consistent conservative leadership in Washington . Leadership guided not by the latest opinion polls, but by core conservative New Mexico values."


The tag line is "consistent conservative leadership we can trust," hammering home the contrast with self-described "moderate" Republican Wilson.

EVEN MORE POLITICS

Restaurant chain owner Ed Tinsley has made his final decision, but will milk it for all it is worth and announce Monday that he will soon formally announce for the GOP nomination for the Pearce House seat, say supporters. The Lincoln County rancher isn't going to be alone for long. Also planning to get in the race is 28 year old Bob Cornelius, the executive director of the Bernalillo County GOP. He is from Lea County and says he will be moving back there soon to launch his candidacy. Cornelius says he will announce over the weekend. He does not have the personal wealth Tinsley does, but says he will be able to raise seed money to launch his effort.

THE BOTTOM LINES

As our world turns...

Will Tom Run? (You tell us.)

Will we ever stop talking about Richardson running for Senate? (Only if Tom formally announces.)

Will D.C Dems ever stop panicking over Marty Chavez? (No.)

Will New Mexico continue to be a bloggers' paradise? (It's the political Garden of Eden.)

Email your news and comments and visit us again soon.

(c)NM POLITICS WITH JOE MONAHAN 2007
Not for reproduction without permission of the author

Thursday, November 01, 2007

House GOP Leader Foley Draws Primary Challenger, Plus: The PNM Layoffs: Why? And: Steve's Tour & Heather's News Bureau 

Add another race to your must-watch list for Campaign '08. A serious challenger has emerged for NM House Minority Whip Dan Foley. He's Dennis Kintigh, retired from the FBI after 25 years and now ready to get his feet wet in the treacherous waters of Chaves county politics by challenging Foley for the Republican nomination for his Roswell area seat.

"I see this as an extension of my public service. It's something I want to do and I anticipate entering the race in the near future," said Kintigh.

This Republican race will attract statewide attention because of Foley's leadership position and because he has been controversial. Most recently he burst into the headlines when he was arrested on charges of resisting arrest, disorderly conduct and obstructing an officer. That case is pending before a special prosecutor.

Foley and State Senator "Lightning" Rod Adair have held a pretty firm grip on Chaves county GOP politics but they continue to be challenged by a faction that includes oilman Mark Murphy who want more moderate lawmakers.

Political newcomer Kintigh worked the narcotics beat for the FBI, dealing with some tough customers as described by the Roswell Record. That experience should come in handy as the customers don't come much tougher than Dan Foley.

INSIDE THE PNM LAYOFFS

Business Beagles are saying a big reason for the big layoffs at Public Service Company of New Mexico (PNM) is the electric utility's stock price. PNM is letting go of 500 workers over the next year--150 right away---saying the company needs to get lean and mean to finance future growth. But the business beagles say going unmentioned as a chief reason for the job slashing is continued pressure on PNM management to boost the company's stock price.

"There is a tremendous amount of pressure on management to produce a growing stock price. Utilities like PNM were once expected to be just steady stock performers. That is no longer the case. Wall Street wants a steady increase in the stock price, and they generally get what they want." Explained one of the biz beagles.

PNM's stock has been down as much as a third from its 52 week high. In recent years, Microsoft's Bill Gates bought a significant stake in the company.

PNM is taking hits for not shedding some weight in its highly paid executive suites while laying off rank and file employees. PNM CEO Jeff Sterba says execs will forgo bonuses for now, but they will keep their jobs.

FRED GETS FIERY
Mondragon
State Economic Development Secretary Fred Mondragon raised some eyebrows as he came out swinging against the PNM layoffs, the over 100 recently announced by Eclipse Aviation and 1,000 layoffs in Rio Rancho at Intel Corporation. He told KRQE-TV news:

"It's hard to see how they can justify a rate increase while at the same time laying off a number of people. I'm getting a little bit tired of these large companies coming in right before Christmas and playing bogeyman man... In this case right before Halloween and letting go of people right at the end of the year right before the holidays."

Mondragon suggested PNM execs look to cut costs among themselves. I'd be concerned about the high salaries," Mondragon continued. "They just brought in a high-powered executive from Colorado to be the chief operating officer."

Recent annual total compensation for CEO Sterba is $3.6 million. Other compensation in the executive suite of the publicly regulated utility include William Real at $924,000, Alice Cobb at $898,000 and Charles Eldred at $771,000.

Mondragon's comments are not going to resonate favorably in the PNM boardroom which is gearing up for a December rate increase hearing before the NM Public Regulation Commission, but his comments should be noted by the Legislature and local governments as they contemplate economic incentives for large companies.

Good paying jobs are cited as the trade-off for taxpayer sweetened deals, but now we're seeing how sour things can get for working New Mexicans when the big boys start sneezing.

PEARCE'S TOUR

The decidedly non-splashy Steve Pearce will try to make a splash Friday by beginning an "announcement tour" for his GOP US Senate candidacy. He'll start at a teen center in his hometown of Hobbs in SE NM and then make his way to ABQ for a 4 p.m. event at the Embassy Suites Hotel. One suspects he will try to nab live coverage on the 4 p.m. KOB-TV and KRQE-TV newscasts. The campaign is inviting several hundred supporters to be on hand.

Over the weekend Pearce will stop in Farmington, Santa Fe, Roswell and Alamogordo. He finishes Sunday in Mesilla in Doña Ana county.

A statewide candidate announcement like this needs to hit the ABQ and the El Paso TV markets. El Paso serves Las Cruces and Doña Ana County. Pearce could have gone straight to Doña Ana from Hobbs on Friday, but apparently believes he will be able get Sunday El Paso TV, even if he has done ABQ two days earlier. And if his campaign is not thinking "TV, TV, TV," they're not thinking right.

HEATHER'S NEWS BUREAU

ABQ GOP Congresswoman Heather Wilson, apparently looking to burnish her credentials with the conservative crowd as she faces a tough race against Pearce for the GOP Senate nomination, engages in some old-fashioned press bashing in her latest newsletter.

"I bet you didn't hear this on the evening news last week," she writes. "In Al Anbar province, last week we had no casualties, killed or wounded in action...Al Anbar is the predominently Sunni part of Iraq where al Qaeda in Iraq was wreaking havoc about a year ago...It is vital to America that Iraq not become a safe haven for al Qaeda. Al Anbar is ground zero for that fight.

"The counter-insurgency strategy in al Anbar appears to be working. That's why you didn't hear about it last week." Declared Wilson

Sounding a little cocky there, Heather. But don't be too tough on members of the Fourth Estate. After all, you've only given them five years to learn what constitutes "real war news." If you help keep the war going another five, they are sure to come up with the quality journalism you expect. Oh, and a note to the Heather newsletter editor. It's spelled "predominantly" not "predominently."

Yeah, we love this game....

Have some political news? Comments? Email them our way. See you tomorrow on the Friday blog.

(c)NM POLITICS WITH JOE MONAHAN 2007
Not for reproduction without permission of the author
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