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Thursday, February 07, 2008

Hill Closes In On Kill: She's Up A Thousand; Experts Say It Is Likely Hers, Plus: Election Mishap; Guv Runs For Cover: Readers Rage; Colòn Scorched 

Is NM Hers?
The NM Democratic Prez race remains as a tight as the rusted lug nuts on a '55 Chevy, but with late results posted from Rio Arriba County it appears Hillary Clinton has an excellent chance of taking the state. As of 12:30 p.m. Thursday and with all 184 precincts reporting, Clinton leads Obama by 1,066 votes--67,011 to 65,945, according to results on the state Democratic Party's Web site. Also, 17,000 "provisional" ballots remain to be counted. At first it appeared those provisionals would enable Barack to win, but Hillary appeard tp pick up hundreds of votes from those delayed Rio Arriba boxes. The experts say the math for Obama is now daunting.

If we suppose (generously) that 75% of the provisional ballots are allowed, that would mean 12,750 fresh votes to count. To catch Hillary Obama would have to win those provisionals by over 54%. My experts say that is not likely. They point out that 3,937 of the provisionals come from the southern Second Congressional District where Hill pulled nearly 50% of the vote Election Night. Barack received just 36% there. If, as we expect, the southern provisional ballots favor Hillary, Barack would have to do even better than 54% in the provisional ballots in the north and the ABQ area. That is highly unlikely. So Hill can put the Champagne on ice and get the corkscrew ready, but this being the land of surprises as well as the Land of Enchantment, she is advised to not start the celebration too early. It will take several days to count the provisional ballots.

BEEN THERE, DONE THAT

Our experts also called the tight 2006 Madrid-Wilson race before the provisional ballots were counted, but that didn't stop a daily media frenzy on the vote count. We may get another frenzy on this one, but it is important to understand the big advantage Clinton now has as we watch events unfold. The possibility of a data entry or other counting error could, of course, throw the race back into serious question.

Not that the Obama camp is that concerned. Our initial and exclusive projection that he would carry the Northern and ABQ Congressional districts has held. He won them both. Hillary gets the Southern District. There are a total 26 pledged delegates. She will come out on top in the battle for the 17 delegates based on congressional district performance. It appears she will get nine of them and Barack eight. All told, the AP has these totals so far: 13 for Hillary and 12 for Obama. We await official word from the party. Twelve NM "Super Delegates" go to the nominating convention unpledged. The Obama camp says it has made its point by running strongly in a Western state with a large Hispanic population. Exit polls showed Obama making slight inroads with Hispanics, but Hillary dominated.

As for the counting, that is being supervised by an accounting firm hired by the Dem Party--REDW--and watched by attorneys for the Obama and Clinton camps. Former NM Dem Party Chair John Wertheim and former NM US Attorney John Kelly are counsel for Clinton. Among those helping Obama is Santa Fe attorney and former Clinton supporter John Pound. Insiders report all sides were cordial at a Wednesday meeting where ground rules for counting the provisional ballots were discussed.

BRIAN'S SONG
Colòn
What was decidedly not cordial the day after was the treatment of NM Dem Party Chair Brian Colòn. His fellow Dems, including his patron, Governor Richardson, turned on the chairman with a vengeance as the public relations disaster caused by the maladministered caucus spread. This being the Wild West, reaction to the snafus was so fierce we expected to see Brian hung in effigy in ABQ's Old Town Plaza or hung from a big oak tree in Silver City.

"I take responsibility and I apologize," Colòn said in a late night phone call as he left the REDW offices. "But I want the public to know this is a volunteer effort and they did a tremendous job."

Colòn admitted there was incompetence in the election, especially when he sanctioned just one polling place for the entire city of Rio Rancho. That caused extremely long lines and cost some Dems their right to vote. However, he dismissed suspicions of fraud that popped up when those three Rio Arriba County precincts were not reporting. He said officials there did call in the results Election Night, but the results did not include all the candidates. The party decided to hold out on posting them until all the results were in. "We have a full accounting of each vote." He said.

Rio Arriba has a storied station in NM election lore, especially from the 1950's through the 70's when Emilio Naranjo was vitrually unchallenged as Dem Party boss there. On Wednesday State Senator Richard Martinez was heard to say something to the effect that no one has to worry about the Rio Arriba count because he was calling 91 year old Emilio to make sure everything was done just right. That was funny to some; depressing to others.

PROVISIONALLY YOURS

Among the 17,000 provisional votes cast Tuesday is a bunch from New Mexico's legislators. A Santa Fe Gatorette informs:

"Legislators who didn't think about voting absentee were allowed to vote provisionally at the Gromley Elementary School. The session was adjourned for a bit in the early afternoon so they could vote. Many walked the two blocks and arrived en masse to vote.."

Said one wag: "The lobbyists passed sixteen bills while the lawmakers were gone, and no one noticed."

RUNNING FOR COVER

One of the odder spectacles of the day after was seeing Big Bill running so fast for cover that he could beat a roadrunner to the state line. He pointed to the caucus problems and said, "Don't point at me."

"I am deeply disturbed by the reports that problems...may have kept people from voting. As this very close election shows every vote is important, and every vote must count...The delay in results was extremely disappointing. I have expressed my frustration to Chairman Brian Colon and I told him that I stand ready to help the party in any way that I can.”

Now, here is the money graph from the Guv's release:

In 2004 Governor Richardson--through his personal efforts and those of his organization--ensured a successful first caucus--well organized, well funded, well-executed. This year, his political organization was devoted to his Presidential run and his personal time is now devoted to the Legislature. The New Mexico Democratic Party and New Mexico Democrats were wholly responsible for this caucus in the absence of the Governor’s time and his organization. Despite their best efforts, the enormous turnout overwhelmed Party officials in some places."

Well, a Big Bill can run, but he can't hide. The Democratic Alligators came out in force after that apologia hit the wires. Several asked why Richardson had not insured that the party had more money for the caucus. They said he has up to $1 million left from his run for governor--money that could have been used to help the party of which he is the titular head.

They also scored him for his national TV appearances on caucus night. They said he was cracking jokes about his new beard while the state was being mocked for its inability to count its votes. And the Gators took another bite, saying Big Bill had his political operative at Dem headquarters feeding him the latest numbers so he could be the first to call Obama or Clinton to congratulate them on their victory.

Bill is the state's symbol to the nation. When the nation's eyes are on us, they are on him.
In his post-presidential phase, the Guv has relaxed his grip on the reins. It is showing.

HANG HIM HIGH!

Colòn begged off any comment about the Guv. He knows as chairman he is going to take the fall no matter what. And what a fall it is. Check out the blog e-mail.

Anonymous: Colón is dead meat. He will never live down this fiasco.

From Rio Rancho, Joe Barela weighed in: I cannot accept the answer from the Democratic Party officials that they did not anticipate the voter turnout. Even if they did not, that is still not an excuse to be organized. We need to call this for what it really is: Incompetent Leadership from the Democratic Party...These Democratic officials should really be ashamed of themselves. Heads need to roll if they expect to win in November.

Michael Folsom was a site manager at one of the polling locations.

Folks in Bernallilo County are spitting fire. To save money they under printed ballots by at least 50%... I had 1100 ballots and was out by 3 pm. I had been begging for more ballots and got no response so I started tearing up sheets of paper and handed them out for folks to vote on. We tried to get Brian Colon to say it was OK or not and he froze...To say that the state party was useless is a grand understatement. The shine is definitely off Colon. You can expect a quick move to get rid of the causes at the March state convention. If someone wants to take a run at Colon, they have my support.

From Anthony DeMarco:

What's the deal with the chaos in today's voting? Who was running the show? I waited for two hours. People weren't on the list, there were too few staff and the whole thing was a disaster. If you ask me it was a piss poor job of organization, no matter how surprised they were by the turnout.

Anonymous e-mailers: Colón's political ambitions went up in smoke last night. He is done and gone and would not even win re-election as party chair.

I recall hearing when Colon took over as chairman that he intended to use it as a springboard for a gubernatorial run some day. Guess this caucus kinda screws the pooch, eh?

Larry Anderson in Roswell:

Turnout looks good. Management is horrible! Criss-crossing lines, mixed up lines, changes being made on the fly. A few people have left. One man leaving said, "worse election mess I've ever been in." They finally decided to set up lines alphabetically. Why didn't anyone think of this ahead of time?

Carolyn Christopher of ABQ let it all hang out

The polls didn't open until noon. Why? The news has been full of stories of how many more people were going to vote. So you cut off 5 HOURS of voting time? I've never voted at Cleveland Middle School. The Dem Powers That Be combined numerous precincts into just that one. Then we saw just three voting booths! That was it...I went to one of the booths and there were no pens! The poll worker was shouting, "Who took my pens? I had 20 pens!" It took 60 minutes to mark ONE BOX on my ballot! I should mention that I have a steel knee, titanium toes, and am 70 years old.

A steel knee and titanium toes? Now if Carolyn's missive wouldn't win the Hour of Rage award from KKOB's Jim Villanucci, what would?

Despite the misgivings over Colòn, he is expected to remain as Chairman. Few want the thankless job.

Not just Chairman Brian was dinged. The executive director of the party, Laura Sanchez, was scorched by the searing fire of La Politica. Friends of Art Terrazas, Jr. of Dona Ana County, who competed with Sanchez for the ED position last year, were heard crowing that the election nightmare would not have occurred if only young Art had been given the job. Look out, Laura.

TRACKING TURNOUT

Updated figures show 153,000 Dems casting ballots Tuesday. That will go down when a good chunk of the provisional ballots are disqualified. Assume we end up with 148,000. That would be a 41% increase in turnout over the 2004 caucus and a nearly 28% turnout among the 533,000 registered Dems. If there wasn't all the election chaos, that would be the big story---an energized Democratic party ready to come out in big numbers in November. I know that is the story NM GOP Chairman Allen Weh is watching.

WHO NEEDS AN EXIT POLL?

We liked the NM exit poll info, but Brian Borchers of Socorro came up with the same stuff just by listening in on Election Day.

From the mumbling that I heard today, the split was very much class/race based--the lower income Hispanic votes were coming out to vote for Clinton, while the Anglos associated with New Mexico Tech were voting strong for Obama.

Brian, give CNN a call. They may want you in November.

THE BOTTOM LINES

We posted the wrong percentages for Obama and Clinton when we posted the blog around 3:30 a.m. Tuesday, and it did not go unnoticed. The Santa Fe Reporter's Julia Goldberg quipped: "Do you have your percentages backward here...or am I just sleep deprived?" No Julia. It was I who was sleep deprived. Even the Starbucks was failing at that hour.

Captain Johnny F. Luévano of the United States Marine Corps, DFAS-Kansas City, made the official correction. "You said 65,845 votes, or 42.97 percent, while Obama had 65,728 votes, or 45.89 percent? Probably should be 42.89 percent..Semper Fi."

Right back at you, Captain. And thanks for making us part of your day...

Finally, an Alligator pin goes to Ellen Wedum who answered our inquiry and reminded us that Carlos Provencio of Silver City is a declared candidate for the 2010 Dem Guv nomination as is Light Guv Diane Denish.

E-mail it in, folks. This is ground zero for New Mexico politics 2008.

(c)NM POLITICS WITH JOE MONAHAN 2008
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