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Friday, March 14, 2008

Our Pre-Primary Pre-Game Show; Can A Nobody Become A Somebody?; We Handicap Outlook For Big Races As D's And R's Get Ready To Party 

Will there be any surprises at Saturday's Democratic and Republican pre-primary nominating conventions? Can a nobody become a somebody? Can momentum be built and money be had by turning in an unexpected showing? The pre-primary meetings are watched avidly by the political insiders, but barely noticed by the general public, so there will be no huge bounces. Also, the stakes for the confabs went way down when the Legislature passed that law making it easier for congressional and statewide candidates to get on the June 3 primary ballot. If a contender fails to get the required 20% of his party's delegates, he simply has to submit additional petition signatures and they are on the ballot. But candidates who are chosen at the pre-primary are rewarded with the top ballot positions.

Hopefuls who get the 20% will have bragging rights; those who don't will dismiss the voting as coming from hard-core activists and not reflective of the electorate that will show up to vote June 3rd. We should also mention history. No candidate who has failed to get 20% at a party pre-primary has gone on to win the primary election. That is a precedent that could be ended this year, but it tells us that the eventual party nominees are more than likely to come from those who make the magic 20%.

With all of the above in mind, we head out to the track to handicap Pre-Primary 2008.

US SENATE R'S--We didn't have to wait for any convention voting for the gloating to start in the GOP US Senate primary. Rep. Steve Pearce has already sent out a news release saying he is on "the verge of a huge victory." Pearce's flock began blowing its own horn based on the results of the county conventions which send delegates to Saturday's pre-primary. Now he has to deliver more than a one or two point win over rival Heather Wilson to live up to his pre-game boasting. If he doesn't, Wilson will be crowing loudly and telling the tale to potential donors who are waiting to see the Saturday results. She trotted out endorsements from State Senators Ingle and Harden in a bid for late rural support. Meantime, Pearce says he will be nominated Saturday by a Hispanic Republican. Good moves by both sides, but most votes have been locked down for weeks.

US SENATE D'S--Tom Udall, leaving the Northern House seat to run for Senate, can spend his time polishing his pre-primary speech. Since Marty Chavez dropped out, the Dem deal has been done.

THIRD DISTRICT DEMOCRATS--Ben Ray Lujan has been called "frontrunner" so long in the race for the Democratic nomination for the Northern congressional seat that he could make it his middle name. But like any frontrunner, he will be expected to deliver. Rival Don Wiviott has been working hard and spending heavy. He is the only US House candidate in the state up on TV. He is expected to easily hit the 20% mark. If he goes substantially higher or pulls an upset by coming in first, Lujan would take a hit and perceptions of this race would change. Can a third candidate get the 20%? Santa Fe County Commissioner Harry Montoya thinks so and that he will be that candidate. Montoya needs a strong showing to slow the opinion that the Northern race is becoming a two man affair. Other contenders include Benny Shendo, Rudy Martin, and Jon Adams. A 20% showing by any of them would be a surprise and earn their candidacies a second look.

THIRD DISTRICT R's---Rio Rancho contractor Dan East and former Senator Domenici aide and attorney Marco Gonzales should both get over 20%. These appear to be two solid candidates. Unfortunately for them, this district is the most likely to stay in the Dem column come November.

EVEN MORE HANDICAPPING


SECOND DISTRICT D'S--Hobbs oilman Harry Teague is clobbering his opposition when it comes to money raising, but his campaign has spun expectations downward for his convention showing. They say their chief rival, Dona Ana County Commissioner Bill McCamley, started organizing last summer, while Teague only started late last year. Teague is the Dem establishment favorite and a second place showing is not going to hurt him, but a first place showing will help McCamley. Of course, by saying McCamley will win, the Teague campaign has put pressure on him. If a third candidate were to get 20% in this race, it could be Al Kissling who was the Dem nominee in '06 and is running again.

SECOND DISTRICT R'S---This is the wild and crazy one. Money leaders and Lincoln County ranchers Aubrey Dunn, Jr. and Ed Tinsley are already nuking each other in mail pieces. Dunn's crowd says Tinsley is weak going into the pre-primary and that he might not manage to get 20% of delegate support, despite raising over $500,000 for his campaign, $200,000 of it from his own pocket. Tinsley's campaign is making no predictions, which means he may not be sure of his standing. If he doesn't get the 20%, it will be a setback, but his bank account will keep him in solid standing. T or C Realtor Earl Greer is confident he will be one of the top finishers. He needs to show strength to prevent this race from fast becoming a two man deal. The same goes for Hobbs Mayor Monty Newman.

FIRST DISTRICT DEMS--Money leader Martin Heinrich should have no problem taking the top spot at the pre-primary. Some of his operatives talked of keeping any other candidate from getting 20%, but it appears Michelle Lujan Grisham will breach that mark. Grisham needs the showing to keep alive her position as a favorite of party moderates in contrast with Heinrich's liberal support. The other contenders--Rebecca Vigil-Giron, Robert Pidcock and Jessica Wolfe--are not expected to make the 20% and plan to make the ballot via petitions. Still, Vigil-Giron is a wild card. Could she muster up late support to make the 20%?

FIRST DISTRICT R'S--The campaign between Bernalillo County Sheriff Darren White and ABQ State Senator Joe Carraro has turned bitter and become a proxy for the war between factions of the GOP. But this is really no contest. White has the endorsement of retiring Senator Domenici and other party establishment figures. The issue is whether Joe can get 20% of the delegates and score a moral victory.

The pre-primary voting will take place Saturday afternoon. We'll post the results for you as they come in.

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(c)NM POLITICS WITH JOE MONAHAN 2008
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