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Thursday, March 06, 2008

Wiviott Takes Personal Spending Toward $600K; Triggers FEC Rule To Keep Playing Field Level; Lujan Charges He Is Trying To Buy Seat, Plus: TV News 

Wiviott & Lujan
Apparently Don Wiviott has his IRA fully funded and a wife who doesn't nag him about money because the northern NM Democratic congressional hopeful just threw another quarter million bucks of his personal money at his long shot bid. The Santa Fe developer's spending spree is so copious he has become the first federal candidate in New Mexico to trigger the federal "Millionaires' Amendment." He has now put up $590,000 from his personal bank account, and there could be more to come. That means his Dem foes will be allowed to triple the amount of money they can collect from individual donors. It has also created a new campaign issue--whether Wiviott is trying to buy a seat in the US Congress.

Wiviott's campaign was low-key when asked about the high-profile stacks of cash he is taking out of the bank and putting on the political pass line.

The support Don has received these last few months has only emboldened his belief that New Mexico voters want change. As the only outsider in the race, Don intends to make sure change is on the ballot by mounting a primary campaign that has all the resources it will need.

Wiviott's campaign was required to notify the other Dem candidates that he was going to go over the $350,000 federal personal spending limit. They can now collect donations up to $6900 instead of the normal limit of $2300. When I reached Carlos Trujillo, campaign manger for Public Regulation Commissioner Ben Ray Lujan, the favorite for the Dem nomination, he had not yet learned of the Wiviott cash dump and was stunned.

"He's trying to buy the race. This seat is not for sale. Don Wiviott talks about campaign finance reform and calls himself a 'progressive.' How can you argue you are progressive when you are trying to buy this seat? He doesn't have financial support from within the district, so he has to loan himself the money. How much has he raised from working people?"


Trujillo said the Lujan campaign will endeavor to collect those $6900 donations in an effort to stay competitive, but it is doubtful they will match Wiviott's total spending. Lujan, son of powerful state House Speaker Ben Lujan, may be upset with Wiviott's lavish personal spending, but he also loaned himself funds--$50,000--to kick-start his effort. Trujillo said Lujan has 15 fund-raising events scheduled over the next several weeks.

INSIDER ANALYSIS

Insiders were taken aback by the stunning amounts Wiviott is committing to the race."He must have polling that shows he can get this race in play," analyzed one of our reliables.

Wiviott's TV spots are aimed squarely at Anglo liberals in the sprawling district. Lujan and Santa Fe County Commissioner Harry Montoya have a lock on the hefty Hispanic vote. Rudy Martin of EspaƱola and Benny Shendo are also running. Former NM assistant attorney general Jon Adams is vying with Wiviott for the liberals, but has nowhere near the money his rival does.

Wiviott seems to be calculating that low income voters most likely to resent his huge spending were not votes he could count on. In a five way race, he appears to be aiming for an overwhelming showing among the liberal political classes, especially in Santa Fe and Taos.

Expensive TV is going to suck up most of Don's dough. If they work, the gamble pays. If not, Santa Fe will be the site of one of the nation's most expensive political graveyards.

MORE MILLIONAIRE

We covered the Millionaires' Amendment in November, anticipating it might come into play in this election cycle. That report is here. The New Mexican's Terrell has an update on the northern campaign.

SWISSTACK NEWS

Here's the latest from Rio Rancho and blogger Eric Maddy on Mayor-elect Tom Swisstack and his plans for his state legislative seat.

Swisstack now says he will probably serve out his legislative term, allowing (Sandoval County Commissioner) Thomas to run as a candidate to replace him and stay on as county commissioner until December. He still is leaving some wiggle room, though, saying many people want him to do both. Says city is his priority now but both staying until December "is a good bet."

Democrat Swisstack previously told us he would not attempt to serve as both a state legislator and mayor of the city of 75,000. Now it appears he has kept the door open a crack to do both. We'll keep you posted from the flip-flop watch.

TV NEWS

The world of NM TV news was never more topsy-turvy than late last year when major news anchors for all three of the network affiliated stations walked away from their teleprompters to either retire or take news gigs elsewhere. Apparently the unprecedented shuffling did not have much impact on viewers' habits--at least not on the closely watched February 10 p.m. news ratings. They were passed on to us by our TV insiders.

KRQE-TV held its #1 position garnering a 8.7 rating; KOB-TV occupies second place with a 7.7 and KOAT comes in third with a 7.1 rating. (An 8.7 rating means that 8.7% of the households that have television are tuned to KRQE at 10 p.m.)

While retaining bragging rights, CBS affiliate KRQE did lose some viewers from the November ratings. TV insiders attribute some of that to the Hollywood writers' strike and the subsequent decline in the quality of programming. What airs at 9 p.m. has a significant impact on how the TV newscasts perform at 10 p.m. Also, once a station gets a grip on the top spot, it is difficult to oust them. Kinda like those politicians we cover....

INSIDE POLITICS
Neri Holguin
The small world of locally based political consultants has grown by one. Neri Holguin, who formerly headed up the local offices of the Wilderness Society, now heads up her own consulting firm for Dem candidates. It looks as though she will be able to keep the lights on. She has signed up four legislative candidates, most of them from the 'progressive' wing of the Dem Party.

Holguin, who was the campaigns director for Soltari, a local consulting group that no longer does campaigns, said her '08 clients include newcomer Tim Keller who is seeking the Dem nomination for the state senate seat held by ABQ incumbent Shannon Robinson; Brian Egolf of Santa Fe who is is a candidate for a Santa Fe state house seat; Eric Griego, the former ABQ city councilor who is challenging incumbent South Valley Dem State Senator James Taylor, and Tim Eichenberg who is a Dem contender for the ABQ NE Heights seat held by the GOP's Diane Snyder. Eichenberg is the only one on that list who does not come out of the Dems liberal wing; he is a former Bernalillo County Treasurer and will face off with Dem activist John Blair for the District 15 Dem nod.

Holguin hails from the Las Cruces area. Eli Lee, her former boss at Soltari, says he is now active in public affairs issues, not political campaigns.

BLOG COLLEGE CHALLENGE

Our college challenge for the best pr/lobbying plan to get the Legislature to pass a measure limiting campaign contributions in New Mexico is nearing the entry deadline. Plans must be submitted via e-mail on March 7 and 8 only. That is this Friday and Saturday. So make sure you make the deadline and stay eligible for our $500 first prize and $150.00 second prize. Before you send it in, review the rules here. We look forward to your entry.

THE BOTTOM LINES

Bill signed the red light camera bill that Mayor Marty did not want. But the cameras stay on anyway and the Legislature may revisit the issue next year. All we can say is that Bill is a lot more fun to joy ride with than Marty.

E-mail your news, comments, criticisms and silly observations.

(c)NM POLITICS WITH JOE MONAHAN 2008
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