Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Becky Makes Ballot: Grisham Court Setback, Plus: Nailing Down The North; The Latest, And: Two US Senate TV Debates Now In Cards; Stations To Share 

A last-ditch effort to keep former NM Secretary of State Rebecca Vigil-Giron off the June 3 primary ballot failed Monday night when District Court Judge Daniel Sanchez ruled in Santa Fe that Becky had enough signatures to make the ballot. It was a major setback for Dem contender Michelle Lujan Grisham whose sympathizers brought the court action. With Vigil-Giron on the ballot, Grisham now is more likely to split crucial Hispanic votes with Becky. Analysts say that could give former ABQ City Councilor Martin Heinrich a decided advantage. The other candidate in the race is attorney Robert Pidcock.

Vigil-Giron failed to get the 20% of delegate support at the March Dem pre-primary convention--she received just 11%-- to win a spot on the primary ballot. She had to go out and get extra signatures. Grisham's backers argued they were not valid; the judge saw it otherwise.

With such a poor showing at the pre-primary, unless Vigil-Giron can come quickly with a couple of hundred thousand dollars of advertising and outreach, she may be doomed to play spoiler to Grisham, who did get better than the 20% at the convention and has raised significantly more funds than Becky.

Vigil-Giron was the 1990 Dem ABQ US House nominee, but lost big to Republican Steve Schiff. Grisham will now need extra campaign loot to fend off Hispanic support for Vigil-Giron and also take on Heinrich who has the advantage of over $300,000 to spend on TV. It's a tall order for the diminutive, but determined former NM Secretary of Health. Insiders say she was in the courtroom for the Monday action.

In a weird twist to the tale, Vigil-Giron was defended by attorney Jon Adams, himself a one time Dem ABQ congressional candidate who switched and is now seeking the Dem nod in the Northern district. Adams worked with Vigil-Giron when he was an assistant attorney general. He may not win June 3, but he did manage to score a legal victory.

Republican Darren White is the all but certain GOP nominee for the ABQ seat. Many of his supporters say they see Grisham as perhaps the stronger Democratic foe because of possible appeal to women, moderate Democrats and some Republicans. The challenge for Heinrich remains to break out of his liberal base and cast a wide net. Vigil-Giron on the ballot might give him the breathing room he needs to start making the move he must eventually make if he is the nominee.


One other Grisham note. A media Alligator told us recently that she had bought a couple thousand dollars on KASA Fox 2 in ABQ. We blogged it, but it turns out that TV buy was for congressional contender Ben Ray Lujan. Grisham is not on the air.

Rep. Al Park
It isn't easy but Northern Dem congressional candidate Ben Ray Lujan is doing his best to keep up with his big spending rival--Santa Fe real estate developer Don Wiviott. TV insiders say it appears Lujan has been feeding up to $50,000 a week into the ABQ TV market, compared to Wiviott's $60,000. Wiviott has come with nearly $900,000 of personal money for the campaign to replace Tom Udall who is seeking the Dem nod for the US Senate seat.

Wiviott has forced Lujan's hand on media and forced him to buy early and often, but in other ways this race has started to tilt toward Lujan, son of House Speaker Ben Ray Lujan.

ABQ liberal Dem State Rep. Al Park, who helped engineer an unsuccessful coup in 2006 against Speaker Lujan, has now endorsed his son. "I have known Ben for years as a fellow young progressive leader in New Mexico. What I admire most is his passionate advocacy for people who don't have the opportunity to advocate for themselves." Said Park.

That ought to help Al out with Mr. Speaker come next session. Park joins fellow liberal Dem and State Sen. Cisco McSorley in giving Ben Ray the nod over Wiviott.

The younger Lujan, 35, has also picked up an AFSCME endorsement and the Conservation Voters of NM, as expected, has come with their endorsement of Lujan who was elected to the Public Regulation Commission in 2004.

These endorsements would not amount to much if they did not strike at the heart of Wiviott's Anglo liberal base, but they do. Pros expect him to start hitting Lujan soon to halt the momentum. How effective the first negative volleys are could very well determine whether this race is still in play by mid-May.


Most of the time the guy who spends the most wins a race for Congress, but not all the time. In fact, millionaires like Wiviott who pump huge personal sums of their own cash into these deals have not fared very well. That news from Congressional Quarterly which added up the numbers.


Now it appears there will be two major televised debates between GOP US Senate candidates Steve Pearce and Heather Wilson and they will be only days apart and near the tail end of the historic face-off. TV insiders report Wilson and Pearce will debate Friday, May 30. The debate will apparently be part of the NM Broadcasters Association annual convention and simulcast in prime time by KOB-TV and KRQE-TV as well as public station KNME-TV and Spanish language station KLUZ-TV. Monday we told you of the Tuesday 9 p.m. May 27 debate that KOAT-TV has scheduled.

With both Senate debates coming within a week of the June 3 primary, there will not be much time to recover if someone makes a dramatic mistake. On the other hand, late debates may benefit Pearce. He is perceived as being ahead of Heather and she might be better served by a mid-May debate to try to break him open in time to impact the heavy early vote. The cake may already be baked by the time these debates take place. Still, it is good we are having a couple and the candidates earn points for not pussyfooting around about participating.

As for primetime TV debates for the many US House primaries, we haven't heard of any yet, but will keep you posted if and when we do.


We joked Monday that LA Times national correspondent Mark Barabak was seeking honorary NM citizenship because of his frequent forays into our La Politica, but apparently that's not good enough for the intrepid reporter, as he emails:

"Thanks for the mention. What I'm really seeking is honorary Alligator status."

Well, we haven't awarded Honorary Alligator status to anyone. But realizing that this designation is more important than winning a Pulitzer, I will convene the Senior Alligators and ask if there is need for a special dispensation. If granted, Honorary Alligators will have limited privileges. For example, when lunching with full-fledged Alligators they can order green or red, but never both. We have our standards, you know.

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