Thursday, April 03, 2008

In The North They're Counting Dollars, Not Votes, Lujan Totals Revealed; We Put Contest Under Scope, Plus: Love On The Rocks; Battle Of The Big Bills 

Lujan & Wiviott
It took Ben Ray Lujan three months to raise what Don Wiviott put up in thirty seconds. Insiders report Lujan will report raising over $300,000 from January through March when federal reports are filed at mid-month. Yesterday, we told you how Wiviott, one of five Northern Dem congressional candidates, wrote a check to himself Monday for $300,000. That brought total personal spending for the Santa Fe developer to a whopping $890,000. Lujan's first quarter fund-raising total is pretty solid, but we don't yet know how much of that cash he has already spent. There is no way he will match Wiviott, but he doesn't have to. Strategists say Lujan will be able to raise his name ID in the heavy Dem Hispanic heavy district much easier than Wiviott. But Lujan, the son of powerful House Speaker Ben Lujan, has to stay competitive. He raised about $100,000 in the final weeks of 2008, including a $50,000 bank loan.

Wiviott is setting a record for personal spending for the Northern congressional race, but not an all-time record. Democrat Phil Maloof spent $1.5 million on the June 1998 special ABQ congressional election which he lost to Republican Heather Wilson. Maloof gave himself several million more for the November '98 election which he also lost. Further research showed that Wiviott has more to go before he tops the $1 million in personal spending that GOP US Senate candidate Colin McMillan recorded in his 1994 race against Democratic Senator Jeff Bingaman.

Former ABQ Journal editorial page editor Bill Hume, now a water policy expert for Big Bill, was one of several readers to point out the Maloof spending. In our first draft on Wiviott (at 3 a.m. with no Starbucks!) we blogged that Wiviott may have set a NM congressional spending record. Other readers, including veteran Journal investigative reporter Mike Gallagher, pointed out another big personal spender was Republican Gary Johnson who put up $500,000 of his money for his successful 1994 governor's race. If we're missing any other big spenders, let us know. We can always use the credit references.


Some see Wiviott's money bomb turning out to be a dud, saying he has no name ID or previous public experience and that the money may buy him recognition, but not the bond that will get him votes. Others argue that a big money negative campaign between Wiviott and Ben Ray Lujan could move votes to Benny Shendo and Harry Montoya at Lujan's expense. On the other hand, Jon Adams could pick up Wiviott votes if a negative Lujan-Wiviott campaign turns off voters. But before he starts tearing down Lujan, Wiviott still has to tell the district who he is and what gives him the standing to make attacks. Meanwhile, Wiviott's campaign is criticizing Lujan's campaign for hiring private eye Mike Corwin to investigate Wiviott's background.

I asked veteran NM politico Steve Cabiedes for his thoughts.

"This money means Lujan is going to have to work hard. It means Wiviott is going to have more name ID than any of the candidates. Lujan is still the frontrunner, but there is a chance for Wiviott if the Lujan vote can be split up."

But Dem consultant Harry Pavlides said the race may not be in reach for the political newcomer:

"Wiviott is doing everything right, but some districts are not winnable. If (Dem candidate) Harry Montoya had $300, 000 or $400,000 and could split votes with Lujan, he would have a chance.

Interesting, but maybe Native American candidate Benny Shendo can trim off some Lujan support, too.

Wiviott supporters don't think his big spending ways will hurt him with the Anglo liberal voters he is targeting. But that may be too elite a group to put him over the top. Wiviott will have to spread his wings. He has the money to do it; voters will soon judge whether he has the issues, character and personality.


And who will most benefit from all of Wiviott's spending? Well, if he wins, it will be the candidate. But no matter the outcome, his TV consultants will walk away happy. The largest share of the Wiviott cash will go to expensive 30 second TV ads. Generally, 15% of the money spent on TV is paid out in commissions. Wiviott's ads are being produced by The Campaign Group of Philadelphia. Consultant Doc Sweitzer is one of the founders of the company which consulted Big Bill in his 2002 Guv campaign. The firm is also doing TV ads this cycle for Southern NM Dem congressional candidate Harry Teague. What's up is Doc's bank account.


Before we had a chance to tell you that there were now three candidates in the hottest judge primary in the ABQ area, we were back to two. Bernalillo County Assistant District Attorney Robin Hammer filed for the Dem nomination for the district court judgeship which Bob Schwartz was recently appointed to. Metro Court Judge Ben Chavez has also filed. But Hammer is now out of the race, saying she could not swing the time off she needed to campaign. That leaves us where we started. It will be Schwartz vs. Chavez for the Dem nod. There is no Republican candidate, so the winner of the June election takes the prize.

Ed Foreman
Hold on to your hats, old-timers. We've got one just for you. Southern NM GOP congressional candidate Earl Greer has announced he has been endorsed by none other than former NM Congressman Ed Foreman. Foreman, now 74, served one term in the US House. He was elected in 1968 to represent southern NM. He was defeated for re-election in 1970 by Harold Runnels. Foreman moved to Dallas and became a motivational speaker. He was also elected to the US House, in 1962, for another single term, but from West Texas, not NM. Born in Portales and a graduate of NMSU in Las Cruces, Foreman says rancher Greer of T or C has "the grit, guts and gumption to do the kind of results-oriented job that New Mexicans have grown to expect."


A Dem Alligator checks in with the news that Big Bill will gather with buddies like Dem consultant Mike Stratton in Denver this Friday for a fund-raiser to help retire debt from his presidential campaign. As of the end of February, Bill owed about $421,000. Do you think Barack might help Bill pay off his bills after getting the Guv's endorsement?

We never imagined that Big Bill's endorsement of Obama would have the legs it has shown. Again Wednesday it was the subject of national talk radio as Sean Hannity and Rush Limbaugh both referenced the latest angle--Bill Clinton's behind the scenes tirade over Richardson's endorsement. The former Prez gave Bill two cabinet jobs. This is a frustrating time for the Clintons with the Dem nomination slowly escaping their grasp. But it is an interesting time for Richardson whose chances of getting a new national gig increase along with the Prez chances of Obama. Here's what our Bill had to say Wednesday about President Bill's charges. And there's even more. ABC News is reporting Hillary told our Bill that Obama "can't win," a story breathing another round of life into the Richardson endorsement.


Former GOP NM Attorney General Hal Stratton ('87-90) is back in ABQ and practicing law. The onetime ABQ state legislator has concluded what turned out to be a stormy tenure as head of the Consumer Product Safety Commission...A hearty Congrats to UNM student David Odegard, the winner of our $500.00 prize in our March ethics contest. We're shooting some pics of the presentation for you at week's end...

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