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Monday, May 05, 2008

Monday Monster Blog From NM's Web Leader: 3 CD's From End-To-End; TV Debate & More; Di Dings Colon; More Wiviott Cash, And: Will Press Use Its Power? 

Heinrich & White
Republican Darren White and Democrat Martin Heinrich may be the leading candidates to take their party's primary nominations for the open ABQ congressional seat, but a Friday night televised face-off revealed considerable baggage both will be toting into the fall battle.

Appearing on public station KNME-TV in what may (disappointingly) be the only TV debates between the four Dem hopefuls and the two GOP contenders, both White and Heinrich held their own, but neither had satisfactory explanations for what will likely be key issues following the June 3 primary.

Heinrich was hammered by challenger Robert Pidcock over whether he has held a full-time job during his adult life. Heinrich pointed out that he had a consulting business and was also executive director of the Cottonwood Gulch Foundation, a camp for teens and pre-teens offering personal growth through outdoor experiences. But Pidcock retorted that the camp was a "summer camp" and did not constitute a full-time job.

The work history of the 35 year old former ABQ city councilor is going to be an issue, said NM GOP communications director Scott Darnell, signaling that we can expect to see the Heinrich resume highlighted in scalding TV ads. It could be reminiscent of that Big Bill spot used against Republican rival John Sanchez in the 2002 race for governor. Bill claimed Sanchez had doctored his resume by saying he was running a business when he was actually serving as an airline flight attendant. No one is accusing Heinrich of resume fixing, but Republicans are desperate to switch the debate from the issues--which work against them--to Heinrich's personal background. The former councilor did a solid job elsewhere in the debate, but he will need to tighten up his answer to the job question or White and the GOP are going to run their elephant through it and him.

THE SHERIFF AND THE SENATOR

As for White, the Bernalillo County Sheriff was verbally assaulted by GOP rival Joe Carraro, who insisted that in the 1990's White left his position as cabinet secretary for pubic safety--not because he disagreed with then-Governor Johnson's position for legalizing drugs--but because state police expressed no confidence in his leadership. White never did directly address that issue, perhaps giving the Dems some fall fodder. But Heinrich, or whoever is the Dem nominee, was given a real gift when debate moderator David Alire Garcia asked the sheriff to name one vote he would have cast differently than that of GOP Congresswoman Heather Wilson who he hopes to succeed. White, who had just finished saying he would be an "independent" voice for the ABQ district, could not name a single vote on which he would differ with her. The response left White vulnerable to accusations that he is a Bush-Wilson clone. That's the one charge, if it sticks, that could give the Dems a fighting chance in a district where White's likability and name ID are far higher than that of his potential foes.

THE CASH KING

While the ABQ congressional candidates squared off on TV, in the north Don Wiviott was announcing that he has put up even more of his personal cash to take his campaign to TV in an even bigger way. Wiviott filed notice with the FEC that he will give himself another $100,000 in his effort to secure the Dem congressional nomination. That puts Wiviott at $990,000 in personal money, just shy of a cool million. Will he spend all that cash? You an easily go through $200,000 a week on ABQ TV. With four weeks to go in Primary '08, the math is easy to figure. Wiviott's opponents get to raise bigger individual donations--up to $6900--because Wiviott has gone over the personal spending limits specified by the FEC.

Wiviott's effort seems to have stalled in recent days He re-cut an anti-Iraq TV spot to make it more effective. The perceived frontrunner in the contest, Public Regulation Commissioner Ben Ray Lujan, has not made any big mistakes and the other three contenders have been mostly quiet. But a million bucks is a lot of money and is going to keep the race open until we get a sample of the next phase of the Santa Fe developer's campaign. What that phase consists of remains the real million dollar question.

SOUTHERN COOKIN'

Now we take you south to yet another open NM congressional seat. Retired banker and rancher Aubrey Dunn today is putting up his second TV spot in his campaign for the GOP nomination for the Southern seat. In it he throws out red meat on the border issue, saying he would complete building a border fence and keep troops deployed to secure the border.

Dunn is one of five GOP candidates chasing the nomination for the seat being given up by Steve Peace. It is by far the most intriguing contest for political junkies, with the contest seemingly wide open. Our Alligators report Dunn is doing very well in Otero County which his father, Aubrey Dunn Sr., represented for many years in the State Senate. Supporters of restaurant chain owner Ed Tinsley are getting antsy. He has said he will spend $300,000 on TV, but nothing has popped up yet in the big ABQ market. Dunn is also not on in ABQ, but airing his spots on outlets in Southern NM. Some Tinsley backers fear Dunn, with superior name ID and what appears to be a solid base in big Otero, could take the prize unless Tinsley soon gets aggressive and negative. Will Tinsley hit Dunn over his checkered party registration history and his donations to Big Bill's presidential campaign? He may have no choice as he did not come with the big money in April to put this one away.

MONTY'S MONEY

Southern CD GOP candidate Monty Newman will not see that $250,000 the National Association of Realtors is putting up for his campaign on his TV screen as we first speculated. One of our finance operatives did some legwork on this big third party expenditure and reports: "According to the FEC, the Realtors PAC plans to spend most of that on mailers, but some will be spent on survey costs, consulting services and accessing the 2nd District voter list."

Newman, who has loaned himself $100,000, had $206,000 cash in the bank at of the end of March. With the Realtors coming with money for the nuts and bolts, Newman could be expected to spend much of his own campaign funds on TV ads. Earl Greer and Greg Sowards round out the southern GOP congressional field.

COLON OFF THE FENCE
Chair Colon
No one in the political community was surprised by the weekend announcement of state Dem Party chair and national Democratic convention superdelegate Brian Colon that he would back Obama over Hillary for the Dem prez nomination. Colon is a subsidiary of Big Bill who made his support for Obama famously known last month. Dem US Senate candidate Tom Udall is the last big name unpledged NM superdelegate. Insiders expect him to go for Obama, but maybe he wants to avoid a decision until after the June primary. Even though he is unopposed for the Senate nomination, like Colon, he is going to make a lot of Dems unhappy when he does announce his decision.

Colon's decision to go with Obama displeased Light Guv Diane Denish as much as it pleased Big Bill. Lady Di, chair of Hillary's NM prez campaign, scored the chairman in this statement:

"It would have been appropriate for him to wait until all the primaries are over or until the convention...to cast his vote...He is expected to...bring folks together after the primaries. His bias in conducting the State Central Committee meeting last week followed by a very quick endorsement (confirming what everyone suspected, that he was acting in a biased manner) makes it less likely that he will have the ability to do his job as Chair."

So if Big Bill scores a job with a President Obama and Di becomes Guv, does it sound like Colon could be out as party chair? Yes, it sounds that way. But today Bill is still the man.

DI & BILL

The Journal hit with a Sunday piece has some observers thinking that big political split over Hill and Obama renewed tension between Big Bill and Lady Di. But Denish was restrained in her criticism of Bill for not notifying her that he would be out of state attending the Kentucky Derby over the weekend and therefore making her Acting Governor. His staff called it an "oversight." Denish supporting Hillary and Bill backing Barack may be causing the recent Maalox moments between the two. When that is resolved, maybe so will the tension between the two ambitious personalities. Or maybe not.

IT'S UP TO THE PRESS
Jones With Udall
We confess to being a bit turbocharged back in our day on the daily beat, but we don't think we'll ever be mellowed out enough to accept what the ABQ Journal's Jeff Jones wrote in a Sunday column (not posted on Web) about the two GOP contenders for the US Senate nomination.

"I tried for three straight days to speak with both Republican Senate candidates about their remarks and their spokespeople said neither was available."

Jones was writing about gender-pay problems and the statements Pearce and Wilson made at their late April Los Alamos debate. It's an issue that one would think the would-be Senators would have standard boiler-plate answers to.

Wilson, a member of the House Intelligence Committee, has been notorious for stiff-arming the press, and now Pearce seems to be picking up the habit. But the politicos are only going to do what they can get away with. If the press is not going to stake them out and force them to answer, or out them on their valuable front pages, they are going to continue to be subjected to candidate arrogance. "The power of the press" exists only if it is used. Will New Mexico's press use it in this historic battle for the United States Senate?

THE BOTTOM LINES

The Monday Monster Blog continues, and we have a feeling there will be a couple more of them between now and primary day. Some readers last week said they could not access that anti-McCain TV ad from MoveOn.org that got the goat of NM GOP chairman Allen Weh. Here it is....

Southern Dem congressional candidate Bill McCamley announces that former Dem contender Al Kissling is backing his candidacy. Both are from the Las Cruces area. Dem candidate Harry Teague now has three TV ads in rotation. They can be seen here...

E-mail it in. News, comments and cordial disagreements.

(c)NM POLITICS WITH JOE MONAHAN 2008
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