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Thursday, May 08, 2008

The Swingin' South: Realtors Turn Up Music For Newman; Now We're Partying, Plus: Ben Ray's Dark Days, And: R's Hammer Heinrich; White Defends Ability 

Monty Newman
While the congressional race in the big city has turned into a sleeping aid more effective than Sominex, the contest to represent our state's southern cities in the hallowed halls of D.C. has the hopefuls running like their shirt tails are on fire. And Wednesday the GOP race for the Southern NM seat got hotter than a Lordsburg parking lot. The National Association of Realtors did a third party money dump on behalf of former Hobbs Mayor Monty Newman, putting up $200,000 in TV spots in ABQ and El Paso. Combined with an earlier $250,000 for direct mail and research for Monty, it adds up to $450,000 and a game-changer in the most wide-open of the four congressional battles being waged across our Land of Enchantment.

Restaurant chain owner Ed Tinsley was the first to hear the new campaign house being built for Monty. He protested in a news release that the 51 year old Newman is really a "serial tax raiser" and big spender, not the limited government, low tax advocate the Realtors portray him as. But Ed, who had his heart broken when he lost the GOP nod for the southern seat against Steve Pearce in 2002, is playing catch-up. He could have come with big April money and scared the Realtors away from Newman, but didn't. Now, the proverbial cat is not only out of the bag, it's morphing into a lion.

Aubrey Dunn was another GOP contender grabbing for the aspirin bottle when he heard the Newman news. The open secret in southern congressional politics is that it takes big wins in just two or three counties to secure the GOP nomination. Newman is now positioned to take his home county of Lea; Otero appears to be Dunn's. Who can add another SE prize like Chaves or Eddy? And what of the big prize outside of the SE--Dona Ana? With the oil patch being split into pieces, that is now an even more highly prized battleground, with the Realtors blasting the air for Monty there on El Paso TV. Tinsley says he is getting into Cruces via cable. We assume Dunn is too.

Strategists suggest that Tinsley--with no strong geographic base--may now have to go negative to hold his place in this race. He has a ranch in Lincoln County, but his ties are not as strong to the district as those of Newman and Dunn. Dunn has to be eyeing his bank balance as he contemplates what may be in store. He said he would not spend more than $300,000 of his own cash, an assumption that could come under pressure if the D.C. realtors continue to come with bricks and mortar. Here's their ad.


MONTY POWER


And here's a taste of what $250,000 can put in the mailboxes. Click on it for a full look at what is terrorizing Newman's opposition.

We chatted up Realtor Newman late Wednesday. He said he isn't worried that voters will see him as a one trick pony and in the service of the real estate business. He pointed to his record as Hobbs mayor and long ties to the district. Still, the newspaper editorial writers are sure to question the sudden interest of a powerful out of state interest group playing in their backyard.

While waiting for southern trigger-pulling, Dunn's campaign dunned us for saying the other day that Aubrey had already pulled the trigger: "The contrast/comparison mail we sent went to 130 Republican convention delegates, not primary voters. All of our mail to primary voters has been POSITIVE."

But it may be just a matter of time before the south is carpet bombed with nuke ads. The candidates fear is that two of the three leading contenders get into combat, leaving the third "positive" candidate positioned to run clean and up the middle. That's why everyone is being quite cautious in going negative early. No one wants to give up the chance of being the clean winner. The other two players are Earl Greer and Greg Sowards.

This is now a game that calls for expert and mistake-free political coaching. It is that close.

LET'S GO NORTH

While the spotlight was blazing on the southern race, in the north one of the leading candidates has actually gone dark. Dem hopeful Ben Ray Lujan hasn't been seen on the TV airwaves for a week. His campaign says they are "retooling" their ads, but consultants rarely put their candidates on the tube and then take them off. The fact is it takes over $100,000 a week to buy a decent presence and Lujan is going to need even more as we approach the final stretch. His chief competitor, Santa Fe multimillionaire developer Don Wiviott, is showing no let up on the tube, continuing to spend that nearly $1 million he has put up in personal cash. He won't have the screen to himself for long, however. The Lujan camp says their man will be back on the air next week.

THE RIVER CITY BEAT

Here in River City, the R's are trying to dig a big hole for ABQ Dem congressional hopeful Martin Heinrich to climb out of. The Journal reports that Heinrich ran a consulting business for three years without a required city license, even while serving on the ABQ city council. Heinrich said he did not know he needed a license, but got one when it was "brought to his attention." The R's pounced, demanding that Heinrich disclose his Gross Receipts Tax records from 2002-2004 "to prove that, despite operating an unlicensed business for nearly three years, he paid his taxes..."

But what the R's are really after is to see how much income Heinrich generated as they continue to try to show that Heinrich has not held much, if any, full-time employment.

Meanwhile, the Heinrich campaign is still not up on TV and won't be for a while. Instead, the campaign is doing some Internet advertising. Heinrich has raised nearly $700,000 but has not banked enough to have ads up for the entire early voting period. Besides the Internet, Martin is doing direct mail pieces. Not that he needs much TV to better his three primary opponents. None of them have any media running.

The presumptive ABQ GOP congressional nominee, Darren White, commented further on that 1999 state police no confidence vote he was subjected to while heading up Governor' Johnson's Department of Public Safety. We had blogged that White did not directly address the issue when it was raised by rival Joe Carraro on TV. He told the paper the vote was a result of his shaking up the agency and pushing for change. He said Carraro is wrong when he says that's the reason White resigned his cabinet secretary position. White maintains he quit because of Governor Johnson's support of legalizing drugs. Do you think the Dems will trot out some of those state policeman to have them say what they think happened?

ROGERS' RETORT

ABQ attorney and GOP national committeeman hopeful Pat Rogers is using humor to fend off critics of his candidacy who made themselves known in a recent blog. They contend that Rogers is too close to GOP power player and lobbyist Mickey Barnett. They also argue that Rogers is not a "true volunteer" and that the committeeman post should go to someone who is. They also cite his '06 trip to Washington with Barnett in an effort get NM US attorney David Iglesias fired. Says Rogers:

I am going to send this without asking Mickey's permission, please keep our secret....Most often, not only is any work for the NM Republican Party non-paying, but paying clients are handed off to others because of the time crunch. Large amounts were paid for redistricting work but my firm's bill was less than the three lead Dem firms, and I was in charge of the R effort.

Insiders have told us that current committeeman George Buffett has decided not to seek re-election, but Rogers, who practices with the Modrall law firm, said Buffet told him he would make a final decision this week after visiting with his famous billionaire cousin, Warren Buffett. Quipped Rogers: "To clear the Republican field of possible competitors I provided a written guarantee that all of my billionaire cousins would be required to contribute to the party every year."

Not bad, Pat. Have any funny ones about that US Attorney scandal? Roswell oilman Mark Murphy continues to be mentioned as a possible challenger to Rogers, but no word from him yet. The party meets June 14th to make a selection.

THE BOTTOM LINES

He was one of the major players in the history of ABQ's Sandia Labs and thus a player in La Politica as well. Morgan Sparks is dead at the age of 91. The New York Times reports.

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(c)NM POLITICS WITH JOE MONAHAN 2008
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