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Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Northern Donnybrook: Shendo Attacks Lujan's "Lifestyle;" Big Bill Nears Endorsing Ben Ray; Wiviott With Another Quarter Million, Plus: Much, Much More 

Somebody spiked the punch up North and the party has gone wild. The sexuality of Dem congressional frontrunner Ben Ray Lujan has been called into question by rival Benny Shendo; federal records show Don Wiviott has just contributed another $250,000 in personal money to his campaign bringing his total to an astounding $1,340,000. And last, but certainly not least, Big Bill is signaling he is going to put his big foot down and endorse Ben Ray for the nomination contest. This political funfest for an open US House seat also features attorneys Jon Adams and Rudy Martin and Santa Fe County Commissioner Harry Montoya. We had to do a late rewrite with all the activity, so we are starting you off with the relatively mundane news that there will be no TV debates for the Northern contest, but do read on for all the details of a wild and crazy day in La Politica. Grab your favorite beverage and pull up a chair. The entertainment portion of the program has begun...

Lujan & Wiviott
Forget about seeing the two leading contenders for the Northern Dem congressional nomination test each other before a statewide TV audience and show whether they have debating skills that would serve our state well in the US House. Plans for the one and only joint TV appearance between Ben Ray Lujan and Don Wiviott hit the skids when Wiviott said he could not adjust his schedule to take advantage of the KNME-TV offer.

"We offered him four schedule options. He took none of them," Said Kevin McDonald public affairs producer for the public TV station.

The Wiviott campaign says it is not "afraid" of Ben Ray as the Lujan camp charged. "Don had a meet or greet in Las Vegas that he could not cancel." Said a campaign spokesman.

But every politico from Deming to Dixon can see that Don sees no benefit in squaring off with Lujan. He also begged off a forum in Farmington Monday night, calling the newspaper there to to say he was too ill to attend. Perhaps Wiviott is not as well-versed in the nuance of legislation and public policy as Lujan, so why risk showing it on statewide TV? As for Farmington, Wiviott is seen as ahead in heavily Anglo San Juan County. He may have thought he had little to gain by showing up, or maybe he knew Benny Shendo was going to come unglued on Ben Ray. Read on for that.

KNME says in the end it asked Lujan to appear with candidate Benny Shendo, but he begged off. McDonald speculated, not without reason, that Lujan was concerned with Shendo's aggressive attitude toward him as shown at that Farmington forum.

Three of the Northern candidates--Martin, Adams and Montoya--will appear on KNME for a joint appearance Friday night at 7 p.m. Shendo will get a segment of his own.

The winner of the Dem Northern primary is the odds-on favorite to take the open US House seat in November. The R's are heavily outnumbered. For that reason, a primary debate (s) featuring Lujan and Wiviott testing each other would have carried more importance than debates in the other districts where the fall election promises to be more competitive. New Mexico was not well-served by the Northern TV black-out.

SEX AND THE CAMPAIGN

A bizarre exchange at the Farmington candidates forum in which Benny Shendo implied that Ben Ray Lujan's sexuality was at issue. Lujan's campaign manager told the New Mexican that Lujan is in a "loving and committed relationship" with a woman. Folks, the wheels are starting to come off of Campaign '08.

BILL'S CHOICE

It appears that Ben Ray could get the biggest endorsement of them all--from Big Bill. The Guv says he will make a pick next week. Easy money can be made that he will give his nod to Lujan, son of NM House Speaker Ben Lujan who has been critical to Bill's legislative success. An endorsement from the state's top Democrat will have just the impact the Lujan's would like, and it wouldn't be the first time. Four years ago Bill informally endorsed Ben Ray when he sought the Dem nod for the Public Regulation Commission seat he currently holds. Bill represented the Northern district in D.C. from 1983-97. He says he wants to endorse someone who "can win the seat."

The Guv also says he may weigh in on some of the other Dem congressional primaries. It's not common, but its not unheard of, especially with Richardson who isn't called Big Bill for nothing.

TIGHT OR NOT?

If Dan Rather was around he might say the race for the White House in New Mexico is "tight like a too-small bathing suit on a too-long ride home from the beach." But only if he was looking at the SurveyUSA poll released Monday which shows Obama and McCain battling to a dead heat at 44% apiece in our Enchanted Land. On the other hand, there is plenty of waist band on that swimsuit when you look at a recent Rasmussen poll that gives Obama a nine point lead--50% 41 %.

While the surveys disagree on the margin, they both point in the same direction--New Mexico will again be one of the few states in play in the presidential election when October rolls around. That means lots of attention from the candidates, their surrogates and those constant TV spots.

PREZ CAMPAIGN TO NM

John McCain is going to get a jump start on his NM presidential campaigning. He will be here next Monday--Memorial Day--to take part in a service for veterans. Not to be outdone, Michelle Obama will make a NM stop next Tuesday. She will hold a high-dollar reception (ticks $500 to $2300) at Yanni's restaurant in ABQ hosted by Big Bill and a $1000 a plate fundraiser at the Santa Fe home of former NM Attorney General Paul Bardacke.

And don't forget Bush. The Prez comes in for a fundraiser ABQ GOP congressional candidate Darren White Tuesday. Looks like he will be sharing the spotlight with Michelle.

MORE POLLS


The ABQ Journal says it will release polling on the NM congressional Dem primary contests in the ABQ and Northern districts this Sunday. That means they are in the field this week.

MICHELLE'S MEDIA

While the North has been hogging the limelight, here in ABQ, Michelle Lujan Grisham has been trying to drum up some media attention for her campaign for the Dem congressional nod. It hasn't been easy. She got off to a late start while frontrunner Martin Heinrich has been at it for nearly a year. Grisham, a former Big Bill cabinet secretary, has come with this TV ad pushing her service to seniors.

A HEALTHY CONTRACT

The Fourth Floor could not have been happy with the way the new consulting gig of Dave Contarino was played on the front pages. Contarino, Big Bill's former chief of staff and campaign manger for his presidential bid, has signed up as s a consultant to ValueOptions, the health firm seeking to renew a $300 million contract with the state and which has been a healthy contributor to the campaign coffers of the governor. Critics of the Guv may seize on the development to try to slow his healthcare reform plan that he says he will present to a special legislative session this summer. The question of who will benefit financially from such reforms may be more front and center in light of the Contarino news.

SENATE SIDE UP
Pearce
There's another of those third party groups coming for Steve Pearce in his bid for the GOP US Senate nomination. They are airing a radio ad slamming Pearce for Heather Wilson for "pork barrel" spending. The third party spending by the "American Prosperity" group and the conservative Club for Growth have helped Pearce dominate Wilson on the state's airwaves. Even without their help, Pearce has been the Alpha dog when it comes to money, but Heather has more cash on hand for the final days. The AP reports:

Pearce's campaign spent $964,784 from April 1 to May 14, according to a fundraising summary released Tuesday by his campaign. Wilson spent $776,068 during the same period. Wilson, however, has a larger stockpile of campaign cash for the closing weeks of the hotly contested race.Wilson's campaign had a cash balance of $712,476 as of last week and Pearce reported $247,207 cash on hand.

Wilson has received the endorsement of ABQ City Council President Brad Winter, and that's not all the campaigning Winter has been doing. He sent a blistering letter out to voters hitting Barry Bitzer, the former chief of staff to Dem Mayor Marty Chavez. Bitzer, a Republican, is seeking the GOP nod against incumbent State Senator Steve Komadina for his Corrales area seat. Bitzer helped engineer political coups against Winter while working at Chavez's side, so Winter is engaging in some pay back. He says in his letter: "Bitzer served as the Democrat mayor's hatchet-man and he set his sights on Republicans." A consultant to Bitzer questioned what the city council president was doing involving himself in a state senate race.

A BUNCH OF BOTTOM LINES

Dona Ana County Commissioner Oscar Butler was born in El Paso, not LA, as we blogged early Monday. However, he spent much of his adult life in Los Angeles. He hung with a rough crowd in East LA, too, so he knows his way around hardball politics...Conservation Voters New Mexico (CVNM) announced its endorsement of Espanola Mayor Joseph Maestas in his campaign for the District 3 open seat on the New Mexico Public Regulation Commission (PRC)...

Joe Barela of Rio Rancho has made up his mind on who to support for the Northern Dem congressional nod and it's worth our attention:

"My family & I have narrowed our choices for 3rd Congressional District. After much discussion and consternation we have decided on two candidates. Our first choice is a write-in candidate. That is Ben Lujan’s beautiful horse, who seemed more qualified that the rest of the field. Our second choice is Benny Shendo.

Sorry, Benny. I thought for sure you would beat Ben Ray's horse in the stretch...

And what about the horse of rancher and Southern GOP congressional candidate Ed Tinsley? He also rides his mount in a TV ad, but there is no question Ben Ray is giving his horse more airtime. Due to this overspending, we do think the Lujan horse is going to get more write-in votes than the Tinsley horse when the hoofs finally fall silent June 3. However, either horse would certainly deliver better service than we are currently getting in Washington.

Our KANW 89.1 FM Election Night coverage is moving along. We will kick off the night at 6:30. The pre-game show will be Monday, June 2 at 5 p.m., featuring predictions from our panel of pundits...

E-mail your latest news and comments and help us cover Campaign '08.

(c)NM POLITICS WITH JOE MONAHAN 2008
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