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Tuesday, July 29, 2008

More Special Session Suspense; New Money Estimates Awaited, Plus: White Poll Has Him Below 50%, But Ahead, And: Most Watched State Senate Races 

More suspense surrounding that special session of the NM Legislature that Big Bill has called for August 15. The big projected state cash surplus that Bill is relying on to finance taxpayer rebates is not set in stone. Legislative Finance Committee staff heavy David Abbey told your blog Monday, that the recent decline in oil and natural gas prices means a revised estimate is needed on just how much extra cash is available.

A traditional rule of thumb during the regular session is that if a staff economist review indicates that the estimates have changed by one half of a percent to one percent, they should be officially revised. Looks like we're in that situation," said Abbey.

The Guv may not want to see any new revenue estimates, given the recent fall in oil and natural gas prices, but it would seem irresponsible not to get one since the projected surplus is based on $134 barrel an oil and $13 natural gas, prices that have not stuck. The LFC could go ahead and do an estimate without Bill signing on, but insiders consider that unlikely.

If a new estimate is significantly lower, more sparks could fly. The Guv's office remains confident the money is there and that lawmakers are using the recent correction in energy prices as an excuse to kill Bill's plan for universal health care. Still, those with long memories will recall the very real impact lower oil and gas prices had in the mid-80's. That's when the Legislature had to repeal tax cuts based on high oil and gas prices.

Day-to-day energy prices are going to drive the psychology behind the special session. Your guess on where they'll be August 15 is as good as any.

RUIDOSO DISASTER
Guv in Ruidoso
While Bill is pushing the envelope with that special, he was doing what he does best when he landed in Ruidoso to survey extreme damage left by raging flood waters. The Richardson administration is rarely caught flat-footed in responding to natural disasters. In fact, we have a solid long-term record when it comes to aiding our neighbors wherever they live in the state. GOP Governor Gary Johnson also had a good eight year record in getting government moving when disaster struck. The 2000 Los Alamos fires being one example. The men and women responding to the Ruidoso disaster deserve special mention.

And the video from Ruidoso is pretty incredible. You can see it on YouTube.

TAKING IT UP A NOTCH

You might get a kick out of some of the hot-button rhetoric the campaigns are using to raise money this cycle. Here's a Monday missive from GOP US Senate nominee Steve Pearce as he seeks financial support from his conservative base in his battle against Dem hopeful Tom Udall:

As the hysterical environmentalists and Tom Udall hold America's energy hostage, working families are suffering. America needs energy security NOW--not obstructionists! Tom Udall has voted more than a dozen times to prevent drilling and six times against new refineries...Steve Pearce is challenging the Washington status quo, the hysterical environmentalists and Tom Udall to drill domestically and NOW!

Maybe some enviros are hysterical, but Tom Udall? He seems as calm as a monk.

GETTING CLOSER
White & Heinrich
The interesting thing about the new poll GOP ABQ congressional hopeful Darren White released Monday is that it has him below the magic 50% level. That is a sigh of relief for the Dems who feared the well-known two term Bernalillo County sheriff may have been poised to run away with the ABQ race, which has been in the GOP column since its 1968 creation. But the White poll, conducted by his campaign Tuesday and Wednesday among 500 likely voters and with a margin of error of 4%, puts him at 47% to Democrat Martin Heinrich's 41%.

Heinrich released a poll in early July that gave him 47% to White's 44%. However, as we pointed out then, that poll identified to respondents the party of each candidate. White's campaign is not releasing the question that was asked, but judging by the results it appears to not have mentioned political party. An insider poll taken just before July 4th had White garnering 50% and Henrich coming in at 32%. And a poll White released last October had him at 51% and Heinrich at 33%. With the margin of error in his poll, theoretically White could still be at 50%, but it's unlikely.

While White's team can take heart that they are six points ahead in their survey, which shows White has name ID of 78% and Heinrich 65%, the race remains within reach of the Dems. In fact, we're mildly surprised by former ABQ city councilor Heinrich's 65% name ID, given the relatively light media buy he did for the June primary. We think White's 78% ID is a bit below what you would expect because he has done no paid media since announcing last October.

So some good news for both candidates in this survey. White reinforces the notion that he is the frontrunner, but Democrats have good reason to believe their man stands to benefit from a Democratic wave should one materialize.

ANOTHER NOTE ON THIS

We think the portion of the White poll testing his strength against Heinrich was neutral, but since they will not release the question, we can't be sure. Former ABQ Mayor Jim Baca, writing on his blog, says he was polled on the ABQ race Wednesday night and the poll sounded legitimate until near the end:

"The 'push poll' sounds legitimate for the first ten minutes and then the zinger comes. All sorts of negative statements about Democrat Martin Heinrich." Said Baca.

There's always an Alligator around when you need one.

IT'S SOMETHING


What would the R's do if they did not have the drilling issue? Just about every other matter on the table cuts against them. But high gas prices are so in the face of the everyday consumer that the polls have moved in favor of drilling faster than an oil slick. Here's the latest.

WHAT ABOUT HIM?

When his son was busted by the press for not revealing an arrest involving boozing and driving, Jerome Block, Sr. asked about the record of the Green Party candidate who is opposing his son, Jerome Block, Jr., for the Northern seat on the NM Public Regulation Commission. Turns out Rick Lass has had a run-in with the law as well as noted recently by the Santa Fe Reporter.

DI DENIED

She says it's because she and the Guv agreed the issue is too complex for a special session; others will say Di is being dissed by Bill. Whatever the case, the lieutenant guv's request to have a predatory lending measure taken up at the August special is dead. Meantime, the Clovis News Journal did a solid interview with the state's #2, in which she was asked publicly for the first time about becoming Guv if Bill leaves to take a job with an Obama administration. "I'm fully prepared..I'm prepared to step in," She said.

MOST WATCHED
Sen. Snyder
The most watched state Senate race in New Mexico this cycle will be the ABQ NE Heights battle between GOP Senator Diane Snyder and Dem Tim Eichenberg. In fact, insiders are hard pressed to name any other races where they think the incumbent is genuinely endangered. They are keeping an eye on Senators Clint Harden on the East side and Lee Rawson in Las Cruces, but not ready to put them in the toss-up column.

The lack of competitiveness shows how important the 2010 Guv election will be. The Legislature will redistrict all state House and Senate seats in 2011. If the R's could snag the governorship, they would have tremendous leverage over the process. If not, the Dems could tighten their stranglehold on the Roundhouse even more.

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(c)NM POLITICS WITH JOE MONAHAN 2008
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