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Monday, September 29, 2008

Bailout Politics Shaping Campaigns, Plus: The Case Of The Missing Miller, Also: Lee Rawson's Outlook, And: Death Calls For ABQ Leader Vince Griego 

Pete in the 70's
NM GOP Senator Pete Domenici rushed last night to put a positive spin on the $700 billion financial bailout plan, calling the media directly to help shape the story. But state Republicans remained nervous over the unprecedented proposal, worriedly assessing public opinion polls that are firmly against the bailout. If at least 55 percent of the general public is against it, the opposition among conservatives probably approaches 80 percent. Since the bailout story broke Dems have made steady gains, with polls showing Obama starting to move above the magic 50 percent level in many of them. Here in NM ABQ Dem congressional hopeful Martin Heinrich came with a survey showing him leading Republican Darren White by six points--48 percent to 42 percent--and there were not many voices heard disagreeing. The poll was taken Monday and Tuesday of last week, just as hard-nuclear TV spots began going up from both White and Heinrich.

White released a poll last year showing him trouncing Heinrich, but there have been no numbers from the White camp in recent months. This is Heinrich's second poll showing him ahead. In July he said he had it by three points--47 percent to 44 percent. We also have a SurveyUSA automatic phone poll from earlier this month showing Heinrich carrying the day 51 to 46. Other independent polling we've seen confirms Heinrich's lead, although with the margin of errors in all the surveys, it's difficult to see by how much.

White, who is trying to mimic outgoing ABQ GOP Congresswoman Heather Wilson by dubbing himself an "independent" voice for the district, not a dyed-in-the-wool Republican, had a chance to prove the point by splitting with the White House on the bailout. But he didn't. Neither did southern GOP hopeful Ed Tinsley. Both campaigns probably saw such a position as too high-risk. In NM's D.C. delegation only GOP US Senate candidate Steve Pearce said he was against the bailout, but he can change his mind now that a bill with fresh provisions has been drafted. But why should he? He seems to be behind Dem Tom Udall by double-digits.

White's supporters say he will close hard in the final 10 days, as GOP candidates usually do. But October is looming and his campaign, say the polls, is stalled, hardly the game plan the R's intended.

Obama is now on cruise control in Bernalillo County with current polling showing he will easily surpass Kerry's 10,000 victory margin here two years ago. If Barack makes it 20,000, the R's are going to be in a world of hurt. The torment for them is that there seems very little they can do about it.

PETE'S ADIOS

Domenici doesn't have to worry about facing voters over the bailout plan or any other plan. He gave a Senate farewell speech over the weekend as he prepares to leave at year's end. Domenici's 36 year run in the Senate began in January of 1973. My Hill Rats say his best terms were the two in the middle, from 1979 through 1990. His worst was his last, under the current President Bush. His staunch support of the bailout may or not be the right call, but it will be history giving the verdict, not the voters.

The bailout is such a jarring change to American political philosophy that some observers are saying any Republican who votes for it this week can forget about being nominated for President by the GOP in 2012.

IS MY AMERICA GONE?

You've been hearing that question a lot lately. So has author columnist Peggy Noonan. She writes like Audrey Hepburn dressed.

MILLER MISSING


KOAT-TV apparently needs some firm rules on who is and who isn't eligible to take part in their political debates. Channel 7 says it has not invited northern Independent congressional candidate Carol Miller to an October 19 6 p.m. face-off because, the station's news director says: "The other candidates lived through the primary. They have had exposure." Does that mean a candidate has to take part in a primary in order to be eligible to be invited to debate?

Independents don't usually have primary elections. In Miller's case, she gathered 11,000 signatures to get on the ballot. Democrat Ben Ray Lujan and Republican Dan East have been invited to the debate which is also being sponsored by the ABQ Journal.

Miller is well-known for her 1997 performance as a Green Party candidate in the northern district when she garnered 17 percent of the vote in a special congressional election. The exclusion of Miller, who is an obviously serious candidate, has her supporters wondering if the station is motivated by money. The D's and R's are buying millions of TV time on the station. Independent candidates are not.

The money theory may be a bit conspiratorial, but KOAT should be sensitive to it. In recent years it has conducted numerous debates but shunted most of them to the Sunday afternoon "ghetto" hours. That has prompted charges that the station is unwilling to give up prime time for debates because of financial considerations.

At least this debate is in borderline prime time coming at 6 p.m. But in excluding Miller the station is misfiring. A candidate who collects 11,000 signatures has proven her mettle. Her viewpoint has support in the marketplace. KOAT would lose nothing by inviting her, and just might enhance its "commitment" to the 2008 election.

RAWSON'S OUTLOOK
Sen. Rawson
Insiders seem to think that Las Cruces area State Senator and Minority Leader Lee Rawson should be able to prevail in his re-election bid, despite what seems to be a spirited Dem challenge from former real estate broker and environmentalist Stephen Fischmann. Rawson, 53, took a hit over the weekend when it was reported he sponsored a capital outlay bill to build a road that was outside of his legislative district, but provides access to commercial property owned by Rawson and his family. Rawson's district is 42 percent Dem, 36 percent R and 19 percent Independent. The district likes Rawson, but in this topsy-turvy year any incumbent has to be careful. Angry voters can be unpredictable.

BLOCKING BLOCK

Readers have been peppering us with the latest developments in the saga of Dem Jerome Block, Jr., who is seeking the northern seat on the Public Regulation Commission (PRC). The latest is how he lied about how he spent some of the public funds he received for the campaign. But there is no Republican running so it is up to the Green Party candidate Rick Lass to make the case against Block. Governor Richardson is reluctant to interfere. He says he is concerned about Block's candidacy, but isn't calling on him to get out--at least not in public. Jerome, son of a former PRC commissioner, vows to stay in the race. Will voters turn to Lass? They may if they find out about him in time.

WEH'S TAKE

In Friday's blog describing the insider info on the departure under fire of Bernalillo County GOP Chair Fernando C de Baca, we noted that NM GOP Chair Allen Weh, in negotiating C de Baca's departure, rejected making a statement of support for C de Baca's county replacement. Weh blogs in to clarify:

...It was said I “rejected the support of the new county chairman.” I intended that any final statement (about C de Baca) be strictly limited to recognizing the service of the outgoing county chairman...That shouldn’t be construed as “not supporting” the new county chairman... I called Chairman Ryan Cangiolosi shortly after this was resolved, congratulated him, and plan to meet with him shortly...

VINCE GRIEGO

Vince Griego could be a disarming and very direct politician. I'll never forget the ABQ Election Night when Vince called in to KANW
89.1 FM to talk about his narrow city council win over Dede Feldman. Among those on the panel was former city councilor and now city public safety honcho Pete Dinelli. Pete offered his congratulations and told how he had always supported Vince. The councilor quickly replied: "I appreciate that Pete, but I saw you in my district going door-to-door for Dede." The panel exploded in raucous laughter and Dinelli, as busted as you can be, could have crawled under the table. We kid him about it to this day.

Griego, who died Sunday at 68, took the same direct approach to his opposition to the Montano Bridge. For years he tangled mightily with Mayor Chavez over the project which would run through the North Valley neighborhoods he represented. Vince lost that heated battle, but he didn't lose many friends over it. The Mayor remained fond of the ABQ native. He mourned him last night as a "gentleman," which he rightly said is one of the highest compliments you can pay anyone involved in today's often bitterly partisan public life.

Griego, who was elected in 1978 and served until 2003, had a blue-collar heritage and was retired from Bernalillo County. What a hoot for him that he became the glue that often kept the nine member council on track. He served as council president at least five times. Today the room where the body meets bears the name: "Vince Griego Council Chambers."

We last saw Vince over a year ago at an ABQ restaurant enjoying enchiladas with his family. We joked about the current turmoil on the council--isn't there always some?--and I told him they could use him back there. "No thanks, I've done my share," he quipped.

No one will argue that.

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(c)NM POLITICS WITH JOE MONAHAN 2008
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