Wednesday, October 08, 2008

18 And Voting: Blogging The Debate With Tuned-In Teens, Plus: Ben Ray: High Enough In The Polls? And: State Senate Action From Cruces To Corrales 

Whitney Paul & Martinique Chavez
What will it take to get Obama and McCain to show some passion? Last night's 90 minute presidential debate, held against a backdrop of some of the most startling and serious economic news in a generation, tuned into the unlikeliest of snooze fests. Both candidates delivered their canned scripts with aplomb, but passion, historic knowledge and deep-seated convictions about getting us out of the mess were not the order of the night. Abe Lincoln or even Bill Clinton, they are not, but they're all we got. Look on the bright side, neither McCain or Obama will jump out a White House window because of the stress of world events. These guys could sleep through a Rolling Stones concert.

While Wall Street burned, the candidates did not exactly fiddle, but neither did they inspire the confidence the nation so desperately needs. We watched the debate at a "smart party" hosted by ABQ Dem Margaret Aragon who invited a group of undecided voters to her North Valley home to talk about what they had just seen. None were jumping for joy for either candidate at the end of the monochromatic affair.

The evening did cause our cynicism to be mothballed momentarily as we spoke with two 18 year olds--Whitney Paul and Martinique Chavez--who this November will be voting for the first time. The economic crisis hasn't just rattled the IRA and 401K crowd. The newest generation of adults is worrying about more than what to put on their iPods.

"I'm scared about the economy. Will I be able to pay for graduate school?" said Paul of the La Cueva High School Class of 2009. Fortunately, she'll be able to get a lottery scholarship to start on her undergraduate degree at the University of New Mexico, but today's kids have been taught to plan and look ahead. Right now they might prefer to bury their heads in sand.

And Martinique Chavez, a UNM poly sci major with law school plans, may represent 18 year old women across the nation who are suddenly forced to worry about matters usually deferred until they're at least old enough to party down at a Vegas nightclub. "When I have a family, will I be able to afford the things my children need? The economic news--the stock market--is scary. What is the future?" She wondered after watching the two would-be presidents.

It doesn't get more real than that, but the candidates, while verbally agile and well-informed, did not seem moved by the challenges that await them. They seemed more like skilled mechanics pondering a faulty cylinder, or those synthetic news anchors who read story after story with the same drone of mock concern. My analysts summed it up:

"The debate was the equivalent of a warm bucket of spit," analyzed veteran Dem Mike Santullo. "I can't say it was anything that he said that won the debate for Obama. It was more that he sounded presidential," chimed in analyst and pollster Harry Pavlides.

Looking the part is the first step; acting it is the second. The third part is the toughest--doing it. America can now only hope that somewhere within Barack Obama or John McCain the makings of a Lincoln or an FDR lie dormant, ready to be aroused on Inauguration Day.

Margaret Chavez
LA Times reporter Seema Metha also hung with us at Margaret's debate party last night. She put this story together on her laptop perched on the kitchen counter. Aspiring journalists, here are some money lines to show you how it's nailed:

The gathering was spawned by Aragon de Chavez, the ex-wife of the city's three-term mayor, Martin Chavez. During their 17-year marriage, Aragon de Chavez grew accustomed to running in political circles and meeting candidates at fancy fundraisers. After their divorce in 2003, she felt disenfranchised.

In her former life, Aragon de Chavez on Tuesday would have attended an up-to-$12,300-per-person fundraiser/debate-watching party across town that featured Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson and her husband.
"It's humbling not to be the wife of the mayor," said the 49-year-old single mother of two, who said politicians pay little attention to ordinary voters.

Ben Ray
Northern Dem congressional hopeful Ben Ray Lujan could be up a lot more in the ABQ Journal poll if he had started his TV advertising early, so why didn't he? A couple of reasons. Lujan, 36, is considered a shoo-in to take the heavy Dem district. Early advertising would not change that expectation. Also, money is an issue with the slew of races gobbling up any loose dollars that can be found. Insiders estimate Lujan, son of NM House Speaker Ben Lujan, has raised about $400,000 since the June primary. A decent TV buy costs at least $100,000 a week. Lujan, who polled at 41 percent in the Journal poll conducted last week, can be expected to be up on the air the final two weeks.

Rio Rancho contractor Dan East polls at 18 per cent and independent Carol Miller at 14 percent. East will not have enough money for much TV, but is doing radio. Miller will scramble to put up what she can. Her 14 percent is based on her high name ID from the many political races she has run. But Dems, according to the Journal poll, are not flocking to her candidacy. Conventional wisdom says under normal circumstances a third party candidate's support declines into Election Day. If so, Miller could be expected to finish with about 7 per cent of the vote. East should score in the low to mid- 30's.

A recent editorial in the Los Alamos Monitor endorsing Miller for this seat being vacated by Tom Udall shows the pitfalls for Lujan. An open seat invites the unexpected. Also, The Journal poll has a huge margin of error of 8.9% because of the small sample. Also, the northern district can be tricky to poll, another reason for Lujan to work like a mule.

For Lujan it is not so much the victory he has to worry about; it would take a game changing event to deny him. But he wants a very strong showing to kick-start him in D.C. There will be three new US House members from the state and if Lujan shows any weakness it could encourage chatter about a 2010 primary and/or general election challenger. A big win would free him to be more aggressive on Capitol Hill. Lujan is up on radio and in the mailboxes and traveling the district. Each extra vote he gets will make him that much stronger when he starts wrestling with the Alligators--and perhaps his fellow NM House members.

Blogger & Sen. Pino
The footsteps of the bear stalking Wall Street and now Main Street are starting to be heard on Paseo De Peralta--the street that is home to the storied New Mexico Roundhouse where 112 lawmakers will gather in January for a sixty day session. But if this rare consumer-led recession continues unabated, they may not need 60 days because they won't have the money to do much of anything.

Even liberal Dem State Senator Jerry Oritz y Pino, a leading advocate for government spending to attack a range of social ills, is glum about the state;'s short-term financial prospects. He says theprojected state surplus for the current budge year appears to be all but wiped out by plunging oil and natural gas prices. He says we can be thankful that we have some $600 million in cash reserves that will cushion an expected decline in gross receipts and other taxes in the coming year. But if oil and gas explores new lows and stay there, who knows where it will lead.

Governor Richardson is not about to make the state looming financial shortfall front-page news. He is busy campaigning for Obama and doesn't want the distraction. He is ignoring calls that the state start cutting back spending now in preparation for the downturn. For now, the ample cash reserves serve as a fall back argument for the Guv, but following Election Day, no one is going to be able to look away from the car wreck blocking our fiscal highway.


State Senate Minority Whip Lee Rawson is in a spirited campaign with enviro Steve Fischmann in his Las Cruces area district. But can Roundhouse veteran Rawson really be beaten? A operative for Dem Fischmann makes the case

An important race to compare is the 2006 Congressional race, where, in the districts that make up Rawson's Senate district, Democrat Al Kissling lost to Steve Pearce by only 1%. Pearce was well-financed and Al Kissling had nothing, and Al still almost beat him there. (Las Cruces Mayor) Ken Miyagishima's win against popular incumbent Bill Mattiace in the 2007 mayor's race showed the tide is turning in Las Cruces--Ken's city council district is contained within Rawson's district and provided Ken a strong base of support.

Rawson's run-in over a capital outlay bill he sponsored and which benefited a property his family owns is adding spark to this contest. Also, the Republican brand is in the tank, adding another factor that has this race on the watch list.


If an Obama landslide develops in Bernalillo and Sandoval counties, Republicans in the know say they will have to make sure GOP State Senators John Ryan and Steve Komadina are not threatened. Ryan is seeking election to his second term and is being challenged by Victor Raigoza who has run for office before. John Sapien of Sandoval County is trying to oust Komadina who represents Corrales, medical doctor seeking his third term. Dems say Sapien, from a political family, has the pedigree to pull the upset, but may need help from Obama as Komadina has high name ID and no dark clouds hanging over his head.


NM lenders may be tightened lending standards in the wake of the credit crunch, but apparently not to the point where getting a loan is unusual. At least that's the finding in this unscientific reader poll conducted by NM Business Weekly. At last check, fifty-four percent of those responding say they have had no trouble getting credit for their business while 38 percent have.

Have news? comments? Suggestions? E-mail them in.

Not for reproduction without permission of the author
website design by limwebdesign