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Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Big Bill Works For Triple Play; To Host Bash For Three Congress Hopefuls, Plus: New GOP TV Buy For Darren Raises Eyebrows, Plus: Kari & Lisa News 

  • FORMER SENATE LEADER MANNY ARAGON CUTS DEAL IN COURTHOUSE CORRUPTION CASE
Dems Triple Play Team?
What's changing more quickly in New Mexico? The odds that Democrats will sweep the state's three congressional seats, or the price boards outside of your neighborhood gas station? We'd say it's a tie, with the odds on the Democratic sweep coming down as fast as the price of a gallon of petrol. What in the beginning of the year was seen as the longest of long shots is now within grasp. One of our sports minded Alligators now puts the odds at the elusive Dem Triple Play as an even money proposition. If it happens, no one will be happier than Big Bill Richardson. It would be a political legacy reaching into the next generation and give the Governor entree into the halls of congressional power for years to come.

With that as a backdrop, it's no wonder the Guv is hosting all three Dem congressional contenders at an October 19th high-dollar fund-raiser at El Pinto restaurant in Albuquerque. Prices range from $750 to $6,000. The way the polls are going it could be a pre-Election celebration and the political community's first look at the state's future US House delegation.

Richardson's tentacles extend deep into each campaign. Northern Dem hopeful Ben Ray Lujan owes his slot on the Public Regulation Commission, in part, to Richardson who endorsed Lujan, son of powerful state House Speaker Ben Lujan and a close ally of Bill's. In Albuquerque, Dem Martin Heinrich was hired by Bill to be the state's natural resources trustee. Also, Bill's operatives let it be known well before the June Dem primary that Bill favored Heinrich, although there was some back and forth over that. Southern Dem hopeful Harry Teague has been a private air force for the Guv. Along with Hobbs businessman Johnny Cope, Teague co-owns two aircraft that Richardson's campaign paid to use during Bill's bid for the Democratic presidential nomination. And guess who is co-hosting what we're calling the Oct. 19 Triple Play Party? Why, Johnny Cope, of course. Throw in longtime Friend of Bill Paul Blanchard and you've got a bash that is not going to run out of party favors.

A WHITE ELEPHANT?
White
Eyebrows are being raised in some Republican quarters over the state party's purchase of expensive TV time for ABQ GOP congressional hopeful Darren White, even as the national R's pulled the plug on $500,000 worth of time for the Bernalillo County Sheriff. We've learned the federal finance committee of the state party has bought $240,000 of time for the most recent hit on Heinrich. But some R's say the money should have been allocated among all the NM GOP federal candidates. Top R's speculate that the $240,000 money was donated to the R's with White specifically in mind because he lost the $500,000 in national money.

Money raised for the party's federal accounts can pay for activities related to congressional and presidential campaigns.

Despite the $240,000 buy, extensive conversations with TV insiders and operatives in Washington inform us that White is still being significantly outspent on ABQ TV by Heinrich. But even if he wasn't, the Dem tide is so strong that Heinrich would probably still be leading. Look at Dem US Senate candidate Tom Udall. The media mavens say he appears to be only matching what Steve Pearce, his GOP foe, is putting up on the air. Udall could finish the campaign with an ample cash balance.

HEINRICH UPGRADED

Tuesday in Washington veteran political handicapper Stu Rothenberg switched his rating of the ABQ race from "toss-up" to "toss-up/tilt Democratic." Rothenberg retains his "toss-up" ranking on the southern congressional battle between Dem Harry Teague and Republican Ed Tinsley. Our Monday blog revealed the daunting math White and the R's face in this Dem trending year. We don't disagree with Stu's ranking.

NO EASY MONEY FOR ED

There was some speculation here that when the national R's canceled their TV buy for White that they just might shovel some of it Ed Tinsley's way. After all, the southern GOP Congress hopeful is locked in a toss-up battle with Dem Harry Teague. But a check with TV insiders shows that is not happening. The Politico reports the national R's are putting the money meant for the White race into races where incumbent House R's are running into trouble because of the strong Dem trend.

White continues to raise money for late TV. US House Minority Leader John Boehner will host a fund-raiser for the sheriff October 21 at the home of veteran R Ken Zangara. Senator Domenici, who has already done several events for White, will do another one. The R's have a habit of closing strongly. They need an especially strong close this cycle.

BIDEN VISIT

It will be historic Mesilla just south of Las Cruces for Dem VP nominee Joe Biden's Friday visit, and it makes a lot of sense for Obama. Kerry won Dona Ana County by only around 2,200 votes in '04. Obama and Biden should be able to easily double that and perhaps triple it. We suspect southern Dem hopeful Harry Teague will want to be sticking close to Joe. If Harry can stay close behind Obama Election Night and win handily in the county over R Ed Tinsley, he will likely be the first Dem southern congressman elected since Harold Runnels in 1980.

BARACK COMING BACK?

Will Obama be back to NM? After all, he has a good lead here. We expect him back at least one more time to get the vote out. That's not as many times as we all first thought, but that's before the world nearly came to an end and the presidential race was broken wide open.

SURVEY SAYS...

The latest SurveyUSA NM poll has Obama ahead 52 to McCain's 45 percent. Obama is leading in Bernalillo County by nine points--53 to 44 percent. If that happens Election Night Obama would carry the county by well over 20,000 and it would not matter much if he lagged elsewhere. Tom trounces Steve 58 to 40 percent in the poll taken Oct. 12 and 13.

INSIDE THE DA'S RACE
Lisa & Kari
Some Republicans weighing in here say they are excited about GOP Bernalillo County District Attorney candidate Lisa Torraco because as DA she would go after groups like ACORN whose voter registration activities are the subject of an FBI probe. Adding to their zest could be the prospect of Republicans losing all the US Attorney positions in the nation if Obama is elected president. If the R's have the local DA's office, the theory goes, they can pursue their agenda there.

Supporters of two term incumbent DA Kari Brandenburg say they are baffled by the roughing up she is getting by the ABQ Journal. The paper has generally been supportive of Brandenburg, 54, since she took office in 2001. In fact, coverage of the DA's office, until recent months, has been scant compared to previous years. But there have been several high-profile cases that happened to break in the election cycle and which Torraco has taken advantage of.

Insiders report Pat Rogers, attorney and NM GOP National Committeeman, is a key player for Torraco. He is also a key player in the NM end of the US attorney scandal. A special prosecutor has been named to look into the role of Rogers and other NM R's in that scandal. Rogers has ties to the NM press through his service on the board of the NM Foundation for Open Government. (This blogger is also a member.)

For the final three weeks Torraco, 46, will probably try to keep the discussion on Brandenburg's handling of individual cases, while the DA defends her conviction rate and speaks to the area's overall crime problem and how it should be addressed.

Kari started a small TV buy this week; Lisa has been big on AM radio. Kari is also on radio, rebutting Lisa's attacks. Followers of the hot DA's race will get a TV debate. KNME-TV will air one between the two lady lawyers next Friday, October 24th at 7 p.m..

THE BOTTOM LINES

The woman who came oh so close to taking the ABQ House seat for the Dems in 2006 is still politicking, but not for herself. Former NM Dem Attorney General Patricia Madrid recently attended a National Women’s Leadership Issues Conference in Chicago featuring Senator Obama and Michelle Obama, Senator Biden and special guest, Oprah Winfrey. Madrid's elective political career may be over, but if Obama wins, she could be back in the public service game. She started out supporting John Edwards who fell from grace, but has been working hard for Obama, which is what you do if you want a seat at the table when they carve up the turkey.

Three campaign weeks to go. Help us cover it. E-mail your news and comments.

(c)NM POLITICS WITH JOE MONAHAN 2008
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