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Monday, October 20, 2008

Tinsley Gets Rough On Teague As Clock Wears On R's, Plus: Will Lawmakers Get Tough On UNM? And: The Drunk NM Voter; She May Have A Point 

Tinsley & Teague
Ed Tinsley worked to rough up Harry Teague Sunday, hoping to save the R's from Election Night ignominy as the other two congressional seats are now leaning Dem and Obama threatens a significant New Mexico victory. Time and again Tinsley pounded his southern congressional foe, using wedge issues like gun control and abortion to try to drive Teague to the left. It was a turnaround performance for Tinsley, who had pronounced himself satisfied with his first debate performance in Las Cruces, but which was criticized by analysts who felt both Teague and Tinsley were more like planted pots than Congress candidates. Teague was also much improved over the dreary Cruces affair, but it was Tinsley who was more animated and relentless.

Sunday's one hour square-off on KOAT-TV came at 4 in the afternoon, and that was good news for Teague. For while his down-home personality (don't undrestimate it) helped him withstand some of Tinsley's more withering attacks, it is not necessarily a confrontation that the Dems want widely advertised in the sprawling conservative district. Tinsley, an attorney, restaurant chain owner and former head of the National Restaurant Association, demonstrated his bona fides in the articulation and knowledge departments. Teague landed some punches of his own, but was not as aggressive in pushing back as Tinsley who is behind in the polls and was going for the knock-out punch.

Tinsley appears to be getting outspent by Teague who is benefiting from a big Dem trend and his strength in traditionally R voting Lea County. Polling there shows Teague, a former county commissioner, tied with Tinsley. The debate was barely seen in the district's most populous county, Dona Ana, which is dominated by El Paso TV. Polling in Dona Ana shows Obama leading big and Teague taking Tinsley down.

R's have not ben overjoyed with Tinsley's campaign. By contrast, Teague, after turning over his staff, has gotten his campaign on track and running smoothly. Bush's unpopularity is not as pronounced in the south, which has kept Tinsley in the contest. Sunday Tinsley turned it up a notch, but whether it will make a difference in the final outcome is not as evident as his improved performance.

THE NORTHERN DEBATE
Lujan
Frontrunner Ben Ray Lujan turned in a more than serviceable performance during KOAT-TV's 6 p.m. Sunday debate featuring the three northern US House contenders. It should be enough to put to rest the caricature of him as young and dumb. Lujan prepared for the face-off and it showed. Independent Carol Miller and Republican Dan East also had good nights, but the onus was on the 36 year old Lujan and he rose to the occasion. Lujan, son of the NM House Speaker, has generated his fair share of jealousy from rivals who say he is where he is only because of his powerful dad. Fairly or not, more is expected from him.

Remember the brutal Dem primary where Lujan's personal life became an issue? Has any other top tier NM candidate been hit as hard as this young man? Not by a mile. If his daddy was supposed to protect him, it got lost on us. We can only hope that when he gets to the United States Congress he can throw a punch as well as he takes one. With a class of three House freshmen and a newbie Senator to boot, we're going to need it.

OVERSIGHT ANYONE?

Can NM House Speaker Ben Lujan and House Appropriations Chair Kiki Saavedra take a clear-eyed look at the University of New Mexico and exercise some oversight as the state faces a financial crisis? It may be a key question in the 60 day session of the Legislature starting in January. The state surplus has vanished and the Guv has ordered a hiring freeze and other cutbacks as the long energy bull market crashes down. But at UNM, President David Schmidly, seemingly oblivious to the changing tenor of the times, awards his son a $94,000 job that appears to be made up out of thin air. Schmidly is pushing the envelope. Schmidly's son said Sunday he will NOT take the job.

Lujan, Saavedra and Senate leaders who have been cozy with UNM this past decade can take credit for helping the university, but they may start feeling the heat as cash grows short and the afflicted start calling for equal treatment. The Legislative leadership has conducted little oversight over the millions they have sent to UNM. Schmidly is giving them reason to. Lujan, Saavedra, et al. decided to keep power in Santa Fe well into their 70's. But if they are seen playing favorites during this financial crisis, their final years may be their most uncomfortable years.

UNDER THE ROCKS

Meanwhile, the Journal reports David Harris, who served temporarily as UNM Prez and is now an executive vice president there, has been questioned by the FBI about a bond deal that was approved when he was executive director of the NM Finance Authority. The longtime state politico had no comment. The deal involves a major contributor to one of Big Bill's PAC's. It's a story that is getting a lot of attention on the chattering circuit.

Second terms is when the creepy crawly stuff starts coming out from under the rocks. Big Bill raised so much money from so many sources during his gubernatorial career that there are bound to be issues. We are seeing one of them splashed across the front pages. Is Barack reading it?

DARREN BUSH, OR NOT?


Deep in the Sunday ABQ Journal profile on ABQ GOP congressional hopeful Darren White the Bernalillo County sheriff is asked what grade he would give President Bush. "White with some hesitancy said he would give the President "D." How about that? White, who has been loaded up with more Bush baggage than Paris Hilton on the Rivera, finally made a public comment that separated himself from the unpopular Prez. He chaired Bush's 2004 Bernalillo County campaign and Bush had a big fund-raiser for the sheriff earlier this year. The sheriff is a creature of the Mickey Barnett, Karl Rove, Pat Rogers and Pete Domenici/Steve Bell wing of the party which has held power for so long. But not much longer.

White has seemed torn by loyalty to those who created and financed him and a realization that he is going nowhere with Bush blocking his way. His hesitant and low-profile separation from the Prez may be his way of trying to have it both ways. It's hard to fault a political creature for being political, but his positioning seems more in tune with a future run for a Republican primary than it is for winning the independent ABQ congressional seat.

TV TALK

Dems in D.C. are saying that national R's have pulled more of their ad buy for White in the final week of the campaign. Earlier, they withdrew $500,000 from White and used it to protect incumbent House members who are threatened by the Dem tide. White did pick up $244,000 from a state party committee to help finance his final TV days.

MORE ABQ CD


The Journal spent little time in their profiles on the brouhaha over Heinrich's status as a "lobbyist" or "advocate" when the former city councilor did enviro work, or on his oversight in not registering his small consulting business. We haven't either, seeing the issues as a tempest in a teapot. Both Heinrich and White get high grades for integrity. Both have made minor errors along the way, but both are working class family men.

The redeeming attribute that White and Heinrich share in this moment in time is that they are not from the rarefied world of the very wealthy, when it has been the abuse of wealth that has created the economic calamity we are dealing with. We need some overseers who see things from the ground level. Both of these men do.

PEARCE VS. UDALL

Our US Senate race as seen through the eyes of NPR with our two cents worth as well. And, the Las Cruces Sun-News says, sorry, Steve. This time it's Tom. But they didn't say anything about Governor in 2010. What do you think, Steve?

The Senate hopefuls had their second TV debate Saturday night. Video posted at KRQE-TV.

PEGGY AND SARAH
Peggy Noonan
Attention young lefties and righties. It's OK to disagree with your crowd on occasion. The best do, and some of the best stuff this cycle is coming from conservative Peggy Noonan. Her latest is on Sarah Palin. Writes Noonan: "She is a person of great ambition, but the question remains: What is the purpose of the ambition? She wants to rise, but what for?"

Peggy is nailing this election with just the right tone. Kinda like Dean and Ella doing Gershwin.

Meantime, Palin set down a couple of hours late in Roswell Sunday afternoon. Here's a photo gallery of her NM visit. The NM AP's Tim Korte says there was a crowd of 10,000. Hank Williams, Jr. was also on hand to rally the GOP base. He sang the national anthem and a ditty bashing the "liberal media." Here's Korte's report. What's that? You want complete video, too? Here you go. How about Pete Domenici, back on the stump for a final time after 42 years? The Old Man can still fire them up. Hank, Jr, Pete and Sarah on a Sunday afternoon in Roswell. Oh, man. Are we having any fun yet?

JOE THE PLUMBER....

Santa Fe style with artistic gadfly Jim Terr.

HILLARY TO THE SOUTH

She's already done Espanola for the Obama campaign. Now they're sending Hillary south in search of votes. The campaign says: "On Saturday, October 25, Hillary Clinton will host a Change We Need rally in Southern New Mexico." No city selected yet, but Clinton outscored Obama in rural NM and took a narrow Feb. prez primary caucus win. Of the three congressional districts Obama is the weakest in the south. Also, don't forget that congressional seat. The better the Dems can do at the top of the ticket, the better for Dem Harry Teague to garner a historic US House win.

LET'S DRINK TO THAT

A 45 year old ABQ woman apparently could not bring herself to vote for the motley crew of politicos on the 2008 New Mexico ballot without first altering her state of consciousness. She took a bottle of vodka with her to an early ABQ voting location, cast her ballot and then passed out in front of the voting station. Back in the day, the politicos around here gathered the drunks off the bar stools and took them to the polls. They were easyy to spot. They were the only ones smiling as they waded through the ballot.

There are good reasons voters this year could use a stiff shot before exercising their civic duty. They include the federal corruption conviction of former State Senator Many Aragon; the political hiring of former Secretary of State Rebecca Vigil-Giron in a fake labor job while the state cuts millions from the budget; the hiring of the son of the President of the University of New Mexico into a made-up $94,000 a year job; a candidate for the Public Regulation Commission who pays off a county clerk in charge of the voting; a senior US Senator and a veteran congresswoman being investigated by a special Justice Department prosecutor for trying to politicize the US attorney's office; the submission of over 1,400 apparently fraudulent voter registration forms to the Bernalillo County clerk's office...

Well, we could go on, but suffice it to say if the county clerks start passing out miniature vodka bottles to entice Mr. and Mrs. New Mexico to cast their ballots, you can understand if we look the other way. By the way, the drunk lady's ballot will be counted. Now, if we only a had a copy of it to help us make up our mind....Viva La Politica!

Perspective, context, analysis and a bunch of fun. This is the place to be in the final stretch of Campaign '08. E-mail your news and comments.

(c)NM POLITICS WITH JOE MONAHAN 2008
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