Wednesday, November 05, 2008
BERNALILLO COUNTY BLOWOUT LEADS TO HISTORIC VICTORY FOR NM DEMS; THEY SWEEP CONGRESS SEATS; OBAMA WINS; MORE D'S TO SANTA FE
They had to dig deep to come up with adjectives to describe the Election Night blowout that occurred in New Mexico. Perhaps ABQ GOP State Rep. Larry Larranaga described the Democratic landslide best. "We got an old fashioned ass whopping," pronounced the shocked lawmaker as he bore witness to a sweep of the state's three US House seats, a US senate slot, the presidency and several legislative seats.
It was one for the ages, with numbers posted in Bernalillo County that left you wondering whether you would ever see the likes of them again. Tom Udall beat Steve Pearce by an astonishing 75,000 votes in the state's largest county, coming in with 63% of the vote. Statewide Pearce was landlsided 61% to 39% as Udall allowed Pearce to flex a minor muscle or two on his southern congressional district, but that was all,. It was over one minute at the polls closed, an ominous sign for the Republicans of the Tsunami wave that was about to sweep them away.
Dems partied mightily over the Senate victory as it means they will reclaim the seat held by Republican Pete Domenici since 1973, but their most satisfying win and the one they showcased for the 10 p.m. news audience was the historic win of Democrat Martin Heinrich for the ABQ congressional seat. After decades of heart breakers often led by high-profile candidates, it was the unheralded Heinrich, a former one term ABQ city councilor, who finally ended the GOP's 40 year old stranglehold on the seat.
What was supposed to be a cliffhanger quickly turned into a rout. When the early and absentee vote was released Heinrich took a nearly 30,000 vote lead in Bernalillo County. You could see the white flags go up at the ABQ Marriott where state Republicans gathered. Into the early morning hours Heinrich held to a 31,000 vote lead--161,551 to 130,101 with 55% of the vote to White's 45%. The champagne poured at the ABQ Convention Center where the Dems rejoiced, but the liquor turned to embalming fluid at the mournful gathering of R's.
It was the same margin in the southern US House seat where Hobbs oilman Harry Teague tied Republican Ed Tinsley in Teague's home county of Lea. When the numbers came in from heavy Republican Chaves county showing Tinsley only winning about 52 percent of the vote, my panel of experts at KANW 89.1. FM nearly fought with each other to call the race. That was at 7:40 p.m. It only took forty minutes from the time the polls closed to announce that the Democrats had taken back the district they last had 28 years ago.
The foregone conclusion known as the northern US House race went as predicted. Democrat Ben Ray Lujan took it in a landslide, garnering 56% of the vote to R Dan East's 30 percent. Lujan's night was shadowed a bit by a strong performance from independent Carol Miller. She was scoring an impressive 14% of the vote, denying Ben Ray the 60% that a Dem can usually rely on in the north.
Did we forget the presidency? Well, New Mexico was called by the networks for Obama not long after the Udall Senate victory. Obama overwhelmed McCain in big Bernalillo by a stunning 58,000 votes, winning it with nearly 60%. The jaw-dropping feat in the county that is home to the state's Republican Party was so sweeping it raised questions about the viability of the R's for the immediate future,. Everything was swept away. There is nothing left to rebuild. Obama is making them start all over. His statewide win was 57% to McCain's 42% with minor parties getting the other 4 percent. With 98 percent of the vote in, Obama was leading by 115,000 votes. Exit pollsshowed he carried the Hispanic vote 69 to 31 percent, and they appeared to have turned out in healthy numbers. R turnout had to drop. The independents came home in droves to Obama and the Dems. Anglo voters went with McCain.
A MOMENT IN TIME
When Obama was declared president-elect and took the stage in Chicago, tears welled in the eyes of Lenton Malry, who decades ago 's became New Mexico's first African-American state legislator. It was an emotional moment in our radio studios where Malry has spent the last 20 years of Election Nights. Volunteers and others at the station all stopped to witness Obama's and the nation's historic moment.
TSUNAMI ROLLS ON
And the Tsunami rolled on--into the halls of Santa Fe's fabled Roundhouse. It appeared ABQ GOP State Rep. Justine Fox-Young was drowned in the Dem tide. The political lungs of ABQ GOP Rep. Eric Youngberg were filled with deadly Dem water. GOP State Senator Steve Komadina could not escape the wave that rushed outward from Bernalillo County and into neighboring Sandoval County. Komadina's race with John Sapien was so close, there will be a recont to determine the winner. In the South the waters were deep indeed. State Senate Minority Whip Lee Rawson appeared to have been lost to the political seas, although there were still absentees to be counted. Even those who tried to surf the wave--a somewhat moderate R like ABQ GOP State Rep. Teresa Zanetti--was shown no mercy. She was pulled into the Obama whirlpool, her voice silenced by Dem Bill O'Neill. Two term GOP State Senator Diane Snyder was warned that the waters could find her first. They did. Dem Tim Eichenberg claimed her Senate seat early and swiftly.
The loss of the two Senate seats changed the balance of power from 24 Dems and 18 R's to 26 Dems and 16 R's, not counting the possible Rawson loss. "The fight for the leadership in the Senate is going to be completely dysfunctional. Who knows what will happen," offered a Santa Fe wall-leaner late in the evening. Majority Leader Michael Sanchez and President Pro Tem Jennings, who took a hit for doing a robocall for Rawson, could only wait for the waters to subside before deciding their moves. The state House appears to go to 45 D's and 25 R's.
There were no bright spots for the R's in what one of them called a "near extinction level event." Bernalillo County District Attorney Kari Brandenburg easily dispatched R Lisa Torraco who some thought might put up a fight, but Obama and Kari's own last-minute campaigning, made sure she didn't. Kari will do a third four year term.
Big Bill was a big winner. Obama won. Bill will likely be leaving the Guv's chair and joining the administration. Reliable insiders we trust say it will not be as Secretary of State. They say a meeting has been scheduled with Obama. A job will be settled on soon, if it hasn't been already.
State #2 Diane Denish is now more likely to become Governor. A constitutional amendment that would allow her to appoint a lieutenant governor to fill the vacancy created if she does become Guv easily passed last night. The line now forms outside her door.
Bernalillo County appeared to come close to our projected turnout of 295,000 voters, or about 75% of those registered. It appeared over 280,000 cast ballots, much of it prompted by the Dem early vote machine. Statewide, turnout appeared to come short of our 72 percent projection. It appears it came in at about 66%. But that was good for Obama and the Dems. Big Bernalillo met expectations and its influenced apparently exaggerated by a falling off in turnout in rural and Republican leaning NM.
DESTRUCTION: UTTER AND TOTAL
It is hard not to slip into hyperbole to describe the devastation wreaked on the NM GOP by this election. What was especially frightening were the overwhelming margins of the Dem victories. That is going to make it that much tougher to come back and reclaim the lost congressional and legislative seats in two years. The party will need new faces, new leadership and new ideas. Pete Domenici will not be around to do it; Heather Wilson is wounded and likely to take a job in Washington; Darren White was trounced so soundly a rematch with Heinrich is out of the question. Steve Pearce's severe thumping may impede him from any future political playing. We'll see. But for sure, the R's need a new and strong chairman, preferably with few ties to the current leadership. Let the jockeying begin.
WHAT NOW, DEMS?
NM Attorney General Gary King stopped by our studios late last night and wondered aloud about the thousands of new voters who came to the polls and created the tsunami that gave Dems huge margins of victory. "They want to see things get done--like universal healthcare--we Democrats are being asked to deliver. That is the expectation and if we don't, we could be the ones in trouble."
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(c)NM POLITICS WITH JOE MONAHAN 2008
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