Friday, February 08, 2008

Obama & Clinton Camps Seek Peaceful Vote Count; Agreement Reached, Plus: Backing Besieged Brian; Supporters Of Dem Chairman Speak Out 

New Mexico already has a national black eye so a sigh of relief greeted news from the insiders that the Obama and Clinton camps have come to an agreement on how to go about counting the over 17,000 provisional ballots still outstanding from Tuesday's Democratic Presidential caucus. We are told that both campaigns agree there must be a "liberal" interpretation of the votes, meaning unless they are obviously illegitimate, they should be counted. There is a laundry list of provisions in the vote-counting agreement. Dems will work hard to make sure the peace holds as it would be yet another PR disaster if the state and nation were subjected to a tug of war between the two leading White House contenders.

Not that it will be easy. The counting of the provisionals--votes cast because a voter showed up at the wrong polling location or because their name was not on the voter registration list--is tedious and time consuming. Tempers are bound to flare and disputes arise. As we blogged Thursday, our experts favor Hillary to take the title. The AP said she held a lead of 1,123 votes--68,654 votes compared with 67,531 for Obama. Every vote deserves to be counted.


(The following is continuing coverage and our third rewrite on the Mora story as more information is developed.)

Why so many provisionals? A combination of factors, say party officials, including voter registration lists that may not have been complete, people showing up who never were registered and voters turning up at the wrong location to vote. One wonders what happened in Mora County where there was only one voting location, but 391 provisional ballots were cast. None of those folks were on the voter registration list and had to be given provisionals? More than half the vote in Mora was cast as provisional votes.

Paula Garcia, chair of the Mora County Dems, e-mailed a news release Friday in response to our query. She said "because of problems with the roster of registered Democrats, 391 voters, an unusually high number, had to vote by provisional ballot. We did the best with the list provided us," She wrote.

Based on the Web site numbers, Mora is reporting a turnout of 40% of its 1,850 registered Dems. Neighborhing counties of Rio Arriba and San Miguel report much lower turnouts. Rio Arriba comes in at 23% and San Miguel also at 23%. Usually the turnout percentage in these counties is similar. Garcia says turnout would have been even higher if the weather had been warmer. Friday night Garcia emailed and said the calculation of the unusually high Dem voter turnout in Mora was the result of a clerical error; that the number of Democrats listed for Mora at the Secretary of State's Web site is incorrect.

"Notice also that there are 1424 (37%) listed as "other." I suspect that the problem with our voter registration list was that people registered as Democrats historically are for some reason recorded as "other" on the current list at the SOS. The number of Democrats should be more around 3000. The list we were provided for our caucus was missing many hundreds of names who should have been listed as Democrats.

If there are 3,000 Mora Democrats as Garcia says, then turnout would be a more normal 25%, not the spike to 40% that caught our eyes and others. There were a couple of northern counties with high turnout. Santa Fe came in with a 43% turnout and Los Alamos at 48% of registered Dems. Both of those counties were worked heavily by the Obama campaign and he carried them. In the preliminary count, Obama lost Mora County to Hillary 221 to 134, with the provisionals remaining to be counted. Why there are so many voters listed as belong to "other" parties for Mora County and not included in the Democrat column could be caused by an incorrect report from the Mora County clerk or a data entry error at the Secretary of State's office.

NM Dem Party executive director Laura Sanchez said the party worked Thursday to beef up its voter registration base to make sure it includes all of the state's 533,000 Dems. The provisional ballots must be matched to that list before they can be counted.

Sanchez, operating under the gun in what has been the week from hell for her and Dem Party chair Brian Colòn, also had to take time to fend off rumors that she was resigning or being fired. "I am here and working and not leaving," she told me.

Also on Friday night the Rio Grande Sun posted a report on the Rio Arriba count which was called into question in some quarters when numbers for the county were not posted Election Night. The report explains the path the vote count took there and why there was so much confusion, but no evidence of hanky-panky.

What a maze through La Politica there is before these provisional ballots are counted.


The furor over the slow vote count and the long lines that developed on Caucus Day, especially in Rio Rancho, has the political mob calling for a head to roll. Friends of Colòn responded to our e-mail box Thursday after we published furious reaction to his leadership of the caucus. Here is a sample.

Santa Fe attorney Geno Zamora:

Brian is an active and committed Democrat who is a good soldier for our party, I commend him for not shirking responsibility. Brian has sacrificed personal income and considerable family time to serve our state-sacrifices that few are willing to make... I support him and anyone that demonstrates such dedication to furthering Democratic ideals..."

Dem David Daily:

...It was the responsibility of the individual county party officials to make the determination of how their county's caucus would run. Let's not forget that this effort was conducted by volunteers and that the greatest majority of the sites ran smoothly and efficiently. I find it despicable that Brian is being used as a scapegoat

Hilary Noskin:

There are a lot of people spitting out blame, but maybe some of those people should volunteer to be part of a solution instead of just whining…

Thomas Rymsza ward 30A chair, ABQ:

We processed almost 1200 voters in seven hours. We also processed 138 provisional ballots. I had a great team of volunteers, and the mood at our location was very upbeat and positive...I will be a vocal supporter of doing away with this caucus process at the next State Central Committee meeting. It is a ton of work to lay on volunteers, and results in an embarrassing portrayal of our party and state.


Governor Richardson said Thursday there should be a reassessment of whether NM should continue to hold a presidential caucus in early February so it can have more influence in the Dem presidential nominating process, or return to the traditional June primary. He has disavowed any responsibility for his party's fiasco this week, but everyone isn't cutting him slack.

Anonymous: In 2004, the caucus had the full strength of the Gov. In 2008, it was an afterthought. A caucus--run correctly--comes with about a $300K price tag. I cannot see anyone-short of the big guy raising that kind of dough in such a short period of time, especially in a state where donors have already been sucked dry...

Counting the provisionals may take up to a week. The deadline to certify is Feb. 15. In the delegate count, the AP says: Clinton and Obama are vying for 26 of New Mexico's 38 delegates to the Democratic National Convention. Twelve so-called super delegates are not bound by caucus results." The wire service says Clinton has 13 NM delegates and Obama has 12 from Tuesday's caucus. We had earlier blogged that the statewide Prez winner would be awarded nine delegates. That is not the case. Of those nine, six are doled out according to the percentage of votes each candidate receives statewide. The other three are selected by the party's State Central Committee. Republicans are much more into winner take all, and after dealing with the Dems byzantine selection process, I can see why.


From Jake Arnold in Rio Arriba County on our description of State Sen. Richard Martinez as a nephew of legendary county political boss Emilio Naranjo:

Joe, Check your genealogy re: state Sen. Richard Martinez being Emilio Naranjo's nephew. Or do you know something that we up here in Rio Arriba don't know? You may be thinking of Rio Arriba county Magistrate Judge Alex Naranjo or lobbyist Nick Naranjo (brother of Alex)--they are Emilio's nephews. Sen. Martinez and the Naranjo boys are, or course, honchos in the faction that inherited remnants of the old Emilio organization..."

Do I know something Rio Arriba doesn't know? Jake, you Alligators in in Rio Arriba have forgotten more politics than I've ever learned.

Your e-mailed news and comments are welcome. This is the home of New Mexico politics.

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Thursday, February 07, 2008

Hill Closes In On Kill: She's Up A Thousand; Experts Say It Is Likely Hers, Plus: Election Mishap; Guv Runs For Cover: Readers Rage; Colòn Scorched 

Is NM Hers?
The NM Democratic Prez race remains as a tight as the rusted lug nuts on a '55 Chevy, but with late results posted from Rio Arriba County it appears Hillary Clinton has an excellent chance of taking the state. As of 12:30 p.m. Thursday and with all 184 precincts reporting, Clinton leads Obama by 1,066 votes--67,011 to 65,945, according to results on the state Democratic Party's Web site. Also, 17,000 "provisional" ballots remain to be counted. At first it appeared those provisionals would enable Barack to win, but Hillary appeard tp pick up hundreds of votes from those delayed Rio Arriba boxes. The experts say the math for Obama is now daunting.

If we suppose (generously) that 75% of the provisional ballots are allowed, that would mean 12,750 fresh votes to count. To catch Hillary Obama would have to win those provisionals by over 54%. My experts say that is not likely. They point out that 3,937 of the provisionals come from the southern Second Congressional District where Hill pulled nearly 50% of the vote Election Night. Barack received just 36% there. If, as we expect, the southern provisional ballots favor Hillary, Barack would have to do even better than 54% in the provisional ballots in the north and the ABQ area. That is highly unlikely. So Hill can put the Champagne on ice and get the corkscrew ready, but this being the land of surprises as well as the Land of Enchantment, she is advised to not start the celebration too early. It will take several days to count the provisional ballots.


Our experts also called the tight 2006 Madrid-Wilson race before the provisional ballots were counted, but that didn't stop a daily media frenzy on the vote count. We may get another frenzy on this one, but it is important to understand the big advantage Clinton now has as we watch events unfold. The possibility of a data entry or other counting error could, of course, throw the race back into serious question.

Not that the Obama camp is that concerned. Our initial and exclusive projection that he would carry the Northern and ABQ Congressional districts has held. He won them both. Hillary gets the Southern District. There are a total 26 pledged delegates. She will come out on top in the battle for the 17 delegates based on congressional district performance. It appears she will get nine of them and Barack eight. All told, the AP has these totals so far: 13 for Hillary and 12 for Obama. We await official word from the party. Twelve NM "Super Delegates" go to the nominating convention unpledged. The Obama camp says it has made its point by running strongly in a Western state with a large Hispanic population. Exit polls showed Obama making slight inroads with Hispanics, but Hillary dominated.

As for the counting, that is being supervised by an accounting firm hired by the Dem Party--REDW--and watched by attorneys for the Obama and Clinton camps. Former NM Dem Party Chair John Wertheim and former NM US Attorney John Kelly are counsel for Clinton. Among those helping Obama is Santa Fe attorney and former Clinton supporter John Pound. Insiders report all sides were cordial at a Wednesday meeting where ground rules for counting the provisional ballots were discussed.

What was decidedly not cordial the day after was the treatment of NM Dem Party Chair Brian Colòn. His fellow Dems, including his patron, Governor Richardson, turned on the chairman with a vengeance as the public relations disaster caused by the maladministered caucus spread. This being the Wild West, reaction to the snafus was so fierce we expected to see Brian hung in effigy in ABQ's Old Town Plaza or hung from a big oak tree in Silver City.

"I take responsibility and I apologize," Colòn said in a late night phone call as he left the REDW offices. "But I want the public to know this is a volunteer effort and they did a tremendous job."

Colòn admitted there was incompetence in the election, especially when he sanctioned just one polling place for the entire city of Rio Rancho. That caused extremely long lines and cost some Dems their right to vote. However, he dismissed suspicions of fraud that popped up when those three Rio Arriba County precincts were not reporting. He said officials there did call in the results Election Night, but the results did not include all the candidates. The party decided to hold out on posting them until all the results were in. "We have a full accounting of each vote." He said.

Rio Arriba has a storied station in NM election lore, especially from the 1950's through the 70's when Emilio Naranjo was vitrually unchallenged as Dem Party boss there. On Wednesday State Senator Richard Martinez was heard to say something to the effect that no one has to worry about the Rio Arriba count because he was calling 91 year old Emilio to make sure everything was done just right. That was funny to some; depressing to others.


Among the 17,000 provisional votes cast Tuesday is a bunch from New Mexico's legislators. A Santa Fe Gatorette informs:

"Legislators who didn't think about voting absentee were allowed to vote provisionally at the Gromley Elementary School. The session was adjourned for a bit in the early afternoon so they could vote. Many walked the two blocks and arrived en masse to vote.."

Said one wag: "The lobbyists passed sixteen bills while the lawmakers were gone, and no one noticed."


One of the odder spectacles of the day after was seeing Big Bill running so fast for cover that he could beat a roadrunner to the state line. He pointed to the caucus problems and said, "Don't point at me."

"I am deeply disturbed by the reports that problems...may have kept people from voting. As this very close election shows every vote is important, and every vote must count...The delay in results was extremely disappointing. I have expressed my frustration to Chairman Brian Colon and I told him that I stand ready to help the party in any way that I can.”

Now, here is the money graph from the Guv's release:

In 2004 Governor Richardson--through his personal efforts and those of his organization--ensured a successful first caucus--well organized, well funded, well-executed. This year, his political organization was devoted to his Presidential run and his personal time is now devoted to the Legislature. The New Mexico Democratic Party and New Mexico Democrats were wholly responsible for this caucus in the absence of the Governor’s time and his organization. Despite their best efforts, the enormous turnout overwhelmed Party officials in some places."

Well, a Big Bill can run, but he can't hide. The Democratic Alligators came out in force after that apologia hit the wires. Several asked why Richardson had not insured that the party had more money for the caucus. They said he has up to $1 million left from his run for governor--money that could have been used to help the party of which he is the titular head.

They also scored him for his national TV appearances on caucus night. They said he was cracking jokes about his new beard while the state was being mocked for its inability to count its votes. And the Gators took another bite, saying Big Bill had his political operative at Dem headquarters feeding him the latest numbers so he could be the first to call Obama or Clinton to congratulate them on their victory.

Bill is the state's symbol to the nation. When the nation's eyes are on us, they are on him.
In his post-presidential phase, the Guv has relaxed his grip on the reins. It is showing.


Colòn begged off any comment about the Guv. He knows as chairman he is going to take the fall no matter what. And what a fall it is. Check out the blog e-mail.

Anonymous: Colón is dead meat. He will never live down this fiasco.

From Rio Rancho, Joe Barela weighed in: I cannot accept the answer from the Democratic Party officials that they did not anticipate the voter turnout. Even if they did not, that is still not an excuse to be organized. We need to call this for what it really is: Incompetent Leadership from the Democratic Party...These Democratic officials should really be ashamed of themselves. Heads need to roll if they expect to win in November.

Michael Folsom was a site manager at one of the polling locations.

Folks in Bernallilo County are spitting fire. To save money they under printed ballots by at least 50%... I had 1100 ballots and was out by 3 pm. I had been begging for more ballots and got no response so I started tearing up sheets of paper and handed them out for folks to vote on. We tried to get Brian Colon to say it was OK or not and he froze...To say that the state party was useless is a grand understatement. The shine is definitely off Colon. You can expect a quick move to get rid of the causes at the March state convention. If someone wants to take a run at Colon, they have my support.

From Anthony DeMarco:

What's the deal with the chaos in today's voting? Who was running the show? I waited for two hours. People weren't on the list, there were too few staff and the whole thing was a disaster. If you ask me it was a piss poor job of organization, no matter how surprised they were by the turnout.

Anonymous e-mailers: Colón's political ambitions went up in smoke last night. He is done and gone and would not even win re-election as party chair.

I recall hearing when Colon took over as chairman that he intended to use it as a springboard for a gubernatorial run some day. Guess this caucus kinda screws the pooch, eh?

Larry Anderson in Roswell:

Turnout looks good. Management is horrible! Criss-crossing lines, mixed up lines, changes being made on the fly. A few people have left. One man leaving said, "worse election mess I've ever been in." They finally decided to set up lines alphabetically. Why didn't anyone think of this ahead of time?

Carolyn Christopher of ABQ let it all hang out

The polls didn't open until noon. Why? The news has been full of stories of how many more people were going to vote. So you cut off 5 HOURS of voting time? I've never voted at Cleveland Middle School. The Dem Powers That Be combined numerous precincts into just that one. Then we saw just three voting booths! That was it...I went to one of the booths and there were no pens! The poll worker was shouting, "Who took my pens? I had 20 pens!" It took 60 minutes to mark ONE BOX on my ballot! I should mention that I have a steel knee, titanium toes, and am 70 years old.

A steel knee and titanium toes? Now if Carolyn's missive wouldn't win the Hour of Rage award from KKOB's Jim Villanucci, what would?

Despite the misgivings over Colòn, he is expected to remain as Chairman. Few want the thankless job.

Not just Chairman Brian was dinged. The executive director of the party, Laura Sanchez, was scorched by the searing fire of La Politica. Friends of Art Terrazas, Jr. of Dona Ana County, who competed with Sanchez for the ED position last year, were heard crowing that the election nightmare would not have occurred if only young Art had been given the job. Look out, Laura.


Updated figures show 153,000 Dems casting ballots Tuesday. That will go down when a good chunk of the provisional ballots are disqualified. Assume we end up with 148,000. That would be a 41% increase in turnout over the 2004 caucus and a nearly 28% turnout among the 533,000 registered Dems. If there wasn't all the election chaos, that would be the big story---an energized Democratic party ready to come out in big numbers in November. I know that is the story NM GOP Chairman Allen Weh is watching.


We liked the NM exit poll info, but Brian Borchers of Socorro came up with the same stuff just by listening in on Election Day.

From the mumbling that I heard today, the split was very much class/race based--the lower income Hispanic votes were coming out to vote for Clinton, while the Anglos associated with New Mexico Tech were voting strong for Obama.

Brian, give CNN a call. They may want you in November.


We posted the wrong percentages for Obama and Clinton when we posted the blog around 3:30 a.m. Tuesday, and it did not go unnoticed. The Santa Fe Reporter's Julia Goldberg quipped: "Do you have your percentages backward here...or am I just sleep deprived?" No Julia. It was I who was sleep deprived. Even the Starbucks was failing at that hour.

Captain Johnny F. Luévano of the United States Marine Corps, DFAS-Kansas City, made the official correction. "You said 65,845 votes, or 42.97 percent, while Obama had 65,728 votes, or 45.89 percent? Probably should be 42.89 percent..Semper Fi."

Right back at you, Captain. And thanks for making us part of your day...

Finally, an Alligator pin goes to Ellen Wedum who answered our inquiry and reminded us that Carlos Provencio of Silver City is a declared candidate for the 2010 Dem Guv nomination as is Light Guv Diane Denish.

E-mail it in, folks. This is ground zero for New Mexico politics 2008.

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Wednesday, February 06, 2008

New Mexico Gridlock: Prez Race Tied; Vote Count Goes On; Chaos At Polls Has Fingers Pointing; Obama Takes Northern CD; Hill Rules South; Big Turnout 

The 2008 New Mexico Democratic presidential caucus crackled like a hickory fire as the vote count in the state's latest cliffhanger went into the wee morning hours. Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton fought to a standstill. In the end, she took to bed a 117 vote lead that looked shakier than cafeteria Jell-O. With 98 percent of precincts reporting, Clinton held 65,845 votes while Obama had 65,728 votes. The rest of the vote went to uncommitted or candidates that had dropped out.

This one is going to overtime, with some 17,000 "provisional" votes having the final word on who is our winner. Counting the provisionals at state Dem headquarters is expected to last all of today, if not longer. Many of those provisionals--cast by persons who did not know their proper voting location or who were not eligible to vote--will be disqualified. Perhaps half of them--around 8,000--will end up as qualified ballots, and it appeared because many of them came from Santa Fe and Bernalillo counties, Obama could eke out the victory. (County results here.)

While the big prize was still in the undecided column in the we morning hours, there was reason for Hill and Barack to celebrate--especially the Illinois senator. How about his win in the Northern congressional district? That was the upset of the night as a powerful snow storm discouraged turnout in the heavily Hispanic and pro-Hillary region. Meantime, voter participation went off the charts in Los Alamos County with well over 40% of the registered Democrats there trekking to the polls. They gave Obama 57% of their votes and a 464 vote margin over Hill. If Barack makes it to the White House cutting that Lab budget may be a lot harder to do because of last night.


There was a collective gasp when news came that Obama blew the doors off in Santa Fe County, scoring a huge 4,000 vote win over Hillary. It really got him in the game as he had been trailing all night as the rural south and east reported in for Hillary. Obama held a rally in Santa Fe just days before the election and Senator Kennedy visited there on his behalf. Bill Clinton was there, but held a private fundraiser, not a public event. Taos County joined Los Alamos and Santa Fe in putting Obama over the top in the Third District.

Obama appeared to carry Bernalillo County by a couple of thousand votes to also take the ABQ congressional district. He lost rural Torrance County. Hillary will have to come back big in the provisional ballots to spoil it for him.

The senator looked like a real city slicker, losing just about every county in the mostly conservative Second District. His performance was incredibly narrow in a geographic sense. He picked up the lion's share of his support in Bernalillo, Santa Fe and the aforementioned Los Alamos. He carried them all. Hillary owned much of the state, but voter turnout was lightest in her strongest areas. Obama also ceded to Hillary Dona Ana, Grant and Eddy--the southern counties with a tinge of liberal Dems.

The Clintonistas were confident they would win that 2nd CD contest and it was affirmed when the exit polls hit early in the evening. Twenty-six of NM's 38 national Dem convention delegates will be divided among Obama and Clinton based on their congressional district performances and their statewide standing. Nine delegates go to the eventual statewide winner.

Exit polls showed Obama slowing Hillary among Hispanics. She fell below 60% with younger Hispanics.


Oh, what could have been, moaned several Clinton supporters as they mourned the decision by Governor Bill not to give Hillary an official endorsement. Perhaps he knew we were in for a squeaker and did not want to take a chance. But if Hillary goes on to lose New Mexico, you can bet her operatives will point a finger of blame Bill's way. His endorsement would likely have pushed just enough state workers into Hillary's camp for her to take the title.


Chair Colòn
Party officials said 142,739 Dems showed up for the caucus, an astounding number that took them by surprise and wreaked havoc on the process, especially in Rio Rancho. Party Chair Brian Colòn was the subject of universal scorn for only putting one voting place in the entire city of Rio Rancho. Soon it was overflowing with disgruntled voters and TV cameras recording the chaos. Some people had to wait three hours to vote. Many gave up. The chairman could do nothing but accept the blame and concede "an error in judgment." It's one he won't live down for a while. The party would not release any results until all Rio Rancho voters had cast their ballots.

Some analysts said the party appeared to be trying to save money by not printing up more ballots and opening more polling locations. But the NM caucus was going to be a sleeper until Big Bill abandoned his presidential bid and the game was on here. Turnout was nearly 27% of the 533,000 registered Dems, a 33% increase over the 2004 turnout. Colòn could at least point to an energized party posing a danger to the Republicans as he tried his best to fend off critics over the many Election Day snafus that popped up.


Three Rio Arriba County precinct boxes remain with the chairman of the county Dem party who said they were having controversy over counting them and they would be taken to ABQ and the job done there. Those votes are likely to give Hillary a boost. Don't you think having three boxes full of votes spending the night in Rio Arriba was making the Obama camp nervous? If anything happens, it will make for another great NM election story for your grandkids.


The big picture from Tuesday continues to be the energized Democratic Party that is on the warpath against President Bush. The party may have evenly divided its votes, but they remain united in their disdain for the incumbent Prez. That poses a challenge for NM R's who may have hd a few belly laughs over the problems Dems had administering the election, but sobered up when they realized just how many Dems made it to the polls.

Thanks to Steve Cabiedes, Michael Brasher, Harry Pavlides, Peter St. Cyr and Mark Bralley for Election Night help. And all of you who emailed in your info.

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  • RUNNING TOTAL---Obama---65,728--42.89% to Hillary--42.97%--65,845--as of 1:16 a.m. 181 of 184 NM polling locations now reporting. What a race! There are over 16,000 provisional ballots that will have to be counted to settle this thing. That counting will commence at 9 a.m. Obama has carried Santa Fe County by about 4,000 votes. He took the 3rd CD as the exit polls suggested and he appears to have won the ABQ CD as well. Hillary won the southern congressional district.
  • Rio Rancho logjam slows vote count. Only one place to vote for all the Dems in the city. They stood in line until well after 8 p.m. Party says it was "error in judgement."
  • NM Dem Web counting site
Hillary narrowly carried the NM absentee vote--1643 for Hill; 1586 for Barack; 645 for Edwards. Exit polling says Obama carried two of NM's three congressional districts--ABQ and the North. The polling says Hillary carried the Southern district. As for the overall statewide vote, the exit poll indicates a narrow Obama victory. We are awaiting actual returns to confirm these exit poll trends released by the major networks tonight. That northern congressional district needs to be watched for actual vote totals as Clinton was expected to carry the region. A sever winter storm could have dampened turnout there. We shall see. Hidalgo and Curry County results have been posted on the party's Web site. Check there for continued updates. Hillary won both counties. Los Alamos County went for Obama 57% to Hill's 36%. Hillary carried Mora county. Voters were still in line at 7 p.m. We will have a total of 184 precincts to count.

The exit poll of 905 voters has Obama holding Hillary's Hispanic vote below 60% among younger Hispanics. For example, he scored 43% among Hispanics aged 30 to 45.

Dem officials say party rules dictate that official results be held until all voters in Rio Rancho cast ballots. Rio Rancho

Take a look at that exit poll I linked to at the top of the page. It has a treasure trove of demographic information on NM's voters.

Our spotters check in with reports of a strong turnout and some problems for the NM Dem Prez caucus, especially in Rio Rancho. In ABQ, Steve Cabiedes reported: "Turnout is heavy at Wilson Middle School in the SE Heights. It was also heavy at Montezuma Elementary not far from UNM. People were circling trying to find places to park. (Still going strong after 6 p.m.)

Lines were an issue at many locations. Our spotters say patience is required at many voting sites as the volunteer poll workers struggle to keep up. For example, long lines in Rio Rancho in Sandoval county slowed voting considerably. There were at least 1,500 people waiting to vote late today at Rio Rancho High, according to KRQE-TV which reported the school was the only Rio Rancho voting location. Some reports said the wait at Rio Rancho to vote was up to three hours.

Many locations ran out of paper ballots. That happened at Acoma Elementary in the ABQ NE Heights. Ballots were being brought in from state party headquarters. The paper ballots will be hand counted tonight and results phoned in to the party.

With the long lines in Rio Rancho, results could be delayed a while. Anyone who is in line at 7 p.m. will be allowed to vote. The election is run by the Democratic Party. The state has no role in today's election. Only Democrats can vote today. State Party Chairman Brian Colòn issued a statement calling the turnout "amazing." Obviously, the party was caught off guard in Rio Rancho by having only one voting location for all the precints there. That seems to be the major snafu of this Election Day.

At Hoover Middle School in the NE Heights about 100 Democrats were lining up to vote at 1:30 p.m. which is notable because that is past the lunch hour when voting could be expected to be heavy. In ABQ's downtown area, Wells Park Community Center was heavy as polls opened. Our spotter said over 100 people voted there in the first hour of balloting. The ABQ Trib reported about 35 people were lined up to vote at Apache Elementary in the far NE Heights when polls opened.

From another of our blog spotters who voted at Monte Vista Christian Church near Monte Vista and Campus in NE ABQ: "It took us 40 minutes to get through the line even with four lines to check folks in. Since it only takes 30 seconds to vote, I'd say lots of votes are being cast.

From Hobbs, in SE NM, we get this report: "It is a good turnout here in Hobbs. Over 300 people so far at my polling place..." We also are hearing of good turnout in Roswell and Deming.

Observers told me network news exit pollsters were spotted here, so we should have some good NM demographic information on who voted in NM today.

In Santa Fe, voting is heavy at the Santa Fe Fairgrounds. Nash Garcia reports: "At the Fairgrounds it took 40 minutes from time of entrance to time of vote completion. Arrived at 12:25 and departed at 1:05." More on Santa Fe voting here

In Tesuque at a location where five precincts voted, about 350 cast ballots in the first two hours--another good turnout.

We are also getting reports of quite a few people showing up to vote who are not listed on the Dem registration rosters. They are being given provisional ballots. Those ballots will not be counted today, but will be on Wednesday.

Initial signs point to a solid turnout in ABQ. There are 184 voting locations around the state, fewer than in a regular election. Also, polling hours were restricted, adding to the crunch at the polls. Some of the problem may be blamed on the party not budgeting enough money for the caucus. But since Governor Richardson was running, our caucus was expected to be a low-key affair. But that all changed when he dropped out and the Obama-Clinton battle became so intense.

Democratic consultant Harry Pavlides said based on today's reports he projects a total voter turnout in excess of 125,000. He had it right on caucus day 2004. The state party said it prepared 150,000 ballots and the party chairman said tonight voter turnout could approach that number.

The polls opened at noon and close at 7 p.m. We'll keep you posted with our live blogging. We will wrap the NM action here and tonight on National Public Radio heard in ABQ/Santa Fe on KANW 89.1 FM.

Email your voting day news.

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Tuesday, February 05, 2008

A Super Surprise Today? Clinton Fights A Surging Obama As NM Prez Caucus Day Arrives; Complete Coverage & Analysis, Plus: Live Blog Results Tonight 

We're going to miss this campaign, and we haven't been able to say that in the past 20 years. You don't know how weary you are of thirty second attack ads until you spend two weeks in the middle of a presidential campaign and don't see any. And what happened to those anonymous phone calls and scary color mail pieces? Maybe we're giving the Obama and Clinton campaigns too much credit. They really didn't have time to go negative since they only had a couple of weeks to campaign here. Whatever the reason, we liked what we saw and we hope we see more of it. Now, to the Election Day action.

There are about 533,000 registered New Mexico Dems eligible to vote in today's caucus. A 15% turnout would give us 80,000 voters and with the frenzy of activity here--visits by the candidates and their top surrogates--you gotta believe we will at least hit that number, if not surpass it. NM Dem Party Chairman Brian Colòn seemed to back away Monday from his earlier prediction that only 30,000 to 40,000 D's would turn out.

"Activity has been feverish," he told NM TV news dean Dick Knipfing on KRQE late Monday. Colòn remains skeptical that we will match the over 100,000 that showed up for the Prez caucus four years ago. The polls are open today from noon until 7 p.m. To find out where to vote, check here. If you need additional help call 1-800-624-2457.

One of our readers in state government reminds us:

"According to the State Personnel Office the attorney general decided that state workers are not allowed voting time for the Dem caucus" because it is a political party election, not a state election.

Thanks state worker. You mean Big Bill has not blocked access to the blog from state computers? We really need to say something nice about his beard.


The Guv told CNN Monday that he didn't think his beard looked all that great, but the comely anchorwoman quickly responded that she thought it fit the Big Fella just fine. The Guv did not say who he is voting for in today's Prez caucus. He was courted heavily by Clinton and Obama but in the end held out from an official announcement, although having ex-Prez Clinton watch the Super Bowl with him Sunday sent a loud message. Bill said he could still make an endorsement following Super Tuesday, but seemed somewhat disinterested in the process. And why not? He campaigned for the White House for a year and has to be smarting from the rejection. He seems to be in no mood to bargain for a big government job. That could change, but he may need a good stretch of R&R before his ambitions are rekindled.


NM turnout could be dampened by the big winter storm that slapped much of the north Monday. Snow is rooftop high in way-up-north Chama and you have to wonder how high a priority voting is as folks dig themselves out. The consensus among my experts is that the northern weather is good news for Obama since Clinton is thought to be strong in heavily Hispanic and snowstorm ravaged Rio Arriba county. However, they still see Clinton turning in wins tonight in the Northern congressional district as well as the southern district. The ABQ district, they say, remains Barack's best shot at a NM win. Nine of the 26 delegates that will be handed out tonight go to the statewide winner. Obama may struggle to take the outright win, but when the campaign started he was seen losing here by double digits. The conventional wisdom now has him getting into single digits, and an outright upset is not out of the realm of possibility.


Perhaps sensing some leakage in her Hispanic support since the Obama endorsement by Senator Ted Kennedy and his NM visit, or just working to close the deal, the Clinton campaign Monday put up a final TV spot featuring the son of Robert F. Kennedy and the grandson of United Farm Workers legend Cèsar Chavez. It had been running heavily in L.A. It may not resonate as much here, but it could be enough to stanch any bleeding that has developed for Hill in the state's largest ethnic voting bloc.

A surging Obama also closed positive with a spot that positioned him as the candidate of the future and put on the screen his endorsements by the ABQ Journal and Santa Fe New Mexican. But the knock-your-socks-off spot came Super Bowl Sunday when Obama hit all Super Tuesday states with this post-partisan ditty. Whether you're Democrat or Republican, the polls say you are very likely dead tired of the Iraq war and the general national malaise. This spot was aimed squarely at that weariness and the young people who Obama hopes will help him turn the next page of American history.


With as many young people excited about this year's Dem contenders, the Election Night parties should be fun. Here is the details on Obama's ABQ and Santa Fe election bashes. Hillary's camp will throw a party at Garduno's on the Green in NE ABQ starting at 8 p.m. Both campaigns will have the troops out today waving signs from street corners urging commuters to visit the polls. I remember back in 1980 when I was working for ABQ GOP Congressman Manuel Lujan and Bill Richardson used that sign-waving tactic. It had never been done before here and scared the hell out of us. Now it is part of Campaign 101.

We'll live blog Super Tuesday results tonight and also report for National Public Radio, so be sure to visit us again for the very latest.


The New Mexican's Kate Nash said recently that this was one of the slowest legislative sessions in her memory. Observers say look for the pace to pick up, but not necessarily the production. ABQ Dem State Senator Dede Feldman, one of the leading advocates for health care reform, has not thrown in the towel on getting a bill out of this thirty day session, but she did issue a warning on her blog:

"This kind of gridlock may be typical for this stage of any session, and I remain optimistic on that count, but I wouldn't be too surprised to start hearing calls for a special session from the fourth floor this week."

The Governor calling a special session to win a major health care overhaul in a year when all 112 members of the Legislature are up for election? Isn't that like expecting the Chicago Cubs to win the World Series?


Who is the guy from SW NM seeking the 2010 Dem nomination for Guv? We said Monday Diane Denish was unopposed, but I recall another candidate but their name evades me. Also, Di's camp thought our Monday blog implied she did not support limits on campaign expenditures. She does. And syndicated columnist Jay Miller wonders if ABQ politico Ted Martinez who went to the President Clinton rally with former NM Guv Dave Cargo isn't a Republican. We said he is a Dem. If you can help, pass it along to us or Jay who is covering his umpteenth legislative session. Also, we neglected to credit Las Cruces reporter Heath Haussamen for the info we passed on over the weekend about a prez poll conducted by a NMSU class.

Jessica Wolfe
Here is a pic sent in by newly minted ABQ Dem congressional candidate Jessica Wolfe. Contrary to what we implied last week, 28 year old Jessica does have political experience. The ABQ Tribune's Phil Casaus reports Jessica was chosen as prom queen at La Cueva High School. We can hear her Dem rivals, Rebecca Vigil-Giron and Michelle Lujan Grisham, purring in the background: "Isn't that special?" Welcome aboard, Jessica. The school of La Politica is in session.

E-mail your news and comments, and join us again later today for Super Tuesday coverage

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Monday, February 04, 2008

Goodbye Super Sunday, Hello Super Tuesday; NM Election Eve Scramble For Hill & Barack, Plus: Richardson's Prez Straddle, And: Di's Money Surprise 

The New Mexico presidential caucus campaign has been swinging like Count Basie and it isn't over yet. The Obama and Clinton campaigns today will keep the music playing. Michelle Obama puts in an Election Eve appearance in Las Cruces at 7:30 p.m. on the NMSU campus. Hillary will be back in "Town Hall" mode, putting a satellite signal into 22 "Super Duper Tuesday" cities including ABQ, where former NM first lady Clara Apodaca will host a gathering at the National Hispanic Cultural Center.

Both recent NM visits from the Dem heavyweights were highly successful. Obama's Friday sojourn to ABQ and Santa Fe and Hill's "Live From ABQ, It's Saturday Night!" love-in at Highland High drew impressive crowds. They charged up the Democratic Party faithful who will vote Tuesday from noon to 7 p.m. (Voter info here or at 1-800-624-2457.)

Neither campaign is predicting victory, but everyone knows a popular vote win by Obama here would be a huge upset. He has the momentum going into the final days, but Hill may have slowed it with her Saturday night shout-out.


If newspapers could vote, we wouldn't have to have an election. Obama has snared the endorsements of all the biggies. The ABQ Journal, largest of the dead trees, came for the Illinois senator. Earlier, the liberal ABQ Tribune did the same as did the Los Alamos Monitor. From a political perspective, the most important newspaper nod (if any of them are important) was for Obama from Santa Fe's New Mexican. That paper reaches the Northern counties where Obama must cut down on Hillary's lead among Hispanic voters.

Obama did not have much time to put his endorsements to work, but he had time enough to slap the New Mexican's logo on one of his NM TV ads, giving him a local touch that he needs. The Clintons are well-known and, at least in traditional Dem circles, well-liked.

People around here are so hungry for change, they'll chew the stamps off of a piece of campaign literature. Give them anyone or anything different and you got them. Both Obama and Hill are offering that change, so look for both to do well here. The statewide winner gets nine of the national convention delegates. The rest are divided up based on performance in each of the three congressional districts.


Is NM Dem Party Chairman Brian Colòn playing the expectations game by downplaying turnout for the Tuesday NM caucus? Could be. Colòn says only 30,000 to 40,000 Dems will cast ballots, compared to over 100,000 four years ago. There was more activity in '04, but Dem antipathy toward President Bush this year is so high it has been goosing Dem turnout in the early primaries. There's no reason to think it won't have the same effect here. A turnout as low as Colòn is predicting would be a bitter disappointment, but it would probably favor Obama whose supporters seem more intense than Hillary's. If turnout goes over Colòn's lowball prediction, look for him to spin it to benefit his and the party's leadership.

We're watching the weather report for Tuesday because if the snow comes down up North so will the vote totals. Northern snow also could help Obama as Hillary is favored among Hispanic voters. Right now the election forecast calls for some blustery weather and cold temps in Santa Fe. Never mind those robo calls and TV spots, watch the thermometer for the real turnout story.


On the subject of TV spots, have you noticed that there has not been any "negative" ads? Both Obama and Clinton have kept it on the high road. What a pleasant respite from the norm. We'd like to tell you it will last all year, but it won't.


Big Bill shared his Super Sunday with ex-President Clinton, quaffing, we presume, finely distilled beverages while watching the annual pigskin match-up that captivates the country. This party, the Guv's spinners insisted, was not an endorsement of Hillary. Then what was it? Well, the Obama camp didn't need a Navajo code talker to see that Bill was cuddling with the Clintons, and gobbling up 10 p.m. Sunday night news time.

But it will be Hill, not Bill, commanding the White House if things go her way, and as much as former Prez Bill would like to have the boys over for Tuesday night West Wing poker parties, it ain't gonna happen. So our Big Bill has an in with the Really Big Bill. That's nice, but it's the chill with Hill that needs to be deiced. So why not throw her a pass on Super Sunday, rather than staying on the sidelines and pretending to root for both teams? We have a feeling that if Hill takes the Prez prize she's going to go first to those who actually got in the game. Maybe that will happen with our Bill before the voting starts, but the game clock is ticking down.


While Big Bill tries to straddle the fence, or have a Clinton talk him down, New Mexico's #2, Light Guv Diane Denish, is all in for Hillary. If Hill loses the battle, Di takes a dive, but if she wins, there will be a nice payout and maybe even some extra pork barrel projects around here.

Denish is also all in for the 2010 Dem nomination for Guv. Since she sat on a Governor Richardson ethics task force that has called for numerous reforms to clean up state politics, she has decided to regularly report her campaign contributions to avoid the hypocrite label. She has done that, but a perusal of her latest report contains some eyebrow raising material. Denish accepted $7500 in campaign money from tobacco companies Altria (parent company of Phillip Morris) and RJ Reynolds. This, from the Light Guv who has made universal health care and child health care centerpieces of her political platform. Lady Di is currently unopposed for the nomination, but that tobacco money could create some political smoke for her.

Denish reported she now has raised nearly $1.4 million after taking in $284,000 in the final three months of '07. Di is scarfing up huge money from oil interests in her hometown of Hobbs. The SE NM community has been in a raging bull market as oil prices stay higher than the treetops. Denish took in $5,000 a piece from Lucky Services and Lucky Tool Rental. And that is just the tip of the drilling bit.

One of her biggest contributions came from the CR Property Fund of San Francisco which kicked in $15,000. The Guv's ethics task force has called for limiting campaign contributions and a bill is pending before the Legislature. While Denish is fine with giving up who is giving her money, she is not willing to slap a limit on how large a check she will take. Nor are many other politicos, so don't look for a limit law anytime soon.


Believe me, we were not involved in a conspiracy to conceal former NM GOP Governor Dave Cargo's identity in a Bralley photo we ran Friday. It pictured Dave in the background with ex-President Clinton at Johnson Gym at UNM Thursday and we received a bunch of e-mail about it. I dialed up Dave who told me he is not supporting Hillary's prexy bid, but went to see Clinton at the invitation of some Dem friends, including ABQ politico Ted Martinez. By the way, Cargo now says he is not endorsing Steve Pearce for the GOP Senate nomination even though he introduced the southern NM congressman at his announcement event in October. Cargo says Heather Wilson, Pearce's rival for the GOP nod, is mad at him for helping Pearce, but he isn't endorsing her either. Now you know why they call him "Lonesome Dave."


Some clean-up from our Friday monster blog. Radio ads cut by Light Guv Denish and paid for by her PAC, do not endorse a candidate in the Tuesday caucus, but encourage turnout. We initially said they urged a vote for Hillary...Glen Bolger of Public Opinion Strategies (POS) in Alexandria, VA. e-mails in that the Alligator who provided details Friday on that US GOP Senate poll was off on one detail. "We tested the Summit Group's capabilities once two years ago and have not used them since. We are NOT a client of the Summit Group." The author of the poll is still unknown to us, but we are told it was commissioned by the NM GOP. It showed Pearce leading by five points--38% to Wilson's 33%.

Finally, the cool photo we ran Friday of six year old Megan Montoya getting the attention of ex-Prez Clinton showed Megan's grandmother Liz. We identified Liz as the mother of Megan and wife of biz consultant David Montoya. As we said, Liz is Megan's grandmother and Montoya's mother. The family e-mailed in that they laughed a good part of the day over that one. We cringed.

E-mail your news and comments and help keep the politics coming. Also, if you want to be on my new e-mail list, drop me a note.

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Sunday, February 03, 2008

Hillary In ABQ Draws 3000; Big Bill To Watch Super Bowl With Bill Clinton, Also: Obama Video; Michelle Obama To Cruces; NMSU Students Do Prez Poll 

Hillary at Highland High
The political news is fast breaking and never ending in this historic election year. Hillary Clinton drew what the AP called "a rowdy crowd" of 3,000 to ABQ's Highland High School Saturday night and not everyone could get in. Here is video of Hill's ABQ appearance. Her visit follows on the heels of the Obama visit which took place at the Kiva Auditorium Friday in ABQ. Here is video of the Obama appearance. The NM Dem caucus is Tuesday. Voter info is here.

KKOB-AM reporter Peter St. Cyr was on the scene.

" More than 3,000 people patiently waited at Highland High for the candidate who appeared over an hour late. Former San Antonio Mayor and Clinton cabinet secretary Henry Cisneros warmed up the crowd. They were delighted when Chelsea Clinton appeared on stage with her mother. Moments after beginning her speech, a woman fainted on stage, but was fine after having a bottle of water. At least two of the state's "Super Delegates" were on stage with Clinton, Lt. Governor Diane Denish and Mayor Martin Chavez. Clinton asked the crowd for their support. She said "if you are ready for change, I'm ready to lead, so let's go make history together. "

Obama drew over 5,500 to his Santa Fe visit Friday night. And a similar number in Albuquerque.

Senator Obama's wife, Michelle, will campaign in Las Cruces Monday night. Details from the Las Cruces Sun-News.

There is no professional polling on the Dem NM Prez race, but a New Mexico State University class conducted a survey January 22 thru Janury 31 that gave Obama a six point lead over Hillary--48% to 42%, but the question lingered whether it had more enertainment than scientific value. You can download it here. Most of the professionals still think she has an edge going into Tuesday's balloting. We'll know soon enough.

The big Dem crowds for Obama and Hillary could presage a large turnout for Tuesday.


CNN reports Governor Richardson will watch the Super Bowl with former President Bill Clinton in Red River in northern NM. Richardson has not endorsed a Dem presidential candidate, but watching the big game with the ex-Prez might be a clue on who he backs. Don't you think? Insiders are saying that Richardson is not going to give a formal endorsement of

Stay tuned here through the weekend. We'll have the latest.

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