Monday, April 07, 2008

Grisham Challenges Becky; Files Ballot Removal Suit, Plus: Teague TV; Does It Work? Also: Inside Hill's ABQ Visit, And: Even More On The Monday Blog 

John Wertheim
The final pivots and positioning continued into the weekend for Primary Campaign '08, leaving us with some additional prospects to ponder. Topping the list was the effort by supporters of ABQ Democratic US House hopeful Michelle Lujan Grisham to kick former NM Secretary of State Rebecca Vigil-Giron off the ballot. Former NM Dem Party Chair, attorney and Grisham supporter John Wertheim filed the district court action late Friday on behalf of three Grisham backers, the final day for challenging petition signatures. The suit claims not all of Becky's signatures are valid and that she comes up 100 short of the number needed to stay on the June 3 primary ballot.

It could be a defining lawsuit. If Grisham were to win it, her candidacy could have new life. Her fund-raising has been hampered because the political classes see her dividing the Hispanic vote with Vigil-Giron, leaving former ABQ City Councilor Martin Heinrich the clear leader. Albuquerque attorney Robert Pidcock is also running.

A court hearing will be held in the next week or so. If Grisham were to prevail, it could free up campaign funds for her, marking a new phase of the campaign. If not, Heinrich will breathe a major sigh of relief.

We're also getting word that Grisham is trying to get her name changed for the June ballot. Her voter registration lists her as Michelle L. Grisham, but she wants the ballot to read "Michelle Lujan Grisham for obvious reasons. The secretary of state normally lists candidates as they are registered.

One other Grisham note, The former Big Bill cabinet secretary has made a small TV buy for April ($2560) On KASA-TV, the ABQ Fox affiliate. That kind of money doesn't go too far, but it may get her bragging rights for being the first ABQ congressional candidate on the TV airwaves and charge up her supporters.


The TV time we told you that Harry Teague was buying starts today. The Southern Dem US House hopeful has made a substantial cable TV buy. He will also be up on KBIM out of Roswell which covers a big part of the sprawling district, and El Paso TV which covers Dona Ana County. Teague is expected to stay on the air through the primary. The former two term Lea County commissioner and well-off oilman from Hobbs unveiled two 30 second spots. The strongest is this bio spot.

Teagues's other spot positions him against the Iraq war, but emphasizing financial grounds. He says money being spent on Iraq could be used for health care and education.

Teague, 56, who came to NM from Oklahoma when he was nine, is a good ol' boy with appeal in cowboy country and the oil patch. He is not a renowned public speaker, so the ads wisely keep him from delivering the message. The more Teague sticks to who he is and what values he has, the stronger he'll probably be. The Iraq spot seems aimed at preventing Teague's sole rival, Dona Ana County Commissioner Bill McCamley, from building a head of steam on Dem hot-button issues. Most important, the spots, while perhaps not appealing to more conservative elements, do not lose votes for Teague.

Some analysts think he needs to start running to the right in the Southern district as soon as possible. R's have held the seat for nearly 30 years. But in the early going, it appears Teague will apparently be pleased to secure the Dem nomination and make the turn to the right following the June 3 primary.

Both spots are serviceable and will present a challenge to Teague rival McCamley. It appears Teague's TV will largely go unanswered for the month of April because of Teague's financial dominance. If so, Teague should begin to move and be the polling frontrunner by the time early voting begins in early May.


Late Sunday night Ben Ray Lujan circulated his first campaign ad of the season. The Dem candidate for the Northern Congressional seat joins Don Wiviott on the tube. Lujan's campaign did not say where they had bought or how much. You can see the ad here.


Now we take you to the far NE Heights ABQ home of former Ambassador Ed Romero where Sunday afternoon a fund-raiser was held for none other than Hillary Clinton. TV news informed that a crowd of several hundred showed. Tickets were going for either a Grand or $2300. Hill arrived shortly after 4:30 and stayed better than an hour. The national press that trails her cooled their heels across the street from Ed's spread, along with the local talent. They did get a photo op when the party ended. Hill stood at the entrance of the home chatting up Romero's family.

From the inside, we're told a reception line was formed and the dollar donors shook Hill's hand with many getting photos. She then milled about to the background sounds of guitar players strumming Mexican tunes. Johny Cope of Hobbs, one of her state fund-raising co-chairs, along with Romero, introduced the still hopeful Dem prez candidate on the patio of the Romero casa. Many of the NM Dem superdelegates pledged to Clinton were on hand, sipping wine and munching on the catered cocktail fare offered up as chow. They included Lady Di, Mayor Marty and Dona Aña State Sen. Mary Jane Garcia.

We are fully aware that what the former first lady wore is more important than what she said about Iraq and health-care. To that end, we are told:

"She was wearing a brown jacket, tailored in black with black slacks. She was tired but gave a great speech about why she was still in the race and the prospects. Lots of little girls were brought to the event by parents or grandparents to give them a sense of a woman leader. That was the best part for me...to see my granddaughter so anxious to meet her and then to watch it happen."

Was there any public joking by Hill about Big Bill and how onetime Clinton operative James Carville labeled him a "Judas" for backing Obama? "Not a peep," declared one who was there. Maybe Bill's stretch of national press over that tempest has finally petered out.


Back to what we talked about at the top--the final positioning for the June 3 primary. A move by ABQ Dem State Senate candidate Eric Griego to remove Al Armijo from the ballot has paid off. Armijo who said he was from Tijeras could not prove his residency in court and was kicked off the ballot. That means Griego, a former ABQ city councilor, will alone face Dem State Senator James Taylor, holder of the seat once occupied by ABQ South Valley powerhouse Manny Aragon.

We blogged the Armijo candidacy and in doing so passed on the jokes the politicos were making that it was James who actually got Armijo in the race to split opposition votes. Just a joke, of course.

Taylor is a Hispanic with an Anglo last name, blurring the choice of some voters who perhaps want to vote along ethnic lines--not an unheard of reason around these parts. With Armijo gone, Griego may benefit, but Taylor a veteran of the State House, is nothing if not a crafty and skilled politician. He remains the favorite, but with a door-knocking tiger on his tail.


Heads up candidates; school is in session. You're invited to join campaign professionals in ABQ Tuesday, April 29 as they discuss ways to sharpen campaign skills and present information on managing campaign strategies. This Campaign School, sponsored by the Credit Union Assoc. of NM, will provide information and training on working well with volunteers, communications, fund-raising, campaign and finance laws, writing a campaign plan and lots more. Presenters include: New Mexico Secretary of State Mary Herrera; yours truly, Joe Monahan; Richard Gose, CUNA Senior Vice President of Political Affairs; Ed Cafiero, Assistant VP, Grassroots, Voter and Constituent Communications at the Clinton Group; Trey Hawkins, CUNA Political Director; Mark Benson, President, APCO Insight®. The cost is $25.00 Register by going here or by calling Juan Fernandez at 505-338-4233 or email: juan@cuanm.org.

E-maiLyour news, comments and thoughts, and join New Mexico's #1 site for Campaign '08 for more tomorrow.

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Friday, April 04, 2008

Carville's Gift: The Resurrection Of Big Bill; Endorsement Wrangle Keeps Guv On National Stage, Plus: Di Attacks Mac 

Bill Richardson ought to send James Carville an autographed copy of his book, some season tickets to the Lobo games and some of those Cuban cigars he probably has stashed away in a secret Roundhouse cubby hole. It's the least Big Bill can do for the acerbic, if entertaining, political consultant. His charge that Richardson is a "Judas" for endorsing Barack Obama over Hillary Clinton gave the New Mexico governor yet another unanticipated day in the national spotlight. What was supposed to be an Easter weekend romance between Barack and Bill has turned into a long term affair and it's hard to see how Richardson doesn't benefit with the guy who appears to be the next Democratic presidential nominee.

Thursday the headlines blared again from the Drudge Report and other popular Internet sites as Hillary responded to questions about an ABC News Wednesday report that she had told Richardson that Obama could not win the presidency and that's why Bill should endorse her. It was the latest chapter in a story that was supposed to die on the day the Resurrection is celebrated. Instead, it may have resurrected Richardson's ailing national political career--a career foundering mightily after dismal presidential primary showings in Iowa and New Hampshire.

The Clintons can't stand Bill now, but the Obamaites have a new hero, thanks to the drunk punches being thrown at Richardson by Carville and ex-President Bill. The irony is really quite delicious. Richardson is proving his loyalty to Obama by his "disloyalty" to the Clintons. The set up for Richardson is so good, you wonder if he is actually in cahoots with Carville. Maybe those Lobo tickets and Cuban cigars went out in the Easter mail.


While Big Bill was playing Happy Warrior for Obama, the state's #2, Lady Di, decided to try to make a splash of her own by taking on presumptive GOP presidential nominee John McCain. The national meeting of the GOP chairmen at the Hyatt Tamaya gave her a good excuse. So did McCain's decision to air his first TV spots in our Enchanted Land. Here she goes:

"Voting records don't lie. While continuing his support for a costly war, John McCain has voted against White Sands Missile Range and the Holloman, Kirtland and Cannon Air Force Bases. Those installations represent security and jobs for New Mexicans--jobs that I've worked hard to preserve as chair of the Military Base Planning Commission."

Di didn't mention how McCain stood on those cutbacks at Los Alamos Labs, cutbacks that have cost hundreds of high-paying jobs. It might be a touchy subject, given how the leader of the NM Dems '08 ticket--US Senate candidate Tom Udall--is being scored by the R's for enabling the Los Alamos slashing.

The Denish news conference had one element of awkwardness. She is the chair of the Clinton campaign in NM, but Obama is heading toward the nomination. Obamaite and ABQ State Rep. Al Park was called in to make it all seem like all for one and one for all when it comes to the Dems and McCain. She also refrained from bashing Big Bill's support of Obama when given a chance to by KKOB-AM radio reporter Peter St. Cyr. He provides full tape of the event here.

Here's ane-mail link for your news and comments.

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Thursday, April 03, 2008

In The North They're Counting Dollars, Not Votes, Lujan Totals Revealed; We Put Contest Under Scope, Plus: Love On The Rocks; Battle Of The Big Bills 

Lujan & Wiviott
It took Ben Ray Lujan three months to raise what Don Wiviott put up in thirty seconds. Insiders report Lujan will report raising over $300,000 from January through March when federal reports are filed at mid-month. Yesterday, we told you how Wiviott, one of five Northern Dem congressional candidates, wrote a check to himself Monday for $300,000. That brought total personal spending for the Santa Fe developer to a whopping $890,000. Lujan's first quarter fund-raising total is pretty solid, but we don't yet know how much of that cash he has already spent. There is no way he will match Wiviott, but he doesn't have to. Strategists say Lujan will be able to raise his name ID in the heavy Dem Hispanic heavy district much easier than Wiviott. But Lujan, the son of powerful House Speaker Ben Lujan, has to stay competitive. He raised about $100,000 in the final weeks of 2008, including a $50,000 bank loan.

Wiviott is setting a record for personal spending for the Northern congressional race, but not an all-time record. Democrat Phil Maloof spent $1.5 million on the June 1998 special ABQ congressional election which he lost to Republican Heather Wilson. Maloof gave himself several million more for the November '98 election which he also lost. Further research showed that Wiviott has more to go before he tops the $1 million in personal spending that GOP US Senate candidate Colin McMillan recorded in his 1994 race against Democratic Senator Jeff Bingaman.

Former ABQ Journal editorial page editor Bill Hume, now a water policy expert for Big Bill, was one of several readers to point out the Maloof spending. In our first draft on Wiviott (at 3 a.m. with no Starbucks!) we blogged that Wiviott may have set a NM congressional spending record. Other readers, including veteran Journal investigative reporter Mike Gallagher, pointed out another big personal spender was Republican Gary Johnson who put up $500,000 of his money for his successful 1994 governor's race. If we're missing any other big spenders, let us know. We can always use the credit references.


Some see Wiviott's money bomb turning out to be a dud, saying he has no name ID or previous public experience and that the money may buy him recognition, but not the bond that will get him votes. Others argue that a big money negative campaign between Wiviott and Ben Ray Lujan could move votes to Benny Shendo and Harry Montoya at Lujan's expense. On the other hand, Jon Adams could pick up Wiviott votes if a negative Lujan-Wiviott campaign turns off voters. But before he starts tearing down Lujan, Wiviott still has to tell the district who he is and what gives him the standing to make attacks. Meanwhile, Wiviott's campaign is criticizing Lujan's campaign for hiring private eye Mike Corwin to investigate Wiviott's background.

I asked veteran NM politico Steve Cabiedes for his thoughts.

"This money means Lujan is going to have to work hard. It means Wiviott is going to have more name ID than any of the candidates. Lujan is still the frontrunner, but there is a chance for Wiviott if the Lujan vote can be split up."

But Dem consultant Harry Pavlides said the race may not be in reach for the political newcomer:

"Wiviott is doing everything right, but some districts are not winnable. If (Dem candidate) Harry Montoya had $300, 000 or $400,000 and could split votes with Lujan, he would have a chance.

Interesting, but maybe Native American candidate Benny Shendo can trim off some Lujan support, too.

Wiviott supporters don't think his big spending ways will hurt him with the Anglo liberal voters he is targeting. But that may be too elite a group to put him over the top. Wiviott will have to spread his wings. He has the money to do it; voters will soon judge whether he has the issues, character and personality.


And who will most benefit from all of Wiviott's spending? Well, if he wins, it will be the candidate. But no matter the outcome, his TV consultants will walk away happy. The largest share of the Wiviott cash will go to expensive 30 second TV ads. Generally, 15% of the money spent on TV is paid out in commissions. Wiviott's ads are being produced by The Campaign Group of Philadelphia. Consultant Doc Sweitzer is one of the founders of the company which consulted Big Bill in his 2002 Guv campaign. The firm is also doing TV ads this cycle for Southern NM Dem congressional candidate Harry Teague. What's up is Doc's bank account.


Before we had a chance to tell you that there were now three candidates in the hottest judge primary in the ABQ area, we were back to two. Bernalillo County Assistant District Attorney Robin Hammer filed for the Dem nomination for the district court judgeship which Bob Schwartz was recently appointed to. Metro Court Judge Ben Chavez has also filed. But Hammer is now out of the race, saying she could not swing the time off she needed to campaign. That leaves us where we started. It will be Schwartz vs. Chavez for the Dem nod. There is no Republican candidate, so the winner of the June election takes the prize.

Ed Foreman
Hold on to your hats, old-timers. We've got one just for you. Southern NM GOP congressional candidate Earl Greer has announced he has been endorsed by none other than former NM Congressman Ed Foreman. Foreman, now 74, served one term in the US House. He was elected in 1968 to represent southern NM. He was defeated for re-election in 1970 by Harold Runnels. Foreman moved to Dallas and became a motivational speaker. He was also elected to the US House, in 1962, for another single term, but from West Texas, not NM. Born in Portales and a graduate of NMSU in Las Cruces, Foreman says rancher Greer of T or C has "the grit, guts and gumption to do the kind of results-oriented job that New Mexicans have grown to expect."


A Dem Alligator checks in with the news that Big Bill will gather with buddies like Dem consultant Mike Stratton in Denver this Friday for a fund-raiser to help retire debt from his presidential campaign. As of the end of February, Bill owed about $421,000. Do you think Barack might help Bill pay off his bills after getting the Guv's endorsement?

We never imagined that Big Bill's endorsement of Obama would have the legs it has shown. Again Wednesday it was the subject of national talk radio as Sean Hannity and Rush Limbaugh both referenced the latest angle--Bill Clinton's behind the scenes tirade over Richardson's endorsement. The former Prez gave Bill two cabinet jobs. This is a frustrating time for the Clintons with the Dem nomination slowly escaping their grasp. But it is an interesting time for Richardson whose chances of getting a new national gig increase along with the Prez chances of Obama. Here's what our Bill had to say Wednesday about President Bill's charges. And there's even more. ABC News is reporting Hillary told our Bill that Obama "can't win," a story breathing another round of life into the Richardson endorsement.


Former GOP NM Attorney General Hal Stratton ('87-90) is back in ABQ and practicing law. The onetime ABQ state legislator has concluded what turned out to be a stormy tenure as head of the Consumer Product Safety Commission...A hearty Congrats to UNM student David Odegard, the winner of our $500.00 prize in our March ethics contest. We're shooting some pics of the presentation for you at week's end...

News? Comments? E-mail it in.

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Wednesday, April 02, 2008

ABQ Showdown Or Not? Heinrich Vs. Grisham Is Analyzed, Plus: Hillary To ABQ For Funds, And: EXCLUSIVE: Wiviott Now Up To $890,000 In Personal Money 

Heinrich & Grisham
None of the major political hopefuls in the June 3 primary had second thoughts and took advantage of the last day for them to get out. According to the 2008 state candidate guide, Tuesday was the last day for a candidate to withdraw. If they get out now, their name will still appear on the June primary ballot. Not that anyone anticipated any of the contenders bowing out. There was conjecture that ABQ Dem congressional hopeful and former NM Secretary of State Rebecca Vigil-Giron might be persuaded to drop her bid by rival Michelle Lujan Grisham. That has not happened which means the two could end up splitting votes and making the path to the nomination easier for former ABQ City Councilor Martin Heinrich.

Even with the Rebecca millstone dragging her down, Grisham still has a shot, but it is getting longer. Most strategists think she needs to make a major move for the middle of the party that remains up for grabs--and now. Heinrich has not moved much beyond his liberal base, leaving the Reagan Dems and many Hispanics still undecided and not engaged. He has quietly noted he is not a gun control advocate and is not against the death penalty.

To appeal to the undecided, former Secretary of Health Grisham will have to lose the strategy she used at the pre-primary convention. There, she passed out a letter calling herself a "Progressive Democrat...with a history of supporting pro-choice policies, universal access to healthcare and Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender rights." But self-described progressive Democrats are fervid in their support for Heinrich and locked down. One Democratic strategist sees it this way:

"She has one possible shot. If Heinrich's cash on hand is not overwhelming, Michelle could be in this thing if she has at least $200,000 for TV and cuts two hard-hitting ads appealing to the large voting blocs still on the fence."

But Grisham is going to have to pitch a near-perfect game. If Heinrich has marshaled his resources as he should have, he will be able to go on the air at will in the next two months not only nailing down liberals, but also other key groups.

Grisham's candidacy looks good on paper and she could, according to Republicans like ABQ NE Heights State Rep. Larry Larranaga, wage a strong fall campaign. "I fear her most. Voters in this district have been used to voting for a woman. She would be a more complicated candidate for (probable GOP US House nominee) Darren White." Larranaga said.

Unlike Heinrich, Grisham has been unable to translate her appeal into fund-raising or a focused strategy. Two months is a long time in politics, but opportunity doesn't keep knocking if you don't answer.


There will be plenty of time for White and Heinrich--if they are the nominees--to throw mud at each other. But that's later. Right now, we are in the warm and fuzzy stage. Take this from the Capitol Hill newspaper Roll Call and political analyst Stuart Rothenberg:

I'm told that the ladies think that New Mexico's 1st district Democratic hopeful Martin Heinrich is good-looking. All I know is that he seems pretty down to earth, is putting together a good campaign and has the kind of background that should be appealing to New Mexico voters.

The ladies like his looks? We really are in softball season. And then there's this 1980's music video of Sheriff White. His campaign liked it enough to send it out with a fund-raising appeal. White sports a mullet and sings an anti-drug song to a group of young people. It isn't half-bad. Just don't look for it on Billboard's Top 100. Enjoy the good times while they last candidates--because they never do.


How high will he go? Northern Dem congressional candidate Don Wiviott has loaned his campaign another $300,000, bringing his personal spending on his first run for political office to a somewhat mind-blowing $890,000. According to the FEC Form 10 Wiviott must file and which insiders provided us with, he loaned himself the $300,000 on Monday, March 31. Wiviott has already busted through the "Millionaires' Amendment," the FEC rule that allows his opponents to take individual donations of up to $6900 to compensate for Wiviott's personal money. The normal campaign contribution limit is $2300.

Wiviott appears to be making state political history in the Northern congressional race. I can't recall any candidate spending this much of his own wealth on a contest there. Phil Maloof spent more than that from his personal fortune when he ran for the ABQ seat in 1998. Wiviott made his money building homes and lofts in Santa Fe. This kind of money will be used mainly for expensive TV ads. His main opponent, Ben Ray Lujan, has accused Wiviott of trying to buy the congressional seat being vacated by Dem Tom Udall who is running for Senate. But Wiviott points out he is not taking any contributions from corporate PACS, freeing him from special interest influence.

Wiviott's recent polling showed him at 16%, seven points behind Lujan. Lujan is the favorite in the heavy Hispanic Democratic district. We are in uncharted waters with Wiviott's spending, and really don't know if voters will recoil from it, not care much about it, or embrace it as refreshing. Certainly Wiviott's campaign vendors are happy. For them, recession is a foreign word.


It will be one of those rare times when Big Bill doesn't make it to a fund-raiser thrown by his old friend and onetime ambassador to Spain, Ed Romero. The reason: Romero's Sunday bash at his ABQ home is being thrown for Hillary Clinton. Bill just got done endorsing Obama and has been feeling the chill air from the Clinton circle since. But Romero says the party does not have any symbolism, that it's the dollars Hill is coming in for, not to zing Governor Bill. Romero was appointed ambassador by President Clinton and has remained close to the former first couple. Light Guv Diane Denish, chair of Hill's NM campaign, will also be at the party along with ABQ Mayor Marty. Hill will fly in and fly out, with no public events scheduled. Invites are going for $2300 and $1000 a pop.

Hill carried the NM prez caucus over Obama Feb. 5 by a narrow margin. After Bill endorsed Obama former Clinton operative James Carville called him a "Judas," as the endorsement took place on Good Friday. Maybe Bill will be at Mass when Hillary stops by Sunday, making sure he remains in good standing with the church and praying for a quick Obama victory.


ABQ GOP State Senator Joe Carraro doesn't have the welcome mat out for the chairman of the Republican National Committee who, along with state GOP chairmen from around the country, is meeting this week at the Hyatt Tamaya resort. And it's no wonder. RNC Chairman Mike Duncan says the national party is officially endorsing Sheriff White over Carraro for the GOP nod for the ABQ US House set. That's unusual for the RNC, but can be done with the approval of the state's three RNC representatives. Carraro has often battled the leadership of the state party. Duncan told KOB-TV news the White endorsement was easier to make because Carraro only received 15% of the vote at the state GOP pre-primary convention. White, he said, is going to win the primary. The AP's Barry Massey talked with Carraro and local R's.

The R's have a 40 year winning streak going in the ABQ congressional district. The fall campaign will begin with White as the favorite and the likely leader in the early polling. If the R's lose the seat, it could mean the Dems will be starting their own 40 year streak.

Aubrey Dunn
Yet another poll from a congressional candidate hoping to pick up some Big Mo. This one comes from rancher Aubrey Dunn in that crowded race for the GOP nomination for the Southern congressional seat. No surprise. Dunn says his pollster tells him he is ahead. It's Dunn with 22%, Ed Tinsley at 16%, Earl Greer gets 10%, Hobbs Mayor Monty Newman comes with 8% and Greg Sowards garners 1%. Undecided was the big winner with 36%. Seven per cent did not answer and 1% named someone else. 400 voters were surveyed last Wednesday and Thursday. The poll had a margin of error of 4.9% and was conducted by National Research, Inc. (PDF of polling memo here.)

The poll comes on the heels of the news broken here that restaurant chain owner Tinsley has bought $320,000 worth of ABQ TV for May. Dunn has loaned himself $300,000 but says he won't kick in anymore. Tinsley is also coming with personal cash. He says his campaign budget may hit $1million.

Dunn says he is strongest on the East Side. He has a ranch in Lincoln County and has lived in Roswell. Tinsley also has a ranch in Lincoln County. He lost the 2000 GOP nomination race because of poor showings in Lea, Eddy and Chaves counties.

Dunn and Tinsley agree the race is wide open, and so do we. But it is going to close fast when the TV goes up. If Greer and Newman can't compete financially, it will be a two man race between Tinsley and Dunn. Don't say we didn't tell you.


We blogged Monday that Cannon Air Force Base "came close to closure." The ABQ Journal Tuesday wrote "Cannon didn't even come close to being closed." Both statements are correct. We meant that even by getting on the Pentagon's list of 30 bases proposed for closure in 2005, Cannon looked death in the face. The ensuing panic in Clovis and among the congressional delegation is our evidence. The Journal meant (we think) that because Cannon was removed from the list and death was avoided it never came close to actually shuttering its doors. But all is well that ends well. Cannon found a news mission and no jobs were lost. That's why it is an uphill fight for Rep. Heather Wilson to score points on this issue against her GOP US Senate rival, Steve Pearce. As we wrote back in '05, if the base had been closed a major issue in the coming campaigns would have been "Who Lost Cannon."


Syndicated columnist Ned Cantwell joins those piling on because we speculated that Big Bill was trying to play down his endorsement of Obama by putting out the news in the wee morning hours. Earlier, Bill spokesman Gilbert Gallegos also said that theory was all wet. But, in case new readers don't know, we've been judged "genetically conspiratorial" by journalist and armcair psychotherapist Bruce Daniels and reserve the right to wallow in paranoia...

He's back. Ralph Nader, that is. He has filed petitions to get on the November NM ballot.

E-mail your latest news, comments and political gossip.

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Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Marty Cleared For A Fourth Four Years; Court Overturns Term Limits; Will He Run Yet Again? Complete Coverage & Analysis, Plus: Heather Still Hammering 

Mayor for Life?
The downtown crowd often jokes about Marty Chavez being "Mayor for Life." But it isn't much of a joke now that an ABQ District Court Judge Linda Vanzi has cleared the way for the 56 year old incumbent to seek yet another four years at the helm of New Mexico's largest city. It would be the Albuquerque native's fourth four year term, and the odds seem to be leaning in favor of him going for it. The odds of him winning it are better than even money.

No one was surprised Monday when the judge overturned the section of the City Charter that limits the mayor to two consecutive four year terms. The courts had already thrown out similar limits on the nine member ABQ city council. Still, the ruling gave the insiders, the Alligators and the hangers-on reason to focus on the October 2009 ABQ election when Chavez might be seeking a fourth term.

The mayor kicked off the speculation, telling the 10 p.m. TV news that "it's possible" he'll go for three in a row. "Let's see what happens a year from now," he told viewers. But the man who has already served longer than anyone under the city's modern form of government founded in 1974 confessed to still loving "the heck out of this job" and sounded ready and willing. If he runs and wins, his terms would stretch into three decades--1993-'97; 2001-'05; 2005-'09 and 2009-'13.

Is the public ready for four more years, or is "Chavez fatigue" finally setting in? "I think the city feels it has been well-served by this mayor. When we did polling for his run for the Democratic nomination for US Senate, there were people who were not supporting him for that job, but still said they felt he was a good mayor," analyzed Chavez political advisor Mark Fleisher of Butch Maki's Santa Fe "Victory Group."

Chavez suffered a humiliating slap-down when earlier this year he backed out of the race for the US Senate because polling numbers showed him unpopular with liberal Democrats and that he could not beat Tom Udall. Before the Senate bid, he had a short-lived run for the 2010 Dem nod for Governor, but again polling showed his chief rival, Diane Denish, would trounce him. Many voters seem to have put a glass ceiling over Chavez; they like him as mayor, but not for higher office.


There is no recent citywide public polling on the Mayor. One of my Alligators reported recently that select polling in one section of the city's NE Heights showed Chavez's favorability rating as mayor well above 60%. He recently announced a big pay increase for many of the city's police and firemen, signaling that if he does run his top issue will be, as it always has been, public safety.

"The race would not be so much about the issues as a referendum on the Mayor. Anytime he runs for re-election, the election is about whether he has done a good job or not," said Fleisher in a late night cell phone call.

A fourth run offers an intriguing scenario. A new public financing law takes effect next year which limits mayoral candidates to spending about $280,000, a dollar for each registered voter. Chavez raised a record $1 million plus in his successful 2005 re-election bid, but in 2009 he could opt to take public financing. That could hurt his opponents. How? If Chavez declined public financing, his foes would receive matching funds up to three times that $280,000. That makes it easy for them to get well-known for free. But if Chavez abides by the limits, his foes would have to drop public financing and go out on their own and raise big money to get better known. Raising big money for a mayor's race is not easy. Chavez has name ID over 90%. He doesn't need a lot of money. His much lesser known opponents do. It seems the first publicly financed city election could give the incumbent a decided advantage.


There have been variety of names tossed about as possible mayoral candidates, but most are waiting for Marty's decision. The mayor will be in no hurry to make it, probably waiting until the spring of next year. The only thing that will probably stop him from running is if the city's fiscal condition becomes a total wreck and his popularity shrinks as a result, or if Hillary Clinton is elected President and offers Chavez a high-level Washington job.

The only one who has signaled that he may seek the job regardless of what Chavez does is Democratic West Side City Councilor Michael Cadigan. Other names you hear are former ABQ State Senator Richard Romero and City Councilor Ken Sanchez, an ally of Chavez who will probably not go if Chavez does. City Councilors O'Malley, Winter and Mayer are also mentioned when the topic pops up at the cocktail hour. And with devilish intrigue, the mayor's ex-wife, Margaret Aragon de Chavez, says she is toying with a run.

The list of well-known possibles outside of city government is not as long as the old days. The personal nature of modern negative campaigns has chased many civic leaders away from city politics. While serving as mayor, Chavez has gone through an ugly divorce, a campaign finance scandal, an uproar over unpopular red-light cameras, the two aforementioned and ill-fated statewide political campaigns and a relationship with the nine member city council that has often scraped along at rock-bottom. Still, he survives because he is a professional politician whose late lawyer-father implanted in him the love and desire of La Politica.


ABQ doesn't expect too much from their mayor--keep the criminals off the streets and keep those streets clean. Also, don't raise our taxes unless absolutely necessary. Chavez has given voters much more than that and the citizenry, for the most part, has given their approval. Importantly, there has been no major ethics scandals at city hall since the 2001 campaign finance boondoggle known as "ABQPAC." That incident nearly crippled the mayor and led to him becoming the first chief executive to be reprimanded by the City Ethics Board.

The animosity for Chavez among his foes has never been greater, but it does not seem to have infected the general body politic because Chavez delivers. As long as that is the case, the city hall squabbling seems personality driven to Mr. & Mrs. Albuquerque, not something they need to pay much attention to. (We need fresh polling to tell us whether Chavez's red-light camera program has damaged his overall standing.)

Chavez was re-elected with nearly half the vote (47%) in a four-way race in 2005. He needed just 40% to avoid a run-off. If history is any guide, an incumbent should gradually lose support the longer he stays in office. Chavez's opponents know that. The trouble is Marty Chavez has a long way to drop before he comes into their sights, and maybe longer to go as the Duke City's mayor than even he ever imagined.

Wilson by Bralley
Heather Wilson's campaign is still trying to get some ballast from her claim that her rival and the frontrunner for the GOP US Senate nomination, Rep. Steve Pearce, voted to close down Cannon Air Force Base. Here is the AP version. The key points:

--Pearce says he voted for base closings after assurances from Defense Department officials that a new mission would be found for Cannon, which in 2005 housed three F-16 fighter squadrons.

--Wilson contended Cannon's future was not so clear cut at the time of the vote. Had the New Mexico delegation not been able to nail down another mission for Cannon, thousands of people would have lost their jobs and the communities of Clovis and Portales would have been devastated, says Wilson.

Pearce talked about the controversy with KKOB-AM radio's Jim Villanucci last week. He and morning host Bob Clark have been conducting numerous interviews with the Senate contenders. Monday, Villanucci invited callers to voice their opinions. Most phoning in to the afternnon gab fest said they did not believe that Pearce was out to harm Cannon.

This is pretty nuanced stuff for a US Senate campaign but as we blogged Monday it has not been easy for Wilson to come up with a statewide issue to change the complexion of the race. If Wilson is to win, it will probably be by a razor thin margin. If she could make the Cannon issue stick in the military community, it could make a difference. It won't be easy, given Pearce's military record and unswerving support of Bush's Iraq policy and the Pentagon in general. But it's not the first time a campaign has tried to make their opponent's biggest strength also his biggest weakness.


We garbled a background line on Heather Wilson Monday. Lance Grace of the US Air Force Academy Class of '75 e-mailed in to set the record straight:

...Wilson was in the third class that included women (1982) to graduate from the United States Air Force Academy...She is the first USAF Academy grad (male or female) to be elected to the Congress and currently the only female veteran serving in Congress. She was most definitely not “the first female graduate of the Air Force Academy” as you wrote....By the way, I am a Pearce supporter..Although Heather would be extremely high on my list when compared to all the other members of Congress, she does not match Pearce when it comes to “Supporting Our Troops."

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