Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Operatives Gone Wild: Party Chair & Weh Manager Threaten To Call Cops On Each Other, Plus: The Polls: Big Bill's Big Collapse & Teague Down By 4 

  • First independent polling out today on 2010 NM Governor's race: Dem Diane Denish Denish leads Republican Pete Domenici Jr., the son of the state’s long time Senator 45-40. She holds wider margins against the other R's.--48-30 over Allen Weh, 47-33 over Janice Arnold-Jones, and 46-32 against Susana Martinez and Doug Turner. More here.
Cheshire & Abraham
Big Bill’s polling numbers collapse and the Special Session of the NM Legislature to deal with the budget crisis is moved from today until Monday. Details and analysis on those big stories coming, but first this news:

The high-stakes, go for broke race for the 2010 GOP Guv nomination is bursting into flames again. Rick Abraham, chairman of the Bernalillo County Republican Party, has been threatened with police action by Whitney Cheshire, campaign manager for gubernatorial candidate Allen Weh, and Abraham in turn threatens to call the cops on her.

The dispute broke out when Cheshire asked Abraham about getting refunds for persons who paid up to $25 to go to Saturday's Bernalillo County GOP convention, but who did not attend. The convention selected delegates to the critical March state preprimary convention where the Guv candidates, including Weh, will ask delegates to give them official spots on the ballot.

In one email provided to us by the Alligators, Cheshire unloads on Abraham, saying county party incompetence caused Weh delegates to be turned away and refunds are due. She then rages:

Rick, I am sorry that your point of view prevents you from behaving rationally at this point. There are too many inaccuracies listed in your email for me to mess with right now but...if you ever threaten a member of my staff again, either verbally or physically, we won't just threaten to call the police, we will in fact file a criminal complaint against you. I would suggest, however, that for the next few days, you and ALL PARTIES WHO HAVE BEEN INVOLVED IN VERBAL ALTERCATIONS take a deep breath and back off. We are tired of being abused by you and the staff on other campaigns and remind you that all of those attacks occurred in public as well.

The equally hot-tempered Abraham is captured in this retort to Cheshire:

My volunteers, staff and officers are tired of your "bully-style" tactics. We will no longer tolerate any more verbal or physical abuse by your campaign or candidate and we will notify the authorities if this abuse continues occur.

You will get any information I am REQUIRED TO give you when I am REQUIRED TO give it. I have been fair, tolerant and accommodating...and have been treated poorly and abusively. Since you are not big enough to apologize and want confrontation with me, I am going to do ONLY what I am required to do for you, nothing more!

The sensational emails come on the heels of a recent warning letter sent to all the GOP Guv candidates by GOP Chair Harvey Yates Jr. asking them to cool the negativity. Fat chance of that.

Weh already has a reputation for volatility. The email exchange by his campaign manger will serve only to reinforce it. The entire string of emails between Cheshire and Abraham can be seen here.

Meanwhile, Democrats who claim the R's will again destroy themselves in an orgy of cannibalism even as their chances of taking power grow, are looking more prescient with each burst of flame.


If Republicans descend into fratricide, they may be blowing a good opportunity. The bottom has fallen out of the approval rating for Democratic Governor Bill Richardson with Public Policy Polling saying a mere 28% approve of the job he is doing and a stunning 63% of the voters disapprove. The firm offered a preview of the poll with additional details to come today.

This disastrous plunge makes Big Bill "one of the least popular Governors in the country," according to PPP. The crash comes after months of scandal headlines and after the Governor narrowly dodged a federal indictment. Also feeding the anti-Richardson frenzy is a terrible economy that has cost thousands of jobs here and an historic budget shortfall that the Governor and Legislature have been unable to resolve .

The last public polling of Richardson by the ABQ Journal was last September when 51% of those surveyed approved of his performance.

The lame-duck governor now indeed may become a noose around the neck of Light Guv Diane Denish, soon to be the 2010 Dem Guv nominee. Analysts have been curious whether the R's have been overplaying their hand in light of Bill's relatively decent approval ratings, but this latest poll puts to bed with certainty any doubts about the strategy. Denish isn't going to have to walk away from Richardson; she's going to break into the fastest sprint ever run by a 60 year old around here.

This is a bitter end for Big Bill who has always prided himself on his political acumen and ability to hold public approval in a variety of circumstances. But it has been all downhill since he was forced to withdraw his name from consideration as Obama's Commerce Secretary because of the scandals here.

Everyone knew Richardson was overreaching when he raised $13 million for his Guv re-election bid and another $20 million for his presidential campaign. The inevitable conflicts of interest continue to surface like corpses bobbing up from the bottom of a fetid river.


The lousy economy has also shackled this Democratic Governor. But he has helped imprison himself, by continuing to ignore the severity of the crisis and refusing to shed expensive political appointees or offering a comprehensive plan for solving the fiscal crisis. His refusal to raise taxes on the wealthy after rolling them back in 2003 and thus ignoring the Obama strategy, further isolates Richardson from the working classes who have over the years provided him with a bedrock of support.

Not that Richardson's fate is unusual for a New Mexican Governor. Gary Johnson, Bruce King and Toney Anaya all finished their terms with approval ratings in the cellar. But none of them was a politician of national stature like Richardson.

Eight years is a long time in the spotlight, even in good times. The PPP survey shows even Dems disapprove of his performance 47% to 42%. The firm will release more polling info today, including some on the Governor's race.


Richardson's bad polling news is only going to further marginalize him in his final months in office and in the upcoming special session of the Legislature, now moved to Monday instead of today to give the leadership more time to cut a deal.

That deal, as we previously blogged, will likely be done on a set of numbers that overestimate state revenues for the budget year that starts July 1st, necessitating another special session, probably as soon as August. The state faces at least a $600 million shortfall, but it may grow even more when new revenue projections are released in April--well after the conclusion of the special.

All 70 members of the state House are up for re-election this year. With each new day, compromise with the Senate becomes even more difficult as November is that much closer.

Pearce & Teague
Ask any Democrat who tracks such things and they will tell you southern Dem US Rep. Harry Teague is doing everything right to win a second term to the southern congressional seat. But then they will ask: "Is it enough?"

A poll commissioned by Teague's challenger, former three term southern US Rep. Steve Pearce, shows how the political climate has changed since Teague was swept into office on a Dem wave in 2008, getting 56 percent of the vote. He was the first Democrat elected to the US House seat there since 1980.

In the new poll, conducted among 401 registered voters Feb. 16 thru 18, Pearce leads Teague 48% to 44% with 8% undecided. (MOE 4.9%) It is the first poll of this race. We await independent polling, but there's not much reason to doubt these findings. The Tarrance Group said:

Despite a 12-point advantage in Democratic registration, the political environment greatly benefits Republicans. On the generic ballot, the Republican holds a 10-point generic advantage over the Democrat currently, 47% to 37%...

It's not that voters have an intense dislike towards Teague. For the moment, he is being overwhelmed by a "throw the bums out" attitude.

To illustrate the point, look at this. Teague has only been in office 13 months, but Tarrance reports:

On a soft re-elect question, a strong plurality of voters already agree that it is time to turn Teague out of office. Forty-seven percent (47%) of voters say that it is time to give a new person a chance as Congressman, while only 38% of voters say that Teague has done a good enough job to deserve re-election.

The poll indicates Harry's headaches are being caused by a general dissatisfaction with Obama, Congress and a lousy economy impacting a traditionally conservative district.

Teague has worked the region relentlessly, brought in cabinet secretaries to bolster his profile and delivered pork to key constituencies. He has voted against Obama when he needed to, especially on health care. His avuncular personality matches up nearly perfectly with the district. But the anti-Democratic mood in a district that normally votes Republican on federal races has been too swift for Teague to get ahead of.

Pearce's recent statements pick up on the anti-incumbent fever. He is now saying he is not happy with many of the things Republicans have done, even though he served six years in the House and voted in lock-step with the Bush White House. You can call Steve the "anti-incumbent incumbent."

Pearce also may be benefiting from simple name ID. Believe it or not, we get reports of southern residents not knowing that Teague is now their congressman and not Pearce. It often takes more than one election for folks in a sprawling, rural district to get to know who their representative is. Advantage Pearce.


Both Pearce and Teague are below the magic 50% number, so the race is still very much in play. Will the mood improve or worsen between now and November? Will Teague start spending earlier and heavier than planned to stop further erosion? What do the numbers in key Democratic Dona Ana County look like? The poll doesn't say, but insiders speculate it may be only four or five points, instead of a double digit lead that Dem Teague needs there.

Tarrance concludes that if the election were held today Teague would lose. To turn it his way, Teague has to continue to do everything right, including going on TV early to let people know who he is and bolstering his conservative credentials. Pearce has to guard against shrillness that could cause voters to back off of him when the camera comes in for the close-up.

From a politically busy Albuquerque, I'm Joe Monahan reporting.

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