Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Combat Now Fully Engaged in Tight Fight For 2010 GOP Guv Nomination; Martinez Fires First; TV Ad Hits Weh On Immigration, Plus: Berry's Brier Patch 

Martinez vs. Weh
The 2010 campaign for the not invaluable Republican gubernatorial nomination switched to full combat mode Monday with Susana Martinez firing the first shot. Return fire is expected at any moment from retired Marine Corps Reserve Colonel Allen Weh.

The switch in the character of the contest came as polls show a virtual dead heat between the duo in what is technically a five way race, but in reality is an old-style, two way shoot-out.

Martinez, certain that Weh was about to pull the trigger on her, decided on a preemptive strike and came with a favorite of hard-core conservatives--illegal immigration.

Her TV spot accuses Weh of pushing "amnesty for illegal immigrants. Weh wrote that he supported the amnesty plan for 13 million immigrants...(He) argued illegal immigrants are crucial to our economy. Politician Allen Weh: wrong on amnesty."

See the ad here.

It was an all-out attempt by Martinez to move even further to the right and peel off some of Weh's support as she traveled there. To do so she used Weh's support of former President Bush's immigration reform plan that was widely praised by Dems and R's, but failed to win congressional approval in 2007 when it was attacked as being an amnesty plan.

Weh, a decorated veteran of the battlefield but like Martinez now engaged for the first time in the high-stakes political power game, had his campaign upbraid Martinez for going nuclear on another R. They said Martinez had pledged a no-nukes policy in an early campaign interview, but...

True to form as a career politician, Susana Martinez thinks she can say one thing and do another--just like they do in Santa Fe,” said Weh campaign manager Whitney Cheshire.

Allen Weh is a forward-thinking Reagan Republican...On border security...he will end sanctuary policies and make sure our police enforce all our laws. He’ll start by rescinding the executive order that prohibits State Police officers from reporting illegal immigrants to federal agencies, and he’ll stop the issuance of driver’s licenses to illegal immigrants.”

Martinez threw a bone to the many Republicans who fault Weh's chairmanship of the GOP for tearing the party apart. Her TV ad dubs him: "Allen Weh: divisive party chairman."

Oh, how they were dancing in the streets over that one at Janice Arnold-Jones headquarters and down in T or C where Weh nemesis Earl Greer resides and who launched an unsuccessful coup against Weh when he was chairman.


Before debuting the hit on Weh on late afternoon ABQ TV, Martinez sent out an email that gave her a fig leaf for going with the first tube attack. She said Weh's reference to her on Sunday as a "government lawyer" was the first violation of Reagan's 11th Commandment, stating that R's should not go after one another. Actually, it was this blog that called it a violation and the Martinez campaign ran with it. (Does that mean Allen Weh is going to come for us with his baseball bat? Hey, we're just the messenger, Allen.)

But the "who hit first" argument will fade fast. We are now in the phase you can call "the winner-takes-it-all-and-don't-bother-to-phone-home-if-you-lose."

While party leaders will fret about the outbreak of hostilities, in one way it is good for the Republicans. Weh and Martinez, essentially tied in the Sunday ABQ Journal poll (31 for Weh; 30 for Martinez), have been giving us a Goody-two-shoes version of their vision for this troubled state. They've been vetted about as much as an applicant for janitorial duty in a Juarez bar.

As one of our correspondents put it: "Nobody likes attack ads and everyone is sick of negative campaigning. But if Republicans cast their vote without knowing the vulnerabilities of their chosen candidate, they may start regretting that vote the very next day."

Now back to the action.....


Our Senior Alligators say the Martinez ad attempting to make look Weh soft on immigration is aimed at all undecided voters and soft Weh supporters statewide, but could have more impact in the conservative Little Texas counties of SE NM where ethnic voting may be blocking Martinez from moving past Weh. Of course, the south is also closer to the border and more sensitive to border security issues in general than the ABQ Metro.

But the illegal immigration card was played last year in the ABQ mayor's race when Republican RJ Berry maintained that ABQ was a "sanctuary city." Berry picked up conservative support that helped him win, but it is now costing him as he tries to govern. More on that below.

Like her endorsement from Sarah Palin, Martinez could be creating a major problem for herself in a general election campaign by going so far to the right and imperiling her appeal to Hispanics who she will need to get elected. But with 80 percent of the likely voters in this GOP primary identifying themselves as conservative, she has no choice but to try to "out right" Weh. This is a sliver of the electorate not representative of the state as whole, but they have the nominating power and that is that.


A late night news release heralded Weh's dissatisfaction with Martinez's attack, but that is certainly only the warm-up act. By attacking the combat veteran who has a personal fortune to spend, Martinez, as crusty Marines might say, has invited a "shit storm" of a response from the old warrior. As one insider Democrat puts it in this email:

Martinez reminds me of the scrawny kid on the playground who listens to his friends, gets pumped up, gains some confidence and throws a rock at the head of the big bully when he’s not looking. When the bully slowly turns around, his size advantage quickly apparent, and the scrawny kid says “crap what have I done?” – because the beat down is coming.


And now that the dogs of war have been unleashed, how much will we be seeing them on TV? Our Alligators and Media Mavens continue to provide us with the exclusive details. They say Martinez has booked about $90,000 for May 19-25 and they say Weh has bought $110,000 for the same time period. That's enough for him to run both positive and negative ads. Weh has loaned himself a million of his own cash. With everything on the line, you wonder if he will feel comfortable by out spending Martinez by only $20,000 in the crucial week starting Wednesday.


It seems the Democrats want to play in the R's sandbox. While Dona Ana County District Attorney Martinez was charging at Weh, three Democratic county sheriffs were charging her with plea bargaining felony DWI cases when she pledged not to do so:

Martinez has let more than 1,000 felony DWI offenders (fourth offense or more) plea bargain instead of pushing for maximum penalties. In 2004, then candidate Martinez said that “We will not plea bargain a DWI case” and went on to say “We don’t pretend it is a first or second offense just to move the court docket along.” [Las Cruces Sun-News, 9/5/04]

However, public records show that Martinez has allowed more than 1,000 felony DWI offenders take plea bargain agreements over the past ten years...

Rio Arriba Sheriff Joe Mascarenas: “Maybe some politicians break campaign pledges and think nothing of it, but a broken promise on something as serious as felony DWI offenders is simply not forgivable.

But a Martinez operative says get ready for a big Democratic backfire.

They pulled the wrong data. Martinez has the lowest plea bargain rate in the state. This will backfire in a big way..."

We shall see, but the Dem attack was read by analysts as an out-of-the-closet declaration by the Dems that they want Allen Weh to win the GOP Guv nod. He is seen as having less cross-over appeal with Dems and Hispanics than Martinez and thus less of a threat to certain Dem Guv nominee Diane Denish.

Maybe the D's will also put a glove on Weh in the final stretch. But it's pretty clear to insiders that Weh is their great hope.


We're working the fast-breaking 2010 GOP Guv primary beat with KOB-TV and KRQE-TV. We joined the intrepid Stuart Dyson of KOB to diagnose that Dem action against Martinez.


You almost feel sorry for ABQ Mayor RJ Berry. But his insistence on going where no other mayor has gone before has now led to an effort to brand him as no friend of the Hispanic community.

By opening up the wedge issue of illegal immigration, Berry has waded into the thicket of racial politics from which few New Mexican politicians emerge unscathed--or emerge at all. Last night he scored a party line victory for his policy in the city council, but it may prove Pyrrhic.

Berry's proposals when it comes to how law enforcement handles illegal immigration seem innocuous and represent little change to past policy. But he has handed his opponents too tempting a target to refrain from demagoguing, all to satisfy the hard right wing of the GOP who helped him win office. We are surprised at what we believe the damage that this is doing to the Berry brand.

Berry is married to a Hispanic woman and his instincts are all about bringing people together. But we and others warned repeatedly that he should not go where he has gone. Did he forget he is the first Anglo mayor to be elected since 1985, and then mainly because the Hispanic vote was split between two other candidates?

But Berry's political future is a minor concern. It is the general comity over ethnic diversity that historically prevails in ABQ that he has put at risk.

Seen from that perspective, one can only hope that Mayor Berry can quiet this tempest so the city can move on to issues that really impact our quality of life.


Dem Light Guv candidate Lawrence Rael has come with a new TV spot that you're either going to like a lot or not at all. It uses herky-jerky (is that a word or did we just make one up) movement as it showcases HIS public service record. Rael's finance reports indicate he set aside $60,000 for TV for the final stretch.


The Santa Fe Reporter takes a look at all five of the GOP Guv hopefuls...

In our first draft Monday we had corruption ranked as the number three issues among state Republicans in the ABQ Journal poll. It was fourth...

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