Friday, May 07, 2010

Corruption Concern Subsides; Jobs Now Big Issue In Dem Poll, Plus: Land Commssion Primary Battle Updated, And: Longtime Lobbyist Robert Rivera Dies 

What looked to be a banner issue for the GOP in the 2010 gubernatorial derby has faded fast as the state wrestles with a jobs crisis that still shows no signs of relenting. A poll of 400 registered Democrats conducted last week ranked jobs as far and away the #1 issue on their minds. 41% said that was their primary concern. Government corruption ranked third with only 8% citing it as their top issue. Education came in second with 27% and the environment was fourth with 8% calling that their number one issue.

R's have latched on to the multiple corruption probes that have engulfed the Richardson administration, hoping to ride them to victory. But the survey of members of the state's majority party conducted for the campaign of Dem land commission candidate Sandy Jones indicates that will not be enough for them to capture the Fourth Floor.

Leading GOP Guv candidates Allen Weh and Susana Martinez have recently come with jobs messages, indicating that NM Republicans also put the issue at the top of the heap.

And the hopefuls are hammering it on the campaign trail, too. Weh came with this headline of his latest events:

Weh talks jobs, economy in Northern New Mexico. Weh: I’ll run state government like a business.

Martinez, the Dona Ana County district attorney, at first leaned almost exclusively on corruption as her premier issue, but in her latest TV spot she links corruption to attracting jobs here. And soon-to-be Dem Guv nominee Diane Denish has been on the road for weeks touting her job creation plan for small businesses.

The jobs issues has traditionally broken toward the Dems, but if the R's can craft a populist message--more than cutting taxes and less regulation--maybe they can gain some advantage. With the corruption issue fading in the rear view mirror, they have no choice.


Trying to get something started, Dem land commissioner candidate Sandy Jones comes with a poll that says his race with former land commissioner Ray Powell Jr. and Santa Fe County Commissioner Harry Montoya is competitive.

Jones, who is leaving the Public Regulation Commission to seek the land slot, says his phone poll conducted of 400 registered voters April 30 to May 2 has Powell leading with 23.5%; Jones getting 22.4% and Montoya 9.1%. 45% were undecided

Powell has held the land commission post for ten years, longer than anyone in state history. Republican Pat Lyons took it over in 2002. He has statewide name ID from that tenure and also reported $55,000 in cash on hand in his April finance report. Jones reported less than $10,000. Montoya had about $3,000.

Insiders peg Powell the front runner based on his blow-out performance at the Dem March preprimary convention. In a four way contest (Mike Anaya has since dropped out) Powell garnered 44% of the vote and was the only candidate to get more than the 20% required to win a spot on the ballot without filing extra petition signatures. Jones received about 19% and Montoya also came with about 19%, just shy of the magic number.

No candidate has ever won the primary without getting 20 percent of the vote at the preprimary convention.

In 2006, Powell ran for the Dem nomination for land commissioner against Dem Jim Baca and was beaten when the Hispanic northern counties went overwhelming for the former ABQ mayor. Powell's supporters are confident he is positioned for the win this time because Montoya is not seen as strong as Baca in the north.

Jones is from the south and hopes Montoya can cripple Powell up north, but the battleground will likely be the ABQ metro area. Powell is from here and his cash report says he has enough to buy TV. The new money reports come out on the 10th. Will Jones have the cash for the tube? And will Montoya's muscle grow?

After his 2006 primary debacle, Powell can feel better this time around, but can't take anything for granted.


The battle to shape the perception of the ABQ congressional race continues. Yesterday Dem Congressman Martin Heinrich came with a poll showing him trouncing GOP challenger Jon Barela 55% to 38%. Now the Barela camp comes with this from the national R's:

The National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC) announced that Jon Barela has advanced to the top level of its three-level Young Guns program.

By achieving ‘Young Gun’ status, Barela’s campaign has proven its ability to meet fundraising and operational goals, and takes its place among the most competitive congressional races in the country.

We've explained how our experts don't quite see the ABQ race as the national pundits do, but the national R's have done a good job for Barela in pushing back against that perception. But they will have to come with cold hard cash for their man if they hope to win the spin war against the Alligators of La Politica.


The state is going to have to continue to do more of this as the budget crunch continues:

Attorney General Gary King's Medicaid Fraud and Elder Abuse (MFEA) Division succeeded in obtaining grand jury indictments on 26 felony charges against three individuals and one business in an alleged long-term Medicaid fraud scheme in Dona Ana County.

Defendant Juana Barba is accused of fraudulently billing the New Mexico Medicaid program for counseling services she never provided. She allegedly billed the state for 54 hours of counseling in a single day.


A reader drops a note of Bernalillo County Sheriff Manny Gonzales and his campaign for the Democratic nomination for the office:

Just wanted to let you now that Sheriff Gonzales received AFSCME’s endorsement.

Gonzales has six primary opponents for the nomination.


Well-known Santa Fe lobbyist Robert Rivera is dead. Friends of Rivera tell us he apparently died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound Thursday. He had been indicted the same day on tax evasion charges. (New Mexican report here.)

Rivera, 61, was a close friend of NM House Speaker Ben Lujan.

Rivera ran into trouble in early 2009 when it was reported he owed over $210,000 in state gross receipts taxes. He is not listed as a registered lobbyist in the most recent list compiled by the secretary of state.

Rivera's past clients included Ruidoso Downs Racing, the NM Propane Gas Association and the Elephant Butte Irrigation District.

We last spoke to Rivera when he called during the last legislative session. Ever the loyalist, he reported on a speech given on the House floor by Majority Leader Kenny Martinez in which Martinez effusively praised Lujan. Several years ago Martinez lost a very public battle for the speakership to Lujan.

"Joe, I just thought you ought to know what Kenny said," Rivera ribbed.

This is the home of New Mexico politics.

Reporting to you from Albuquerque, I'm Joe Monahan.

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