Monday, May 24, 2010

GOP Fissure: Chairman Yates Says Weh Ads "Dishonest"; Wild GOP Race Gets Wilder; We Go In-Depth, Plus: Tons More Action As Final Primary Week Arrives 

Yates, Weh & Martinez
New Mexico GOP chairman Harvey Yates Jr. rocked the 2010 GOP race for Governor Sunday, ripping into Allen Weh and coming with what amounted to an endorsement of Republican Guv candidate Susana Martinez.

In an unusual move for Yates and the NM GOP which are supposed to play netural in contested primaries, Yates came with this harsh comment on Weh's negative TV ads against Martinez:

Republicans expect honesty in government. How likely is that result, if dishonesty in campaigning is tolerated in those we elect to run government?

Yates, who succeeded Weh as party chairman, assembled a committee of three, including himself, to look at the negative ads of both Martinez and Weh and declared that Weh's ads failed the truth test:

It was found that the documents furnished by Susana Martinez reasonably supported her ad regarding Allen Weh’s earlier position on amnesty (for illegal immigrants). However, it was found that the documents to which the committee was directed by Allen Weh did not reasonably support either his radio or TV ad.

I note that when Mr. Weh accuses Ms. Martinez of failure to pay her taxes, this can be taken as suggesting possible felonious conduct on the part of Ms. Martinez. This suggestion by Mr. Weh, without clear evidence, is inappropriate.

The entire Yates statement is here.

But Weh's camp was having none of it, defiantly blasting back at Yates:

Instead of letting rank and file Republicans think and speak for themselves..a group of self-appointed party insiders has wrongly and inexplicably decided to give Susana Martinez a free pass when it comes to keeping her word about running a negative campaign.

The Chairman’s biased interference in a primary contest is harmful to the Republican Party and wrong for our state.

We stand by our ad’s accuracy. Mrs. Martinez’s multiple ads falsely accusing Allen Weh of supporting amnesty are fundamentally dishonest and misleading.

Complete Weh statement here. (ABQ Journal coverage here.)


Lobo Louie
Chairman Yates disagreed with our contention that his intervention was tantamount to an endorsement of Martinez. "Absolutely not, " he declared, and went on to urge people who support Weh to vote for him. We both made our assessment on the airwaves of KRQE-TV during the Sunday 10 pm news. The video and report is here.

Come on Harvey, if calling Weh's ad against Martinez "dishonesty" isn't an endorsement of her, Lobo Louie isn't a wolf.

A GOP veteran told us that in 2006 Weh pulled a similar stunt. They say then-Chairman Weh had a robo call placed into a Roswell area state House district criticizing the campaign ads of Mike Kakuska, one of two candidates engaged in a two way Republican primary. Some payback now for Weh?


One of our GOP insiders reports that Weh's camp agreed on Saturday to pull the ad in question to "keep the peace" in the party, but told Yates that they could not get it down until Monday. They said that Yates went ahead with his statement on the ad anyway, showing it "was a PR stunt." So said that Weh sympathizer.

Still, the Weh campaign says the ad in question will come down today. It will be interesting to see what replaces it. More nukes?


For this campaign the danger is that the leadership of the NM GOP has handed Diane Denish a killer issue--that Allen Weh runs dishonest ads and top Republicans agree. If he beats Martinez, they will be on it like red on an enchilada.

As for the ad, we've already reported how Dona Ana County District Attorney Martinez was told by the State Auditor to put independent contractors on the official payroll and make sure payroll taxes are paid for them. The Weh ad claims "Martinez failed to pay her taxes."

Clearly that's a stretch and if Martinez can knock out that leg of Weh's stool it could be a big factor in her turning the race. But is the Republican electorate engaged enough to make the distinction and is Weh's TV buy so big that he will out circulate Martinez's counter-offensive? And what about the Yates play? How will that go down?


There are three other candidates in this race, although you would never know it as the Weh-Martinez shoot-out garners all the attention. One of those contenders, ABQ PR executive Doug Turner, was doing some shooting of his own when he got wind of the Yates power play.

The state party had no business meddling in this primary. If Susana Martinez can go after drug lords and child molesters, she can handle her own campaign.
I and the other candidates have had no one defend us in this process. Again, the party has no business defending anyone.

Turner says he has been subjected to negative robo calls, but the state party has not gotten involved in that negative campaigning.

Turner wondered aloud about what media disputes the NM GOP decides to interfere with under Chairman Yates? What are the standards? Only the top polling candidates have their ads examined? Only certain negative charges merit intervention?

The outcome of Guv race may be in question. That Harvey Yates is going to take a hit for his intervention is not. Former GOP Chairman Edward Lujan seemed to agree with Turner's assessment when he called Yates' intervention "strange."

Incidentally, Yates issued his hit on Weh from his personal e-mail, not from the GOP's.


One of our Dem Alligators closely watching the action from the sidelines could not help but get in on this latest campaign chaos. Here's his take:

Weh has always been a divisive politician and he’s shown himself to be a candidate who simply doesn’t care about the facts. Yates’ statement just puts an exclamation point on that. If Weh wins, he’ll enter the general election with a serious credibility problem--amongst leaders and voters in both parties.

That being said, if Weh plays his cards (and his money) right, he should have Martinez on her heels this last week defending her record. If a few local sheriffs can poke a clear hole in Martinez’s record, imagine what Weh and his vast resources could do. Weh is clearly fuming--we’ll see if he drops a major bomb. And if that happens, and Weh wins, the Yates’ resignation letter will probably hit your in box before you wake up on June 2nd.

Wake up on June 2nd? Heck, with this action, we're staying up all night!


Let's recap. Nuclear warfare broke out between Martinez and Weh last Monday when Martinez launched a negative volley accusing Weh of being soft on amnesty for illegal aliens. Weh responded with an ad that charged Martinez "failed to pay her taxes." In his ad Weh says Martinez was "caught red-handed" and her hand then slowly turns red.

It may have been a defining moment of Primary Campaign '10, but for Allen Weh or Susana Martinez?


You've got to think that Martinez will come with more TV money for the final week. There is chatter that she picked up some Texas cash as well as more NM oil money in the past week. If she did, that should show up in her TV buy for the final week. Candidate finance reports will be filed later this week as well.

Weh has so far loaned himself $1 million of his own cash.


Trying to put Weh on the defensive, Martinez released her 2009 tax return to KOB-TV. It shows she and her husband, Chuck Franco, the Doña Ana County undersheriff, had what we believe to be reported at $153,000 in income for the year. (Story not posted on the Web.) She challenged Weh to release his tax information. But the multi-millionaire businessman stiff-armed the DA, saying this is not the time for personal tax talk, even though he was first to broach the subject.


Martinez came with a response ad Thursday that some of our analysts felt got too tangled up in the charges Weh was making and did not go far enough in turning the tables on Weh, owner of CSI Aviation, an ABQ based air charter company that has secured millions of dollars in federal contracts.

The one and only ABQ Journal poll on the race was released last Sunday and showed Weh with 31% to Martinez's 30%. The other three candidates lagged significantly.

The sense among Republican professionals we spoke with is that Martinez seized the momentum with the Journal poll and an endorsement visit by former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin the same day the poll was released. But as the week wore on momentum was seen shifting toward Weh whose negative TV ad against Martinez has to rank as one of the hardest-hitting ever seen in a GOP intramural contest.

Now as the new week starts the question is whether Susana regained Big Mo over Allen with a Sunday Journal endorsement of her candidacy and the brouhaha over Weh's negative attack?

When Steve Pearce and Heather Wilson tangled for the 2008 GOP US Senate nomination, the negative dominated. The difference in this race is the slam on Martinez's personal integrity when Weh accuses her of failing to pay her taxes.

Insiders have long known that the current leadership of the state GOP was in the camp of Martinez. They, like other analysts, believe Weh's chances of defeating certain Dem Guv nominee Diane Denish are slim. They see Martinez as having more appeal to independents and Hispanic Dems.

But with Weh and Martinez ripping one another to shreds and the state GOP siding with Martinez, the R's now have more to worry about than going after Dems. No matter who wins the GOP prize June, 1, the party will have its hands full healing the deep wounds inflicted during this duel.


If the newspapers could vote, Martinez would win in a landslide. The ABQ Journal, the Santa Fe New Mexican and Las Cruces Sun-News have all endorsed her. The support is not unexpected. A top priority of the news types is tackling state government corruption and DA Martinez has made that a centerpiece issue.

The Journal and Martinez both argue that corruption is linked to job creation, that people won't want to do business in the state because of politics on the seamy side.

There may be some truth in that, but it is not anywhere near the chief cause of the state's serious economic woes.

Remember that the state enjoyed record employment, record state government surpluses and galloping income growth during the years the economy boomed under Governor Richardson. We now know that there was also plenty of corruption occurring simultaneously.

Major league corruption blossoms during major Bull Markets. There's plenty of money for everyone then and not many folks are watching the store to see that some of the loot isn't being carried out the back door. When the Bull expires and the Bear arises, out comes the slimy stuff from under the rocks, with a grouchy group of citizens ready to hack at it with their shovels.

If elected Governor, Martinez will not be prosecuting anything. Few of the skills she will need to forge a working relationship with the Legislature and sell her ideas to the public are burnished in a courtroom where things tend to play out in black and white.

Not that Martinez is incapable of leading the state, but if she were to be the GOP nominee, the campaign to follow would tell us much more about what personal skills and talents she could bring to bear in Santa Fe. Her single-track resume as a district attorney provides few clues.


In our first draft of the Friday blog, we said that GOP Guv candidate Allen Weh's CSI Aviation has been the recipient of no-bid federal contracts. But the campaign says all of Weh's contracts have been competitively bid.

Brian Colón
We initially blogged Friday that we were on the look out for negative campaign spots from lieutenant governor contender Lawrence Rael that went after rivals Brian Colón and Joe Campos, but the Rael campaign has since told us no such negative hits are on the air. (Here's his latest ad.) But the race has gone negative on the phone lines--anonymously. According to one of our Alligators a "robo-call" went out to Dems over the weekend taking after front-runner Colón:

The call was from a group calling itself "Democrats for Better Government." It said Brian Colón was born in New York, was active in college Republicans, involved in pay-to-play and Governor Richardson's fund-raising committee--Moving America Forward. The call said when Colón was asked by the ABQ Journal about his involvement, he would not say where the money went.

The call further said all Democrats remember the horrible presidential election of 2008 when Democrats waited in line six hours to vote in the NM presidential caucus. The call said Colón ran that election and his later appearance announcing the results on national TV was a embarrassment, Also, the call said Colon is for school vouchers for Catholic schools and said he is for gay marriage.

It was a pretty devastating call. They threw the kitchen sink at him.

Lawrence Rael says his camp had nothing to do with the call. The Campos camp hasn't said anything yet.

These charges quietly circulating against Colón as he has raised the most funds among the five Light Guv hopefuls and has established the most dominant TV presence.

A May 12 scientific poll commissioned for this Web site showed Colón getting support from 20.6% of those polled. Lawrence Rael had 13.5% and Joe Campos polled 12.9%. State Senators Jerry Ortiz y Pino and Linda Lopez trailed the field. Ortiz y Pino was fourth with 9.6% and Lopez lagged with 8.9 percent. Undecided was at nearly 35%.

The negative robo-call could ding Colón, but unless the charges make their way into TV ads, they are unlikely to alter the landscape of this race.

Colón was born in New York and as a tot moved to Valencia County. We've asked Colón for a response to the charges and will post his response Tuesday.


Your big Monday blog rolls on. The action is now knee-deep. Here's more:

Dem land commissioner candidate Sandy Jones appears to be the only one of the three candidates for the nomination airing TV spots for the June 1 primary, but front-runner Ray Powell doesn't seem to have much to worry about. Jones has spent less than $2,200 in booking his initial buy, according to the Powell camp. Powell is on ABQ radio and mailing. Santa Fe County Commissioner Harry Montoya is the other hopeful.

In a May 12 scientific poll we commissioned, Powell led Jones 37.5% to 17.3% and Montoya 15.9%. Undecided voters came in at 29.3%.


She's unopposed, but certain Dem Guv nominee Diane Denish is keeping her profile high before the June 1 primary. Her campaign says:

...Denish's second ad of the campaign highlights her fight to reform the regional housing authorities and save taxpayer dollars. Her efforts resulted in tough new oversight of the authorities. Several indictments were also handed down in the aftermath of this reform effort.

You can see the 30 second spot here.

Ethics and corruption are seen as issues benefiting the R's this cycle, possibly putting Denish on the defensive. This ad tries to position her as part of the solution.

And with lots of loot being spent on the local TV stations, reader Michael Turri writes:

I am small business owner here in Albuquerque. It is a two person video production company. I had contacted the camps of the GOP governor candidates to see if they were using local production companies for their video work. The only ones who responded were Turner and Domenici who both said they were definitely using local people. Can you could find out if the rest are indeed walking the talk of job creation by using local production people and facilities? Thank you.

The campaign of GOP guv candidate Allen Weh says "our whole film team was local." Jay McCleskey, media consultant for Susana Martinez, says, "most of the crews for the shoots have been from NM."


We talked about all the big 2010 primary races from top to bottom on Sunday's edition of "Eye on New Mexico" with KOB-TV's Nicole Brady and Stuart Dyson and had some fun doing it. That video is here.


The Great Recession rolls on in New Mexico, sometime manifesting itself in most gruesome forms. Like at this $1 million ABQ home.


We've run a couple of state legislator endorsements of GOP Bernalillo County Sheriff candidate William Kurth, and the camp of his rival for the nomination, Dan Houston, says don't forget us. We haven't. Houston has been endorsed by ABQ GOP City Councilors Brad Winter, Michael Cook and Don Harris. GOP State Rep. Tom Anderson of the city's West side is also on the Houston bandwagon.

Casey Luna
This is one of our campaign favorites. It's a correction of a news release from the camp of Dem lieutenant governor hopeful Joe Campos:

CORRECTION: Third paragraph last line originally stated "Campos/Denish ticket" should obviously read "Denish/Campos ticket" and has been corrected.

It seems it's the job of the lieutenant governor--or those hoping to be Light Guv in in New Mexico--to keep the Governor wondering what they're thinking.

Casey Luna was the most rebellious of the recent lot, running against Bruce King--the governor he served under--for the 1994 Dem guv nomination.

Which leads us to possible light Guv nicknames if this bunch gets out of hand. How about "Casey Colon" or "Casey Campos?"

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