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Friday, May 21, 2010

Inflection Point For GOP Guv Contest? Analysts Say Martinez-Weh Battle May Be Tipping; TV Wars Leave Tea Leaves To Read 

Senior analysts are wondering aloud whether they've witnessed an inflection point in the 2010 Republican chase for Governor that may tip the race to wealthy businessman Allen Weh.

The flurry of analysis came as Dona Ana County District Attorney Susana Martinez put up an ad responding to allegations in a Weh commercial that she failed to pay her taxes and purchased iPods with DA funds. She explained in the ad that iPods were used to listen to witness and defendant statements and that Attorney’s have used iPods to successfully prosecute criminals, including child molesters. The ad also says Martinez has always paid her taxes in full.

But Martinez was seen by the analysts as fighting on Weh's turf as the clock ticked rapidly on the June 1 primary. They wanted stronger stuff in response to Weh's ad which they see as eroding Martinez's standing.

"She pulled the trigger on a squirt gun," declared veteran pollster and Dem analyst Harry Pavlides of Martinez's response ad.

Pavlides said time is limited because of the Memorial Day holiday May 31 and with the primary coming the following day. He said voters will stop paying attention around next Thursday. He felt that Martinez should have come with her own fresh charges now.

Alligators chimed in that those charges could center on Weh's CSI Aviation company and how it received hefty federal government contracts. They urged an attack on Weh's contention that he is a successful private businessman when they see a government contractor getting deals from the feds.

That's the kind of up front and personal hit that Weh chose when he accused Martinez of failing to pay taxes and spending DA money on meals at Hooters.

There was speculation (and some grumbling) that Martinez may feel hesitant about going after Weh's business because It could drag former Congresswoman Heather Wilson and retired Senator Domenici into the fray. After all, you normally don't get millions in federal contracts without some help from your hometown congressional reps.

Whether it turns out to be squirt gun or a Luger, Martinez has apparently made her choice. She will ride into the weekend her ad that accuses Weh of being for amnesty for illegals and explaining the iPod purchases.

MONEY MATTERS

Another challenge for Martinez is the mammoth amounts of cash Weh is now shoveling into the race. My media mavens report that Weh's TV buy for the week ending next Tuesday is now a gargantuan $252,000. Martinez' buy for a similar time frame is now $102,000. Weh started out the week buying about $177,000. That, my friends, is a license to kill.

INTERVIEW INTERRUPTUS


Martinez tried to throw Weh off his game Thursday when she interrupted an interview he was conducting with always-in-the-thick-of-it Stuart Dyson of KOB-TV. Susana walked up to Allen and said, "I am happy to show my taxes any day to prove that I pay them..." She said she was willing to release her tax returns for the past ten years if Weh was willing to do the same.

But Weh, known for his sometimes hot temper, did not take the bait. He kept his cool and responded that "There will be an appropriate time to present our taxes, but I don't think that's germane at the moment."

If Susana was waiting for Weh to lose it and give her a defining moment, she was left at the altar. But you can't blame her for trying. She too must be sensing that powerful financial forces, crafty DC media experts and Weh's iron will to control himself (so far) are coming together and signaling that the gates may be starting to close on her.

DI TIME

What a year to be unopposed. Dem Diane Denish, who will become her party's Guv nominee June 1, surely dodged a bullet when she failed to draw a primary opponent in this toxic election environment. Not only that. The R's are starting to eat themselves alive. A senior Denish operative could not let the turn of events this week go without cutting comment:

This primary has become a debate about I-PODs and Hooters. So much for job creation and taking on corruption. Needless to say, there’s only one candidate on TV right now giving New Mexicans a good reason to go to the polls on June 1 –the one without opposition on the ballot.

FINAL STRETCH


More Primary '10 final stretch coverage now as the dead-trees take to the trail. Sean Olson of the ABQ Journal covered the GOP Guv forum held Thursday. The New Mexican's Steve Terrell has campaign analysis and the AP's Barrey Massey counts the voters and projected turnout. And on-line, Heath Haussamen comes with a report on Weh's federal contract.

LIGHT GUV BATTLE

No sooner had one of our Alligators written in complaining that none of the four candidates for the Dem light guv nomination was attacking front-runner Brian Colon, then we get word that Lawrence Rael has come with a TV ad giving a jab to both Colon and Campos. We'll look for more on that. (Ok, I'm looking at the latest Rael spot and am seeing nothing "negative." ) Still a clear field for Colon. Here is a passage from Rael's website that contrasts him with his rivals:

The other candidates for Lt. Governor have good intentions, but their professional experience has been as an attorney, social worker, restaurant owner, and consultant. I’ve been involved with major public initiatives for over twenty-five years. In a competitive energy environment we can’t wait while less-experienced leaders learn on the job...

MY BOTTOM LINES

We'll sit down with KOB-TV's Nicole Brady and Stuart Dyson for a half-hour and talk all about the 2010 Dem and GOP primary contests. Join us for "Eye on New Mexico" Sunday at 4:30 p.m.

And we're getting back in the saddle for our traditional election coverage for public radio KANW 89.1 FM. We'll have our pre-game show at 5 p.m. May 31 and our wall-to-wall Election Night Coverage Tuesday, June 1 beginning at 6:30 p.m. We'll tell you more about that as we get closer.

It's the busy season around here again, and we appreciate you being with us.

From Albuquerque, I'm Joe Monahan reporting.

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(c)NM POLITICS WITH JOE MONAHAN 2009
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