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Monday, June 07, 2010

Should More Santa Fe Incumbents Be Watching Their Backs? We Have A List, Plus: Di's 1st TV Ad Misses Bullseye, And: The Press & Pay-To-Play 

You can argue whether Tuesday's results showed an anti-incumbent trend, but the blow-out victory of newcomer Susana Martinez for the GOP Guv nomination and the near-death experience of Democratic House Speaker Ben Lujan (he will eke out the win) is enough for us to believe that voters are at the least looking for something new. If that's right, are there more incumbent legislators who now have reason to watch their backs?

Insiders say Dem Bernalillo County state representatives Mimi Stewart and Danice Picraux are in pretty safe seats, but there is potential for intrigue. The R's have fielded candidates against both of the legislators and their districts are not overwhelming D. With Tuesday's results, maybe the R's try to to find additional funding for these races.

Two legislative veterans who could be ripe for the picking in an anti-incumbent wave--Ed Sandoval--elected in '82--and Kiki Saavedra--elected in '76--had no primary opponents and also drew no general election foes. Kiki is chair of House Appropriations and Ed is chairman of Tax and Revenue. They are very close allies of Speaker Lujan.

Saavedra made peace with the progressive wing of the Dem party before the primary by, in part, opposing the proposed food tax. He drew no liberal challenger who could have posed a threat. Sandoval also was left alone by the libs.

The standing of these two powerful chairmen is out of the hands of the voters and now rests with how Speaker Lujan fares with the House Dem caucus when it meets at the end of the year to vote on its leadership. Ben has been speaker since 2001.

Santa Fe powerhouse Lucky Varela, elected to the House in '86 and chairman of the Legislative Finance Committee, also drew no Democratic primary foe. But he did draw a GOP challenger for the fall in Bob Walsh. Lucky will be heavily favored, but as with the Lujan race, this contest will now be closely watched to see what percentage Varela comes home with.

The old lions of the NM House may be with us a while longer, but they are on their last hunt.

MORE TO WATCH

Dem Jeff Steinborn in Las Cruces is always on the line in his swing district, and more so in this political climate. ABQ Dem Karen Giannini is widely expected to lose her seat after she took it from R Justine Fox Young due to the Obama landslide that seeped into the ABQ NE Heights. R's also think freshman Dem Rep. Ben Rodefer in the Corrales area is a goner because the district also flipped during the Obama wave.

Back to the theory that voter dissatisfaction is especially acute with incumbents who have been in a while. That would include R's as well as D's. So put the race between Sandoval County GOP State Rep, Jane Powdrell Cublert higher on your list. She is seeking a fifth, two year term and is getting an aggressive challenge from Dem attorney Joel Davis. If the anti-incumbent stars do indeed align, there could be a surprise.

That's a short list for now, but the list of incumbents endangered, or at least forced to spend more money than they like, could grow over the summer.

HOW BARELA WAS BEAT

The one Dem legislator to lose his seat Tuesday was Elias Barela who was ousted in his Valencia County primary by Julian Luna, executive director of the NM Racing Commission. Barela was going for this third term. We blogged Friday that insiders were saying Barela was surprised by his ouster because polling showed he was in decent shape and that his polling did not account for the new voters Luna was bringing out. But the pollster for Barela, Stephen Claremont of Third Eye Strategies, emails in to clarify:

Barela did only one poll two months ago, before the campaign communications began. I did interview newer voters as part of the survey and did cast a relatively broad net in determining who would vote in this low turnout election. The campaign did not poll during the last eight weeks of the election. Julian Luna did run a good campaign, and his surge was not missed by my polling, it was not commissioned.

Profiles of all the legislators mentioned here can be found on the legislative Web site.

THE AD WAR

Can't we get a clean hit in the TV ad wars? First we had Allen Weh come with an ad in the GOP Guv primary that accused Dona Ana County District Attorney Susana Martinez of failing to pay her taxes. That was so far out of the park that the GOP Chairman said Weh employed "dishonesty." Then we got the Martinez ad that seemed to go too far in charging that Weh wanted amnesty for illegal immigrants. Now we get the first ad from Dem nominee Diane Denish against GOP nominee Martinez, and while it is nowhere near as egregious as Weh's over the top hit, the ad is not doing well when it comes under media scrutiny. The ABQ Journal came with this:

Denish's campaign used numbers provided by the state Administrative Office of the Courts to determine conviction rates. But the numbers provided by the AOC do not accurately show conviction rates for prosecutors because they do not reflect such factors as prosecutors dismissing and refiling murder charges for the same crime — which would count as two cases, with one failed conviction in the AOC numbers — or the death of a defendant, for example.

Arthur Pepin, AOC director, said that the numbers provided by his office every year are to track the caseloads of each judicial district, backlogs and other data related to how busy the court systems are. "We do not specifically set out to track conviction rates or anything like that," he said.

Denish was anxious to get out in front of Martinez and slow her momentum from her big primary win. But to do that you want to come with an ironclad ad with no wiggle room for your opponent. This ad is not accomplishing those objectives. Denish's camp did score points when it pointed out that Martinez used AOC numbers to justify her plea bargain rate on felony DWI. And the ad does succeed in switching the subject from "Richardson-Denish" for a while.

But Martinez has a 13 year record as DA. Isn't there stuff that Di can use that doesn't call into question her own credibility?

The AP also delved into the ad as did nmpolitics.net.

VOX POPULI


The polls will be coming at us at a much more rapid pace now that we are down to two Guv contenders. Rasmussen went into the field on Thursday and came back reporting that Martinez holds a two point edge over Denish--44 to 42. Susana is still riding high from her intense exposure on TV during the primary win, but the poll does confirm what we all know--for now, we have a competitive race for the Guv's chair.

NO PRESS PRESSURE


The New Mexico press has been in a frenzy over pay-to-play (and not without reason) but now the ink-stained wretches seem to be falling back into their old habits.

It was vast sums flooding into Big Bill's gubernatorial and presidential campaign coffers that later led to the allegations and investigations that claimed contributors benefited from state largess. But flash forward to Campaign 2010 and the press seems to have amnesia. No editorials or table-pounding on how the candidates for Governor should show some self-restraint in the amount of money they take from individual donors or from companies that do a lot of business with the state. Both Martinez and Denish are going to be showered in millions. Already Martinez has set the state record for an individual contributor by taking $450,000 from Texas developer Bob "Swiftboat" Perry.

The press seems content to stick with the "they all do it" argument. For example:

Both candidates stand to gain support from inside and outside New Mexico's borders — and both are likely to tout their in-state backers more loudly. By the time Nov. 2 approaches, chances are that the two will be up to their necks in political debt to big national interests, so neither will be able to tar the other as sold out to folks who oughtn't be running our state.

Maybe the ink-stained wretches are resigned to it all and await campaign contribution limits to take effect folowing the election. If that's the case, so be it. But when they find out later that some of this huge money has bought more than a smile and a handshake, they can spare us expressions of shock that there's gambling going on in the casino.

THE BOTTOM LINES

On our election broadcast last Tuesday we talked about the last time we had an all Hispanic Guv ticket, as the R's do this year with Martinez and John Sanchez as Light Guv. It was pointed out that in 1968 Fabian Chavez led the ticker and that a Hispanic legislator was the Light Guv nominee. But our emailer to the station had the wrong name. It was Mike Alarid, a state senator. Fabian lives in Santa Fe. Alarid passed away in 2007 at 89.

This is the home of New Mexico politics.

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(c)NM POLITICS WITH JOE MONAHAN 2009
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