Thursday, June 10, 2010

You Made Your Point, Ladies; Now Can We Have A Cease-Fire? Denish-Martinez Clash Spirals Downward; Ads Of DWI's And Child Molesters As Economy Melts 

So here we are--nearly five months from Election day and both Diane Denish and Susana Martinez seem to have hit the panic button, coming with high-octane negative ads that you might expect to see after Labor Day, not before Flag Day.

Martinez's hard-hitting response to Denish's latest blast could escalate the attacks further, but New Mexico has never seen a Guv campaign--or any other major race for that matter--go so negative so early. Observers are already calling for a cease-fire.

I think it is going to hurt both candidates. They are both hitting the panic button too early. What this ends up doing is alienating voters. Charges being made in June are unlikely to be remembered in the fall, said Greg Payne a GOP consultant who is a former state representative.

Payne also wondered, if we are already at DEFCON One in June, what will these candidates be firing at one another come October? Well, Mr. and Mrs. New Mexico may have to boost their subscriptions to Netflix so they can avoid that televised mayhem.

Susana's retaliation against Di's charges that she has a lousy murder conviction rate and has been soft on felony DWI as the Dona Ana County DA is a reprise of the famous Willie Horton ad of the Bush-Dukakis 1988 presidential campaign. The name of the villain this time is Juan Gonzales--a child sex offender whose nasty ways are pinned on Denish. Team Martinez throws in Denish's opposition to the death penalty and finishes off this product of the dark arts by calling Denish "Richardson's loyal solider."

Here is the de reigueur response from the Denish camp:

At a time when most New Mexicans are worried about their jobs and paying the bills, Susana Martinez would rather scare them with far-fetched and ludicrous attacks. This is clearly an attempt by Martinez to take the spotlight off her failed record as a prosecutor, which includes breaking her promise not to cut plea bargain deals for felony DWI offenders...

Like we said, this is high level nuke, giving Denish a dose of her own medicine and inviting her to take it to yet another level. But, as Payne said, where do you go from here? The candidates' individual records as district attorney and lieutenant governor are fair game, but the campaign now threatens to degenerate into a cartoonish spectacle of half-baked charges centered on wedge issues that have nothing to do with the wilting economy, the ongoing state budget crisis, the sky high unemployment rate or the failures of the education system.

It's hard to imagine both candidates sustaining this onslaught through the broiling summer months as voters turn away from the political in favor of play, but once the dogs of war are uleashed they can be hard to call off.

Newspaper coverage of the back and forth over the Martinez attack ad is here.


Denish, after starting the ad conflagration two days after the primary, made a move in her second ad to turn down the temperature and threw in a dollop of positive about herself. Will she give a full-throated response to Martinez's high-level nuke, or decide that her standing with voters will become shaky if the frontal assault continues?

But it may be the lesser-known Martinez who has the most to lose. Hers is a candidacy that has captured the imagination of many voters--a Hispanic woman who comes from modest beginnings, rises to the top of her field and becomes a leader. There is an Obamaesque narrative here, offering hope and an example to young Hispanic women here and across the nation, but it is not being told. And early in the campaign is the time to tell it.

Martinez's compelling personal narrative threatens to get buried in a mountain of mud as this election becomes a contest over who can turn out their hard-core supporters. Denish is better-known, has been down the negative road before and can probably better withstand a nuclear summer as she tries to take Martinez out early. But with a volatile electorate there are no guarantees.

An election campaign that ignores the middle of the road and goes only for the jugular and a low turnout would mean that whoever wins the governor's chair would preside over a bitterly divided legislature and public. In the end, it's the state that has the most to lose if our leading ladies don't give us at least a limited cease fire.


These early round of negative ads will be covered in detail by the press (and on this blog) but going forward coverage will likely dwindle if the ads start coming fast and furious as they have in congressional campaigns. The press will likely cherry-pick those that are most outlandish, or having the most impact. Or at least they should if they don't want these candidates to reset the state's agenda to a dissection of the minutiae of their records in low-level public office. The proper agenda, of course, is what they really believe and how they would govern.


Onward marches the biggest bust in the ABQ housing market in the post-WWII era...

Our mental block continues over the name of ABQ Dem State Rep. Bill O'Neill. His first name is not Bob and he is not an attorney, despite our apparent need to make it so. We're confusing Bill with Bob McNeill who is an attorney and ran some nail biter races for attorney general and distirct attorney back in the 80's and lost both times.

Bill is a development director for a nonprofit. We ran into him at Starbucks not long ago and managed to get his name right there, but put us in front of a keyboard and O'Neill's Irish luck runs dry.

And if you're wondering about Bob McNeill, he is doing fine. We see him around the neighborhood and he is still jogging away.

As for our mental block over O'Neill's name, we see our old friend plastic surgeon Patrick Hudson MD has also started practicing existential depth psychotherapy. Maybe it's time for a chat...

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