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Monday, July 12, 2010

Campaign '10: It's TV Bloopers; Latest Martinez Ad Makes Miss List, Plus: Susana's Four Flubs And How She Can Right The Ship, And: Hamburger Heaven 

What is this? TV's Bloopers and Practical Jokes? That's the only prime-time some of these campaign commercials for the 2010 Guv's race seem fit for. And the bloopers keep coming.

GOP Guv hopeful Susan Martinez delivers a double blooper in her latest tube offering. It is a pro-death penalty piece and not a bad one. But the 30 second spot makes the blooper list because she features testimonials from political lightning rod Darren White as well as Bob Martinez, the former executive director of the State Adult Parole Board who was fired from the job in 2004. See the ad here.

But there's more. Martinez was axed for failing to notify victims of a parole hearing for a sex-offender priest. And what TV ad has Dem Diane Denish been hammering for weeks against District Attorney Martinez? Why, it's this one that accuses Susana of being soft on sex offenders.

That's some unexpected luck for Di.

WHY WHITE?
Darren White
Of course, it isn't only luck in play. Why did Susana have to use White in her ad attacking Denish for not supporting the death penalty "not even for cop killers?" He is no longer Bernalillo County Sheriff although in the spot he wears a protective vest sporting the title "sheriff." White is the public safety director for the city of ABQ--a top position of power in a nonpartisan government.

KOB-TV asked Darren why he appeared in an attack ad against Denish when he is charged with ensuring that city law enforcement applies the law fairly and judiciously.

People know me as someone who has been involved in law enforcement--an outspoken public safety advocate for years...This is a very important issue. This is a very important race.

But White, unlike past public safety directors, has direct command over the police and fire departments. The police chief refers to him as "my boss." Unlike his predecessors, White does not answer to the city's chief administrative officer, only the mayor. He has the power to order law enforcement action. He has also become the chief media spokesman (especially on TV) for the departments.

There's also the criticism that the public safety director should devote his time to arresting the city's ever spiraling crime rate, not playing in the political playpen.

Not that Darren is going to order that cops go soft or hard based on your voter registration, but appearances and perceptions count and such overt political campaigning in the media by ABQ police chiefs and/or public safety directors has no precedent.

Republican Mayor Berry has taken whatever leash he had on Darren, who is a favorite of hard-right Republicans, and let him run. But the mayor better watch what he runs into. Damages are ultimately payable by the office of His Honor.

MORE ON THIS

Martinez using White and generating news not about her ad, but about him, is another early mistake. In addition, as you would expect her to slide to the center, the death penalty ad keeps her on an issue that works best with R's. Remember, in 2008, White was shellacked by Dem Martin Heinrich for the ABQ congressional seat. His limited popularity does not extend to the independents and undecided Dems that Susana needs.

We're aware that Darren was sheriff during the 2006 slaying of sheriff's deputy James McGrane, a crime Micheal Astorga was found guilty of. And we also note that Astorga's mother put Denish on the spot when she said that Di as Governor would not allow her son to be put to death. (Denish says she would. The crime occurred before the state abolished the death penalty.)

But again, why do a death penalty ad at all at this point? We are five weeks into a general election campaign in which Republican Martinez seems unusually well-positioned with Hispanic Catholics. The church has been a key player in opposing the death penalty which was repealed by the 2009 legislature at the urging of Big Bill. Couldn't Susana showcase another issue at this point--one that appeals to moderates and complements, not threatens, the possible historic inroads she could make with Hispanic Dems?

Well, we don't have the polls these folks use but maybe they say the undecided voter is more interested in death sentences and illegal immigration than their jobs, life savings and their kids' college education. But we don't think so.

Or maybe the GOP wunderkinds see the conservative counter-revolution coming to New Mexico and you just get the base believers to the polls and not trouble yourself with nuance.

As for the use of the fired Martinez, where's the vetting? Isn't that TV production 101? That's egg you see spread all over the faces of Susana's media consultants for not checking it out.

But the egg is sticking to her apron as well. She is ultimately in charge of her campaign, but a brick-by-brick case against her competency could start to be built based on her early mishaps.

THE FOUR FLUBS

First, she undermined her anti-pay-to-play credentials by taking a $450,000 contribution from a Texas developer. The lack of perspective may have been panic-induced as GOP Guv challenger Allen Weh was outspending her heavily. Still, it defined her as another politician, not the outside reform she marketed.

Second, she comes with a TV ad that asserts she has taken on the most violent members of the Mexican drug cartels, but the ad generates newspaper stories exploring whether it is wholly based in fact.

Third, her reaction to a hate email "joke" in which a Mexican immigrant is shot to death in a bar comes up short. She understates the impact and dubs it "unacceptable," instead of roundly condemning the racist content. Also, she does not take a public role in disciplining the assistant district attorney in her office who forwarded the offensive screed.

Fourth is the death penalty TV ad that puts Darren White front and center as well as Martinez, the discredited parole board director.

Yes, it's still somewhat early. But not by much. Early voting is less than 90 days out. Voters have little to judge how Martinez would lead the state other than how she she conducts her campaign. Those paying close attention in these early innings may be in need of some reassurance--or at least a week or two free of rookie errors.

MARTINEZ SPOKESMAN ARRESTED

The Martinez campaign sprouted another problem over the weekend when Susana's new spokesman was booked for DWI

Raj Shah was arrested on an aggravated DWI charge in Albuquerque early Sunday morning. Shah, 25, was pulled over by State Police just after midnight in a silver BMW near the intersection of San Mateo and Osuna and arrested several minutes later.. As of Sunday evening, Shah was in the Metropolitan Detention Center on a $5,000 bond. The Martinez campaign took quick action after it found out about the arrest Sunday afternoon.

"Raj Shah … was immediately terminated," said Ryan Cangiolosi, Martinez's campaign manager...Shah had moved to New Mexico a little more than a week ago to work for Martinez's campaign.

First, the assistant DA in Martinez's office forwarding racist emails and now this. Someone send Susana a fire extinguisher.

THE DI FILE

Denish has also earned a spot in the TV bloopers show by coming with an early ad about Martinez's conviction rate as Dona Ana County district attorney. The spot was shot down and had to be recut. Also, that Denish ad accusing Martinez of "not doing her job" when it comes to two sex offenders has been spanked by FactCheck.org which said:

The Denish campaign did not prove that Martinez "didn’t do her job."

Di's latest ad, released Friday as was Susana's, makes a none too subtle play for the support of Hispanic women. In fact, the ad is dubbed "La Familia" and features testimonials from, well, Hispanic women. (See it here.)

Denish has been given a lukewarm reception among many Hispanic Dems and is gong to work to invigorate this essential core of the Democratic base. This ad is also rare in that she does not take a shot at Martinez. That in itself will be welcome to a large swath of voters already disillusioned by the negative and picayune tone of the campaign from both sides.

STATE OF THE RACE


This appears to be a favorable year for the R's. What we see as early Martinez missteps would be more costly in any other year, but she needs to stop making them before they become part of her political persona. Also, there may be a calculation by the R's that the race is Susana's to lose. Given the favorable environment, they may see no need to pivot to the center. That's a risky calculation and one that in the past has decimated the New Mexican Republican Party. After several cycles of promulgating an uncompromising, ideological driven agenda, the party commands hardly any high-level representation in state politics.

Wouldn't ads about the economic crisis and Democratic competence get Martinez where she needs to go, rather than wedge issues like the death penalty which are so effective in a GOP primary? Or ads that tell us something about who Susana Martinez is? The state still doesn't know.

Denish and the Dems are feeling the heat. They have slammed Martinez's DA record repeatedly in paid TV and yet the race is essentially tied. Maybe it would be worse if they hadn't done the early negative. Hard to say. But the Democratic nominee needs to patiently recapture the Hispanic base that appears to be drifting in the face of Martinez's historic candidacy. Denish's new ad is a step in that direction.

Unless Martinez already has this thing won on a "throw the bums out no matter what" platform, Denish may get a break if the DA stays with national Republican orthodoxy that voters here in 2008 rejected as intellectually exhausted.

HAMBURGER HEAVEN

New Mexico may lag behind in a variety of quality of life stats, but when it comes to coking up a juicy hamburgers and great french fries, we more than hold our own.

We simulated our own version of the hamburger wars recently, visiting the Buckhorn Tavern at San Antonio (south of Socorro) and then stopping in at Five Guys, the renowned national chain that recently opened in ABQ's far NE Heights.

Buckhorn Tavern owner Bobby Olguin (wife Debbie is co-owner) is no stranger to the battle. He won a cooking "throwdown" with the Food Network's famous Bobby Flay, and last July Big Bill recognized the achievement by declaring a Buckhorn Tavern Day" in the state.

But that was then, what about now? Well, Five Guys comes close to tying Olguin's Buckhorn. Their burgers are juicy indeed and very tasty, but they don't offer green chile and they lose the face-off over the french fries. Five Guys serves fries cut from genuine Idaho potatoes that are truly delicious In fact, they post on a board where in Idaho that day's potatoes came from and there are bags full of them stacked at the front of the restaurant.

The Buckhorn also makes homemade fries, but theirs are more tasty because, we think, of the oil used to deep fry them. But knowing Olguin he is not going to be happy that he beats out Five Guys on the fries while the hamburger duel is almost too close to call.

He will probably demand a throwdown ala Bobby Flay. Bring it on, Buckhorn Bobby. Just make sure we're one of the judges.

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