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Friday, July 23, 2010

Guv Campaign Turns To What Matters Most: Your Economic Security, Plus: Blogging Loboland; The Alford Deal; Is It Worth It? 

After starting out with irritating trivia over crime and punishment that induced voter ennui, the 2010 race for Governor is now fast turning to the matters of most import--jobs, the overall economy and education.

This will be a three month effort by Dem Diane Denish and Republican Susana Martinez to convince voters they have their arms around the historic economic crisis that has cast a pall over the Land of Enchantment.

Martinez has hit with a new TV ad blaming "Richardson-Denish" for the loss of nearly 60,000 jobs during the Great Recession. She also brings up the issue of Denish using the state jet, something she was attacked for by GOP primary candidate Allen Weh. Denish hit the air this week touting her ability to create jobs. Unlike Martinez, Denish's latest spot does not go negative. Make of that what you will.

We are now on the deciding territory of this campaign. Economic issues in troubled times often favor Democrats. Martinez has stumbled out of the gate, drawing criticism for not having any in-depth ideas to get the state moving. That's a common critique of R candidates who can get caught playing the same tax cutting record over and over again. If she continues to shy away from giving specifics, she could fritter away any advantage she has in this unsettled political climate.

Here's a newspaper quote from Martinez that sums up her problem:

Martinez estimates that she can cut at least 5 percent of the estimated $2 billion by which state government spending has increased since Richardson took office in 2003,

"This type of review is nearly impossible at the current time because the administration continues to play a shell game with state finances," Martinez said in the statement.


A review is nearly impossible? With information abounding from Republican lawmakers, the Legislative Finance Committee and the press, that seems like an excuse to avoid taking any controversial stand on budget cuts. Will she be able to maintain that stand during statewide TV debates?

Denish has gained the upper hand with the media, insiders and early campaign watchers by coming with specific economic proposals, including budget cuts that would make a dent in the shortfall, if not end it.

Dems like to use the government to solve economic problems and Republicans don't. Denish's obstacle is having been in office as Lt. Governor during the epic downturn. Will voters want to punish the incumbent, even if she comes out on top in handling the issue on the campaign trail?

HER HERO

We came first this week--courtesy of our reader/Alligators with the background of Martinez's father, Jake Martinez. He was a noted amateur boxer in El Paso who founded a security firm that eventually had a payroll "in the millions," according to articles tucked away on the web.

Interestingly, when asked for a state GOP newsletter who her personal hero is, Martinez replied: "My mother."

Her mother is identified in the articles we linked to as Paula Aguirre, but we've seen nothing else about her.

The Martinez campaign obviously has a personal narrative to tell about their candidate who would be the first Hispanic female governor in the nation's history. But they sure aren't telling it in these early stages. Neither is the press.

The newspapers are giving only spotty coverage to the campaign. This is due in part to reduced staffs as well as tradition. However, lengthy personal profiles of the GOP Guv primary contenders--a common write-up in the past--were nonexistent this year. Again, that's because of reduced staffing, particularly at the state's largest newspaper--the ABQ Journal. That has left readers (and voters) wanting.

We suppose in due time the in-depth personal profiles we all await and which will tell us more about the characters of the pair will be published and broadcast. But for the first Guv campaign featuring two female contestants and one that was hyped mightily following the June 1 primary, the state's media seems somewhat disinterested in these summer months.

BLOGGING LOBOLAND
Steve Alford
Here are the money lines--literally--from University of New Mexico Athletic Director Paul Krebs on the handsome contract extension announced this week for Lobo basketball coach Steve Alford:

Krebs said he understands the economic situation but said the money for Alford's contract comes from funds generated by the athletic department.

"The more successful he is, the more we generate," Krebs said. "We only get 11 percent of our (athletic department) budget from the state, and that's not money used for salaries. Basically we're having to generate and find the monies to pay him. It's not money that could have gone to the campus community. It's not money we're receiving in lieu of an academic area. I think that's an important point to make."

Alford made $1.119 million in the 2009-10 season. He could make a lot more in the new deal.

Krebs was politically astute to point out Alford's compensation was--in the main--not paid for by taxpayers. Otherwise, there would be an uproar.

Krebs is saying that Alford is being paid the big bucks because UNM wants to be a "national power" in basketball. This is a generations-old chimera that has led to major disappointment, not to mention the demise of more than one Lobo coach.

Perhaps UNM can be a "national power" in some years, but not consistently. Recruiting limitations is the primary reason. Even Alford will find it a stumbling block as he competes for the best high school players against better known universities and athletic programs. UNM and the magic kingdom of the NCAA "Sweet Sixteen" have never been united and probably never will.

If the stated goal of making UNM a national power is somewhat fantastical, it becomes difficult to justify the Alford deal. However, UNM's reputation has suffered greatly in recent years as the politicization of the institution has led to open rebellion among the prominent factions. It will take a new Governor and a new Board of Regents to return the school to some semblance of stability. Given that backdrop, Alford has been a bright spot, giving the public and the nation an example of superior achievement at UNM. How much is that worth? You be the judge.

COVERING SPORTS

Covering sports full-time in ABQ has to be one of the more frustrating journalistic endeavors. We live in a mid-sized market that has no professional sports franchises of note, yet for some unfathomable reason the fans, the sports writers and TV jocks continue to bang their heads against the wall over it. They also seem to apply professional standards to the UNM Lobos as a substitute.

Everyone accepts, for example, that ABQ can't be a major national convention destination because it is not large enough. Why do the sports writers and giant arena advocates believe it is any different for them? It isn't.

You would think sports coverage would be more fun, but it is often a dreary and self-flagellating recounting of the inevitable setbacks that come with being in a minor league market. Why folks here trap themselves in this Sisyphusean mind-set is another of those New Mexico quirks that is as charming as it is annoying.

Thanks for stopping by this week. Reporting to you from Albuquerque, I'm Joe Monahan

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(c)NM POLITICS WITH JOE MONAHAN 2010
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