Wednesday, July 14, 2010

R Guv Strategy: Tap The Anger; Is It Enough? Plus: Cut The Pay Not The Paid Holidays; Did Berry Overreach? And: Teague Vs. Pearce; The Latest 

Why is GOP Guv contender Susana Martinez continuing to hug the right when candidates usually pivot toward the center for the general election? One of our informed Alligators has these thoughts:

I've seen more evidence lately that the GOP thinks this election is going to be about the angry white man and that the turnout model will be similar to 1994 when the R's took over the US House. In other words, Dems and women will stay home and the white guys will seek to simply out-turnout everyone.

The louder they get, the more women and independents will want to stay home and away from the fray. You see this in the change of tone in the US Senate where, for example, Arizona Senator Kyl said those collecting unemployment are ripping off the government...

Martinez's latest TV ad emphasizes her pro-death penalty credentials while scoring Dem rival Diane Denish for not being a death penalty supporter. She does reference economic issues in the second half of the 30 second spot.

Early turnout models for the New Mexico November election being discussed among political pros point to something similar to that of four years ago. Whether more voters will consider themselves conservative seems to be the question. But Martinez also has appeal to Hispanics. Will she be able to get a robust share of them, even if she hews to a conservative line?

There is a lot of anger out there--a throw the bums out mentality. As we've blogged before, that could lower the bar for Martinez. Anger may trump ideology, driving support to Martinez even among those of a moderate bent. Early polling shows the Guv race essentially tied. In a heavy Democratic state like ours, that in itself is a coup for any GOP candidate.

Toney Anaya
In 1986, when Republican Garrey Carruthers won, he did so as Dem Governor Toney Anaya sported an approval rating that flirted with single digits (we kid you not). And the Carruthers election was assured not necessarily by the policies he campaigned on, but as a rebuke of Anaya.

In 1994, Republican Gary Johnson was elected as he ran against unpopular incumbent Democrat Bruce King, an election where there was much anger in the air--not only against King but against the unpopular legislative leadership.

Now comes Susana Martinez and there are early signs that anger in the air is giving sail to her candidacy. But it is not as palpable as it was in those earlier elections. And that's why we appear to have a horse race.

We note that the election of those Republican governors did not signal a shift in the centrist tradition of New Mexican politics. Anger can be a powerful and even triumphant voice at the ballot box, but in the long run ideas still matter most.


There is near unanimity that public employee pay had to be cut to come up with a balanced ABQ budget, but Republican City Councilor Don Harris voiced the concern of many when he asked why the Berry administration had to cut salaries for police and fire by 2.4 percent when the same money could have been saved by eliminating pay for certain holidays.

I think (Mayor Berry) is being a little more assertive with labor than he has to be, Harris said.

The state opted for furloughs and unpaid days--not salary cuts--to balance the budget, so what gives with the city?

Well, Berry took a tougher tone with labor than the previous administration. He was egged on by the Chamber of Commerce and the editorial pages of the ABQ Journal. But both missed an essential point as they jawboned for the salary cuts instead of unpaid holidays. We are balancing the budget for the 12 months that began July 1, not the future budget years that they argued needed attention.

Money is money. If you can take care of the next year by opting for unpaid holidays instead of permanent salary cuts, why not do it?

Conspiracy theorists might argue that cutting salaries of these public employees was part of a larger plan. The salary cuts could hasten departures from the police and fire departments. After all, their retirement benefits are based on their earrings for their three highest paid years on the job. Those looking to retire--the most experienced cops and firemen--will be the first to look toward the exits. That would mean replacing them with much lower paid personnel? Was that a goal of the administration?

Unpaid holidays, not salary cuts, were preferred by the council and they made their preference known to the mayor, but he ignored it and it cost him. The bolting of Republican Harris signaled the uneasiness.

If the economy stays in the tank, salary cuts for police and fire are inevitable in coming budget years. But by choosing to ignore the council consensus and addressing not only the current year's deficit--but future deficits that may or may not exist--Berry put the cart before the horse. As a result, he appears to have further polarized his administration and city politics.


We wondered aloud here Tuesday whether the shootings at Emcore were in any way related to the sour economy and quoted from news reports that the shooter, Robert Reza, who killed two, wounded four and then shot himself, had been one of those laid off by the hi-tech company. But an Emcore PR rep says Reza was not laid off:

The shooter wasn’t laid off, he resigned in July 2009. He was on a medical leave of absence, and tried to return to work but wasn’t medically able and he resigned. (It was) a tragic domestic violence situation.


The Wall Street Journal taps into the Teague vs. Pearce battle for the southern congressional seat. Following the advice of national Dems, Harry is trying to make the race against Republican Steve about local concerns while Pearce pounds the table over big picture issues.

But don't forget the negative. Expect this pair to soon be beating up on one another on a TV screen near you.

Meanwhile, Pearce appears to be getting ahead of himself. He blames the lousy economy, in part, on the cap and trade bill, but that bill has not become law. It was passed by the House with Teague's support but continues to languish in the Congress. Said Pearce:

The current policies coming out of Washington are killing jobs. The Cap and Trade bill is a job-killer and the Stimulus bills are failures.

And what is Steve's solution to the jobs dilemma? No surprise there. Cut taxes, he says.

This is the home of New Mexico politics.

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