Monday, July 19, 2010

Teague Troubles Deepen: Pearce Ties Up Money Race As Other Issues Weigh On Harry; We Go In-Depth, Plus: Politics & The Personal: How Much Is Too Much? 

More deeply concerning news for Democrat Harry Teague as he tries to hang on to the southern congressional seat. He and his Republican challenger Steve Pearce are now nearly tied in the amount of cash each has on hand for the final phase of the campaign. Teague has $1.116 million and Pearce has $1.023 million. That is not good news for Dem incumbent Teague who faces a stiff head wind in the heavily conservative district. Perhaps even more distressing for Teague is how he was trounced in the latest quarterly fundraising. Pearce raised 46% more cash than him.

Pearce has been the beneficiary of a spate of good news of late, courtesy of several articles in the Politico which has been leading the coverage on Teague's troubles. Among other things, they've revealed that Teague's net worth has plummeted to an estimated $5 million from an earlier high of $40 million. In May, Politico reported Teague's Hobbs-based energy companies dropped health insurance for 250 employees last December--in the middle of the congressional debate over Obamacare.

The latest polling has the race tight, but no numbers have been released since the damaging Politico stories. Before them, an early April internal Teague poll had the congressman leading Pearce 47% to 46%. In a February Public Policy Poll (PPP) Pearce led Teague 43% to 41%.


Let's list the Teague troubles that are raising even higher the already high Republican hopes to take back this seat.

--The damaging political story on how Teague's companies dropped health insurance for its workers and Teague's failure to issue a public explanation.

--My insiders say Pearce forces will point out that Teague took several million in profits and dividends out of his energy companies even as the employee health insurance was being canceled.

--The plunge in Teague's net worth from $40 million to $5 million, raising doubt about Teague being willing or able to write himself a big campaign check if need be. He self-financed 37% of his '08 effort, writing personal checks for over $1.7 million.

--Pearce outraised Teague in the latest quarter--$462,000 for Steve and $317,000 for Harry, a very dangerous trend for an incumbent.

--The aforementioned parity in cash on hand for the two candidates--yet another major warning sign for Teague.

--A $2.7 million civil lawsuit filed against Teague's companies for debt collection. He says the money will be paid. (The Politico also broke that story).

--The GOP Guv candidacy of Susana Martinez. She is expected to have her best percentage showing in the southern district. That could help Pearce, especially in critical Dona Ana County.

--Pearce is running as a quasi-incumbent. He left the House seat in 2008 to run for US Senate. Also, he hates to write a personal check, but he has the money in the bank to do so if his hand is forced.

Despite Washington spin to the contrary, our Senior Alligators earlier in the year felt this race was still very much up for grabs. They rightfully pushed back against that spin. But fresh facts change opinions. Soon, the issues we note above will come into play, some of them in hard-hitting TV spots.

Based on expectations of what's to come, the mounting damage to Teague in the free media, the money raised and the favorable climate for R's in the southern district, Pearce is now the clear front-runner to take the prize and Teague the decided underdog.


Our state has an uncovered bet in Washington. We are all in on the Democrats staying in power. That's why a victory by Republican Pearce may not be all that hard to swallow for the state's establishment. With the possibility of a GOP takeover of the US House this November, having a Republican there would give us a go-to guy with the new speaker and leadership.

Also, if the White House were to tip to the R's in 2012, the state would have entree through Pearce. With billions of federal money at stake this is a cold-eyed, nonpartisan calculation.

This isn't the type of argument that is going to get much attention from voters, but it is what you hear at the upper reaches of the state's business and government leadership. They're not necessarily concerned about what political party appropriates the cash, but that the cash continues to get appropriated.


If Pearce does take back the southern seat, the all-Democratic domination of the state's five member congressional delegation will be short lived--just as short-lived as it was when the Republicans shut out the Democrats in the delegation in 1981-82. That was the last time before 2009 that one party held all of our DC seats.

Back then, there were four delegation members--two in the House and two in the Senate. Joe Skeen replaced Dem US Rep. Harold Runnels in the 1980 election making for an all R delegation. It included Senators Domenici and Schmitt and GOP Rep. Manuel Lujan. The R shut-out ended in 1982 when Dem Jeff Bingaman was elected Senator.

Twenty-six years later, as a result of the 2008 election, the Dems made it all their party with the Teague win. He joined Dem Reps. Henrich and Lujan and Dem Senators Bingaman and Udall.


The state Dems are up with a web site dubbed "Say What Susana?" They post what they see as campaign flubs by the GOP Guv hopeful. The R's probably aren't far behind in getting a Di site up. The D's effort doesn't appear personal or mean-spirited. That's a relief.


A reader writes:

So it’s been a month and a half now since the primary--at what point does it start getting odd that Susana Martinez’s GOP primary opponents haven’t endorsed her, particularly Allen Weh?

Well, the bad blood between those two is thick so there may be no endorsement. In fact, today it looks about as likely as Diane D inviting Big Bill to a news conference to formally endorse her candidacy.


From Las Cruces, Democratic State Rep. Joe Cervantes writes:

The link you put up on your Thursday blog to an article about Susan Martinez and her husband Chuck Franco that ran last year was about political spouses. It included not only Chuck, but also my wife, Jennifer, (on the left in the photo) and also Susan Chaparro, wife of Las Cruces Mayor Ken Miyagishima.

I'm receiving calls because folks reading your blog have misinterpreted the photo as Jennifer endorsing Susana. In fact Jennifer and one of my daughters enjoyed a terrific lunch with Diane hosted by Clara Apodaca last month at La Posta. She thinks Diane will be terrific as New Mexico’s first woman Governor.

Cervantes is seeking election to his sixth term in November. Sandra Jean Stipe is his GOP foe.


Reader Stephanie Dubois writes:

Joe, read your blog on the age difference between Denish and Martinez. I wonder if these were two male candidates with a ten year difference would it even be worth mentioning? In fact, I don't think it would have been an issue.

And about their personal lives--whether Martinez was married before her present marriage and that Denish had been married before and has three grown children..Those are non-issues and seem to me to be very gender specific. I am supporting Denish, but as a woman and someone who is 64 years old, I do feel that type of reporting is not necessary for the public to make a decision..They should be chosen on their merit and ability to do the job....

Thanks, Stephanie. We see it differently. The voters want to know about he life paths of those who would be governor. It says something about their experience and character. In the case of Martinez, who the Republicans point out would be the nation's first Hispanic female governor, her heritage is of particular relevance.

We also don't see the personal paths of the male candidates being ignored. (Just read the coverage of Big Bill's personal life when he ran for president). Maybe raising these questions stands out because for the first time in state history we have two female candidates. We're an equal opportunity blogger and use the same standards for all candidates, and that's how we're proceeding.

This is the home of New Mexico politics.

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