Monday, September 13, 2010

A New Start For Di? Next Two Weeks Critical For Turnaround, And: Press Love Affair With Susana Comes To Life; Journal Profile Reviewed, Plus: TV Ads Galore As Campaigns Escalate 

Has the doom and gloom surrounding Diane Denish's gubernatorial chances peaked? These next two weeks will be critical for her to start making her move. Martinez is still heavy on the negative, anticipating the Democratic move to get the party faithful to start the long march home. Denish must make Democrats care about this election. If she does she can lose all the Republicans and most of the independents and still take the prize.

Martinez is probably going to feel some wind in her face here. If Denish can tie up the polls or come close, she can then hope to force the error from the less experienced Martinez. Fear, panic and finger-pointing are all part of a campaign that loses a lead. It is the ultimate test of campaign character. It can tell us how steady a hand a candidate would have if they become Governor.

We haven't seen that kind of stuff in a Governor's race in decades. In '02 and '06 Big Bill basically had cakewalks. In '98 and '94 Republican Gary Johnson was always ahead and the presumed winner. In '90 Bruce King was a foregone conclusion. In '86 Republican Garrey Carruthers was given a free ride, following the unpopular Anaya administration. In '82 Anaya breezed in over a GOP state senator.

You have to go back to '78 for the last really close Guv race when Bruce King battled Republican Joe Skeen and eked out a small victory. The outcome was unknown until the end, as was '74 when Las Cruces State Senator Jerry Apodaca beat the aforementioned Skeen by a mere 2,000 votes. Both contests saw the emotions boil.

I remember running up to Jerry on the UNM campus and asking him what he thought of the news that the ABQ Tribune had just endorsed Skeen. "They're full of shit," he barked. The story was picked up by the AP and we were off to the races with that one for a week or two.

Denish has had her share of downside over the summer. She has fumed and maybe thrown eggs at an electric fan to relieve the tension, but she didn't crack. She has the fire in the belly and the experience to ride the emotional roller-coaster that is now just starting. Martinez has the fire, but her emotional control--and that of her consultants--may be put to the test. But first Denish has to show us her stuff and tie up this ball game. Otherwise, we're all going to the showers early.  

That was some love-in the ABQ Journal had Sunday with Susana Martinez. On the front page the banner headline labeled the GOP Guv hopeful "Tough as Nails." The 3,000 word profile then spread inside with more glowing headlines: "Martinez: Tough Prosecutor" and "Martinez's First Job Was As Security Guard."

While the headlines proclaimed unabashed love for the Dona Ana County district attorney, the profile itself was a bit more even-handed, but still largely uncritical and a departure from tougher Guv profiles that the paper has delivered in the past. Next week they come with one of Denish, and if fairness is the goal, we would expect similar coverage.

In this long-awaited summary of Martinez from the state's largest newspaper we finally get some details on Martinez's background that have been left perplexedly uncovered by the state press--or what is left of it after a ravaging recession that has led to layoffs and newsroom cutbacks. For example, the paper confirmed that Martinez, like Denish, had a first marriage that ended in divorce. The couple  graduated from the University of Oklahoma and "settled in El Paso." The marriage was over in three years, but who was her lawyer husband? We're never told. Why not? Martinez is now married to Chuck Franco, the undersheriff for Dona Ana County.

The paper provides some details on the candidate's father, Jake Martinez, now 78 and ailing, that were first reported here. He was a boxer with the US Marines and continued with the Golden Gloves after leaving the military and became a deputy with the El Paso County Sheriff's Office. The profile briefly covers the security business he began and where Susana took her first job, but we learn little more of the business or its clients.

We're told that Martinez's mother, now deceased, "worked in various offices." Doing what? We have to guess. And we're not even told her first name, never mind her maiden name. We also learn that Susana has a brother who is four years older than her, but are told nothing else about him or their relationship.

We are well aware that this is a profile of the candidate, but the glaring omission in this elongated profile of the first Hispanic woman who would become Governor of an American state is her family tree. And this from the newspaper that sent reporters deep into Mexico to flush out every imaginable family detail of Bill Richardson. Susana may not be running for president, but the office of Governor would seem to merit a mention and exploration of her complete lineage, including her grandparents.

It is relevant and here's just one reason why:

Up north, the Martinez campaign is shooting down what they call false rumors about her grandfather who it is alleged helped start up the El Paso Irrigation District. That's being used in a YouTube video as a jumping off point to accuse Martinez of having a pro-Texas bias when it comes to New Mexico water policy. Martinez says both of her parents grew up in El Paso. About her father's parents, Martinez said, "as far as I know" they grew up in El Paso. She said her grandparents on her mother's side grew up in El Paso.

"As far as I know?" Can the investigative journalists at the newspaper help us out here? Inquiring minds in the north and elsewhere want to know.

Martinez's ambiguity about her lineage is also extended to her candidacy when it is framed as that of an Hispanic woman. The paper profile states: "She avoided the issue when asked if she was blazing a trail for Hispanic women." Is she uncomfortable with the subject? If so, why? If she was asked, it did not make print.


The profile does give us a rudimentary outline of the Martinez personality. She exhibited ambition early on and it has largely defined her life, but we learn little of her world view outside of being a prosecutor. Few anecdotes, illuminating or otherwise, are given from her 51 years that might tell us what sparks that ongoing ambition and reveals more about her character.

Martinez has a thin resume. She has been a prosecutor most of her adult life. And that's about it. That's why there is a hunger for more knowledge of her interior, not only the exterior. While we are showered with details about her prosecutorial life--many of which have already been plowed through--the profile doesn't light her up like you might expect from a 3,000 word piece in the style of the New Yorker.

Maybe in the time left in this campaign voters will get a better sense of her, but Martinez does not even have a press secretary and is heavily handled. But that doesn't seem to bother the local ink-stained wretches. The Journal profile comes with this example of her recent press strategy as she arrives at a campaign event:

Her campaign staff has warned news reporters that she won't take media questions. And after her brief remarks to the crowd, two staffers try to guide her away from a reporter trying to question her about domestic partnerships. But Martinez stops, turns around and takes time to talk to a reporter.

You mean the story is that Martinez was gracious enough to violate her stiff-arm policy toward the press, and not the bunker mentality policy itself??

Well, the press is no different than the rest of us--when they fall in love, they fall hard. It was just four years ago when the love-fest was in full swing between the scribes and Big Bill, but they were jilted and ever since Richardson has been their object of scorn. Will history repeat? Only if Susana is elected will we find out. Meanwhile, the candidate should enjoy these days of wine and roses and the rose-colored glasses that go with them. As someone once said, "Love is an exploding cigar we willingly smoke."

A new 30 second effort from Denish has her picking up the pace and refining the argument on why voters should fear voting for Martinez--they tie her to the economic policies of Bush. Martinez's camp issued a sarcastic reaction to the ad--"LOL," short for "laugh out loud." Well, it's yet to be determined who is going to have the last laugh.

Denish has to make the case to wavering Democrats on what it means to vote for a Republican, not just call Martinez a "Republican politician." There is still plenty of anti-Bush sentiment in the Democratic base and if they won't get excited about Denish, they might get excited about stopping her opponent. From the ad:

(Martinez) will eliminate rules holding big corporations accountable. It's the same Republican plan that wrecked our economy.." And the ad finishes with the assertion:--"Diane Denish--a Governor on our side."

This mimics the more populist tone we are seeing President Obama and national Dems taking. Like Obama, Denish also must get out of the murky over-consulted middle if she is to excite the Dem constituencies that are napping and not showing up in the polling as likely voters. In short, Dems need reasons to come home.

Denish does not speak in this piece and is instead shown on the move while the narrator carries the ball. That also helps energize the pace--and if you're in the Denish camp--hopefully her campaign.


The gold at the end of the rainbow for Martinez is a TV spot that can tie Denish directly to a pay-to-play scheme. So far, there's been much innuendo, but no proof. This new  Martinez ad centering on tax breaks for developer Mesa del Sol gives it a shot, but it is hard to follow and in the end scores Denish's husband more than the candidate.

Back to the corruption drawing board, fellas. There's newspaper coverage of the ad here.

And then there's Martinez's ad about the ad. It's a rebuttal of the NEA-NM spot that praises Denish and attacks Martinez. The ad is winning kudos from none other than Karl Rove who tweeted that he thought it was the best rebuttal commercial of the campaign. Talk about a mixed blessing. Over on the left, Josh Marshall panned the ad as approaching self-parody. Martinez does come across somewhat smug in the ad but the spot has had nearly 50,000 hits on YouTube.

Martinez points out that the teacher in the NEA-NM ad had a husband who was convicted of kidnapping by Martinez's DA's office and had an obvious motive to blast her. But she should have said it is the woman's ex-husband. The couple is divorced. Susana also implies that Denish's campaign produced the ad when in fact it came from NEA-NM. And it goes without saying, that NEA-NM producers were blindsided for leaving a hole this big in their anti-Martinez pitch.

It would be nice if the folks making hundreds of thousands of dollars in profits from these ads would try to get the their facts straight. Or are we asking too much?

Back to the rebuttal ad. Martinez comes with a set of lines that neatly sums up the campaign from her perspective:  

This election is a clear choice. Four more years of the same or bold change. If you're ready for something new join me...

And that kind of gets at the heart of the matter, doesn't it?


We've dutifully reported the reportedly good-sized crowds Susana Martinez has drawn in Taos and Las Vegas. Now here's a report from Helen Laura Lopez, longtime blog reader, attorney and Denish supporter who attended Di's Sunday Taos rally: 

Buenos tardes Joe, If there was any doubt about the Hispano North supporting Diane Denish, it was quashed in Taos on Sunday. Over 500 people were at the Sagebrush Inn where she unveiled a powerful push.  It was not just the number but the who-- virtually every political leader and party leader was present to show unwavering enthusiasm for the Lt Governor.  

Diane delivered a heartfelt enthusiastic speech that had the crowd standing. If people think she is on the quiet side, they should have seen her in Taos. Senator Mary Jane Garcia gave the keynote. Senator Carlos Cisneros gave a classic political speech in Spanish. Taos Mayor Darren Cordova opened the event. The entire Taos Town Council was there to support Diane. 

Leaders from Truchas, Espanola, Las Vegas, Mora and Questa were there. Unlike Susana Martinez's event at the Sagebrush, which attracted a lot of tourists from the Inn, Diane had Nortenos there. It is always classic New Mexico politics when Taos Democrats turn out. The gathering was sponsored by Ed and Trudy Healy from Arroyo Hondo.  


Martinez has narrowed her attacks on Denish on the illegal immigration issue to driver's licenses for illegals. She had a much broader attack on immigration policy in the Republican primary. The Richardson approved measure is highly unpopular and keeps illegal immigration on the table for Martinez, without her having to go to general policy where her views are popular with conservative Republicans, but not the general electorate.

Martinez was at it again in Farmington Friday, repeating that she would not only stop the issuance of driver's licenses to illegals in the future, but revoke those who currently have them. Denish is against future issuance but has not come out for revocation of current licenses.  


Talk about campaign promises. In his first TV ad former southern NM GOP Congressman Steve Pearce says that "Steve Pearce will create jobs. Harry Teague won't." Steve lists a litany of sinful stuff that he says Harry is supporting and that is causing the highest jobless rate in a couple of generations. None of it is overly persuasive, but it does position Pearce as decisive, not a trait to be lacking when you engage in political combat in the good 'ol boy south. As for creating jobs, Pearce is currently trying to create one for himself in the US House, but the hiring process has only just begun. Stay tuned.


No sooner had we blogged Friday that there were still no Guv debates slated, then KOB-TV announces that the ice has been broken. The station will host a live TV debate between Denish and Martinez October 21 from 7 to 8 p.m. There could be another TV face-off on KRQE-TV or KOAT-TV but this could be the biggie, coming as it does right after early in-person voting begins Oct. 16 and well before the actual Nov. 2 Election Day. Congregtion Albert will host a joint appearance of the candidates Sunday, Septe. 26 at 11 a.m. That and the debate remain the only times Denish and Martinez are scheduled to appear together.

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