Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Northern Negative Campaign On Susana Heats Up: "No Tejana Susana," Plus: Martinez's Money Muscle, Her Ex-Husband Identified & The Columnist That Is Hopping Mad With Her 

The northern negative campaign against GOP Guv hopeful Susana Martinez is heating up and going public. This comes as Dems continue to fret over the appeal of the El Paso native to Hispanics--usually the state's most reliable Democratic voters.

Take a gander at this snapshot one of our Alligators sent us from a recent Taos political event. It shows Texas in the form of a shark gobbling up New Mexico. The image taps into the centuries old distrust of anything Texan in the Democratic precincts of El Norte.

Jokes about the relationship are long-standing. For example: "Why is New Mexico so dry? Because Texas sucks!"

And then there's long-ago history where Texans were seen as possibly taking over fair New Mexico in the days when Mexico ruled here. 

Rumors have been spread in the north that Martinez is a threat to New Mexico water rights, that she would sell the state out in any disagreements with her native Texas. Martinez disputes that.

Not that the facts are going to get in the way of a political attack. And on the attack front, organizers of a third party group not affiliated with the Denish campaign tell us they will be coming with a series of nine radio ads in the Hispanic North to soften support for Martinez. One of them will include the water angle. Here's some of a draft of the first spot:

Susana Martinez who are you? Really! Once you where a Democrat, now you are a Republican. You say you are from the Rio Grande Valley, but why do you hide that you are from Texas? Once you were for vouchers, now you say you’re not...Susana Martinez...Who are you...Really?

While the Tejano angle started quietly enough, it has gained steam as the Guv race enters its most intense stage. One of our spotters said that at a Santa Fe Labor Day rally Dem Guv nominee Diane Denish said something to the effect of: "Do you want to keep the water flowing?" The crowd cheered.

Both of Martinez's parents were Hispanic and the candidate speaks Spanish. A number of northern observers also say Susana's "look" connects with Hispanic families.

Those factors and more have made the ordinarily safe Democratic precincts of the Spanish north battleground areas where political trench warfare is now taking hold and where no holds are barred.


 The newspaper reported Sunday that Martinez is in her second marriage, her first one having lasted three years and ending in divorce. But the paper did not give the name of that first husband. Our Legal Beagles checked in to tell us it is Hugh Brower who married Martinez.

After both graduated from the University of Oklahoma law school they moved to Las Cruces where he practiced law for three years before the divorce. He has since moved to Oklahoma. We put in a phone call to him, but have not heard back. Martinez joked to the paper that the marriage broke up because they were both lawyers. "Two lawyers in one household, whooo.."


She may have a honeymoon going with certain segments of the New Mexico press, but some of the ink-stained wretches are getting restless over what they see as Martinez's strategy of avoiding questions from reporters. Syndicated columnist Harold Morgan:

...The Martinez campaign, specifically Ryan Cangiolosi, the campaign manager, declined to make Martinez available for a one-hour interview, citing scheduling complexities. Yeah, right, Ryan. The interview was to be the basis for two of my columns that go to ten newspapers around the state.

Martinez therefore becomes a statewide candidate seeking a top office who is unwilling to talk to the media. For me that’s somewhere between dumb and bizarre. But then I’m media.

Martinez is not as well-versed in public policy as Denish and that's the short answer on why her campaign does its best to keep her under wraps--they fear she is prone to making a gaffe that could prove crippling. 

Hiding the candidate from the media doesn't necessarily come with a political price--the public doesn't get too excited about it--but it does tell you how a candidate feels about the press and answering impromptu questions. If Martinez isn't open to reporters during the campaign, why would she change if elected Governor? She probably wouldn't, but we would add that candidates who greet the scribes with open arms during the campaign are just as susceptible to crawling into the bunker once they get the power.


Democratic operatives describe themselves as nonplussed that Martinez raised $2 million over the summer and now has $1 million in cash on hand compared to Di's $1.3 million. Still, this is just what Susana needed to stay competitive. Assuming it will happen and actually making it happen are two different things. The AP said there was technical trouble filing the details of her fundraising report and thus there was no word on how many, if any, really large contributions Martinez received. She took $450,000 from Texas developer Rob Perry earlier this year, the largest campaign donation in state history. The Martinez campaign told TV news it will have the report filed today ($500,000 of her $2 million came from the Republican Governors Association).

Denish raised about $800,000 in the quarter, including three $50,000 donations from big interest groups like the trial lawyers. She raised much of her cash hoard in the beginning years of her campaign--before the economic crash and the rise of Martinez.

Di reports collecting $5.787 million since starting her long campaign march over three years ago. That means she has spent nearly $4.5 million. And she started September trailing Martinez by six points? That shows you the headwind the lieutenant governor has faced.

The happiest people in New Mexico this month are the managers of the big TV stations. The finance reports, covering money raised and spent from June 25 to September 6, reveal that the candidates spent a combined $3 million in the past 10 weeks on an orgy of advertising that has yet to reach its climax. Di spent nearly $150,000 on radio. Will that help her get an edge in rural areas?

With both camps armed with enough cash to each buy a dozen Mercedes and the polls showing a anyone-can-still win-contest, we are going to get our first genuine race to the wire in a governor's race in decades. We're looking forward to it and have asked the International Blogging and Pajama Society to rule that any polls showing a candidate with a double-digit lead be suppressed until at least Oct. 25. We don't want anything spoiling the fun.


 I asked some of my veteran Democratic analysts to give you their takes on the race for attorney general and secretary of state based on the September money reports released Monday. They think the incumbents remain well-positioned.

In the AG contest, incumbent Dem Gary King has $340,000 in cash on hand. GOP challenger Matt Chandler comes with $165,000. King has a commanding lead in the first ABQ Journal poll--48% to 33%, with King getting 62% of the Hispanic vote. Analysts Steve Cabiedes and Harry Pavlides say Chandler, the Clovis area district attorney, will need to double his cash account and hit with TV spots that are just right to make this race competitive.

In the secretary of state's race, Republicans are hoping to take advantage of controversies erupting under incumbent Dem SOS Mary Herrera, but the money reports may deflate those hopes. Herrera has $74,000 in cash and Republican challenger and State Senator Dianna Duran comes with $36,000.

From Cabiedes:

The various news stories have not really penetrated the public consciousness. Duran needs to be up on TV pounding them. But she isn't and she doesn't have the money to do so. All things being equal in this Democratic majority state, Herrera remains a solid favorite for re-election..."

No R has been elected SOS since the 20's, but we'll keep an eye out for any developments that could rewrite that history. No polling has been released on the race.

One of our Senior Alligators got pushback from the Ray Powell campaign when he warned that the Dem nominee for land commissioner might be outraised by Republican challenger Matt Rush. Turns out that Gator had it right. Rush, a Roosevelt County rancher, raised more than $125,000, compared with $54,000 for Powell, who headed the land office for 10 year. Rush has $123,000 cash on hand, while Powell had $71,000. The Dem is favored, but Powell will watch anxiously to see if big oil and gas money comes in for Rush--just as our Gator is waiting.


From GOP lieutenant governor hopeful John Sanchez:

I hope that one of the first things Susana Martinez does as the next governor is to fire every single appointee by Bill Richardson....


A supporter of Dem Harry Teague tells us he received a surprise phone call from the congressman Monday. It was to tell this backer that another poll shows Teague leading Republican challenger Steve Pearce. This one was from the Dems and has Harry getting 51% and Pearce at 44%. Not to rain on Harry's parade, but there are some caveats here. But first the poll:

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee released a new  Anzalone Liszt Research, Inc. poll that shows Congressman Harry Teague leading Republican challenger Steve Pearce by 7 points.

In the initial head-to-head in the race for New Mexico’s 2nd congressional district, Teague leads Pearce 51 to 44 percent. Conducted September 7-9, the poll surveyed 400 likely voters and has a 4.9 percent margin of error.

No way there are only 5 percent undecided voters in the southern district in mid-September. Our best guess is that this survey included "leaners" to get Harry over the magic 50 percent mark, but polling experts will tell you it's too early to include them (The poll questions or other methodology were not released).

Also, Pearce has barely started his media campaign against Teauge and the R's have yet to unleash their most powerful ammo. In addition, polling expert Nate Silver, blogging at the New York Times, still pegs Pearce's chance of taking the seat at better than 60 percent.

Those are the caveats, but it doesn't take away from the fact that the R's, supremely confident about this one, may be in for a much tougher race than they may have thought. The ABQ Journal late August poll had Harry leading Steve by three points.

In other words, this could be a "Dawn Special," meaning we are on the radio until dawn waiting to call a winner.

So go ahead, Harry. Dance a jig, kiss a pretty girl and snort a shot of something strong, but keep your eyes open. There are snakes in that green grass.


Remember Greg Fouratt, the Republican US Attorney who made sensational headlines as he pursued a corruption indictment against Big Bill, but in the end came with a criticism of the Guv, but no charges? Well, Fouratt may be out of mind, but he's not out of sight. There was speculation that new Dem US Attorney Ken Gonzales would keep Fouratt on as his First Assistant, the second in command at the office. That didn't happen but one of our Alligators reports Fouratt landed softly:

Greg Fouratt was appointed "Senior Litigation Counsel" for the US Attorneys Office and is making the same pay. Steve Yarbrough, the First Assistant under Greg Fouratt, was kept as First Assistant with Ken Gonzales citing the need for "continuity" within the office to keep him as First Assistant...

Fouratt may have come up short in pursuing Big Bill, but he did get indictments and convictions--including that of onetime state senate powerhouse Manny Aragon in the ABQ Metro court corruption scandal. He also sent state Treasurer Robert Vigil to prison on corruption charges.

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