Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Picking Up the Pieces: Who's In Line When Di Or Susana Falter? We've Got Your Names, Plus: Latest News & Analysis From Guv Race, And: Readers Blog On NM Water Power 

If Diane Denish can't close the deal there will be a gaggle of potential candidates scurrying to become the next great hope for the Democratic Party. Denish has been lagging Republican Susana Martinez in he polls, (although there are signs she is closing the gap) and that's fueling the speculation on who climbs up if she falls down. It's not that unusual, either. If Di takes a dive the next Guv campaign will start shortly after Susana Martinez takes the oath January 1. Same deal if Susana falls short. It will take millions in campaign money and persistence in what would be a crowded field to establish yourself as a leading Guv contender who would then be taking on an incumbent Denish or Martinez. So who is on this futuristic list? To the video tape.

Friends of Denish running mate Brian Colon are already talking him up as a possible 2014 contender, but losing with Di would be a major black mark, not to mention his ties to Big Bill. Still, he was chairman of the Dems has a lot of contacts and knows how to raise money.

State Senate Majority Leader Michael Sanchez weighed a run for Governor in 2010, but decided against. How about '14? The leader has the smarts, but he could be 64 in five years. Is that too old in a youth oriented world?

Attorney General Gary King, a favorite for re-election this year, has long longed to be Governor like his father Bruce before him. He's run for it before with no luck. Gary will also be in the over 60 crowd in '14. Still, his fire will burn again if Di goes up in flames

Put former State Rep. Joe Campos on the list. He lost his bid for the Dem lt. governor nod this year, but he got a taste of the spotlight and liked it. The wooden style would have to be worked on, but he now knows what it would take.

If you go south the day after a Di defeat you might hear rumblings about Las Cruces State Rep. Joe Cervantes weighing a Guv run. But he would have to show more heart than he did when a few years ago he got in the southern congressional race only to back out. He'd be 53 in 2014--a good age for the run--and has the political savvy to be a player

Dark horses? How about up and coming ABQ State Senator Tim Keller. Or 10 year legislative veteran ABQ Rep. Al Park? And don't forget "unknown." The demise of Denish would throw the doors wide open for a run by a business type or even a below-the-radar politico not on the scuttlebutt list.

Whoever it would be won't have it easy. The last two governors have both easily won re-election--one Dem and one R. 

Doug Turner
And what of the Republican future should Martinez falter in the stretch and break a leg? The list of possible Guv hopefuls is much shorter in the minority party but sure to grow if opportunity beckons. Right now Doug Turner, who lost to Martinez in the primary, but vindicated himself with a good campaign, is high on the list of probable candidates. And put on there Martinez lt. governor running mate John Sanchez. He was the 2002 nominee, losing to Bill Richardson. A second loss as the number two would be bitter, but Sanchez is a survivor.

GOP dark horses? How about Matt Chandler, the current GOP candidate for attorney general. He has an uphill fight against Gary King, but he is showing the traits of a possible future thoroughbred. And Brian Moore of Clayton. The former state rep could not beat Sanchez for Light Guv this year, but he is the real deal. Look for him to make a move if Martinez misses. And Keith Gardner, the state House Minority leader is no slouch. We could see him carrying the ball in '14.

Like the Dems, a Martinez loss would open the flood gates because there is no obvious successor. Business types and others not currently though of could easily emerge.

But enough of our excursion into the future, we have plenty of action to keep us busy in the here and now as this Guv race continues to unfold. Here's some of the latest trail dust....


Looks like Susana raised about a million of her $2 million in the last three months from three big sources--$500,000 from the Republican Governors Association. Other big donors were $200,000 from Foster Friess of Jackson, Wyoming and $100,000 from B. Wayne Hughes from Malibu, CA. Friess comes at politics from a Christian Right perspective. He made major money from his management firm Freiss Associates. Giving $50,000 was Sigma Ventures headed by Michael Bleyzer. All three are prominent national conservatives with ties to Karl Rove and have showered money on hard-right causes.

So Martinez raised $2 million, but $850,000 of it came from out-of-state big money. She will take some hits for that as she did when she accepted $450,000 from Texas developer Rob Perry of Swiftboat fame. It stands out because of her campaign against corruption and pay-to-play and could hurt her with independents. But Denish has also taken some $50,000 contributions from the big unions and trial lawyers. The voter is left saying "they all do it!"

Denish has a slight money edge, having $300,000 more banked for the final stretch than Martinez, but Martinez doesn't have to match the quasi-incumbent, just stay in the neighborhood. She has done that.


The battle now is now all message, not money.

If we are in the Martinez camp, we are worried that she has nothing on the air that relates to voters' economic insecurity. Denish does. On the other hand, if you think the mood is anti-incumbent, throw the "Richardson-Denish" bunch out of office no matter what, maybe you don't think you need much messaging about the economy. But it's risky. We also wonder about some radio for Martinez. As far as we know, she has nothing major going on there. She may want to take some of her new found campaign funds and get some up to appeal even more to rural voters.

If we are in the Denish camp, we are still worried that we are stuck in the mud, unable to move with Big Bill in the back seat. But it's too late to try to publicly separate yourself from him. You will look cynical and opportunistic. Best to hammer the economic message which resonates better with voter than the Republicans. And hammer it with passion and emotion that connects with people. Do they know how to do that in the cookie-cutter TV shops ringing the nation's beltway?


We've got our second TV Guv debate scheduled. KOAT-TV says it will host the pair Sunday, October 17 at 6 p.m. The face-off will last one hour. KOB-TV earlier announced that Denish and Martinez will debate on their air Thursday, October 21 at 7 p.m.

From a strategic perspective, both debates will be important. However, the KOAT debate will be up against Sunday night football and the "60 Minutes" broadcast on KRQE-TV which attracts older voters, those most likely to cast ballots. Also, the early hour on a weekend evening will cut the available audience. We look at the KOAT debate as the preliminary bout and the KOB debate as the main event, Both should be worth the price of admission.


Denish put out this missive to supporters in response to the news that Martinez received those large out of New Mexico contributions:

Susana Martinez has put her candidacy up for sale to the highest out-of-state bidders and national Republican insiders. In fact, 52% of the donations on her most recent report have come from outside New Mexico.

To which one of our readers responded:

New Mexico is not for sale? That's funny. It certainly was under Big Bill. Denish is grasping at straws.


A reader writes:

Susana Martinez is from El Paso and Diane Denish is from the Hobbs oil patch in Little Texas. El Paso has much more in common with New Mexico than does Little Texas.


The ABQ Journal has started its campaign coverage, featuring a page a day on the action. Sean Olson is the paper's political reporter. Veteran John Robertson is the Journal's politics editor. The paper also has hired Deborah Baker, formerly of the AP. The Journal says it will do three opinion polls this cycle, with the second one expected in early You need to be a paid subscriber to access most of the paper's content.


We might have thought twice before we blogged that the New Mexico Governor doesn't have all that much power when it comes to water disputes. The subject came up because Susan Martinez, born in El Paso, is being attacked in the north as a possible enemy of the state's water rights because of her Texas background. Bill Hume, A Dem who served as Governor Big Bill's water advisor, clarifies the Guv's power and has some interesting observations on where Martinez fits in:

First: The New Mexico commissioner on the Rio Grande Compact is the State Engineer, by statute and federal law. The state engineer serves absolutely at the pleasure of the governor. Consequently the governor wields direct control over New Mexico's position in compact matters. Secondly, the Interstate Stream Commission, charged primarily with seeing to New Mexico's compliance with interstate compacts, is also governor-appointed. Any ISC that thwarts the inclinations of a governor could find itself with new members.

A third complicating factor is that the "border" for Rio Grande compact purposes is Elephant Butte Reservoir. Las Cruces and Elephant Butte Irrigation District are on the other side of the compact from the Middle Rio Grande and the tributaries of the north. I think there is great potential for any governor with El Paso connections to be between a rock and a hard place on Rio Grande water issues, regardless of motivations and intentions...

Also, there is the matter of the vast freshwater reserves of the aquifer underlying the Salt Basin in south central New Mexico. El Paso is among the Texas interests that have contemplated development of that water on the Texas side for delivery to municipal and industrial use in the Rio Grande Valley. The best part of the aquifer is in New Mexico, but aquifers are impervious to surface political boundaries.

This one issue isn't the entire campaign, to be sure, but I think the water issue and the ramifications of Susana's background and life experience--coupled with the power over water issues she would wield as governor--are a legitimate facet of it.

That was from ABQ. Now we head up La Bajada to the Roundhouse and legislative analyst Bill Gardiner who gives us an excellent refresher on water power:

I have been a bill analyst for the NM Legislature since 1997 at the key water and natural resources committees through 2009. The governor makes all the agency cabinet appointments and sets the direction for all water and natural resources policy administrative and legislative. The most critical position being State Engineer. With a little familiarity of New Mexico history you will find that there has been State Engineers with more political power than the governor that they served. One who led us into water debts with Texas.

On the point of influence over Texas matters, the Governor gets to appoint the Interstate Streams Commission Engineer who represents NM as one of the compact commissioners from the participating states in several compacts, Rio Grande, Pecos, Costilla etc.The governor also gets to appoint the members of the Water Trust Board and make appointments to the EIB Environmental Improvement Board, The Tribal Water board and the Las Colonias newly developed board and on the Water Cabinet the Secs. of DFA and NMFA are appointed by the Governor.

To not know that without water rights there is no community prosperity is to not know NM politics very well. Collin Mc Millan was a prime mover getting Gary Johnson elected and his friend's son Tom Turney became the OSE. There is more economic value that passes through the Water rights division of the State Engineer Office than commerce than generated from NM and passes out through our DOT system. You can't open a sandwich shop without water.

Thanks, Bill and Ron. As the saying goes: Whisky's for drinkin' and water is for fightin'. We'll look for some water policy from Susana and Di and post anything we find before the election. Or else we're all wet....

This is it--the home of New Mexico politics.

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