Monday, September 20, 2010

What's A Di To Do? Light Guv Is Tortoise To Susana's Hare; Alligators Have More Advice, Plus: Denish Uses "T Word" On Susana; "I Mean, Let's Face It...She's A Texan" And: Obama's New Mexico Mistake? 

It's the tortoise and the hare now. Susana Martinez has sprinted ahead and is up at the corner pausing to look at Diane Denish who is slowly plodding in her direction. Denish may be inching closer but the urgency surrounding her effort to catch and overtake the Republican sprinter continues to loom large as this campaign is now only two weeks from October 5 when the first absentee ballots will be cast.

The latest insider campaign polling has Martinez stalled out at 45% and Denish in the low 40's. The late August ABQ Journal poll had it Martinez 45% and Denish 39%.

Top Democrats are realizing there is no silver bullet to take Martinez out. They thought they had one with her record as district attorney. It has put some dents in her campaign bus, but not run it into the ditch. The D's are warming up by constantly labeling Susana a "Republican politician," driving home that unpopular brand in Democratic New Mexico. And they're getting some traction up North with the rallying cry of "No Tejana Susana" as they play off Martinez's hometown of El Paso. And Obama isn't hurting as he starts the national cry for Dems to come home.

So what's a Di to do to keep moving? She can hope for major gaffe from Martinez on the stump--highly unlikely as the candidate is heavily handled and is also a competent prosecutor--or she can do some strategic rethinking. Here's some from one of our Senior Alligators:

Most everything in this campaign is weighted toward Susana--the mood of the electorate, the unpopularity of Richardson after eight years, her ethnicity and the turnout model that shows Republicans very energized and apathy among the Democratic base. The one big plus Denish has going for her is the huge advantage in voter registration. Half the state is Democratic. 

Denish needs to separate herself from Richardson, but not all the policies of the past eight years. She seems to be running and hiding from it all. But she should confront Susana and tell her 'to stop tearing down New Mexico.' She should call her out for using fuzzy math when damning the state's educational system and recite the progress that has been made compared to a decade ago. 

Richardson has had significant accomplishments. It's his persona that is persona non grata, not  all of the policies. Denish can and should take credit for being part of that. It doesn't link her to the seamy side of the administration, but she seems to be acting like it does. 

How about: 'I am tired of Susana tearing down New Mexico. I and many others have worked hard to make our state a better place--pre-kindergarten, improving teachers' salaries,  tougher DWI laws, the spaceport, the defeat of the Tortilla Tax on working families, etc. etc...' What have you done, Susana?'

Thanks, Senior Gator.

Others will argue that the second Denish tries to embrace anything Richardson did, Martinez will move to associate her with the dark side.

Denish has been talking some about issues that she has worked on directly such as payday lending, but why shouldn't she take some credit for significant things passed under Bill and that have a lot of goodwill with the electorate? And how about some unabashed populism from this Democratic standard-bearer? Or is she still thinking she's going to carry Hobbs?

Our Senior Gator may be on to something. Republicans nationally get hurt when they are seen as the "party of no." Translating that more intimately to the local level might just give tortoise Denish the push she needs.


Denish is getting more aggressive in directly attacking Martinez as she fights to overcome the frontrunner's advantage. In a northern interview, she let loose with the "T word." Take a look:

"She is a Texan,” Denish said. “I mean, let’s face it, she has connections in Texas from El Paso and beyond. And I know why the oil and gas industry’s funding her: because she’s making a promise to them to get rid of regulations...The breadth and depth of the challenges are many, and I have a breadth and depth of experience, and I still consider it kind of limited,” Denish said. “But I know one thing: it’s a hell of a lot better than my opponent’s experience as a prosecutor for 24 years with a narrow vision of how we do things.

"A hell of a lot better?" That's some heat. Now if Denish can find a way to lower it just a notch for the TV screens.


The ABQ Journal profile of Di hit the streets Sunday and like the one they did of GOP nominee Susana Martinez, it was not overly abundant in critical analysis or background. This is of benefit to Denish because the profile did not hang the yoke of Richardson around her neck. That's been a key strategic point of the R's in their TV spots. But with the Republican-leaning newspaper not carrying much Martinez water on that one, Denish scores.

With Martinez, the paper decided not to explore much of her heritage, despite her possibly becoming the first Hispanic female governor in the nation and that heritage becoming a central issue now in northern Democratic precincts. The omission in the Denish piece was the individual wealth of the candidate, which apparently is well into the millions, mainly coming  from her late uncle, a billionaire who made a fortune in cable TV.

There was a reference to her father's estate and charges by family members that she used undue influence over her father when he made changes to his will. The case was settled with the charges not standing up.

The newspaper has been obsessed (not without reason) about pay-to-play schemes, corruption in government and the venal motives of politicians. So how about asking the candidates to tell something about their personal wealth, especially when that wealth is such a central part of the Daniels' family history? We certainly knew plenty about former Governor King's holdings. Ditto for the personal money of former GOP Guv Gary Johnson.


Come on down, Mr. President, and don't try to avoid getting your feet dirty in the trenches of La Polticia. We're all going to do our best to drag you into this thing.

 Obama will make an ABQ visit September 28 to hold a forum about "rebuilding the economy." Sounds pretty nonpartisan, but we fully expect Denish to hitch a ride into the event. Obama is unpopular with the voters who are already going to vote for Martinez, but he retains popularity with a good deal of the Democratic base in ABQ and the north.  

Obama had a chance to frame this race for Governor. If Denish loses and Martinez and the R's get in and start shaping the state for the 2010 GOP presidential nominee, Obama and his political staff will be full of regrets. 

If the President had gotten Richardson out of here six months ago with some kind of prestigious appointment, Denish would have become Governor and the likely winner this November. But insiders say the White House was so upset about Richardson's duplicity in not telling them about a federal corruption investigation when he was vetted for Secretary of Commerce that they wanted nothing to do with appointing him to anything. 

By the way, our Alligators say look for Obama to visit New Mexico more than once this election cycle.


Meanwhile, what look like a deft PR move to us when it was announced has back-fired on Big Bill. Now California's GOP Governor will not make it to today's Richardson sponsored border security conference in Santa Fe. The news value of that is about equal to a Lobo football game. Did the R's tell Arnold to get an upset stomach. After all, good PR for Bill would be good for Di.


Denish's campaign said she drew a total of 1500 to a Sunday matanza in San Jose sponsored by State Senator Phil Griego and a stop in Rio Arriba County. To the Alligator pit:

Joe, Do you know the way to San Jose? This was a huge turnout for a location people had to drive a ways to get to. Diane even kicked up her heels with a lively ranchera. Maybe the way to Santa Fe is through San Jose.

Maybe, but there were some higher pre-event estimates for that matanza floating around, but we would call it healthy. As for Di's ranchera, well, we would not expect a Texas two-step.


Martinez overreached some with her ad charging that Denish is "hiding a scandal" and which is currently in heavy rotation. The ABQ Journal didn't do much to change that perception when it came with its fact-check of the spot:

The basic factual claims in the ad are true: Herb Denish was on Forest City Covington payroll, the company was the beneficiary of a huge tax break from the state and both Diane Denish and Richardson received big campaign cash from Forest City Covington. But the Martinez attack omits a large amount of information — the company, for example, also contributed to Republicans and its project had major bipartisan support — and tailors a narrative about Mesa del Sol that is not the common perception of the business deal...

And that's why the ad basically reinforces the votes for Martinez of those who think both Richardson and Denish are crooks, but might not help much in getting Susana new votes.

The Democratic Governors Association has come with a new spot that is a response to the Mesa Del sol hit and tries to put Martinez in the corruption corner repeating allegations that she mismanaged funds in her Dona Ana County district attorneys office. You can see that one here.


Despite its bureaucratic name, the Government Restructuring Task Fore may be the most important legislative committee of the moment. And the squealing has begun. Even relatively innocuous proposals to save money by merging agencies is drawing heated opposition. But legislative heavyweights John Arthur Smith and Lucky Varela are riding herd on this panel so expect some major cost-savings and efficiencies to be recommended to the 60 day session of the Legislature in January. Whether they will pass is another question.

Ditto for ABQ Dem Senator Tim Keller's plans to have the myriad of tax credits we give out in this state examined. Just how much are they costing? No one knows with certainty. Once we find out, some of them will be recommended for the graveyard. Lawmakers are desperate to find money without raising taxes and the credits could be  prime targets. (Yes, that includes the one that brings the movies here.)


From Las Cruces:

A senior Doña Ana lawmaker is recovering after a purse-snatching in Albuquerque.
A worker at the New Mexico Legislature Senate Majority Leader's office confirmed Democratic Sen. Mary Jane Garcia, 73, had her purse and cell phone stolen Thursday night. Her cell phone has since been disconnected. A report that Garcia injured her leg in the incident could not immediately be confirmed by capitol employees or Garcia's staff.

Mary Jane is the longtime Senate Majority Whip.


The latest scare out of Santa Fe is that the state pension funds are going to face a financial crisis some 13 years down the road. But a simple solution awaits--just require a retired state employee to achieve a certain age before collecting a check for the rest of their lives along with the cost of living adjustments that go with it.

Just about every pension plan everywhere has such a requirement. The Legislature will be asked in January to set our state's at 55 years. That's reasonable since most state jobs do not demand physical labor, If need be, we could take that up to 57 or 58. that's still a heck of a deal.


There's the campaign rhetoric and there's the reality. Illegal immigration into New Mexico is down--way down. The obvious reason is the economic crash and the lack of jobs for illegals. It's not like they're coming over here to taste the green chile.

The illegal issue has had more punch this cycle. They are a handy scapegoat for some who are angry about the raging recession and the loss of jobs.


Steve Pearce is punching it up down south as Dem Congressman Harry Teague had a fast start out of the gate. Pearce comes with a spot that faults Teague's vote for "Obama's $800 billion stimulus program" and says negative ads about him from Teague and his allies have been shot down by "independent watchdogs" as "misleading." The spot is called "Fail." Pearce isn't addressing each negative spot against him but lumping them all together as a false attack. Maybe even he can't keep up with all the nuke out there.


Rio Rancho school enrollment has stalled, but not "plummeted" as we wrote in the first draft of our Friday blog. A Rio Rancho schools spokeswoman clarifies:

We have more students this year than we did last year and our enrollment is near 17,000. What has declined is the rate of growth. Very preliminary data suggests that the growth rate is currently just slightly above 1%..While this is the lowest growth rate in the district’s history, it is still an increase in enrollment.

It is indeed an increase, but our main point holds--Rio Rancho is in the worst downturn in its 30 year history as a city. Budget cuts and a tax increase, but no new jobs or construction are the order of the day--and the decade--in the City of Vision.

We're the people's choice for blogging in these here parts. Thanks for doing that.

Email your news and comments. Interested in advertising here? Drop us a line.

Not for reproduction without permission of the author
website design by limwebdesign