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Thursday, October 14, 2010

Heinrich-Barela Clash Reaches Peak Moment; Drama Over Social Security, Plus: Guv Race Goes All Texan, Also: Berry And The Base 

The moment of truth has arrived for Jon Barela. He is faced with a potentially devastating TV ad that could doom him forever politically but which also gives him the opportunity to shake up what has been an indistinct campaign for the right to represent the ABQ metro in the United States House of Representatives.

Democratic Congressman Martin Heinrich, going for complete victory, not a nose across the finish line, is accusing Barela of advocating privatization of Social Security--long known as the third rail of American politics because those who touch it are instantly
electrocuted. But in moving to slam the door on Barela before heavy early voting starts Saturday, Heinrich opened it by coming with an ad that lacks firm evidence to support his claim. He says because Barela has been endorsed by the FreedomWorks PAC which supports privatization, so does Barela. From the ad:

Barela sides with the politicians and special interests who want to privatize it. Meaning Barela and friends would risk Social Security in the stock market.

But that's like saying Heinrich supports all the positions of the dozens of PAC's he has happily taken cash from.
This ad has high emotional impact. It features a 69 year old Hispanic woman who sternly warns Barela in a Spanish accent, "Mr. Barela, don't mess with my Social Security." It first sent Barela back on his heels and then he came out wildly swinging:

Heinrich has launched his most desperate, cowardly attack to date, in an effort to distract New Mexico voters from his unpopular voting record in Congress...Using no citations...Heinrich tells an outright lie in claiming that Jon Barela would privatize Social Security. In fact, Barela is on record opposing the privatization of Social Security and has opposed raising the retirement age for Social Security and cutting Social Security benefits...

CONSERVATIVE RAGE


Barela's conservative base, sensing an inflection point in this campaign and outraged over the misleading ad, flooded the airwaves of radio talk giant KKOB-AM urging the 50 year old attorney to call Heinrich out once and for all.

The cries for action grew so loud that Barela himself called in to express his disgust with his 39 year old rival.
Adding to the drama was a call critical of Heinrich from Heather Wilson, the Republican who held the ABQ seat before Heinrich. That drove it home that this is truly the point where this campaign has reached critical mass.

But expressions and actions are two different paths. Will Barela go all-in and forcefully respond directly to the ad that could end it all for him? Or will he demur, deciding that tangling with a Democrat over Social Security is like trying to wrestle honey away from a Grizzly?

Can Barela's team equal or exceed the emotion that Heinrich created with this spot by exploring its deception and thereby call Heinrich's character into question?

Nothing less would appear to do as Barela lags the congressman in all the polls, even as he maintains the contest is a dead heat. However, significant third party money is coming in against Heinrich, with another $500,000 being bought by the conservative American Action Network. They're spending $19 million in 22 House districts.

Making the right move at the right time. That's the key in high-stakes poker, and it's the same in the crucial battle to represent the New Mexican people in the halls of power in Washington. Heinrich has now boldly pushed his chips to the center. If it pays off big, he might not have another tough race for years.

Update: Barela has come with this response ad to Heinrich's hit.

THE TEXAN CAMPAIGN

Darn those Texans! First they take over all of our ski areas and now they've taken over our Governor's race.

Susana Martinez's latest TV salvo is a retort to the Denish accusation that Susana, born and raised in El Paso, is still at heart a "Tejana." Meanwhile, state Dems demanded that Susana apologize and return $20,000 in campaign contributions from a Texas politico who said in 1990 of women about to be raped: "As long as it is inevitable, you might as well lie back and enjoy it."

Funny, that's how we feel about covering this gubernatorial campaign, but we digress...

Martinez is milking a campaign misstep by Denish. She put running mate Brian Colon on the air declaring in Spanish: "Susana es una Tejana."

Susana seizes on that widely derided ad to assert that Denish is so "desperate to hold on to power that they are appealing to the worst in people...Don't let them divide us..."

The Dona Ana County DA adds that she has worked in the state 25 years.

The Susana is a Texan theme had a humorous edge as it circulated below the radar in the Spanish North where the charge had its most heft. But the Denish campaign took it to seriously by taking it to the entire state via TV. The ad appears to be long gone, but it hurt Denish and it hurt Brian Colon.

As for the remarks of 1990 Texas GOP nominee and Martinez donor Clayton Williams, Denish is rattling the cage on this for a good reason--she was actually trailing among women in the late September ABQ Journal poll. That's a rarity for a Dem candidate in this state. But soon after state Dems asked for the apology and for the money to be returned to Williams, Martinez announced she would not give the money back, but instead send the cash to a rape crisis center.

HERRERA VS DURAN


We told you this week we are awaiting negative TV against under-the-gun Democratic Secretary of State Mary Herrera from GOP foe Dianna Duran. Meanwhile, a group called "Hispanos Unidos" has come with a spot against Herrera that they've posted on You Tube and which they say they are trying to raise money to air on broadcast TV.

SANCHEZ SPEAKS

Senate Majority Leader Michael Sanchez, perhaps positioning for a Governor Martinez administration, doesn't appear at all friendly to raising taxes to solve the state budget crisis. How do you solve it, Michael?

By considering every option to cut unnecessary and wasteful spending, striving to minimize harm from spending cuts that are impractical and irresponsible, and exploring alternatives to revenue-raising while avoiding actions that threaten New Mexico's economic recovery, we will succeed.

Remember, it was Sanchez who first floated to us the idea of using the state's $14 billion in permanent funds to fill the state budget hole. We still think that is where he is headed if the deficit projections don't come down.

Martinez and Denish have ruled out any tax increases. But issuing bonds backed by permanent fund money is not a tax hike. Dems could propose it as an alternative to any severe budget cuts she calls for. Or how about if a Governor Martinez (or Governor Denish) came with the permanent fund proposal on their own, preempting the Legislature? Just a thought....

BERRY AND KIRTLAND

Maybe he's playing a little politics here, but Mayor Berry's resolution supporting Kirtland Air Force Base could help undo some of the damage done when the four Democratic members of the council voted for a resolution asking that nuclear weapons said to be stored at Kirtland be removed to Texas. The five R councilors voted it down.

Berry's resolution notes the $5.6 billion impact of Kirtland and Sandia Labs in urging the council to adopt it at their meeting next Monday. The five R's can be expected to support the resolution. The four Dems would be best advised to go along in the middle of an election season where jobs and the economy are the number one issue. If they don't, the R's are sure to score political points.

But this is nonpartisan stuff or at least it should be. The base could again be targeted for closure in the near future and a resolution with all nine councilors in support would help repair the damage done by that earlier resolution.

SWINGING RIGHT


Also from City Hall, the Republican majority council swings hard to the right as it forms a redistricting committee to draw new council boundaries based on this year's census. Attorney Mickey Barnett and former Attorney General Hal Stratton are top names on the panel. They are known for fierce partisanship, putting Dems on notice that there could be a move to strengthen the GOP on the council. The most prominent Dem on the panel is ABQ State Senator Linda Lopez, but it's anyone's guess these days on how Linda will turn. The redistricting is expected to take place late this year.

RICHARD VS. WALLACE

The Denish-Martinez contest isn't the only one in the state featuring two women and drawing lots of attention. Up in Los Alamos nine-term GOP incumbent State Rep. Jeanette Wallace, 76, is facing a spirited challenge from Democrat and third grade teacher Stephanie Richard, 36, who grew up in Silver City. R's think Jeanette will hang on, but this would be a good pick-up for the Dems and help balance out some of the losses they expect elsewhere.

LET THEM USE FOOD STAMPS

Las Cruces area State Rep. Andy Nunez , the 74 year old chairman of the state House Agriculture and Water Resources Committee, reveals how even during this Great Recession major segments of the state Democratic Party have become completely disconnected from middle-class and lower-income New Mexicans:

"I would not oppose a bill to reinstate the food tax. It doesn't really hurt the real poor because most of them are on food stamps," said Nuñez..

Well, it may not hurt the "real poor" but what about the secretary making $30,000 a year and can't get food stamps. Or a seasonal construction worker making $25,000 a year?

Andy is in a district that can swing Republican, but taxing food isn't going to get the Democratic Party where it needs to go in this new age of austerity.

HER MURKY MESSAGE

The murky message of Diane Denish continues to aggravate the Alligators who are now getting quite pointed in their analysis. An example:

If Denish loses it will because she is the least defined Democratic candidate to run for a major New Mexico office in years. She has allowed her opponent to define her--the Richardson affiliation being the most damaging.

A Denish loss likely will rank as the biggest example of political hubris in state history. In light of the Tea Party movement and the visceral anger that started growing last summer during the health-care debate, Denish should have come out swinging for the fence with something, anything bold enough to grab voters emotionally. Instead at this late date, she continues to pursue this nebulous "New Mexico families" strategy.

Families don't vote. Pissed-off, motivated people angered by their current condition vote..

Amen. We would add that in these tenuous times voters are looking for strong leadership. Martinez's pledge of "bold change" is sloganeering without example, but the campaign has revealed she has an inner confidence and a desire to be in front of the parade. Those are character traits that can have profound appeal with an electorate marinating in insecurity.

MOM-IN-CHIEF

How about the Denish campaign following up today's Espanola visit by former President Clinton with one by Michelle Obama? Denish's support among Democratic women is flagging. Maybe the mom-in-chief, now out on the campaign trail, could give her a boost.

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