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Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Susana Still Favored, But Blow-out Doubted, Plus: Herrera Vs. Duran Goes To Tube, Also: Aftershocks From Nasty Guv Debate & Autopsy Of SunCal Deal 

Now only two weeks to go and the major point of suspense seems to be whether GOP Guv contender Susana Martinez's healthy lead in the polls will start to shrink. There's a glimmer of good news on that front for state Dems who fear a blow-out. Insider and public polling indicate Martinez will indeed score a blow-out on the conservative east side, but in big Bernalillo County she is currently tied with Denish. In the North Martinez will lose, but by a much smaller margin than is normal for a Republican. All this adds up to a win, but not the dreaded double-digit victory that Dems are fretting over.

While polling pros say a five to seven point win seems more in the cards, we're taking no predictions to the bank in this unsettled year. Denish is pinning her chances for the upset on bringing back the north and specifically Hispanic Democrats who have defected to Martinez. That's why there's talk of Obama going to Las Vegas.

Even a little win in Bernalillo County would be cause for joy for the down-trodden state GOP which hasn't seen a Guv win here since Gary Johnson in '98. But R's counting on a strong Martinez performance helping to bring in ABQ GOP congressional hopeful Jon Barela will be disappointed, according to the latest numbers.

FINDING THE SUSPENSE


It's not easy for a political handicappers to find happiness these days. Martinez has a healthy lead; ABQ Dem Rep. Heinrich appears to be on his way to re-election; southern Dem Rep. Harry Teague is walking around his political death bed and northern Dem Rep. Ben Ray Lujan is a sure bet for a second term, if not necessarily by the margin he would like.

But then there's that secretary of state's race. And there's no fresh polling! That leaves the handicappers waiting for the TV spots from incumbent Dem Mary Herrera and GOP challenger Dianna Duran. No R has been elected SOS in 80 years, but Herrera has been accused of wrongdoing by former employees. Those charges have received a lot of media attention, leaving the impression that she is vulnerable and leaving the handicappers reticent.

Herrera airs her first TV today. (See it here.) Instead of ignoring the corruption allegations, she takes the offense and maintains that she cleaned up the office from the wreckage left by her predecessor, Rebecca Vigil-Giron who awaits trial on corruption charges. And she gets a dig in at Duran, a longtime Alamogordo area state senator, by dubbing her an "incumbent legislator," hoping to tap in to voter frustration.

Duran is also expected to come with TV today. Certainly it will be of the slash and burn variety as the R's try for the upset. But top Dems say they are more optimistic about the contest than they were a month ago. Dem operative Victor Raigoza has come aboard to give the Herrera campaign some focus and Herrera, a two term former Bernalillo County Clerk, is again working her tail off.

Raigoza is saying a heavy vote in the north for Herrera will decide the race in her favor. Other Dems think Duran may be coming too late with negative TV because so many early votes have already been cast.

However, the media sensitive ABQ market is still an open question. The Duran TV could turn the tide, imperiling Herrera, but the odds are still long given voters' history of voting the party line on the down-ballot races.

Some race is bound to keep us on the air until Midnight on KANW-FM Election Night. Maybe this will be the one.

AUDITOR ACTION
Hector Balderas
The secretary of state's office comes up in the new campaign spot released by incumbent Democratic State Auditor Hector Balderas. (See it here.) The ad says auditing by Balderas "helped stop corruption and mismanagement in the secretary of state's office."

That remark is about the handling of funds under Herrera's predecessor, but reminding voters of problems with the SOS doesn't help Herrera any.

Balderas is opposed by retired DEA agent Errol Chavez who has been stricken with a brain tumor. One of the Gators points out that Errol's roots are in Espanola. He did that after we noted that Chavez now lives in Las Cruces.

And back to Balderas. We noted Monday that Dem Light Guv nominee Brian Colon was a political mentor to Balderas, managing his 2006 auditor campaign. But our framing of that relationship drew this criticism from longtime politico Theresa Trujeque

Brian has not been involved in Hector's reelection campaign. He has been focused on his run for Lt. Governor. To suggest that Brian mentored Hector and is responsible for Hector's success doesn't give credit where credit is due. Hector has transformed the State Auditor's office with his commitment to fighting public corruption before it was popular to do so. His record is proof..

Again, we said Colon was a political mentor to Hector, a former one-term legislator, not a mentor in running his office.

In fact, we've supported doubling the budget of the auditor as a means of realizing cost-savings in our budget stricken state. In fact, if he gets the increase we expect Hector to share with us one of those fine cigars he likes to enjoy with Brian.

THE CUTTHROAT DEBATE


It seems that cutthroat Sunday night KOAT-TV Guv debate was simply too bloody for many viewers. We don't have the ratings, but we've heard from a variety of viewers who unanimously panned the event and said they turned away from their boob tubes. One said it left her "squeamish." Another declared it "awful!" and another said : "I've never seen anything like it."

Neither had we, at least not in New Mexico. But this is what politics has become.

Before they take the stage for their final debate Thursday night on KOB-TV we can only hope the two would-be governors will try to remember what is good for New Mexico, not just themselves.

Knowing when to take your foot off of your opponent's throat is as important as knowing when to apply the pressure. Think about it, ladies.

PARTYING IN CRUCES


The Tea Party Express and we assume headliner Sarah Palin is coming to Cruces Oct. 23. Which leads us to wonder why Diane Denish never did use that Palin appearance on behalf of Susana Martinez in the GOP Guv primary against Martinez.

THE EARLY VOTE


Dyson has Di casting her vote early on Monday.

THE ATRISCO MORASS

The SunCal real estate disaster on ABQ's West Side in the spotlight in the Wall St. Journal:

The Atrisco Land Grant, handed down by Spain's king and queen in 1703, has never seen anything like the real-estate disaster now gripping hedge-fund firm D.E. Shaw & Co...

The New York company surprised many real-estate deal makers in late 2006 by teaming up with developer SunCal Cos. to buy the 55,000-acre property—twice the size of Boston—for $250 million.

The two companies planned to create a new town with residential, commercial and industrial areas. But the nationwide real-estate slump left the project stuck...Last month, lenders led by U.K. bank Barclays PLC foreclosed on the property. D.E. Shaw and SunCal have only a few weeks to come up with the money needed to pay off the lenders, or else the hedge-fund firm could see its roughly $100 million investment wiped out.

The crumbling the SunCal-Atrisco development will live in history as the poster child for the greatest real estate bubble and subsequent collapse in the history of the city of Albuquerque.

The overall real estate bear market still does not appear over here. Values are emerging, but not like you would expect to see in the aftermath of a burst bubble that ravaged the metro with foreclosures. The stagnant employment outlook here means more decline in real estate, but it's more like a dripping faucet than a waterfall.

This is the home of New Mexico politics.

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(c)NM POLITICS WITH JOE MONAHAN 2010
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