Tuesday, October 12, 2010

The Whisper Turns To A Shout: Martinez's To Lose, Plus: Di's Hail Mary Hopes, Susana's Fuzzy Math Exposed And Chandler Pokes King 

You want some blogging? Well, hold on, this roller-coaster is starting to rock. I'm going to bring to bear over three decades of experience covering New Mexican and national politics to bring you the most insightful, accurate and brutally honest blogging of the final three weeks of Campaign 2010. It's what has made us this state's must-read every day and the readers' favorite in all four corners. And we're going to top it. Starting right now....

Who is that fella whispering in Susana's ear? If we didn't know better we'd say he's the first of hundreds of job seekers who are diligently practicing the sweet somethings they hope to whisper to the front-running Guv candidate--if they only get the chance.

The polls are no longer whispering of a Martinez victory. They are shouting. The Rasmussen survey conducted Sunday has the race practically out of reach, blaring that independents are breaking toward Martinez. It's Susana's to lose as she leads 52-43. That's a nine point spread and two better than the ABQ Journal's late September survey that had the race at 49 to 42. (Here's KRQE-TV coverage of the poll news.)

Did we mention that the Dems are yelling "Republican bias" over the Rasmussen? Hmmm. We didn't hear that when the pollster had Di ahead way back when. Oh, well. If you can't shoot a messenger who can you shoot? And don't say a blogger.


That guy whispering in Susana's ear is attorney David Chavez, the GOP candidate for the Valencia County state House seat held by Dem Andrew Barreras. He hosted a party at his home for Martinez at which Senator John McCain was the special guest. David doesn't need a job, but he does need a lot of luck to dislodge the incumbent.

And, yes, old timers. David is the son of the late legendary Democrat Tibo Chavez. I knew Tibo back in the day. He liked everyone he met. Of course, New Mexico was so Democratic then he probably never did meet a Republican.


Denish has perhaps one longshot last chance at changing the conversation in this 2010 Governor's race. Former President Bill Clinton headlines a Thursday Espanola rally for Di, but even his formidable rhetorical and personal skills may not be enough to get voters to give her a second look. His main task now may be at ensuring reliable Dem voters don't get discouraged and come out and vote for the rest of the party's ticket. The party doesn't need Dems acting like cats in a rainstorm.


There are two Hail Mary scenarios making the rounds for the lieutenant governor. Party veterans say the get-out-the-vote effort is still potent and that could make the difference. But Di needs to close the gap to just a couple of points for that to put her over the top. Right now the gap is so large you could drive the Rail Runner through it.


Then there's the fabled "October Surprise." And it's fabled for a reason--it hardly ever happens. Martinez has to endure two TV debates where something big could happen, but won't. If her campaign had its druthers, they'd put the prosecutor in a cryonic freeze and awaken her Election Night. As for Di, well, her campaign would like to put her in a time machine and take her back six months when President Obama should have gotten Richardson out of here, making her the Governor and Big Bill as distant a memory as a New Mexico budget without a deficit.


Martinez has made plenty of mistakes, most of them of the variety that fly below the radar but eventually reveal the candidate's political character. One of her more memorable gaffes was when she defended a $60,000 sweetheart contract she dispensed to a top aide in her Dona Ana County District Attorney's office. After she was busted, she defiantly told the ABQ Journal she would do it all over again if given the chance. Trouble is, doing it all over again would today be illegal. So we now have Susana backtracking. She describes her change of heart over the sweetheart deal this way:

Instead of just analytically studying the issue and seeing that I didn't do anything illegal or anything wrong--but the second part of that analysis needs to include (asking) how would that look? And so, certainly, after doing it now, looking back (it) would be something I wouldn't have done.

But voters don't seem to be listening closely to Susana--good or bad. They and the press have decided that someone has to pay for the pay-to-play sins of Governor Big Bill. Susana has effectively made Di the fall gal. Maybe Di doesn't need a campaign manager but a zookeeper--one who can instruct her on how you get up when an elephant is sitting on your stomach.


Martinez's multiple missteps are rooted in inexperience on the statewide and national stage. But it is also a comment on her political character--a subject given short shrift. Her goal is to win not to govern. Her plans for the days following January 1 are nondescript and seemingly fungible. But the bleachers are filled with like-minded fans, unconcerned about how the plays will be run, only that their team is on the field and prevailing.

Political narcissism is not a sin, but it is a flaw and it will be a fly in the ointment if and when the nameplate "Governor Martinez" is attached to that storied office door on the Fourth Floor of the Roundhouse. We don't need to say: "Don't say we didn't tell you." Do we?


Susana's fuzzy math about the state budget is being given a full body blow by the Associated Press (Just in case anyone is still listening).


In what is now widely seen as an ill-advised move, the Denish campaign unleashed running mate Brian Colon to accuse Susana of being a "Tejana" or Texan. (The spot is here.) The Dems were having fun up north with that charge, but things start getting unfunny fast when you take that kind of charge to statewide TV.

Martinez, gave a rare one-on-one TV interview on the subject to the conservative cameras of NM Watchdog.

It's sad. It's disappointing that anyone running for the top position of governor and lieutenant governor. I think the appropriate thing to do is divide people instead of uniting them. They are talking about me as a person instead of where I stand on the various policies...

Maybe Brian Colon was the "October Surprise" but for the R's.


Republican attorney general candidate Matt Chandler reaches into the grab bag of the political past as he launches a mildly negative TV spot against incumbent Dem AG and front-runner Gary King. Matt says the AG (he never mentions Gary by name) should be front and center on corruption cases in the state, not the feds. He cites the federal prosecution of former state senate leader Manny Aragon as an example.

But Aragon was indicted in March of 2007 when King had been attorney general for all of three months. He wasn't in much of a position to take up this case which Chandler chose to use as his TV centerpiece.

Who should investigate who is a process argument that is important, but lost on a general public interested in results. Aragon was thrown behind bars yet Chandler says, "I am running for attorney general because it's time to clean up things in our own backyard."

Perhaps so, but the mess Manny made in the backyard and which so perturbs Matt has already been cleaned up.

Chandler's anti-corruption pitch is making headway in some quarters. He received the endorsement of the ABQ Journal.

Chandler is a new and appealing face for the R's. You can see him staying on the scene regardless of what happens Nov. 2. You might even say he's almost as good as an attorney general candidate as Susana Martinez.


Now a report from a Senior Alligator in attendance Saturday night at the annual fund-raiser for the National Hispanic Cultural Center in ABQ:

Five hundred people were there...Attendees were told both Denish and Martinez would attend. Only Martinez attended with her running mate John Sanchez. Martinez was greeted warmly by her supporters. Diane's supporters (probably three quarters of the crowd could be counted as her supporters) were disappointed to angry that she snubbed the event. Many high profile Hispanics attended the function. Diane's running mate Brian Colon was in Las Cruces working the crowd at the UNM-NMSU football game. This was a big mistake by the Denish campaign.

Since Denish and Colon have called into question Martinez's Texas connection, it's baffling why the campaign sent neither to this high-profile Hispanic event.


Their striking nerves in the usually obscure race for a southern Public Regulation Commission seat. Republican Ben Hall, 74, chides his Democratic foe, Bill McCamley. He says:

Mr. McCamley is 32 years old, still lives at home with his parents, never had a job in the private sector, and does not have a family or business of his own.

But McCamley, a former Dona Ana County Commissioner who was defeated by Harry Teague for the 2008 Dem southern congressional nomination, fires back:

Hall seems to be living in a fantasy world. He got my age right, but the rest...is an outright lie...I have owned a home in Las Cruces since 2005. Previous to that I lived in an apartment which I rented after he came back from living on Boston where he obtained his Masters Degree...

McCamley adds that he has held several jobs in the private sector. In return, he says Hall has "accumulated over $350,000 of tax liens from 1983 to 1998 (almost averaging one per year during that time, over $100k of other liens from suppliers he refused to pay, numerous lawsuits against him for such reasons as “Unpaid Labor” “Breech of Contract” and “Debt and Money Due”..."

Hall, a retired general contractor who served six years in the Legislature, says "the liens were released long ago and that many businesses have had labor and tax problems."

The PRC has been a three ring circus. Last year three of the five commissioners were embroiled in ethical controversies. One of them had to resign after a court conviction.

One supposes the job on the powerful regulatory panel is worth fighting over. It pays $90,000 a year and you also get an assistant who is paid a cool $72,000.

Hey, maybe McCamley's best buddy and effete Las Cruces spinner Heath Haussamen will get that assistant job if McCamley is elected. And if Hall wins perhaps he can bring aboard former Roswell GOP Rep. Dan Foley.

Southern New Mexico surely needs all the entertainment it can get.


Here is the fundamental flaw in the strategy of ABQ GOP congressional candidate Jon Barela as he declares that the national deficit is the most important problem facing this district:

Nearly six in 10 say they want their congressional representatives to fight for additional government spending in their districts to spur job creation; fewer (39 percent) want their member of Congress to cut spending, even if that means not as many local jobs. This is a turnabout from September 1994, when 53 percent said they wanted their representative to battle against spending and 42 percent were on the other side.

That's from a new study by The Washington Post, the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation and Harvard University.

Once again we are finding the deficit argument is largely amorphous to most voters. It is more important than it was a year ago, but still largely intangible to an electorate more concerned with job security, paying for college, aging parents and their retirements.

Meanwhile, both sides in the ABQ congressional race have veered into the irrelevant, debating minutiae over international trade policy that they say have led to lost manufacturing jobs. That doesn't do Barela any good. He must make a direct connection with voters whose economic security is on the line. That isn't happening and that's why Dem Rep. Martin Heinrich is winning.


Reader Barry Simon checks in with reaction to this line in our Monday blog post:

"The impunity of the political class ignites voter anger and cynicism."

Oh, really? Then why do people vote for the candidate who is most successful at reducing the opponent to dust? Because negative campaigning works. Voting is not rational; it's emotional. And the candidate who can tell the most effective emotional story wins...even if it's not truthful. As comedian Stephen Colbert would have it, truthiness is good enough.

There is an evolutionary flaw in the human brain: we accept all information and evaluate it later...if we even get around to evaluating it which, in the case of politics, rarely happens. This quirk of human thinking is what kept us alive historically. It's better to get it right than make a quick decision and perish.


Don't count State Senator Jerry Ortiz y Pino out. He says he is planning on seeking a third term in the senate in 2012, contrary to what popped up here this week with several friends of Ortiz y Pino, 68, saying they did not expect him to seek another term:

I fully intend to pursue a third term in two years. I truly enjoy the Senate and the chance to fight for some of my favorite progressive issues is one I don't want to pass up. So unless something unforseen occurs between now and 2012, I am wholeheartedly planning on putting my name on the primary ballot once again and will be asking the voters in District 12 to keep me working for them....

Former NM GOP Chairman John Lattauzio writes to protest the inquiries here about Martinez's lineage and some of the confusion she has created over it by giving varying statements to the media about her grandparents. Says John:

You don’t remember any of those commenting on Susana’s lineage having trouble with Bill Richardson’s nor Barak Obama’s.

It's not that anyone has trouble with Susana's lineage, John. They would just like to know with certainty what it is. Is there a problem with that?

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