Thursday, November 04, 2010

Tense Ending For Di & Susana; No Peace Made, Plus: Time To Govern So Where's Transition Team? And: Dissing The Di Campaign--Someone Has To Do It 

Has Di congratulated Susana on her Guv win? Apparently not yet. Insiders say Di tried to reach Susana by phone until midnight on Election Night, but to no avail. The Denish campaign says they were told Martinez was too busy with her supporters to take the call. Too bad. We'd all like closure on their nasty political relationship. (The candidates did acknowledge each other during their TV speeches.)

Maybe Susana and Di can share lattes and a photo-op at Starbucks so we can finally get these pictures of the two snapping at each other out of our head. Meantime, Big Bill's office reports he called the Governor-elect to offer congratulations. But he probably didn't offer her the use of the state jet.

Governor-elect Susana Martinez did not exactly hit the ground running on her first day. She gave a couple of TV interviews in Las Cruces and then jetted up to ABQ for meetings (no, not in the state jet she maligned during the campaign) but there was no announcement of who would head her transition team. Big Bill named Chief of Staff Brian Condit as his liaison with Martinez but he needs someone to liaison with. Meanwhile, the big question in the state is: "Who do I give my resume to?"

In her victory speech Martinez painted New Mexico as a deeply troubled state, but that urgency was not matched on her first day after victory. She has a little wiggle room here, but not much. Without firm direction, the job-seekers and power players will start sowing dissent--if they aren't already--and the citizenry will get the wrong signal. Best to get command and control publicly established now before the natives get restless?

And will there be a communications director anytime soon? Not having one during the campaign is one thing, but going without one as you prepare to assume official power is another. How's that supposed to work?


Martinez might have put some fear in the hearts of the Santa Fe establishment Wednesday when she told TV news that she wants to audit all state agencies for "waste" as she looks for the hundreds of millions needed to balance the state budget. She also said she is not in favor of across the board spending cuts like those recently used by Big Bill and the Legislature to realize savings. She says some agencies deserve less funding than others. She's setting herself up for some tough decisions there, but that's why she's got the job. State department directors have been put on notice.


How about Lt. Governor-elect John Sanchez as head of the transition team for Susana? He is a former state legislator with a lot of successful business experience and contacts. The Light Guv usually doesn't have much to do but the top transition post looks to be right up John's alley.


Big Bill will exit like a pro. He came with a newspaper column promising "a seamless transition." He was excoriated by Martinez during the campaign, but Richardson is not going to let anything get personal. The Guv-to-be can learn from the example.

The Speaker
The gain of eight seats in the state House by the R's was the talk of the political community Wednesday. Will Dem House Speaker Ben Lujan survive? Will he resign to make room for Rep. Kenny Martinez? If he did, could Martinez get the votes to be speaker from the Dem caucus? Will Lujan bend to the will of the R's to keep power? Will a handful of conservative Dems get together with the R's form a conservative coalition similar to what exists in the Senate and that was last seen in the House in the mid-80's? Or will the R's decide not to challenge the Speaker, setting him up to blockade Martinez and make him look obstructionist?

No one expects Lujan to bow out, but his survival skills are now going to be put to the ultimate test. The old warrior is 74 and thought he had seen it all, but in this game you're never done.

On TV, the speaker challenged the Governor-elect over where she will cut the state budget since she has taken Medicaid and public education off the table. At least in the initial going, it doesn't sound like Speaker Ben is giving any ground.

We're told that the 33 R's that will now be in the 70 member House is the most since the Great Depression. If someone knows different, let us know.


Martinez backers were quick to tell everyone how the Republican district attorney was so adept at attracting Democratic votes in her home county. Maybe for DA, but not so much for Governor. Martinez barely beat Denish in her home county--51.7% to 48.0%. The county is 49% Democratic so that is not a bad performance, but not an outstanding one. Also, Dona Ana turnout, as it usually always does, lagged in turnout. About 46% of registered voters cast ballots, while statewide some 52% of registered voters made it to the polls. Of the 33 counties, it appears Catron County on the west side gave Susana her largest margin of victory. She scored a whopping 77.5% there or 1,467 votes. Di appeared to have her best run in Taos County in the north, garnering 70.4% or 8,349.


Diane Denish's campaign manager predicted our Alligators would be retired to Florida after Denish pulled out an upset victory, but it didn't happen and it will be the manager moving on and the Gators continuing their watch over La Politica. And with good reason.

The Alligators pounded the table for Denish to move to a more populist stance--and use clear language when doing so. She didn't, so when it came time to activate hard-core Dem voters--liberals, working class Hispanics and the Democrats who don't attend $1,000 a plate fund-raising dinners, Di was left in the lurch. But not Rep. Martin Heinrich. He called on his liberal SE Heights base as well as working class Hispanics in the Valley to pull him out of the fire. They rallied for him, but when they got in the voting booth many turned their noses up at Diane. She trailed Heinrich badly with the Obama '08 voters who Heinrich brought back. We know that from our precinct-by-precinct coverage. Why? Because she had no message for them.

In her concession speech, Denish claimed that the "competition of ideas" lost out to "gotcha politics." But the Alligators argued the ideas Denish offered were watered down versions of Martinez's policies. Toward the end she hit a bit harder, but it was for naught.

The campaign managers, media consultants and pollsters--the ubiquitous Greenberg Quinlan Rosner to be specific--ran a lousy campaign. They were inflexible in their strategy in the face of a disaster that unfolded over months. And Denish takes the ultimate blame because she was lulled into comfort by their constant reassurance and tried to be all things to all people. The whole thing looked like watery mashed potatoes.

Maybe the Alligator populist strategy was too risky for the well-compensated campaign professionals who now chase public opinion like a dog trying to catch a fast-moving car. But that's Susana Martinez you see in the driver's seat and Diane Denish in the rearview mirror.

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