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Friday, October 01, 2010

Score September For Susana; Now For October, Plus: Our Ruminations On This Joyless Campaign, And: Rasmussen With 10 Point Lead For Martinez 

  • Rasmussen survey released Friday afternoon gives Martinez a ten point lead--50-40--over Denish in Guv race. When "leaners" are included it is 51-41 in favor of Martinez. 

  • Score September for Susana. She began the month five points ahead and either kept or expanded that lead, depending on which poll you look at. When Dem Guv nominee Diane Denish came with a poll of her own that showed  the GOP hopeful just one point shy of the critical 50% mark, Martinez took the month definitively.

    Previously, we scored June for Martinez when Denish's first round of ads backfired. July went to Denish when she regained her footing. Susana took August when Di failed to gain ground. So it is 3 to 1 in the month by month battle. But October is the month that can quickly wipe away earlier sorrows and mistakes. Hope is still alive for the underdog.

    The starting line for the final month will be drawn in chalk Sunday when the ABQ Journal comes with its second Guv poll. The late August survey had Martinez winning 45 to 39. If this survey has Martinez expanding her lead it will be a blow to Di, but if the lieutenant governor has narrowed the gap it could rejuvenate her forces.

    THE JOYLESS CAMPAIGN

    Former NM GOP Governor Dave Cargo ('67-'70) told us this week that this "is the most sterile campaign I've ever seen." And it may well be, consisting as it does of high-level nuclear attack TV ads and little else. The candidates hardly appear together to debate the issues. Contrast that with previous competitive Guv campaigns when the contenders have appeared together more than a dozen times. So far, we have had a mere two joint appearances. Two TV debates are scheduled in October, but that may be all we get. The turgid TV ads is all much of the public knows of this race.

    It seems to be fine with both sides, too. Neither candidate appears to especially enjoy their outings together. There is rarely any humor between the pair or from them individually and both seem wound too tight and over consulted. Maybe it is their inexperience at this level, but the authenticity that has been so prized in state politics seems to have been replaced by packaging. Maybe now that we've reached the 2 million population mark, we can't expect much personal politics--at least in the cities. But how about some door-to-door campaigning or some old-fashioned gimmicks to give this campaign some warmth and humanity to overcome the sterility?

    About the only one who seems to be having any fun is Brian Colón, the Dem Light Guv candidate who is the modern day version of the Happy Warrior. He's hopscotching from town to town and tweeting away with abandon.

    But the Guv candidates seem petrified of making a mistake and having it caught for the next wreckless TV attack ad which would be reliably delivered without joy, humor or irony. But the negative ads, of course, are effectively brutal. The 81 year old Cargo doesn't pine for the days of the past, just a future where there is some connection between the campaign and governing. In 2010, in New Mexico, he seems to be asking too much.  

    BILL'S BILLS

    He's done everything but throw Rolex watches at the state fair parade crowd to get his popularity back up, but all recent polling shows Big Bill mired in the low 30's or even high 20's in voter approval. Maybe he'll get some credit for keeping his bills down?

    KUDOS FOR HARRY

    A nice pat on the back for southern Dem Congressman Harry Teague from the Alamogordo Daily News. They come with an early endorsement of Teague who is locked in a brutal battle for his political survival against GOP challenger Steve Pearce.

    We've seen the many things he has done for Alamogordo, Otero County and Holloman Air Force Base. We've seen his work with area veterans, an issue he takes so seriously that, as a freshman congressman, he was able to gain a seat on the Veterans Affairs Committee. That's where he's able to work on such issues as veterans' health care funding, veterans' mental health, economic opportunity for veterans, women veterans' issues and veteran homelessness.

    That the endorsement comes from the most conservative part of the district is especially gratifying for Teague who Pearce is painting as too liberal.

     THE HERITAGE QUESTION

    We wondered in our June 15 blog about the grandparents of Susana Martinez, who would, if elected Nov. 2,  become the first Hispanic female Governor in the nation's history. The press has not told us much about her family background Well, it turns out on June 24 Martinez did address her grandparents' heritage. It was with an interview with national radio talk show host Laura Ingraham the candidate said her grandparents on her father's side were born in Mexico. From a reader:

    Martinez said her paternal grandparents were born in Mexico. Martinez was asked about her parent’s background and whether they came from Mexico. Martinez said,
    “No. My, my paternal grandparents did. My parents…who were born in the United States...and my maternal grandparents were in the United States but not my paternal grandparents...

    It may take some time, but just about every question ever posed here is eventually answered.

    Martinez was born and raised in El Paso. Large campaign contributions she's received from Texas are a focal point of one of Diane Denish's current TV spots.

    THE BOTTOM LINES

    Democrat Karen Montoya looks good for re-election as Bernalillo County assessor, but appointed Bernco Sheriff Manny Gonzales seems to be struggling against Republican Dan Houston.

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    Thursday, September 30, 2010

    Democrats Gone Wild: ABQ Councilors Worry About Nukes, Not Jobs, Plus: Di's Health Plan: What Did She Forget? And: The Taos Tax Rebellion 

    Where is the leadership in the New Mexico Democratic Party or at least a unifying principle over the direction of the economy in the state's largest city? These questions arise in the wake of the four ABQ Democratic city councilors supporting a bizarre resolution that calls for dismantling nuclear weapons stored at Kirtland Air Force Base and shipping them to Texas.

    The non-binding resolution was shot down by the five Republicans on the council, but the vote was not innocuous. It came as military and business insiders were taking in fresh speculation in DC about a possible closure of Kirtland. A decision on the future of the base is expected in a couple of years. We avoided a shut down of KAFB in the mid-90s with a bipartisan effort and continue to enjoy the billions in economic impact the facility brings.

    Which leads us back to our questions. Where was Democratic Senator Jeff Bingaman who will seek reelection in 2012 on a platform of safeguarding Federal dollars for the state? And where was Democratic Congressman Martin Heinrich, seeking re-election this year and citing his service on the House Armed Services Committee as a boon for the metro area. Heinrich was once a leading liberal light on the city council. Could he not have spoken with some of his former colleagues before the ill-advised resolution saw the light of day? And what about business-friendly NM Dem Chairman Javier Gonzales?

    This place would be a ghost town without the base upon which the modern day city and its economy were built. It's true there would be a lot fewer Republican voters if KAFB went away, but we won't throw that brickbat at our wayward councilors.

    The most surprising vote in favor of the resolution came from council president and fiscal conservative Dem Ken Sanchez. He has been a longtime advocate of economic development who is thinking about a run for mayor in a couple of years. Guess he figured the far-left could derail his bid, but he should be more concerned about how he is going to get elected citywide after such a vote

    And before the  R's slap themselves on the back, could not Republican Mayor RJ Berry and his administration have done more to stave off a vote that puts this resolution in the record, perhaps to be taken advantage of by base closure advocates?

    The councilors voting for the resolution would seek to claim the moral high ground by advocating an anti-nukes position, but what of the thousands of "working families" the Dems repeatedly cite as their chief concern when electioneering? What about the morality of protecting their jobs and livelihoods?

    This being the political season we could see how the R's could score the Dems over this, but we hope they don't. What the city needs now is leadership and a bipartisan effort to lay the groundwork for keeping Kirtland open and keeping those working families working.

    A RAW NERVE

    That anti-Kirtland council resolution hit an especially raw nerve because:

    Albuquerque has experienced three straight years of private-sector job loss, losing a total of 27,800 jobs since 2007. The peak was in August of 2007 when the Duke City had 318,200 private-sector jobs. As of August of 2010 that figure is 290,400.

    Thirty-five of the nation’s 100 biggest metropolitan areas are on the rebound, according to a report issued Wednesday morning by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Albuquerque is in the other group of 65 that are considered sinking...

    The Feds say metro area unemployment is now at 9.3 percent. All we need now is to start losing Federal jobs. Not.

    DID SHE FORGET SOMETHING?

    Health-care jobs have been one of the few employment pluses in an otherwise dreary  jobless climate in our state. Dem Guv hopeful Diane Denish came  with a plan  Wednesday to attract more high school students to the booming field. But did she forget something? What about a dental school at the University of  New Mexico? Big Bill and Senator Jeff have both supported the concept but nothing much has happened. A dental school is going to cost money but so did the UNM medical and law schools, and they have been great successes for our state.

    New Mexico's youth need job opportunities more than ever. Why shouldn't a kid from Chama or Hatch have a shot at becoming a dentist right here and staying here? The business they would start would certainly contribute to our economy (Heck, it might even lower the cost of filling that cavity if we have more dentists). But first we have to invest and follow the model that the  state's political leadership of the 50's and 60's gave us.

    PREZ VISIT HURT?

    We can see why they said it, but we differ with the analysis of GOP congressional hopefuls Jon Barela and Steve Pearce on the political impact of the President's Tuesday visit to ABQ.  

    Jon Barela and Steve Pearce said Obama's visit would remind voters of Democratic policies that have been unable to significantly improve the economy. 

    But Obama made it clear by where he visited that he was mining for Democratic votes, not Republicans or independents or even swing voters. Much of that vote is already gone. What isn't gone is the Democratic base. It is just threatening not to show up at the polls. Obama's approval rating among state Dems is a healthy 69% in the latest Journal poll. His job here was to get them off their couches and into the voting booths. They don't disagree with "Democratic policies" but they are dejected that those policies have not gone far enough or done more to end the recession.

    This is going to be a low-turnout base election. It will be won on get-out-the-vote efforts as much as anything else. Obama aimed at the right target in ABQ this week. Whether he hit it is the question.

    MORE PREZ VISIT

    There wasn't much rain on President Obama's parade when he visited ABQ this week. The weather was late-fall beautiful and protesters were minimal. Still, former NM GOP executive director Greg Graves, now a consultant with the Republican Governors Association, has a bone to pick, so pick away, Greg:

    Joe, what a great day for New Mexico...I am glad he got to see part of our city and experience the culinary fare. I am just wondering who paid for the trip. It was announced as a non-political trip but sure turned into one. Will the Denish and Heinrich campaigns be billed for a portion of the trip? If he had only stopped for lunch I assume it would be OK, but he walked around the café introducing the “next governor” and encouraged people to go vote for Denish.

    When I was executive director of the NMGOP we had numerous trips into NM by President Bush. We or the campaigns had to pay for the trips in the state. I suppose this is not a really big deal, but it is an interesting questions and I wonder if Ms. Ethics in government Denish will step forward and do the right thing...

    The Denish campaign says Greg can put his worries to rest. Everything was official:

    The backyard conversation in the South Valley was part of an official visit by the President and the stop at Barelas Coffee House wasn't planned, nor was it an event organized by the campaign. We follow all the relevant regulations about payments for campaign expenses and will continue to make sure we follow all the of the rules...

    See, no politics happened when the Prez was here. Whoever heard of politics in the South Valley of ABQ, anyway? Perish the thought!

    BREAKING AWAY

    Rep. Martin Heinrich deprived GOP challenger Barela of some ammo when he joined with 38 other Dems Wednesday and voted not to adjourn the House. They got out of town by one vote after Republicans pushed to stay in so the Bush tax cuts could be extended. Heinrich explained why he voted to stay:

    Congress needs to provide permanent tax cuts for the middle-class while allowing tax breaks for millionaires and billionaires to expire. We can't pay down the Bush administration's debt and fund critical programs like Medicare if we're writing checks for $700 billion to the richest Americans. Anybody who's ever balanced a family checkbook knows that.

    We might ask Martin if he is so upset about those low tax rates for the rich why he didn't support the proposed tax on millionaires to help finance the Obama health-care plan. Oh, guess we just did.

    RICH IN NEW MEXICO

    If you don't think there are all that many wealthy taxpayers to tax, we have fresh info here that says while our state is at the bottom in a lot of rankings when it comes to the number of millionaires, we look pretty fit: 

    New Mexico lands at No. 34 in a list ranking states based on the 2010 percentage of millionaire households. New Mexico has 34,145 millionaires, or 4.07 percent of the state's total households. New Mexico ranks below the national average, with 4.78 percent of all U.S. households considered millionaire status.

    The list, compiled each year by Phoenix Marketing International, bases its rankings on households with at least $1 million in investable, liquid assets and does not count sponsored retirement accounts or real estate values.

    By the way, embattled Dem Congressman Harry Teague voted for House adjournment and took the predictable hits for it from the national R's.

    TAOS TAX REBELLION

    We've been keeping our eye on the ever escalating gross receipts tax rates in New Mexico cities and towns and have been alarmed that some rates are now approaching 9 percent. In Taos, residents had enough when the Taos Council this summer passed an increase taking the tax from 8.1875 to 8.4375 percent. They circulated petitions calling for a public vote and that forced the town leaders to back off:

    The Taos Town Council unanimously voted in favor of repealing a proposed gross-receipts tax increase...Mayor  Darren Córdova announced  he would be asking the council  to repeal an ordinance that would raise the GRT by a quarter-percent.. The council voted unanimously to impose  the GRT increase Aug. 10, but petitions calling for a municipal election  over the issue were soon circulating.

    The personal income tax in New Mexico is not what the R's should call a "job-killing" tax. It is the on-the-rise gross receipts tax that especially hits middle and lower income voters that hurts job development. We've lowered the personal income rates on everyone including the rich. Those rates may need to go up while the job destroying gross receipts goes down. But good luck figuring out how, Governor whoever.

    NOT COMPLACENT

    Writing to you is not a privilege we take for granted:

    TEHRAN, Iran--An Iranian court sentenced the founder of one of the first Farsi-language blogs, credited with sparking the boom in Iranian reform bloggers, to more than 19 years in prison for his writings, a news web site reported Tuesday.

    Okay, if things get too hot around here, we're switching to Spanish. Let them figure that out.

    MITT FOR MARTINEZ

    VP Joe Biden is in ABQ today for a fund-raiser in the North Valley for Diane Denish and Susana Martinez is prepping for a big name visitor of her own. Former Massachusetts Governor and 2012 GOP presidential hopeful will campaign for her next Monday. Want to go? Details: 

    Governor Mitt Romney, former Governor of Massachusetts Monday, October 4,  2010. VIP  Reception: $2,500  per  couple; $1,500  per individual-Photo  Opportunity  included--General  Reception: $500  minimum per person. Please R.S.V.P to Ashley at 505-974-1396 or rsvp@susana2010.com.

    Mitt is a quality candidate, but his Mormon background has been a hindrance here, say several GOP Alligators. His solid business credentials help. 

    MVD SURPRISE

    The long-derided NM Motor Vehicle Department has been recognized for having one of the nation's best Web sites? Okay, did something freeze over down in you-know-where?

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    (c)NM POLITICS WITH JOE MONAHAN 2010
    Not for reproduction without permission of the author

    Wednesday, September 29, 2010

    Bailing Out New Mexico: How It May Be Done, Plus: Latest From The Guv Trail, And: Obama In ABQ; News & Political Gossip From His South Valley Trail 

    Since the candidates for governor won't tell us how they're going to close a Grand Canyon sized budget shortfall that will shadow their administration, we'll take a stab at where they may find themselves January 1.

    If oil and gas prices fail to rebound, depriving the state treasury of the hundreds of millions needed to get the budget in balance, we look for key state legislators and perhaps the new Governor to start circling the state's $14 billion permanent funds like hungry sharks.

    The budget has gone from a peak of $6 billion to $5.2 billion. Can we take it down another $500 million without a political donnybrook? Unlikely. And with both Guv hopefuls whistling past the graveyard and saying they will not raise taxes, the political alternative that looms large is those permanent fund dollars.

    That money is nearly sacred, with much of the cash having been built up since statehood. But if you aren't going to raise taxes, mammoth spending cuts are not politically feasible and federal stimulus funds are not gong to come to the rescue, what's a new Gal Guv to do?

    The plan floating around Santa Fe, soon to gain steam, we think, would not directly raid those funds. That would require a constitutional amendment approved by voters. Instead, a bonding scheme would be proposed to get at royalty revenue headed towards the fund before it was banked.

    Dem Di reacts lukewarmly to any fund raid that does not have the voters stamp of approval:

    Any governor would have to seriously consider such a proposal on its individual merits. But, before even considering using permanent funds, I would like to see my government-reform agenda fully enacted. There's a good reason we ultimately leave these decisions to the voters--it's because they are so important and our permanent funds are a promise to New Mexico's future generations," she said.

    Said conservatively, but important to note she kept the option open. 

    Republican Susana is more emphatic in opposing the use of permanent fund cash to resolve this modern day depression:

    The budget deficit is a result of overspending and mismanagement of the taxpayers' dollars," she said. "We can only solve the budget crisis by restoring fiscal sanity to our budgeting process."

    With both candidates taking the tax hike option off the table, budget solutions are few when the Legislature convene in January. Under those circumstances the permanent fund solution--as dreaded as it may be--appears ready to take off. 

    THE CAMPAIGN

    A lot of this final stretch is about establishing an emotional connection. That seems to be a problem for Lieutenant Governor Denish who is not a glad-hander and has a personality that is as laid back as a Lazy Boy recliner. But in her latest TV spot her handlers have her narrate the entire 30 seconds as they work to establish a more personal bond with Dem voters and get them to take ownership of her candidacy. Some of the copy:

    I’m the only candidate who’s owned a small business, created jobs and has a plan to turn our economy around. My opponent’s plan?

    (Martinez) wants to get rid of rules that protect us from big corporations allowing 400% interest on loans, mortgage lenders to kick people out of their homes and pollution of our precious land and water. We've been there before--As Governor I won't let us go back.

    Looks like a solid effort, but the Martinez camp is not hearing any of it. This is a  paragraph they put out taking note of Di's new populist tone:

    Trailing in the polls, Denish is desperately trying to recast herself as a populist and wage a class warfare campaign, which is a curious strategy for a woman of privilege whose household makes huge profits from insider deals with wealthy corporations.

    And Martinez accompanies that broadside with a spin-off of the controversial ad accusing Denish and her husband Herb of promoting an insider deal with land developer Mesa del Sol so he could get big lobbying fees. The factual content of the first ad has been shot down by the nonpartisan factcheck.org.

    Here's the reworked ad, called "China." It continues Susana's "all-corruption-all-the-time" campaign.

    AG TV

    Republican Matt Chandler comes with is first TV as he challenges incumbent Dem Gary King for attorney general. It's a bio spot and can be seen here.

    OBAMA IN ABQ

    Talk about bad timing! We shot a video at the Barelas Coffee House on 4th Street Monday with our political analysts John Wertheim and Greg Payne (posted on yesterday's blog) but should have waited until Tuesday. That's because President Obama, in town for the morning, decided to stop in and get some take-out at the storied restaurant in the Barelas neighborhood.

    Not that our timing was all bad. While there Monday the three of us ran into Diane Denish who was having lunch with her campaign manager. She expressed guilt over having a small plate of calorie-rich   chicharrones on her table. Judging from the pictures, she may have been too busy to have a second order when she accompanied the President to the restaurant on Tuesday. But he ordered some of the pork morsels along with some Huevos to go....

    Big Bill was pictured sitting and listening to the President as he addressed a backyard crowd of 35 at the home of a retired Marine in the ABQ South Valley. Wonder what he was thinking: "What could have been?"....

    Dem US Rep. Martin Heinrich also got face time with the Prez by attending the backyard event. Whether it is a Democrat or Republican representing the ABQ district, we always get a kick when they get to hang out with the Prez. Guess it's what you would call a vicarious thrill....

    Wonder how Mayor Berry felt greeting President Obama at Kirtland Air Force Base Monday night? That's one of the perks of his job--and a nice one at that....

    Maybe Obama will give Di a bit of a pop in the Journal poll that is being conducted this week and that will be released Sunday, but the visit was primarily aimed at the early voting that begins On Oct. 5 and continues all month. Obama's approval rating among Hispanics remains high....

    Maybe he calls her Di? The President mispronounced Denish's last name when introducing her at the South Valley event. He dubbed her: "Duh-neesh." Or is that the Hobbs pronunciation?.....

    What a contrast. Remember when Obama drew the largest crowd in New Mexico political history--about 40,000 in the fall of 2008 at the University of New Mexico? Yesterday 35 people were at the backyard event. Security is a lot easier that way, but you also manage expectations better. The video of that event is posted here....

    Nice symbolism for the TV cameras. Obama was framed by a red chile ristra and the American flag during his backyard speech. That was pretty cool....

    Did you get the demos (demographics)? The Prez made two stops and both were keyed to New Mexico Hispanics and culture. The South Valley visit with a Hispanic family and then to the Barelas Coffee House. This was not a stop to rouse independent voters, it was a stop to engage Democrats in this election....

    INSIDE BARELAS WITH OBAMA

    Here is Kendra Marr of the Politico giving us the White House Press Pool report from Obama's Barelas Coffee house visit. He made it no secret that he was there to help Di:

    Obama rolled up to the restaurant at 11:53 am and the four ladies behind the counter started screaming and clapping.

    "Hey guys," Obama said, sleeves still rolled up from the backyard event. Diane Denish stood by his side.

    Obama began shaking hands with employees in red aprons, then eventually all the workers came out of the kitchen.

    "I hear you guys have the best huevos rancheros," he said.

    The owner, who has operated the restaurant for 32 years, came to the front to greet the president and Denish.

    Obama said, "Here's a steady customer. She's gonna be a great governor."

    And then he proclaimed: "Let's go see some customers."

    Obama weaved around the restaurant shaking hands and obliging to cell phone pictures. "Everyone know your lieutenant governor? Soon to be ..."

    "Our governor!" a man finishes the sentence.

    "Tell everyone to get out and vote for Diane," Obama said.

    There was more hand shaking and Obama reiterating, "Thank you so much"

    "Everyone working hard for Diane I hope," he said.

    Obama told customers that their food looked "terrific." He said he was happy to be in a "beautiful community" with "wonderful people."

    The president met a young military veteran  Kiel Ellis. "You serve overseas?" Obama asked.

    "Yes sir I got out in 2002," Ellis responded.

    The president also met a firefighter and found a Chicago Bears fan in the corner of the restaurant.

    More hugs and cell phone photos.

    One lunch patron, Venny Sedillo, 78, who met Obama at the restaurant said after the encounter,"We need that kind of president. I told him thank you for what you've been doing."

    Finally Obama rounded up the entire staff for a group photo, directing people where to stand and who should get in front --"you guys are small"

    An employee handed him a bag of takeout and Obama began to holler
    "Where's my bill? Where's my bill?"

    Pointing to the press --"They'll write about it."

    The President in Barelas...a day in the life of our beloved La Politica...

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    Tuesday, September 28, 2010

    Our Video Special: Wertheim, Payne & Monahan With The Guv's Race & Enchiladas, Plus: Polls! Polls! Polls! All The Major Races Updated With New Numbers, And: Pearce's Killer TV Ad 


    We kick it off today with yet more exclusive analysis of that rip-roaring race for Governor. We take you to the heart of La Poltica--to the Barelas Coffee House in ABQ's South Valley--where we corralled New Mexico political veterans Democrat John Wertheim and Republican Greg Payne to give us the very latest take on the Martinez-Denish contest. It's six minutes of fast-moving video analysis, the kind you can only get here. We only wish you could taste the enchiladas.

    Wertheim and Payne will be back here on the Web before the election is over and also with yours truly on Election Night on KANW 89.1 FM.

    POLLING MANIA

    The old heart is starting to skip a beat now and again as we get flooded with numbers on the key races. There's a lot to cover so let's put on the Nikes and get going...

    In the Guv battle, two new polls. One shows it to be a dead heat. The other says Susana has a decent lead. The tie poll was commissioned by the Dem Governors Association and has it 46 to 46. The other survey was conducted by Public Policy Polling (PPP) and has Susana leading Di 50 to 42.

    The DGA survey taken Sept. 21-23, says NM Dem pollster and analyst Harry Pavlides, was conducted with households that he says are not as likely to vote as those contacted in the PPP/Daily Kos survey. More conservative voters are more reflective of the actual electorate thus Martinez is ahead in PPP. But Pavlides cautions he finds the PPP poll too much on the conservative side.

    Pavlides stuck his neck out last week and said he expects Denish to have gained a little traction and to be trailing by three points in the ABQ Journal survey expected to hit the doorsteps this Sunday.

    The problem is there not much excitement yet from the Dems and that puts the early vote in question which starts Oct. 5. Denish may need to start hitting the Dems over the head with a harder message sooner.

    PPP polled all the major races in the state over the weekend--Sept. 25 and 26. Again, the MOE is 4.2% either way. 

    Just about everyone is waiting for that Journal poll when it comes with its second Guv poll this Sunday. The first one in late August had Susana beating Di 45 to 39%.

    Martinez came with her own internal poll recently that gave her a 50 to 40 lead. That's nice, but if the Journal survey differs much, it will give a psychological boost to Denish.

    Analyst Wertheim says "the best negative" in the final month will win the race, but he and others still think the eventual winner will need to give a positive vision of the future and a reason why they should get the vote. Agreed.

    HEINRICH VS. BARELA

    We've never had this one in the toss-up column as some East Coast analysts have, and now it appears Dem US Rep. Martin Heinrich is starting to seal the deal. The PPP poll has him besting Republican challenger Jon Barela 50% to 43%.

    This is bad news for Jon who is counting on national GOP TV money coming in here to bail him out. The national R's have been announcing such buys but we've been warning we want to see the actual ads, not the promises. There are many more competitive seats in play for the R's. Another poll like this one and the plug will be pulled on Barela. He's been spinning his wheels all year. The first PPP poll in February had Heinrich ahead 45%to 36%.

    Barela is a good candidate, but his message is too cookie-cutter. He has not come with new angles to attract moderate voters. In Albuquerque, if you live on the right, you die on the right. And you can take that to the bank--or the crematorium.

    We suggested he call out Heinrich on Afghanistan, saying end the war and save the billions--a position  that might shake up this race. But Barela is apparently in a DC cocoon and can't hear us.

    Heinrich's main problem is time. He has to stay out there another month and make no mistakes and also not get cocky. We are impressed with the campaign he is running, delivering a fresh body blow to Barela and not hesitating to acknowledge his foe by name on TV spots. The freshman congressman may have a lot of lessons to learn, but listening to sound campaign advice is not one of them.

    TEAGUE VS. PEARCE

    If you don't like Harry Teague, you probably aren't human. This is one genuine guy with a smile for the world. But personality is not going to carry the day in the hand-to-hand combat for the southern congressional district. And that bad news is now manifesting itself in the PPP poll. Dem US Rep. Teague, seeking his first re-elect, has fallen one point behind Republican challenger and former US Rep. Steve Pearce. It's 48 to 47. The PPP polls have a margin of error of 4.2 percent. No one is surprised by this. The district has more conservatives than Texas has cowboys.

    While Harry is avuncular and approachable, Steve is your stern uncle who won't give you a loan until you show him a credit report. But he commands respect because he is unapologetically ultra-conservative and pretty much ultra-genuine.

    And then there's this--the TV ad we've been warning Democrats about ever since the Politco broke the story. Teague took a $3 million bonus in late 2009 from his Hobbs-based energy business and a couple of days later the company cancelled health insurance for all its employees, or as the ad puts it:

    Congressman Teague--one of the richest men in Congress, He took a $3 million bonus from his oil company then four days before Christmas Congressman Teague cut off his employees health insurance...what kind of man would pocket $3 million, but cut off his employee health care four days before Christmas?

    Oh, my! What do we say here? A back-breaker? A nuclear attack? This thing is devastating--as we thought it would be. Harry, throw us a rope here. What's your comeback?

    If he doesn't have a good one, we may have to turn our head. I don't think we can stand seeing good 'ol Harry being incinerated before our eyes.

    LUJAN VS. MULLINS

    Up North, PPP says Dem US Rep Ben Ray Lujan is in good shape, trumping Republican Tom Mullins 49 to 43. Mullins has banked a lot of the GOP vote and says he can do the nearly unimaginable--take the lopsidedly Dem northern district away from freshman Rep. Lujan. Well, he might want to call Archbishop Sheehan to get him started with the Novenas.

    Still, Lujan needs to work it because of the Four Corners and Clovis conservative vote. The energy is with the R's this cycle and motivating the Hispanic North to vote is still job one for Ben and the boys.

    WHAT HE'LL SAY

    Here's a preview of what you can expect to hear from President Obama when he visits ABQ today to talk about the economy:

    President Obama will make the House Republican “Pledge to America” his target this week as he embarks on a four-state swing just five weeks away from the midterm elections.

    White House aides said Monday that Obama will use backyard conversations to highlight his differences with the pledge as he travels to the swing states of New Mexico, Wisconsin, Iowa and Virginia. All four states also offer a mix of toss-up House, Senate and gubernatorial races this fall.

    Obama is headed to the ABQ South Valley today for a private backyard discussion with a small group. It's a heavy Hispanic area, a key constituency for the Democrats. but we don't have to tell you that.

    Yes, Diane Denish will get face time with the Prez. She will attend the backyard talk and get on TV and so will Dem Martin Heinrich. Of course, this is a nonpolitical visit. No kidding.

    ABQ CONGRESSIONAL RACE
    Jon Barela
    More on that hard-hitting ad from Dem Rep. Martin Heinrich accusing Jon Barela of using his position as an Intel lobbyist to push "unfair trade deals" that shipped jobs to India and China. It drew a sharp retort from the DC R's:

    The fact is Barela wants to create jobs in New Mexico, while Heinrich allowed tax breaks that helped foreign companies create jobs in China rather than the U.S.: “The Department of Energy estimated that 82,000 jobs have been created and has acknowledged that as much as 80 percent of some green programs, including $2.3 billion of manufacturing tax credits, went to foreign firms that employed workers primarily in countries including China, South Korea and Spain, rather than in the United States.” (Patrice Hill, “‘Green’ jobs no longer golden in stimulus,” Washington Times, 09/09/10)

    TEA PARTY FUN

    Politicians can say crazy things, and that seems to go double for some of the Tea Party candidates. Dems will relish this list of the 14 craziest things said by adherents of the nation's latest political fad.

    MATT ON THE MAT

    Will they ever learn? Yet another political candidate has been busted for fudging an answer on the ABQ Journal's questionnaire. This time it's GOP land commission candidate Matt Rush. Why would he say he had a college degree if he didn't? First, we go to the newspaper and then to one our our readers:

    Matt Rush, the Republican candidate for state land commissioner, has told the Journal and others that he has an associate's degree in agribusiness from Lubbock Christian University. It turns out that's premature, at best. According to the school, Rush is only one required course away from a bachelor's degree, but he never actually got an associate's degree. Rush said he assumed he had the associate's degree — although he didn't have the paper to prove it — because of all the coursework he had completed.

    Now from blog reader Greg Lennes in Las Cruces:

    For months Mr. Matt Rush, candidate for the all-important State Land Commissioner, has been fibbing about having an associate degree from Lubbock Christian University. How can anyone vote for that guy for a $90,000 salaried job?

    He is a member of the Ethos Leadership Group where he says he "earned his degree in Agriculture and Business from Lubbock Christian University" implying he graduated the school with a full degree. The Group "assist organizations and individuals in their enhancement of professionalism, leadership, and fundraising."

    It is interesting that Matt Rush is a paid speaker. He wants $3,000 to $4,500 to speak!

    Thanks, Greg. The newspaper adds:

    Lubbock Christian University Registrar Janice Stone said school officials had never determined Rush's eligibility for an associate's degree because he hadn't asked them to.  Now, at Rush's request, "We're looking into that," Stone said.  "Most likely, he does have all the qualifications for the associate's degree in agriculture," she said. She said Rush completed 132 credit hours and is short one required course for his bachelor's.....

    The Dem land commission candidate is Ray Powell, Jr. who has previously held the post for 10 years. Rush's flub on the simple Journal questionnaire improves his already pretty good chances.

    THE MEDIA BEAT
    Your blogger
    Will we get another bunch of reporters headed to Santa Fe to work in the new administration like we had when Big Bill took over in 2003? It has been a steady parade, but with state government PR jobs pretty much frozen up, a repeat on that scale appears unlikely. Journalists found the good-paying jobs--as much as 50 percent or more than a reporter or editor makes--pretty much irresistible. Big Bill welcomed them with open arms. Did it get him better PR? Maybe in the short term.

    While PR jobs in state agencies may be tight, there will be jobs on the Governor's staff. Chris Cervini, who is handling campaign press chores for Diane Denish, is in line to take the communications job if she is elected. We blogged recently that Las Cruces political reporter Heath Haussamen (a fave of Susana's team) has been mentioned in political circles as a possible communications director for a Governor Martinez. He says he isn't interested (we'll see what he and the rest say in December) but others will be. A $90,000 plus salary can be hard to resist when you are in the low-paying press corps in the middle of a recession.

    The most recent three political reporters for the ABQ Journal now all work for government. Loie Fecteau and Andy Lenderman joined the Big Bill administration after reporting on the Governor. Jeff Jones left the paper to work in government as an ABQ policeman. Former Journal crime reporter T. J. Wilham exited the paper last year to become a $75,000 a year communications aide to ABQ Public Safety Officer Darren White. Wilham covered White when he was Bernalillo County sheriff. ABQ mayoral spokesman Chris Ramirez came directly to City Hall from covering government at KOAT-TV.

    Jim Ludwick, Dan McKay's predecessor as the Journal City Hall reporter, went to work for the city's Animal Control Center under the administration of then-Mayor Marty Chavez. Ludwick covered Chavez for the paper. Kate Nelson, a veteran reporter for the now defunct ABQ Tribune, is now in PR for the state after working for Lt. Governor Denish who she covered as a reporter. Gilbert Gallegos, Big Bill's communications honcho, was a political reporter for the ABQ Tribune who covered Bill's 2002 campaign. He was then tapped by Governor Bill for the PR post.

    As you can see, it is a time honored tradition in New Mexico for members of the Fourth Estate to traverse to the "dark side" and spin for those they previously wrote about. This may provoke emotional responses among journalists when it is pointed out, as well as launch ethics debates, but it is a political reality. It reached a fever pitch under Big Bill and will continue with the new administration, albeit, at a much slower pace due to the shrinking government.

    Could journalists (and bloggers who call themselves journalists) subject themselves to a rule that would prohibit them from joining a government agency or politician that they covered for a period of one year after leaving their news organization? It might give the public more trust in the objectivity of the reporting they are getting and which the press says is its holy grail. And maybe the reporters who get overly sensitive about hearing their names bandied about as potential press secretaries should be the first to take the pledge.

    The bottom line? Don't be surprised if you see some of the newshounds covering this campaign tapping out press releases for those they covered. And don't say we didn't tell you.

    This is it---the home of New Mexico politics. And from Albuquerque, I'm Joe Monahan.

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

    (c)NM POLITICS WITH JOE MONAHAN 2010
    Not for reproduction without permission of the author

    Monday, September 27, 2010

    The Guv Run: Susana & Di With Some New Themes At Sunday Debate, Plus: Heinrich Hitting Barela Harder, Prez In Town Today, And: A GOP Hope In Indian Country 

    First things first about that Sunday morning Guv debate. Neither candidate presented anything close to a plan to address a gargantuan state money shortfall that could be upwards of $500 million for the budget year starting next July. Once the two hopefuls made it clear that we are in for more "kick-the-can-down-the-road-governance"--they went on to discuss--mostly in generalities--their other plans for our enchanted land should they be deemed worthy by the electorate November 2. But first the style.

    Neither of these candidates is going to win a charisma contest. That trophy will be retired with Big Bill. And there is a lethargy about these two, perhaps appropriate to the state of our economy and the current New Mexican body politic. Complete video of the debate is here. Some TV news highlights here.

    On a more positive note, Republican Susana Martinez does offer some spunkiness and forthrightness that can engage. Democrat Diane Denish brings a a low-key passion that rings of caring and competence.

    Strategically, Martinez was night and day compared with the first Guv debate held in August on education issues. Then, a very strident Martinez pummeled Denish over the seamy side of the Big Bill administration. Not Sunday. As we've been telling you ad nauseum, it appears Martinez has milked the corruption cow for all the milk it can give. Its gotten her to the upper 40's, but not her nose across the finish line. So Sunday at the traditional ABQ Congregation Albert face-off she showed up as a school marm for undecided voters. Suddenly,  education is her top priority.

    She only occasionally mentioned the corruption theme that has taken her to the cusp of victory and still saturates the airwaves. It wasn't exactly a warm and fuzzy Susana, but at least it wasn't cold and prickly. Whether we will be seeing less corruption ads and more on education on the tube remains to be seen, but October is a long month. She needs to broaden the message.

    She was cautious, controlled and obviously trying not to make a mistake. Can't blame her. Even Di's own polling has Susana at 49%. The DA did revert to prosecutorial form near the end of their hour-long confrontation, but for the most part presented a more moderate personality--one that is more likely to get her the prize she seeks.

    As for Di, a veteran of the warfare of La Politica, she finds herself in the unusual role of underdog. And she played it to the hilt, delivering attack after attack against the Dona Ana County DA. She used her new-found populism that Susana is not "on your side” and is beholden to the interest of “big corporations." She did this with a drone, but followed her talking points and also made sure to mention she is a native New Mexican and that the El Paso born Martinez likes to take big Texas contributions. Is she starting to connect with the Democratic base?

    It was somewhat ironic to hear Denish hammering the corruption argument more than Susana, repeatedly reminding the in-person audience and the one listening on radio about Martinez's financial controversies in her DA's office. (Susana leveled another charge of her own, but it didn't seem to have much legs.)

    Hands down, Denish has Martinez beat on experience and policy specifics. But Martinez came with a line that is almost always powerful after eight years of any administration: "I represent change." She declared. And she finally started to talk some--not much--about the future, not just her version of a depressing past.

    Denish has to do more--much more-- to make New Mexicans feel that change is a threat--not a relief. She has a month to do it.

    WAY IT PLAYED

    The AP came with this lead on the debate:

    Democratic gubernatorial candidate Diane Denish sought Sunday to shift the focus of the race away from Gov. Bill Richardson's administration, which has been a punching bag for rival Republican Susana Martinez.

    With polls showing Martinez with an advantage in the governor's race, Denish played the aggressor at a debate at Congregation Albuquerque synagogue. She described the Republican as beholden to the oil and gas industry, large corporations and out-of-state political contributors — "Texas money." One Texas couple has donated $450,000 to Martinez's campaign.


     TV ACTION

     Denish is carrying her populist theme to TV, coming with an ad that says: "Republican Martinez and her Texas backers would let corporations run wild."

    The ad also makes hay over Martinez's latest hit piece accusing Denish of being caught in a scandal. It points out how that take has been shot down by the nonpartisan Factcheck.org.

    There is more class warfare and populism in this ad and it is harder hitting. This approach is meeting with some success for other Dem candidates around the nation. Denish has run a relatively smooth campaign since making early mistakes in June, but the rap on her is that she is not exciting her base voters nor tamping down enthusiasm for Martinez. This ad raises the temperature some and you would expect some stuff that's even hotter soon. That is if the Dem is going to catch the GOP front-runner.

    As for the Texas theme, New Mexico has a long list of carpetbagging politicians--including big Bill--but being born and raised in the Lone Star State as Martinez was rings a different set of emotional bells. Texans and New Mexicans have not had the highest of opinions of one another. At this point, you have to assume that taking the Texas connection to the statewide tube was poll tested by the Denish campaign and that it hits paydirt.

    HEINRICH VS. BARELA

    The latest TV in this race for the ABQ congressional seat gets a tad more personal as Dem US Rep. Martin Heinrich comes with an attack on Republican Jon Barela's lobbying history for Intel Corp.

    While New Mexico workers struggle, Jon Barela's been fighting to create jobs--in foreign companies. Barela was a D.C. Lobbyist pushing to let George W. Bush negotiate unfair trade deals. Made deals that made it easier for corporations to ship our jobs to India and China.

    In case you were wondering if an attack involving Intel might be dangerous for Heinrich considering that the chip manufacturer is a major employer around here, Keep in mind that just about all of Rio Rancho lies outside the ABQ district. Also, the company has gone from peak hiring of over 5,500 to a work force of now just 3,100.

    National R's are still eyeing this seat for a big TV money drop. Freshman Heinrich isn't taking any chances. If he escapes their sights this time, history says the soon-to-be 39 year old could end up holding the seat for decades. 

    DI WADES IN

    Denish has waded into the usually politically untouchable subject of merging the two Las Vegas school districts. She says the time for consolidation is now. Will that help or hurt her Election Night? The Dems count on huge majorities from San Miguel County.

    NATIONAL SUSANA

    Hispanic Republicans was the focus of this Wall Street Journal piece that featured Susana:

    There is a stereotype that Hispanics must be in favor of different policies than I am expressing, and that's not what I'm finding at all," said New Mexico GOP gubernatorial candidate Susana Martinez, who would be the country's first elected female Hispanic governor.

    Ms. Martinez, a prosecutor, has aired television ads in which she stands at the border and promotes her record convicting criminals who sneaked in from Mexico. She promises to end state laws that she says make it easy for illegal immigrants to obtain drivers licenses. Gov. Bill Richardson, a Democrat, is stepping down due to term limits.

    It should be noted that Martinez ran those tough immigration spots during the GOP primary election and not any so far in the general election when more moderate voters turn out at the polls.

    But Martinez's tough immigration stance (she has not explicitly backed the controversial Arizona Law) has received a warmer greeting than many might expect. The poor economy is probably one reason.

    PREZ IN TOWN

    President Obama will touch down in ABQ tonight for a somewhat low-key visit Tuesday in which TV news says he will meet with a "retired veteran" at a South Valley home then have a "backyard" discussion on the  economy. The TV cameras will be there, of course, but otherwise not much public. We speculated when the visit was first announced about whether Diane Denish could hitch a ride on the PR wagon. We haven't heard anything, but Obama could be expected to make a return visit to the state in October and come in firing on all campaign cylinders. (VP Biden hosts a Thursday ABQ fund-raiser for Di). The Prez approval rating in the late August Journal poll was at 50% in the ABQ metro, but at 64% in the Hispanic North. And that's the region Denish could use some help to get Dem voters out.

    As for Mr. President, with a 50% overall state approval rating, he is in better shape for 2010 here than elsewhere, but still vulnerable. Much will depend on who the R's nominate.

    PEARCE PROBLEM

    Steve Pearce has a Social Security problem. No, the 61 year old doesn't have to worry about collecting his check. Like Dem Congressman Harry Teague who he is running against, Steve has a fortune from the oil business. But his campaign keeps insisting that he never called for privatizing Social Security--not even partially. But Pearce did indeed advocate partially privatizing of SS when he served in the US House.

    It was a new ad from Teague that got this argument going again. From the Pearce camp:

    This week Congressman Harry Teague launched a campaign ad which falsely accuses Steve Pearce of supporting privatizing social security.  Pearce does not support privatizing social security and never has.

    "Never has" is the operative phrase. Pearce explicitly advocated a partial privatization of Social Security. The ABQ Journal's Michael Coleman bent over backwards in a recent column to give Pearce a break on this, but  still concluded that Pearce had advocated "partial" privatization.



    And here is Coleman's February 2005 piece where Pearce's partial privatization plan is discussed in detail.

    If Pearce wants to say he was mistaken to take that position, fine. But to fudge your position on a program so vital to the well-being of hundreds of thousands of New Mexicans doesn't cut the mustard.

    This is the second time this year the Pearce campaign has asserted a different position than the former congressman took. We busted them for it back in March and today we say, "Busted Again!"

    ENDORSEMENT CORNER

    A prominent business group that endorses some Democrats? That's a rarity, but it happened with the first-ever endorsement of legislative candidates by the Association of Commerce and Industry. In the metro area the group gives the nod to GOP state House hoepfuls David Doyle, Nate Gentry and incumbents Jane Powdrell-Culbert and Rep. Jimmie Hall, but outside of ABQ the Dem names show up:

    District 32: Dona Irwin (D) incumbent
    District 36: Andy Nunez (D) incumbent
    District 37: Terry McMillan (R)
    District 43: Jeannette Wallace (R) incumbent
    District 52: Joseph Cervantes (D) incumbent
    District 55: John Heaton (D) incumbent
    District 58: Candy Ezell (R) incumbent

    The group said this year is  is endorsing candidates who will vote pro-jobs and work to create a better economic environment for the state.."

    ACI is headed by Beverlee McClure who was Big Bill's cabinet secretary for higher education so there is a Democratic connection. Still, bipartisan endorsements from a major business group could help foster a more inclusive dialogue on how we can get the state's economy moving again. Maybe the ABQ Chamber of Commerce and others can take some tips from Bev and company?

    THE BEAR MARKET

    How brutal has this Bear Market been for real estate? We take you to Rio Rancho
    where it appears the bottom in land prices was reached last year:

    The average selling price of land sold by (Amrep) in Rio Rancho was $92,000 per acre in 2010 and $60,200 per acre in 2009. The average gross profit was about 40 percent in 2010 and 76 percent in 2009.

    And what can you say about Susana Martinez's pledging not to raise any taxes during a four year term for Governor. Denish chips in that tax increases are off the table for "several years." This comes as the state faces hundreds of millions in shortfalls. How do they expect to govern with statements like that? They don't they are only thinking about winning. Political pandering never goes out of style. Well, at least neither of them said, "Read my lips..."

    Yikes! The gross receipts tax in Ruidoso is now pushing 9 percent after votes approved a bump in the tax to help the Ruidoso Downs racetrack and casino pay its state taxes. We're at 7 percent in ABQ. 

    GOP INROADS IN INDIAN COUNTRY
    Gary Montoya
    We're getting mail from Indian Country about what is being painted as a suprise endorsement of a Republican in the race for the New Mexico Public Regulation Commission. Here is a release from the campaign of GOP PRC candidate Gary Montoya:

    Gary Montoya won the overwhelming endorsement of the Northern Navajo Agency Council at Teec Nos Pos Chapter on Saturday, September 18. The agency council’s endorsement is significant because the council’s membership is comprised of locally elected leadership representing over 17 local Navajo communities located primarily in New Mexico. Further, most of the local leaders are heavily Democrat and Navajo. The Agency Council during that same meeting also issued a blanket endorsement of all state-wide Democratic candidates including Lieutenant Governor Diane Denish...

    Well, Gary, you've convinced us this is a significant endorsement over Theresa Becenti-Aguilar, your Democratic foe who was appointed to the powerful utility-regulating PRC to fill a vacancy and is now seeking this Northwest area seat. But the seat has been held by a Navajo since its inception and is drawn that way. Can Montoya, who works in maintenance for the Shiprock area school district, still make a play? A supporter emails in:

    Gary's wife is a Navajo teacher who teaches in Shiprock. Big plus. He married her in a hogan in a traditional Navajo ceremony. They have four kids and have been married 28 years. But the big story is that Montoya comes from Spanish stock, but was raised by his Navajo stepmother and is considered a Navajo by the Navajos.

    I think the Northern Navajo Agency endorsed Montoya and not Becenti-Aguilar because he...has spent his life on the Rez. She has been gone from the Rez about 27 years. Navajos resent her discovery of Navajo roots and Rez now at election time. I imagine the Teresa Becenti-Aguilar campaign is reeling from rejection of her candidacy by Navajos.

    Good coverage there of one of those "only in New Mexico" campaigns." No wonder they say....

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