Wednesday, May 25, 2011

The Issue The Candidates Must Address, Plus: Double-Teamed: Susana And Heather Tackle John, And: Those Red Light Cameras 

Where do Martin Heinrich, Hector Balderas, Heather Wilson, John Sanchez, Steve Pearce, Ben Ray Lujan, Dan Lewis, Janice Arnold-Jones, Jon Barela and Eric Griego stand on Medicare reform? Those are all candidates or possible candidates for the US congress in NM. And if the current trend holds, none of them are going to get much of a look from voters before they answer the question. The latest:

They're not buying it. Most Americans say they don't believe Medicare has to be cut to balance the federal budget, and ditto for Social Security, a new poll shows.The Associated Press-GfK poll suggests that arguments for overhauling the massive benefit programs to pare government debt have failed to sway the public. The debate is unlikely to be resolved before next year's elections for president and Congress.

Both sides are vulnerable but the R's more so. They lost a special US House election Tuesday night in New York. Analysts credited the defeat to the R Medicare reforms. Dems have been assailed for supporting Obama's Medicare cuts to finance his national health plan and R's are getting catcalls for the radical Ryan Medicare reform plan being advanced in Washington.

New Mexicans have been hurt by high unemployment, slow business and falling home prices. Their economic insecurity has made them nervous about what they will have at the end of the trail. That is not an atmosphere in which advocating for cuts to Social Security and Medicare to resolve the national debt will be greeted as political valor.

To paraphrase a 2010 senior citizen campaign commercial: "Mr. Candidate, Don't mess with my Social Security!"


Susana had the Alligators rubbing their bellies in delight when
she sternly warned that Lt. Governor John Sanchez will be given no more responsibilities in her administration now that he has announced his candidacy for the GOP US Senate nomination. It's a rib-tickler because Susan has given John squat to do since the two took office in January. And during the transition Martinez and company sent Sanchez on a road trip to meet with everyday citizens but it was seen by analysts (and Sanchez friends) as an effort to keep him away from the decision-making in Santa Fe.

Susana said she does not plan to endorse a candidate in the GOP Senate race "at this time." That leaves her room to come down on the side of Sanchez foe Heather Wilson. She sure isn't going to endorse John.

Sanchez's embryonic candidacy is taking on the mood of an insurgency with ABQ State Sen. Kent Cravens, who Sanchez beat for the GOP Lt. Gov. nomination last year, stomping on the sour grapes and complaining that Sanchez won't be able to do his job as Light Guv now that he's running for Senate. But a Light Guv has very few specified duties except presiding over the part-time state Senate when it's in session. His other job is to check every morning for the heartbeat of the Governor and if there is none remove the body and take over.

If the GOP establishment epitomized by Cravens and Senator Harden, who called on Sanchez to resign, continues to dump on him it could very well backfire and give his candidacy additional cachet. Looking like you are not part of the club isn't a bad way to go in this climate.

If Martinez does try a strategic endorsement of Heather later in the campaign, it would help her most in the South where Heather is weakest. Sanchez would not get as much from an endorsement--even if there was a chance he would get it. Like Martinez, he's an independent R going his own way and building his own base. That's enough to have any Governor tear their hair out and say stuff like this:

"To prevent this race from becoming a distraction, Lieutenant Governor Sanchez will not be given responsibilities in my administration beyond the select few provided for in the state constitution...."

Sanchez running for US Senate so soon after being elected Light Guv is a nonevent to the non political classes. How he campaigns and what he says to a conservative dominated party that wants change is what will decide his fate.


One thing about Wilson, she does not deal in denial. The candidacy of Sanchez is a major threat and her campaign wasted little time landing this haymaker:

“We welcome Lt. Governor Sanchez into the race and look forward to contrasting Heather Wilson’s conservative record with his invented one. On issue after issue John Sanchez is not who he says he is, and Republican voters will be quick to figure that out.”

There's that "C" word again that has given Wilson, so often described as a moderate, so many sleepless nights. Can she at this late date capture the hearts of conservatives? Probably not. But proving that Sanchez is a fraudulent conservative gives them nowhere to jump. That effort has begun.


Those love 'em or hate 'em red light cameras were a clever idea for former Mayor Marty Chavez. In their first couple of years they raised millions in revenue, avoiding the need to raise taxes. But the novelty soon wore off. Drivers figured out quickly not to run the red and many of those that did simply failed to pay their fines. It wasn't a criminal violation so they were not rounded up.

Mayor Berry has been hesitant to throw the program out, but the city council may have done it for him. They failed to approve a contract extension for the company that runs the cameras and they are now dark. Will the mayor and council try to resurrect the cameras?

There's a lesson here for the struggling city of Rio Rancho which is launching its own red light camera program. The money is good for a year or two, but then what? The cameras are now losing money in ABQ.

GOP City Councilor Dan Lewis, also a candidate for the ABQ US House seat, has been leading the charge to rid the city of the cameras. His populist radar could be on the money on this one, but Lewis has put a wrinkle in his opposition that is drawing notice.

He now says he wants the public to vote on the controversial cameras at the Oct. 4 city election. But analysts say that could inadvertently help former GOP City Councilor Greg Payne who is trying to oust fellow Republican Trudy Jones from her ABQ NE Heights seat. If Payne were successful, the automatic five vote Republican majority Mayor Berry has enjoyed on the council could be jeopardized by swing vote Payne. The theory is that a more anti-incumbent electorate could be enticed to the polls if the red-light camera issue is on the ballot thus endangering Jones.

If Dan Lewis ever doubted that for every action there is a reaction, he's learning fast.

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