Thursday, June 30, 2011

Age Debate: How Old Is Too Old For New Mexico Congress Hopefuls? Plus: Prez's Popularity Here Right At 50%, Also: Chavez Poll Gives Him Early Lead 

How relevant is a candidate's age? The question arose here in the wake of Diane Denish's decision not to seek the ABQ House seat and when we made a point of mentioning that she was 62. First the critique from reader Sigrid Olson of Pecos and then our response:

How very strange and typically male for you to refer to Diane Denish’s age (yes, she is 62 but could easily pass for younger if it was either appropriate or important) in blogging that she has chosen not to make a run for the Congressional seat given up so blithely by Heinrich. Did you consider Marty Chavez’s age, nearly 60 and not a successful candidate in several non-abq mayoral races? And what about Steve Pearce still acting quite relevant at age 66? Really, an apology and a recognition that you fell into a typical ageist stereotyping would be welcome and maybe help others escape this Alligator bite…

Thanks, Sig, but the mention of Denish's age was not meant as a diss. We were indicating that 62 is long in the tooth to begin a career as a member of the US House from the ABQ district. We were remiss in not mentioning Chavez's age as well because we believe it is an issue. Not because he or Denish are not physically up to the job but because....

New Mexicans need and want seniority in the Congress. Now more than ever. When Senator Bingaman leaves at the end of 2012, we will have hardly any. In the more than 40 year history of the ABQ House seat we have never elected anyone for the first time who was over 50. In 1968, Manuel Lujan was 40 when he won. He served 20 years. In 1988, Steve Schiff was 41 when he was elected; in 1998, Heather Wilson was 37.

Not that electing younger politicians is a guarantee to acquire that coveted seniority. Schiff died in office and Wilson left after ten years to run for the Senate. As for Pearce, he was elected at the age of 55 in 2002. Pearce, now 63, left the seat to make a quixotic run in 2008 for Senate. He reclaimed the seat in 2010, but that interruption did not help his seniority status.

Age matters here in this small state so dependent on federal funding. More seniority equals more funding. In fact, it was an oddity that Tom Udall was elected to the Senate at the age of 60 in 2008. (Tom's father--Stewart Udall--lived until 90--so maybe Tom is in for a longer stretch than you might think.) Our other freshman Senators in recent decades--Bingaman, Domenici, Schmitt and Montoya--were under 50 when first elected and often much younger

It's not an accident, and from our window it is good for New Mexico that all of the major US Senate candidates in 2012 are on the youngish side---all of them would be 52 or younger when beginning their first Senate term in 2013.

In the US House race, Chavez would be two months away from 61 when he began his term. Dem Eric Griego, now 45, would be 47 in January 2013. Republican Dan Lewis is 41. Jon Barela is around 52. Janice Arnold-Jones is 59.

The bottom line is that age is an important issue for a small state like New Mexico as it battles for federal funding in the halls of Washington--federal funding that is so key to the economy of this state.

It isn't sexist or ageist to talk about it, but rather in the long-term interest of all New Mexicans. So when you see us quoting a candidate's age, it's not personal. It's just business.


This is pretty good news for the Dems because they want to see President Obama hold the 50 percent level so it will help them take the open US Senate seat next year. From the June 23-26 Democratic PPP Poll:

Barack Obama's popularity in New Mexico is on the decline but he still appears to be in pretty good shape to win the state again in 2012. 50% of voters in the state approve of the job Obama's doing to 44% who disapprove. When PPP polled New Mexico in February Obama was at a 55/40 spread. Since then he's seen a significant decline in his standing with independents, from 60% giving him good marks to just 49%. And he's also seen a more modest drop with Democrats, from 77% pleased with his performance to 72%.

And in the very early horse race in NM:

Obama leads Mitt Romney, 49-42, down nine points from 53-37. Against everyone else, the president would at least replicate his 15-point victory over John McCain in 2008.

Holding on to that magic 50% number is going to take a lot of work. Expect to see team Obama give some special attention to swing state New Mexico in the months ahead.


Freshly-minted congressional candidate Marty Chavez, looking to build some early momentum comes with an internal poll in the race for the Dem nod for the ABQ US House seat that shows the former three term mayor beating back State Senator Eric Griego 32 to 15. Possible candidate Michelle Lujan Grisham polls 8 percent and another possible--former Sandia Pueblo Governor Stuart Paisano--comes with 3 percent. (The full poll and polling memo is posted here.)

But the biggest number in the poll from Lake Research Partners is the number of undecided. It's huge at 41 percent. Chavez has the name ID so can be expected to have the pole position eleven months before the primary, but Griego has plenty of time and so does another big name candidate if they decide to get in.

The polling questions were not released but the survey said Chavez gets a "favorable impression" from 55 percent of likely Dem primary voters. The Griego camp is sure to view that skeptically.

Chavez, who was defeated in 2009 in his quest for re-election as ABQ mayor, has to be glad his name ID is holding up, but don't be surprised if you see him looking for running shoes at the local department store. He and the rest of the field are going to need them.


Secretary of State Dianna Duran rang the state's bells when she indicated that the voting records of 64,000 New Mexicans needed to be examined for possible fraud. But she appears to realize she went over-the-top and has started walking back the story.

Secretary of State Dianna Duran recently sent 64,000 names of registered voters to state police for investigation. But she said Monday that she doesn't consider those files to be potential voter-fraud cases.
"Don't use the words voter fraud, " Duran said in an interview. "I'm just trying to assure the accuracy of our voter files...It's not a fishing expedition. It's not a witch hunt."

Okay, got that. But.....

If it's not "voter fraud" she's looking for, why did she turn the files over to a law-enforcement agency that investigates criminal cases? Duran said she thought the Department of Public Safety was better equipped to handle such an investigation.

Secretary Duran stepped in it with this deal, probably because of enormous pressure from the GOP right wing which has pursued voter fraud for decades--without any tangible results. But it is Dianna taking the political hit with the independents and Dems she needs to get re-elected in 2014. And this walk back indicates she knows it.

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