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Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Summer Blogging Fun: Pearce Starts Fund-Raising For House Re-Election, Plus: Newspaper Pals Turn On AG King; His Guv Chances Dim? And: Facing Susana 

Rep. Pearce
Glad to have you with us on this first day of Summer. Here's the latest action heating up the state political scene....

Heading south, we find GOP Congressman Steve Pearce with his first major fund-raising missive for his 2012 re-election:

It is a struggle between those who support liberty in our country versus those extremists who want to run our lives. I am turning to you to support my efforts in Congress to combat these extremists. While I am battling in Congress the liberals are targeting me for defeat. They are recruiting candidates to defeat me, threatening to gerrymander me into a more liberal district and they even unsuccessfully tried to disrupt a job fair I was holding in Las Cruces.


That's another serving of rare red meat that Pearce cheerleaders relish. But it's not all based in reality. During the September legislative redistricting session, the Dems want to make Pearce's district even more Republican and bolster Dem strength in the Heinrich and Lujan districts.

Besides his own campaign, Pearce is expected to pull some levers with key conservative constituencies for GOP US Senate candidate John Sanchez. Pearce was the 2008 GOP Senate nominee but lost the general election to Tom Udall. He briefly entertained another Senate run for 2012, but his bruising statewide rejection made another try unrealistic.

Supporters of Steve Pearce say his intellectual honesty and unapologetic conservatism keeps him in good stead for re-election to his southern seat. He has changed styles since he last represented the district. He is almost peripatetic, hopscotching through the district and coming with more news releases than his colleagues. That contrasts with the lower-key approach he took in his earlier terms before he gave the seat up to pursue that '08 Senate nomination. He won it back against Dem Harry Teague in 2010.

Pearce is a straight shooter whose hard-right views don't win him liberal votes, but he does not shut the door on those who disagree with him, and that has earned him kudos in small New Mexico where folks still want to be able to have a congressman who is approachable--whether they agree with him or not.

As for vulnerability, Pearce is not known for bringing home the pork. He is watchful of the military interests in his sprawling district, but there is still worry that in this era of budget cuts Pearce might not be as protective of NM funding as he ought to be. He is also, on occasion, given to over reaching. The most recent example when he dabbled in the radioactive subject of storing high level nuclear waste at the WIPP storage facility in Carlsbad.

Perhaps we will hear more about those matters when the Dems gear up. Sunland Park Mayor Martin Resendiz says he will run. Former State Rep. Nathan Cote is also a Dem possible. But the odds of Pearce suffering an upset are remote. National Dems are not expected to pour any money into the campaign coffers of Pearce's eventual challenger.

SLIPPING AWAY?

He has been one of the state's most well-liked politicians and his political pedigree is first-rate. But Democratic Attorney General Gary King, so often mentioned as a possible 2014 Guv candidate, may see the dream slipping away. He is getting roughed up in political circles for his performance and in corners of the press that are usually supportive:

Gary King lately has been dragging his public trust to political depths previously unplumbed--and certainly beneath his once-praiseworthy self. He and his operatives so completely fumbled the prosecution of ex-Secretary of State Rebecca Vigil-Girón, accused of misusing public money, that the courts threw him off the case. It's now in the hands of Albuquerque district attorney Kari Brandenburg.

Then there's King's relationship with State Auditor Hector Balderas, a Democrat but obviously not beloved of the King team: He has turned a deaf ear to Balderas' call for further and faster action on what the auditor says is contract fraud in the Corrections Department and at the state's housing authority. Instead, King's operatives are persecuting Balderas — on the basis of what appear to be groundless and/or petty accusations of misbehavior.


That scorching from the New Mexican more or less mimics the tone the ABQ Journal has also taken with the AG.

King, 56, is the son of legendary former Governor Bruce King and made a brief run for the Guv's office in 2002. His is one of the big names being bandied about right now for the far away 2014 Dem Guv nod. If he is going to make a serious run, he is going to have to go into damage control mode and soon.

Friends of Gary say he may be following the political recipe that was so successful for his father--giving each side a little, but not drawing lines in the sand. But the state economic collapse has emboldened the segments of the public and press seeking to go after possible corruption. The election of a hard-hitting Republican district attorney as Governor has also provided a contrast with the more mellow King, one that has not worked in his favor.

VERY EARLY HANDICAPPING

It is too early to handicap the 2014 Guv contest. Martinez has only been in office six months, but it is worth noting that both recent Governors who sought re-election--Johnson and Richardson--were successful.

If Martinez is suffering in the polls in a couple of years, there will be no shortage of Dem applicants, but we suspect voters--if they are hungry for a change--will be looking for new and younger faces from the state's majority party. The passing of the baton from the baby boomers to the next generation began in 2008 with the election of Martin Heinrich and Ben Ray Lujan to the US House.

There's plenty more room for ambitious thirty somethings but many of them tell us the political life is not that attractive to them, especially the pressures it places on family life. Expectations for men (and women) when it comes to family obligations are different than they were 20 or 30 years ago. They are expected to be there. But public service at the highest levels remains a sacrifice. That expectation among the public hasn't changed. The reward for that sacrifice is the opportunity and the power to make a difference.

Perhaps another factor contributing to the reticence of some of the potential new Democratic politics is that there are simply no goodies to hand out in this new era. The job now entails taking away the punch bowl from the public, hardly what a Democrat enjoys doing.

The humbling of Gary King also brings up the far away race for attorney general in 2014. King is term-limited. He defeated Clovis area District Attorney Matt Chandler by a healthy margin in 2010 and insiders expect Chandler to make another run for the post. His appointment as special prosecutor in the Las Cruces judicial bribery case is seen by the GOP as key to his chances.

Then-District Attorney Martinez handed the case over to Chandler during last year's Guv campaign. Chandler and Martinez shared the same political consultant. In addition, Martinez's campaign donated a whopping $85,000 to Chandler's AG campaign. Obviously, the political ties here are very close.

King's troubles are especially helpful to Chandler, but it is the resolution of the high-profile judicial bribery scandal that will determine if the R's have any shot at electing a Republican attorney general. The last time they did it was in 1986 when Hal Stratton served a term.

FACE TIME

The complaint in political circles is that it is exceedingly difficult to get private face time with Governor Martinez, but you can get some "Facebook" time tonight:

Join Governor Susana Martinez for a live
Facebook Townhall on Tuesday, June 21st at 6:30pm. You can post your questions in advance by clicking here, or you can post questions during the Townhall.

Not surprisingly, critics are already spamming Susana's Facebook question board with tough questions. But that's the chance politicians take when they wade into the interactive new media world.

LEWIS VS. BARELA?

A Democratic reader writes of the possibility of a GOP primary for the US House seat between Dan Lewis and Jon Barela:

Barela would have an easier time in a presidential election year winning a House seat because there would be more disgruntled Hispanic Democrats out to vote for a Republican.

While that may be a troubling prospect for ABQ City Councilor Lewis, he did get a political victory Monday night when the council voted to let the public vote at the Oct. 4 city election on whether the controversial red light program should continue. It would be an advisory vote, not legally binding. The council recently voted to continue the red lights. Of course, a public vote against them would effectively force the council to end the program and also could have unintended consequences.

The anti-camera crowd that would be excited to vote could also be an anti-incumbent crowd. Could that help challenger Greg Payne in his closely-watched bid to oust Councilor Trudy Jones in the ABQ NE Heights? Or maybe the public will actually turn out to support the cameras? Well, elections can have surprises. Or maybe Mayor Berry freaks out over all this and vetoes the measure. It would hurt him with the GOP base, but giving any aid or comfort to Payne surely makes him cringe.

THE BOTTOM LINES

The top lines from the first legislative hearing on redistricting:

All of eastern New Mexico could be consolidated into the state's southern congressional district under a proposal outlined to lawmakers on Monday for revamping district boundaries to adjust for population trends during the past decade....

And even more on redistricting, if you are so disposed. And still more. And true redistricting junkies can download proposed maps and other details at this legislative web site...

And on the endorsement front:

The Santa Fe Firefighters Association, International Association of Firefighters Local 2059 endorsed Hector Balderas for Senate....David Jenkins, President: "As firefighters, when we see a problem-whether it be a fire or an accident- we fix it. No questions asked. Hector Balderas takes the same approach to governing because he understands that, like firefighters, he is a public servant who defends the people of New Mexico. Far too many politicians forget this. Not Hector."

And in the GOP Senate primary:

Heather Wilson, Republican candidate for Senate, announced endorsements from State Senator Steve Neville, Public Education Commissioner Millie Pogna, former Public Regulatory Commissioner and Albuquerque City Councilor Herb Hughes, and former State Representative Murray Ryan of Silver City today. These endorsements bring Wilson to more than 120 endorsements from community leaders....12 of 15 sitting Republican State Senators and 5 former State Senators have endorsed her candidacy....

For the record, former ABQ Mayor Chavez briefly sought the 2008 Dem US Senate nomination and also made a brief run for the 2010 Dem Guv nomination. He lost his bid for re-election as Mayor in 2009. Our initial blog Monday did not make the time line clear.

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(c)NM POLITICS WITH JOE MONAHAN 2011
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