Monday, October 17, 2011

Heinrich Steps On Hector's Windpipe; Cash Count Reshapes Dem Senate Clash, Plus: Susana Makes First Spaceport Visit, And: ABQ Dem House Race Tightens 

Martin Heinrich delivered the goods and Hector Balderas turned into a one punch wonder, changing the race for the 2012 Democratic nomination for the US Senate from a possible cliff hanger into a potential death watch.

Newly released federal finance reports for the July quarter shows Heinrich now has his foot firmly planted on Hector's windpipe. The two term ABQ congressman reports $1.1 million cash in the bank, compared to $453,000 for State Auditor Balderas. Heinrich raised $653,000 in the quarter. Balderas came with $250,000, far lower than the $400,000 in his first quarterly report and a deep disappointment to the anti-Heinrich forces. If the congressman's wide cash advantage grows going into January, there could be a default move to Heinrich and calls for Balderas to fight another day.

But Hector is hanging on. Spin from campaign insiders asserts his windpipe may be squeezed, but he is breathing and not yet on life-support:

Here's why we don't need as much cash as Heinrich--this is a relatively inexpensive state, and the Hispanic population is significant. As long as Hector raises enough to communicate effectively there with ads, we're in the hunt. Heinrich needs more money because once we both start communicating to Hispanic voters, he has a heavier lift in that community....

Point taken. But a high information race for the US Senate will not have as much of the automatic ethnic voting you get in lower ballot races like state treasurer or auditor. Senate candidates will be more scrutinized by primary voters and judged by a variety of standards--not just ethnicity.

Heinrich has been plodding along but this money report gave the first sign that he is learning to sprint. In the April quarter he raised $485,000, now it's $653,000. That's a 35 percent increase quarter over quarter--the direction you want to be moving. Always the front-runner, the pressure now grows on him not to make a big mistake. If Hector can't beef up his fundraising in the final quarter of the year, he will face the prospect of having to launch bloody attacks on Heinrich or fading quietly into the night. Such is the brutal reality when you struggle to obtain power at the highest levels of the American government...


Meantime, over at the Republican ranch the situation may be getting dire for John Sanchez. GOP US Senate front-runner Heather Wilson came with another solid fund-raising total--$530,000 for the July quarter while Sanchez reported an anemic $163,000. Heather improved on the $450,000 she raised in the April quarter. And look at this: Gadfly candidate and Las Cruces day care center owner Greg Sowards loaned himself another $185,000 and now has $496,000 in cash in the bank, surpassing Sanchez who showed $249,000. Heather's cash kitty is a handsome $953,000.

Lt. Governor Sanchez is trying to play cobra, lying low and then springing into action next spring. He has national conservative and tea party support and they could come with hundreds of thousands in paid TV to take out Heather who they loathe for being a "moderate." (Kentucky Senator Rand Paul recently endorsed Sanchez and Wilson was pounded with third party TV ads when she lost the 2008 US Senate nod to conservative Steve Pearce). But will Sanchez's lackluster finance reports make the national groups less engaged in taking out Heather? Sanchez will want to put some big points up for the October quarter or risk being left to his own devices against a formidable Wilson.

Sanchez, owner of an ABQ roofing company, earlier this year came with $200,000 of his own money to seed his campaign. He could potentially ante up more personal cash to keep Heather in his sights. Given that backdrop, there is still a path--albeit a narrower one now--for Sanchez to beat Wilson. But Sowards is a complicating factor. Will he actually spend all this money that he has banked? Or is he a show horse? If he does write checks for TV that could be enough to split hard core conservatives and give the prize to Wilson.

Top Democrats have to be heartened that Sanchez's path is becoming more cluttered. They know how to handle Wilson in the general election next year, but a Hispanic Republican native like Sanchez could be much trickier. If you don't agree, just look at who is Governor today.


Speaking of the Guv, with little fanfare she will make her first visit to the NM Spaceport today, taking part in dedication ceremonies for the project with Virgin Galactic chief Richard Branson presiding. The news may seem routine, but is isn't. The administration in Santa Fe has given the Spaceport the cold shoulder treatment. They resented that it was the brainchild of Dem Governor Richardson and others dismissed it as an expensive lark that will go nowhere.

But so far Branson is proving the skeptics wrong. There have been no major mishaps in the Spaceport construction (problems, yes--but not disasters) and hundreds of space tourists have already signed up for the $200,000 sub-orbital space flights that will launch from the Spaceport near T or C.

The promise is alive for the Spaceport to be a major jobs driver--tourism, scientific research, military applications and more. Here's something new along those lines from NASA:

NASA has booked a charter suborbital flight from Virgin Galactic's spaceport operations in southern New Mexico. Virgin Galactic announced Thursday that the agreement calls for NASA to charter a full flight from the company, and it includes options for two additional flights. If all options are exercised, the contract is worth $4.5 million.Virgin Galactic says each mission allows for up to 1,300 pounds of scientific experiments.

The administration's reluctance over the Spaceport could easily be replaced with exuberance. Martinez could send that message to the global business and scientific community today when she finally visits Spaceport America. Its her choice. But no matter her attitude, the Spaceport has made it to its first important milestone. We suspect there will be many more in the decades ahead.


Michelle Lujan Grisham poked her nose under the tent and made the race for the Democratic nomination for the ABQ US House seat more of a three way affair as she came with a strong money report. The Bernalillo county commissioner reports raising $160,000 in six weeks of fund-raising in the July quarter, a number that could give her some momentum. She spent little raising that money and reports $159,000 in cash on hand. She will now work for a strong October quarter to avoid being a one hit wonder. We blogged Oct. 4:

For Lujan Grisham the job is to post some solid fund-raising numbers and get the pundits thinking she is no longer running in third.....

This report is a start.

Meanwhile, State Senator Eric Griego reported raising $169,000 in the July quarter and having $181,000 in cash on hand. Griego did not blow the doors off but he is plodding along and continuing to work to consolidate the liberal Democratic base.

Former Mayor ABQ Chavez reported raising $217,000 and loaned himself another $20,000. He had $178,000 in cash at the close of the quarter. He now faces a longer march to the nomination than he may have first anticipated.

There has not been a lot of enthusiasm over the Dem candidates for the ABQ congressional seat and the money totals for the candidates reflect that. They also show that this race is up for grabs. Maybe that will create some excitement.


If the Dems are having trouble generating cheers, the R's seem downright lethargic when it comes to their contenders for the ABQ House seat being vacated by Dem Martin Heinrich. The candidates from the party of business are kind of limping along. ABQ City Councilor Dan Lewis reports raising only $45,000 for the quarter after picking up about $100,000 in his first quarter out. He reports $82,000 cash on hand. And former State Rep. Janice Arnold-Jones isn't setting the donors on fire either. She came with only $44,000 in contributions and reports just $25,000 cash in the bank.

Are big R donors here and out of state holding back, anticipating that 2010 GOP nominee and current economic development secretary Jon Barela is getting in the race? And is the weak economy holding down the donations? For whatever reason, big R money is still sitting on their wallets. A Lewis insider came with this spin:

Note that the Dems are raising much of their money from out of state. Almost every penny Lewis raised has come from within the district. Republican money from around the country usually comes later.

There's probably some sense to that, but the currently weak fund-raising numbers for the R's has to gladden the hearts of the Dems. Their three candidates came this quarter with over $500,000 while Dan and Janice could not even knock on the $100,000 door.


There are two candidates the rest of the field can envy. Southern GOP Congressman Steve Pearce reports raising $190,000 in the quarter, has $434,000 in cash on hand. He is opposed by Dems Evelyn Madrid Erhard and Frank McKinnon. Neither have raised serious money. Northern Dem Congressman Ben Ray Lujan also holds a safe House seat and like Pearce is not seriously threatened. Lujan reports $281,000 in cash in the bank---just in case.

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