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Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Sowards Senate Campaign Implodes; Will It Help Sanchez? Plus: Susana's Spaceport Backtrack, And: City Hall Spokesman Returns To The Light Side 

"Short, Bald & Honest"
The campaign of GOP gadfly US Senate candidate Greg Sowards has imploded and that's good news for Lt. Governor John Sanchez. He needs to consolidate the conservative vote that he and Sowards are vying for as they combat a well-financed Heather Wilson.

Sowards maintains his campaign will go forward but he has fired all of his campaign staff--a group of pros who were starting to put the somewhat eccentric business owner on the map (His campaign slogan is "Short, Bald and Honest"). He says he will hire a campaign manager with no experience to replace those axed. Here's the Sowards quote that has Sanchez rejoicing:

"I guess it's going to be an unusual campaign that I run, it'll be different," he said. "It just wasn’t working out for the campaign and I wanted to go in a particular direction, I didn't want to be packaged as a typical politician because I didn't feel like I fit that mold."


Sowards reported recently that he has $500,000 in cash in the bank. Most of it came from his personal fortune amassed as the owner of Las Cruces area day care centers. But Alligators watching the Senate race have been musing over whether Sowards would actually pull the trigger and spend most of that cash. The blow-up in his campaign signals that he probably won't.

Sowards could still play spoiler for Sanchez if he makes the June primary ballot, but being on the ballot and spending a little is a whole lot different than throwing a half million at it. Pros think the new low-key Sowards will stay stuck in the 4 to 5 percent range or lower--troublesome for Sanchez but not deadly.

As for Sanchez, a number of Alligators consulted surprised us by remaining relatively calm about his prospects, despite Wilson outraising him on the money circuit. She now sports nearly $1 million in the bank to his $250,000. But the gorilla in the room is the national conservative movement and their near hatred of the moderate Wilson. If they do significant third party TV ads next spring--as was done against Heather four years ago when she ran and lost the Senate nomination-- that could keep Sanchez alive and well. And that seems to be what he is counting on as his personal fund-raising is anemic.

THE CASE AGAINST JOHN
Sanchez
Not everyone is buying the argument that Sanchez can get bailed out by the tea party types or that he would be a stronger GOP Senate contender than Wilson because he is a native Hispanic. Blog reader Norm in Santa Fe comes with this eye-opener:

I respectfully disagree with you citing Martinez's victory last year as evidence that Sanchez might be a better candidate than Wilson for Senate in 2012. Martinez won not because she was Hispanic but because she had going for her a) the national momentum created by Tea Party enthusiasm; b) the weakening of the Democrats by scandals in the Richardson administration; and c) the fact that the Democrats ran a very poor candidate whose strategy appeared to go no further than to call Martinez a Tejana, which many voters took to be insulting. In 2012, (a) the Tea party will certainly be weaker (see below), (b) won't matter any more, and as for (c), Heinrich is exactly the kind of candidate who might have pulled off an upset in 2010, though of course it remains to be seen how well he strategizes in a statewide race.

The other factor I think you ought to consider is that the national Republican establishment is on a collision course with the Tea Party. It sees only two obstacles to taking back the White House in 2012 -- nominating someone other than Romney and a third party effort that splits the conservative vote. Both are things that the Tea Party may well try to bring off. Look for the Tea Party's funding to dry up significantly and Fox News coverage to decrease. Both are considerations that will hurt Sanchez more than Wilson. I'm guessing that a lot of the out-of-state money he's hoping for either won't show up at all, or will go to Wilson instead.

SUSANA'S BACKTRACK

Santa Fe was snarly (or is it snarky) earlier this year when asked about the prospects of Spaceport America. The administration constantly warned of possible financial problems with the project initiated under Dem Governor Big Bill. But the frowns on the current Governor's face were replaced with a broad smile Monday as she assisted in the christening of the Spaceport in southern NM. Look at that picture of her with Virgin Galactic chief and Big Bill buddy Richard Branson. Who would have thunk?

A Senior Alligator comes with this musing on all of this:

I sense the Guv is now backtracking from her unsupportive statements earlier this year and has now "found religion" on this.

And here's the Guv this week pooh-poohing her administration's earlier reluctance over the Spaceport now that all systems appear to be go:

Martinez told Monday’s gathering that she was so impressed with Virgin Galactic’s bid to pioneer commercial space tourism that she may have to add a suborbital flight to her “bucket list” of things to do.

Later, she told the Journal, the $200,000 price tag makes buying a ticket “unaffordable at the moment.”Martinez, who has focused early in her administration on reining in the state budget, said her visit to the spaceport had “increased my enthusiasm” for the project.

“It wasn’t that I was ever unenthusiastic about it,” Martinez said. “I was very enthusiastic about it. I just wanted to make sure that we were taking good care of the tax dollars that were given to this project, that we were spending it well, and that we were showing the public how it was being spent.”

She finally got to the right place the hard way, but the change is no less welcome. It is critical that the Governor of this state--and future governors--be fully on board as the Spaceport attracts worldwide attention. She may have had to bite her tongue when posing for that pic with Branson but it was the right thing to do politically and for the future economic prospects of New Mexico.

GARDNER'S GAMBLE

It was bad enough that Governor Susana took a hit when her Chief of Staff Keith Gardner appeared to have a job wired for his wife at the Public Education Department. That was a big no-no after Susana had excoriated former Governor Big Bill for similar sins. But the news is also bad for Gardner politically. Friends say Gardner, who gave up a Roswell state House seat to take the top job with Susana, has harbored his own gubernatorial ambitions but now fret that the alleged wire job will permanently sideline Gardner. Using your influence to get a job for a relative is low-lying fruit that campaign consultants salivate about putting in those 30 second TV ads that get the public so worked up.


BACK TO THE LIGHT

We blogged not long ago that insiders believed Chris Ramirez, the former communications chief for ABQ Mayor Berry, was headed for a state government job--just as other top aides who have recently jumped ship from the 11th floor of City Hall. But it turns out Ramirez, a former KOAT-TV reporter--has signed up for a reporting gig with KOB-TV. Dayna Gardner who sports a background working for GOP politicos has replaced Ramirez.


Ramirez's trek to the "Dark Side" was troubled. His tenure was most remembered for a disastrous July news conference at which top city officials berated the press and media for coverage of the auto accident of the wife of Darren White, the public safety director. White was later forced to resign over his actions at the scene of that accident. Chris is probably glad to be back on the other side of the fence where he can apply some of the heat instead of having to take it....

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(c)NM POLITICS WITH JOE MONAHAN 2011
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