Wednesday, November 02, 2011

New GOP Contender For ABQ Congress As Barela Eyes Entry, Plus: On Dem Side Griego Gets Sierra Club Nod, And: Analysis Of Where Race Heads From Here 

Smith & Barela
Some shaking in the GOP race for the ABQ congressional seat. A new face will soon join the two contenders already out on the campaign trail, and he says he plans on seeding his campaign with a couple hundred thousand of his own cash by the end of the year. That means retired Army veteran Gary Smith, 64, is set to start off as the financial front-runner.

Fund-raising by ABQ City Councilor Dan Lewis and former State Rep. Janice Arnold Jones has been anemic. Both reported well under $100,000 in cash at the end of September. But Smith, who has worked with military intelligence in Germany and Korea, is a political unknown making his first bid for office. His campaign says being an outsider is his strength but it is also his potential weakness. Smith has been splitting his living time between ABQ and El Paso. The Manzano High graduate, plans a formal announcement this weekend.

And we have some news on Jon Barela and the possibility of him once again seeking the GOP nod after taking the prize in 2010, but losing the general election to Martin Heinrich. We ran into Barela Tuesday morning at the Flying Star in ABQ's North Valley. Asked point blank if he will get in the race, he gave his usual line that he is "considering" it. But the news was who Barela was meeting with. It was none other than former NM GOP Chairman, Guv candidate and financial heavy hitter Allen Weh. Weh offered a broad smile when we asked what he and Barela were up to.

Weh has the street cred to help Barela raise the kind of money he would need for another congressional run. Were the pair talking about that? They wouldn't say, but we did see Weh give Barela a thumbs up as the two departed the restaurant parking lot. (Oh, the tea leaves we read for you...)

Barela is currently the economic development secretary-designate. He's a "designate" because the state Senate has yet to confirm him to the position--even though they had plenty of time to do so. Leaving the Martinez administration to make another congressional run could pose personal financial challenges to Barela which makes his meeting with Weh all the more interesting.


On the Democratic side, the early action has the three US House candidates lining up early endorsements. And Eric Griego, the most liberal of the trio, just scored a biggie. The Sierra Club, one of the premier environmental organizations, has endorsed the ABQ state senator. They have a pretty good record of backing Dem primary winners, so this is an endorsement worth noting.

Supporters of Bernalillo County Commissioner Michelle Lujan Grisham and former ABQ Mayor Marty Chavez are chanting that Griego is too far to the left to win the district next November, but the news backdrop--Occupy ABQ, etc.--is currently favoring the more liberal contender.

Griego's brash personality, which has cost him political support in the past, remains a concern to top Dems who fear an unleashed Griego could indeed cost them the seat they have held with Rep. Heinrich for two terms. They are watching closely how he is managed--and how he manages himself.


The ABQ district is lean Dem. Heinrich is now leaving the seat to run for the US Senate. Bernalillo County--the largest component of the district--has been getting more blue in recent cycles. Although the new boundaries of the district have yet to be announced--it will be crafted by the courts after the Legislature failed to come to an agreement--only about 15,000 votes of some 600,000 will be shifted around. It is not going to make a huge difference.

Obama should run well in the state's largest county, making it more difficult for the R's to get the race in play as they did when Barela lost a squeaker to Heinrich in 2010. The R's are like the Dems--they think Griego is their best bet because they think they can paint him into the far left corner. They fear Chavez because in the past he has shown the ability to attract R votes. They worry about Lujan Grisham because she is a woman--in a district Heather Wilson represented for 10 years--and is relatively unknown. That makes her harder to define early.

The Dems don't like the idea of running against Barela again. Although he might not be as strong as two years ago--the narrow loss hurt him--a Hispanic R is a good match for the district (Republican Manuel Lujan held it for many years). And Barela might have more fund-raising prowess than Lewis, Arnold-Jones or newcomer Smith.

If Barela gets in he will be hit hard for leaving his economic development job. Dems will shout that Barela and company have a skimpy ten month record on jobs and already he is looking for a new job for himself.


Remember, the first key play in this congressional game is not the June primary, but the March pre-primary convention. If a candidate does not get 20 percent of the vote from the delegates there, he has to get extra petition signatures to get on the ballot. But, as regular blog readers know, no candidate who has failed the 20 percent test has ever gone on to win the June primary,

We are about five months away from that pre-primary. Insiders think the three Dems--Chavez, Griego and Lujan Grisham all have a good shot of getting over the magic number. But the Alligators are less firm in their Republican outlook. If Barela gets in, he could count on Guv Martinez operatives to help. That could mean only two GOP hopefuls make the ballot.

And the reason no candidate has gone on to win the June primary after being cut loose at the March pre-primary is money--or at least that's a major reason. Money goes to the winners. If you can't make the pre-primary cut you are seen as not having the right stuff to make it in the primary or in the United States Congress. No argument here.


Are there other GOP candidates set to join businessman Rick Newton in the race for the northern congressional seat? 2010 contender Tom Mullins of Farmington still has not ruled out a run and
Gary Montoya, also of Farmington, is also looking. Dem Congressman Ben Ray Lujan, however, is a prohibitive favorite to won re-election to a third term.


From the offices of Democratic US Senator Tom Udall on the passing of Gerald Gonzales, his first chief of staff when he was elected to the US House in 1998:

"Gerald Gonzales was thoughtful, intelligent and loved New Mexico, its people and our history. That is why I hired him as my first chief of staff in the House of Representatives. He had a long career in New Mexico government and Jill and I are saddened to hear of his passing. Our thoughts and prayers are with Gerald’s wife Carrie and his entire family at this difficult time."

State Sen. Pete Campos came with this appreciation:

Gerald Gonzales, served as an inspiration to me while growing up in Santa Rosa. His father was then Superintendent of the Santa Rosa Schools. Gerald was studious, intelligent and grounded in humility...I’ll never forget the evening I was visiting my uncle, the late Federal Judge Santiago E. Campos. Gerald called him seeking advice. While we were in the Judge’s kitchen I could hear my uncle say: "Gerald, being accepted into the Harvard School of Law is admirable. Congratulations--don’t let grass grow under your feet, pack your bags and go to Harvard. He did and the rest is history.

Gerald enjoyed law, public policy, culture and who he was. He watched over me as a youth and engaged in regular discourse as I’ve served in the State Senate...He never stopped offering deep knowledge and insight. Adios mi Amigo y confidente.

Gonzales, a Vietnam veteran, was a well-known New Mexico attorney who had a lengthy career. In addition to Udall, he served the Secretary of State, Attorney General and Santa Fe city and county governments. He was a graduate of NM Highlands University and Harvard Law.

Gerald Gonzales was 68. He succumbed to cancer....


Blog reader Stuart Heady provided us with information this week on tonight's fund-raiser for Democracy for New Mexico blog founder Barbara Wold, but DFNM says a clarification is needed:

Barb has been diagnosed with metastatic colon cancer. Yes Barb is ill, and has been getting treated for her cancer. Barb is in great hands with a team of doctors, nurses, and many others. The discussion with these doctors revolves around living not dying. Barb is battling the cancer as countless others are every day.

An appreciation for Barbara Wold is being held tonight at AFSCME Headquarters, 1202 Pennsylvania NE (off of Lomas). For more information, call Sisy Garcia at 505-730-9923....

ABQ PR maven Tom Carroll highlights a winning PR strategy each week--and the latest edition is this jaw dropper:

Kim Kardashian had a wedding watched on TV by more than 4 million people. She pocketed $17 million for publicity rights to the wedding, among other things, and now she's filed for divorce after a ten-week marriage. Talk about a strategy!

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