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Friday, December 16, 2011

Heinrich Still Ahead Of Heather As Senate Race Forms, Plus: Something Important For 2012 Legislative Session, And: Death Calls Longtime Domenici Aide 

Heather Wilson may be cleaning John Sanchez's clock in the race for the GOP US Senate nomination, but if she gets past the lieutenant governor old problems loom for her and the Republican Party. Her most likely opponent is ABQ Dem US Rep. Martin Heinrich and he would start their face-off as the favorite:

Heinrich leads Wilson 47-40, a margin pretty much identical to the 47-42 PPP found when it last polled the race in June.

It is still a long way to go, but each poll is closer to the actual election thus taken more seriously.

Heather, a former five term ABQ congresswoman who held the seat Heinrich now occupies, has high name ID, so running behind Heinrich in the early going demonstrates the baggage she has with the electorate. Some 46% of the electorate have a negative opinion of Wilson. Heinrich, not as well known as Wilson, has negatives of only 35%. If she gets the nomination, she will have a difficult time erasing the opinions already held about her. That means she will have to win by tearing Heinrich down through negative campaigning.

Interestingly, underdog GOP contender Sanchez doesn't do much worse than Heather against Heinrich:

Heinrich leads Sanchez by 11 points at 48-37 and Greg Sowards by 18 at 49-31. (Dem US Senate candidate) Hector Balderas leads Sanchez by 7 points at 41-34 and Sowards by 14 at 44-30.

As for Hector Vs. Heather:

If Balderas was the Democratic nominee it looks like Republican prospects for picking up the seat would be a little better. He and Wilson tie at 43% each, as she wins independents by 20 points at 49-29.

The PPP poll is Dem-oriented but has a respected track record. It conducted its poll this past weekend using automatic phone calls.

The state GOP (aka Susana consultant Jay McCleskey) wasn't buying and decided to attack the messenger:

PPP has released a poll in which Republicans only make up 29% of the sample. This does not reflect actual voter registration in the state and is a stunning 9 points less than PPP's own poll of the state in 2010, in which Republicans comprised 38% of the survey sample.
There is no explanation for reducing the GOP in the survey, except that this is a shameless attempt to cook the books for the Democrats...

Meanwhile, PPP shows Heinrich continuing to coast toward a win in the Dem US Senate June primary over State Auditor Hector Balderas. He scores 47% to Hector's 30%. That's still below the magic 50% level but tantalizingly close. Balderas is going to have to decide in a couple of months if he is going to go after Heinrich in a major way. If he attacks, he could move. But if it fails, his future political career could be endangered as a victorious Heinrich would be a dangerous Heinrich.

It's not over for Hector, but the path is rough. Here is the PPP take:

Heinrich's 47% standing is exactly where he was when we last polled this race in June, but Balderas has gained support from his 24% showing then. The key shift has been with Hispanic v0ters- Balderas has gone from a 39-36 deficit to a 41-35 advantage with them. He'll need a much bigger lead than that to offset Heinrich's 58-22 spread with whites though.

Heinrich's campaign moved to seize the momentum and put out a fund-raising plea:

This continues the trend of independent polls showing Martin with a commanding lead in this race.


PPP had some fun and threw in former GOP Guv Gary Johnson as a US Senate candidate. He does better than Heather against Heinrich, tying the congressman with 43% of the vote. Republican hearts should not jump--Gary is getting ready to get out of the GOP prez race but has ruled out running for the US Senate seat.

THE UPCOMING SESSION

It will be Senate Majority Leader Michael Sanchez (D-Valencia) and House Education Committee Chairman Rick Miera (D-Bernalillo) carrying the constitutional amendment to use a percentage of the the state's $12 billion Land Grant Permanent Fund for funding education and other social programs for children from birth to five years old.

The amendment would be presented to voters next November and might be the most significant bill before the lawmakers in their 30 day session that begins January 17. The measure will need a majority in both the Senate and House. The Governor's signature is not required.

The current distribution from the permanent fund is set to dip in 2013 to 5.0% of its value. That's from a peak of 5.8 percent under a constitutional amendment approved in 2003. Sanchez and Miera will propose setting the distribution at 5.5% and adding 1.5% for the early childhood programs. The fund totals around $12 billion so we are talking real money--over $100 million for each percentage point increase. The fund is mainly invested in stocks and bonds. The money it spins off goes to the state General Fund and specific beneficiaries such as the NM School for the Blind and Visually impaired..

Supporters of the amendment say the new money is needed to break the generations-old dysfunction in New Mexico families who regularly land at the bottom of the rankings in social success measurements. Critics say withdrawing more from the permanent fund would slow its growth and less money would be available in future years.

LISA BREEDEN

We were taken aback to learn of the untimely passing of Lisa Breeden, the well-liked and longtime state communications director for former NM GOP US Senator Pete Domenici. Like us, she started out in radio news here in the 70's and wound up in the colorful world of La Politica.

Before taking on chores for Pete, Lisa, a native of Oklahoma who was part Cherokee, was the assignment editor for KRQE-TV and held the same position as well as that of news director for KOAT-TV. She shined in both high-pressure positions. Her affable personality softened the most hard-nosed reporters and later earned Domenici many friends in the media and elsewhere. Most recently she served as development director for the Mind Research Institute, a group closely associated with Domenici.

Former TV news reporter Janet Blair, now PR officer for ABQ metro court, said:

She was my best friend and the sister I never had, Her passing will effect a lot of people around here who knew her and loved her. She was a wonderful friend to just about everyone she met."

Former Senator Domenici came with this statement:

Lisa joined my staff as a person with great communication skills. She left that behind to become involved with people and helping them solve their problems. She was a superstar. She loved people and thoroughly enjoyed projects like Character Counts. She cannot be replaced. There will be a big void in the hearts and minds of many people because of her passing. I will miss her, my wife Nancy and my family will miss her. We are grateful that 16 years ago she joined us.

She is survived by her husband Orlando Garcia and brother Jeff.

Lisa Breeden was five days shy of her 57th birthday when she succumbed to cancer.

That's it for this week. Thanks for stopping by.

Reporting from Albuquerque, I'm Joe Monahan

This is the home of New Mexico politics.

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(c)NM POLITICS WITH JOE MONAHAN 2011
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