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Thursday, February 23, 2012

The Big Boast: Arnold-Jones Says She Will Rout Foes For ABQ GOP Congress Nod At Pre-Primary, Plus: Tactics Of Susana Chief Of Staff Draw Attention 

Arnold-Jones, Smith & Lewis
Janice Arnold-Jones says it's no jive this time. She predicted big things when she ran for the 2010 GOP Guv nomination, but it didn't pan out. Now she is running for the GOP nomination for the ABQ congressional seat and predicting she is going to sweep aside challengers Dan Lewis and Gary Smith at the critical March 17 pre-primary convention:

We are poised to take well over 50% of the delegates on March 17th. This is a true testament of the hard work that our volunteers have put in and the momentum our campaign continues to build. I am humbled by those who have said they are standing up to take our country back. They are standing up to elect a true representative. They are standing up to support our campaign!


Janice is basing her 50% prediction on the results of the Bernalillo County GOP convention this past weekend where delegates were elected to the state party preprimay, but its not always easy to assess who those delegates will finally favor.

Her opponents scoffed at her prediction. Rhead Story, campaign manager for retired Army Seargent Gary Smith, declared:

No one knows with certainty how the delegates selected at the Bernalillo County convention will vote at the pre-primary. Janice's crystal ball appears to have some cracks in it.

The campaign of ABQ City Councilor Dan Lewis pushed back against Arnold-Jones with this:

No one outside of Janice's campaign believes she is anywhere near 50%. The actual election is a month away. We're the campaign taking a conservative message that is resonating with voters. We have out-raised her by more than 4 to 1.

Arnold-Jones is in need of a shot of momentum. Her campaign cash account was a mere $20,000 at last report while City Councilor Lewis had over $100,000 banked and Smith has been fueling his effort with a $125,000 personal loan. But none of these contenders is armed to the teeth for a seat that is now seen tipping decidedly toward the Dems. Rep. Martin Heinrich (D) is vacating it after two terms to seek the open US Senate seat.

Arnold-Jones, a former GOP state representative, has other problems lurking. She has engaged in bloody combat with the likes of former Bernalillo County Sheriff Darren White over her support of the death penalty. She is perceived by party conservatives as "too moderate" for today's GOP. And she does not have warm relations with the "Fifth Floor,"--Governor Martinez political operative Jay McCleskey, a close friend of White's.

And where are Jay and the Martinez operatives on this race? We asked a GOP Alligator:

They are on the sidelines. They are writing the race off as belonging to the Dems.

2010 GOP nominee Jon Barela, a favorite of Jay's, toyed with the idea of running for the seat, but decided against. That was widely interpreted as a towel throw by the R's when it comes to the general election. However, if polling shows the eventual Dem nominee is in serious peril, the wallets could open for the GOP contender.

If Janice's bravado is justified and she pulls out a big preprimary win, will the money she needs for TV and mail follow? History says maybe. Other candidates have posted big pre-primary wins only to stagnate. If the money doesn't come, Janice will have the top spot on the June primary ballot, but little else to show for her victory. And what if she fails to reach the 50% after her big boast? Well, Dan Lewis and Gary Smith won't forget.

THE RULES

It takes 20 percent of the delegates at the pre-primary to win an official spot on the June primary ballot. If you don't get it, you can still get on the ballot by getting additional petition signatures. However, no candidate in the history of pre-primary conventions has ever won the June primary when failing to reach the critical 20 percent threshold at the preprimary.

LOS ALAMOS FOLLOW UP

Reader reaction to the job cuts up at Los Alamos Labs--up to 800 jobs will disappear this year. From a Santa Fe Wall-Leaner:

No one likes lay offs, however, Los Alamos is the "mother" of double dipping in this country. Lab employees retire one day and go under contract the next...doing the same job they left. You mention $150k jobs..that was the past. Presently, retired/contract employees are now pulling down over $225k a year. Would it be possible to keep those employed and eliminate the double dipper?

A DC reader adds:

Per today's blog, there were major layoffs at LANL in the mid 1990s when we were in a similar financial situation. I've attached a link to an article that references it.

There were about 175 layoffs in 1995 at Los Alamos, but in this round we are looking at many more. Also, Los Alamos management is prepping us for more in the future by saying they expect at best flat budgets in the years ahead.

And another:

The entire federal government is facing cuts and every federal agency has had to trim to the bone. How is Republican US Senate candidate Heather Wilson going to make the labs the one exception to that trend and fend off the tea party? The public voted in members of congress in '10 that demanded massive cuts and now we are seeing the result of that. You get what you pay (vote) for.

Ron Goldwyn writes us from Philadelphia on another subject:

Joe, You've probably heard from a few folks on this, but Richard Romero ran against Heather Wilson in 2002 and 2004, not 2004-06. One reason I know is that I was Richard's volunteer press secretary for the last month of that 2002 campaign. One thrill was working with Duke City legend Jim Hulsman on a letter-to-editor/endorsement of his old friend....

Thanks for that correction, Ron, and look us up when you head West. Now back to the action...

KEITH WATCH

Gardner
You can stop calling him "The Gentle Giant."

Dem State Rep. Eliseo Alcon is saying he was given unusually rough treatment by Gov. Martinez Chief of Staff Keith Gardner during the final days of the recent legislative session. He says the towering Gardner started a tussle over Alcon's support of the Guv supported retention bill for third graders. Alcon says Gardner was giving a dressing down to a fellow Dem lawmaker and he told that lawmaker he didn't have to listen to Gardner. He says the staff chief threw an insult his way and that he did not perceive Gardner was joking.

We also have a report from a Senior Alligator that there was another final hours confrontation between Gardner and a high ranking Senate lawmaker. That one was over funding the state unemployment fund. Gardner is not commenting, but insiders say the confrontation was widely discussed among other senators.

THE FRUSTRATION FACTOR

Gardner, no longer quite perceived as the "Gentle Giant," a moniker a friendly press awarded him when he was first appointed chief of staff, was a House Republican leader from Roswell before Martinez tapped him for the top staff post. Objective observers agree that the key points of Martinez's legislative agenda have been largely ignored or defeated by the Dem-controlled Legislature, no doubt a source of frustration for Gardner who has one of the highest pressure jobs in state government. The insider scoop in Santa Fe has it that Gardner is in charge of policy until Guv political operative Jay McCleskey says he isn't.

The Fourth (and Fifth) Floors frustration is now going to play out in the upcoming legislative elections, with the Guv's political operatives set to launch their slash and burn operations against a variety of legislators in hopes of tearing down the stone wall they keep bashing their heads against in Santa Fe. They will have a ton of money to do it, too, as the SusanaPac is flush with cash. Unfortunately, the campaign will not be about state economic policies or job creation, but on the hot button issue of whether a politician supports repealing the law that allows undocumented immigrants to get a state driver's license.

One senses a growing vexation by the Governor and her allies in the conservative press. She spoke with some optimism about the results of the legislative session, but the obvious can't be ignored and was not pushed under the rug by all Republicans. Notably, GOP State Sen. Rod Adair called it the biggest "do nothing" session in his many years at the Roundhouse. He likened Susana's legislative rejection to a political vendetta by the Democrats. It is that kind of emotional rush that R's have based their campaigns on here and with some success. But there is risk for Martinez. Unleashing the dogs of war and winning is one thing, but if she doesn't win, the sessions of the future could make the do nothing session of 2012 look like a veritable beehive.

STATE OF THE STATE

This is turning out to be a smallish governorship for a variety of reasons. The decline in the state's economic fortunes makes big moves difficult; Martinez was elected on a throw the bums out platform, not advancement of a particular legislative agenda; the GOP economic agenda remains narrow (tax cuts now, tax cuts forever) and the Governor, a former prosecutor brings prosecutorial zeal to the capital, not the art of dealing over legislation or as President Bush the elder might say, she lacks "the vision thing."

Yet Martinez's popularity remains high. Why? Veteran pollster Brian Sanderoff says it is not as if the public is focused on what is going on in Santa Fe. "They barely pay attention if there isn't a scandal or some other sensational event," he said. That benefits Martinez as the political class declare her administration unproductive, but not the voting public--not yet.

And there remains the uniqueness of the gubernatorial persona. At a weekend service at God's House in ABQ where Martinez observed Black History Month and where we were among those in attendance, she focused her remarks almost entirely on becoming the nation's first Hispanic female governor. Appropriate remarks for the event, but it drove home the point that the symbolism of this Governor is very important in ethnically diverse New Mexico and that the novelty has not worn off. We see it as a crucial element in her retaining her popularity in the opinion polls. The other reasons being that there has been no organized and paid for media attacks on Martinez and the one scandal she has dealt with--the Downs at ABQ deal--has not yet brushed directly against the gubernatorial door.

But symbolism can only take you so far as this Governor is finding out. Soaring approval ratings based on substantive economic and social positions are a much different story than ratings that spring from symbolism. Without a comprehensive and prioritized legislative plan, the Governor is driven back to the small--the license repeal--as the raison d'ĂȘtre for voters to overturn the ruling Dems at the Roundhouse.

Not that we or anyone should dismiss her chances of success. We live in a time of large issues, but also one in which political campaigns are midget-sized conceptually as well as anti-cerebral. When you win one of them, it is often a Pyrrhic victory--"a victory with such a devastating cost to the victor that it carries the implication that another such victory will ultimately cause defeat."

And so it goes....This is the home of New Mexico politics.

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(c)NM POLITICS WITH JOE MONAHAN 2012
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