Thursday, February 16, 2012

It Won't Be "Welcome Home" For All Legislators; Primary Campaign Already Heating Up. Plus: VP Biden Here Today & Heinrich Leads Another Senate Poll 

  • The 30 day NM legislative session ended at noon Thursday. Among the last minute items to win approval was $30 million to rebuild ABQ's Paseo Del Norte intersection at I-25. The Guv's "social promotion" bill dealing with third grade students died.

  • Here's the AP wrap on legislative session 2012:

    Lawmakers adjourned Thursday in an election-year session dominated by a clash of political wills between Republican Gov. Susana Martinez and Democrats controlling the Legislature. Key parts of the first-term governor's legislative agenda died upon adjournment, including educational initiatives and a proposal to stop New Mexico from issuing driver's licenses to illegal immigrants.
  • How did the major legislation fare at the session. Here is the scorecard.
Here's what some of the 112 legislators getting ready to leave Santa Fe today have to look forward to when they arrive home--or not.

This flyer (click to enlarge) is from Nicole Castellano who is challenging veteran Dem State Senator Phil Griego, 62, in the June primary. Sparks flew early in this race as Griego supporters pointed out that until a couple of years ago Castellano's husband Jim was a registered Republican. He is now a Dem who works for the state Public Regulation Commission. They are implying that Nicole will be too conservative for the sprawling six county northern district and perhaps too friendly with Republican Guv Susana.

But she fires back with the accusation that Phil's campaign coffers are laden with special interest cash that make him a poor representative for the many low-income Dem households in the district. Voters can judge for themselves by taking a look at Griego's finance reports.

We wont know for certain how many incumbent Dems and R's draw primary challengers until filing day March 20. That gives all the solons who are preparing for a noon adjournment of their day session today plenty of time to think about it.

As for the attack on Griego for receiving special interest money, do you find that very powerful? Voters eyes tend to glaze over when they hear about is as such money goes to both sides--from either business or labor. Castellano is going to have to have a sharper instrument if she is to break Griego's skin--not just give him a puncture wound.


It looks like another very lean legislative session for Governor Martinez with few if any of her major legislative initiatives getting through the Dem-dominated Legislature and to her desk. But as lawmakers prepped for a noon adjournment of the 30 day session today, Susana received a consolation prize--a Rasmussen robocall poll that gives her a robust 66% approval rating.

That's got to give her a warm feeling even if the poll proves to be an outlier and has her a bit high. Her problem has been translating her popularity into legislative progress. Maybe after all the talk about her being on the 2012 GOP ticket as VP dies down, she will see things through a different light and in her 2013 session put her popularity to work.

The state GOP--as it should--jumped all over the Rasmussen survey and came with this from their spin room:

New Mexicans are standing with Governor Martinez as she fights to turn New Mexico around through education reforms, tax reforms to create more jobs, and rooting out corruption. And, yes, the strategy of Democrats to attack the Governor for standing strong on fighting to repeal the law that gives driver's licenses to illegal immigrants has been a complete failure. In fact, Governor Martinez earns a 58% approval rating among Hispanic voters...

That driver's license measure is dead and buried for a third legislative session in a row, the prime example of how a Guv's personal popularity does not always carry the day in the halls of the Roundhouse.


Speaking of VP, the real deal will be in town today. Vice-President Joe Biden will conduct what Dems call a "grassroots event" in the ABQ Nob Hill area and then head for a fund-raiser in the North Valley for the Obama campaign.

Obama recently took a Western swing and visited Colorado, Arizona and Nevada, but he did not put wheels down in New Mexico. That got the Alligators wondering if the Obama campaign was feeling secure about their chances here.

On Capitol Hill in Washington where I am reporting to you from this week, Dem Congressman Martin Heinrich says he was glad to hear about the Biden visit and said he is urging the White House to come to the state as often as possible. He says he feels comfortable with the president's chances here but victory can't be taken for granted.


That Rasmussen poll was another round of pretty good news for Heinrich. In a hypothetical US Senate match-up with Republican Heather Wilson he beats her 45% to 43%. The poll is within the margin of error so the race could be called a tie, except for a fact that has to be disturbing to the GOP. In three public polls Wilson has been behind Heinrich in every one, even if only by a point. But ahead is ahead.

(By the way, this poll was done among "likely" voters not "registered" voters. The R's attacked an earlier poll that was done among only registered voters, saying Heather would do better with likely voters. It didn't turn out that way in Rasmussen. You can't say the poll has it wrong for Heather and Heinrich but is right when it says Susana's popularity is soaring.)

Again, this is why this race is "lean Dem" in the early going. Wilson's negatives are keeping her from surging. Rasmussen says 46% of those polled view her unfavorably, dangerously close to half the electorate. On the other hand, Heinrich is known perhaps by half the number of voters Wilson is, so he can't assume anything going forward.

If we are in for a close Senate race between those two (lets not count out Dem Hector Balderas yet) you can understand why Heinrich wants Obama to make a number of visits here. How the president finishes in New Mexico could very well determine if the Dems keep the seat in their column.


He earned fame (or infamy) in the state's political community as Big Bill's communications director, but former ABQ Tribune reporter Gilbert Gallegos fell on hard times when the Guv left office. The morning fish wrapper even front-paged the former $100,000 plus a year state employee's struggle to get unemployment insurance. But now he's back to work--at least for a while. Gallegos has signed up for communications chores with ABQ Dem congressional candidate Michelle Lujan Grisham. With Gallegos now in the house and candidates Eric Griego and Marty Chavez already armed to the teeth, look for that three way primary to start taking off in directions unknown---and soon....

We'll come back at you with some wrap up of the Legislative session as soon as the dust clears and also have reports in the coming days on our DC trip and what we learned for you.

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