Wednesday, February 01, 2012

Latest Cash Reports Pinpoint Front Runners In Key Races, Plus: Another Senate Poll The R's Don't Like But The Dems Do, And: Thank You, Raul Burciaga 

The federal candidate cash reports have poured in for the final quarter of last year and here's where it takes the Alligator consensus:

---Eric Griego and Marty Chavez are neck and neck for the ABQ Dem US House nomination with Michelle Lujan Grisham having the money now to join them and Dan Lewis assumes the front-runner role for the Republican nod.

---Martin Heinrich is the hands-down front-runner for the Dem US Senate nomination and the same holds true for Republican Heather Wilson.

---The open US Senate seat is ranked "lean Dem" for the November election and the ABQ congressional seat is "likely Dem."

Neither Griego or Chavez blew the fund-raising doors off their hinges. Griego, an ABQ state senator, reported raising $143,000 for the quarter and ending it with $208,000 in cash in the bank. Former ABQ Mayor Chavez reports raising $149,000 (including a $15,000 loan) and having $217,000 in cash. Numbers for Michelle Lujan Grisham came out Wednesday morning and surprised:

Reporting...$278,173.62 money in the bank Lujan Grisham has established herself as a significant force in the upcoming primary election. Lujan Grisham’s campaign is reporting $161,529.98 raised (including a $20,000 loan) for the last quarter of 2011. Lujan Grisham has $69,696.15 more than State Senator Eric Griego, and $60,548.73 more than former Albuquerque mayor Marty Chavez.

Lujan Grisham has received some early backing from Emily's List--the powerful pro-choice women's group--and that appeared to help her fund-raising. Also, she has spent hardly any money and now has to get moving on putting her campaign together. Michelle opted to save her money while Eric and Marty were putting together their political operation.

Griego and Chavez are inching closer to a one-on-one duel, but much of it may play out in the mailboxes, not as much on the TV screens as inthe past. $200k with five months to go is not much and that means grassroots activism will be more important than usual. Lujan Grisham remains the wild card, not getting the early start with endorsements and organizations these two have, but competing on the cash count. And there are still a couple of months to raise the TV money.

The two longtime political foes--Chavez and Griego--are sure to come after each other with all they have, especially in light of the money reports that show they are heavily outraising their Republican foes. ABQ City Councilor Lewis reported raising $64,000 and had $102,000 in cash in the bank, retired Army Seargent Gary Smith $88,000 and former ABQ State Rep. Janice Arnold-Jones only $20,000.

It will get easier for Lewis to raise money now that Jon Barela has decided not to run, but not by much. R's don't seem animated by this contest. The Dems are collecting much more cash than the R's, an early signal that the district is tilting toward them and exciting the Dem contenders.

On the Senate side, Hector Balderas reports raising $108,000 in the fourth quarter, compared to $483,000 for Martin Heinrich, Hector has $434,000 in cash in the bank and Heinrich has about $1.4 million. The numbers speak for themselves.

In the GOP contest, Lt. Governor John Sanchez did not release his numbers, meaning there will be no positive surprise and leaving Heather Wilson the undisputed front runner for the nomination. She reports $1.1 million in the bank. The third hopeful, Greg Sowards, is largely self-financing and does not pose the threat to Wilson that Sanchez could.


Another poll out on the race for New Mexico's open US Senate seat confirms our ranking of it as "lean Dem." Republican Heather Wilson continues to trail Dem Martin Heinrich in a hypothetical fall match-up. However, this survey shows the two nearly tied, with Heinrich leading 45% to 44%. MOE is 4 percent. A poll from the Dem firm PPP conducted in December had Wilson losing by 7 points.

The problem is that Wilson has superior statewide name ID to Heinrich, having served 10 years in congress to his three. Also, she ran for the GOP nod for Senate in 2008. That Wilson is not ahead and Heinrich lagging is the real news here, although R's have got to be breathing a sigh of relief that they can still argue the race remains in play and winnable.

R's panned the PPP poll, arguing its sample was flawed. Now they are blasting this one for being done only among "registered" voters, not "likely" voters. They say a poll of likely voters would be more favorable to Heather. They have a point, but when are they going to get a poll they like? That means one that shows the quasi-incumbent Wilson ahead.

It's a good question. Wilson's unfavorable ratings after years in politics and many negative campaigns are higher than Heinrich's. Veteran observers say it is holding her back and preventing her from moving toward the 50% threshold. Again, with her high name ID, this is not good. Voters know Heather. That means she will have to win the race by going negative on Heinrich and his short record in public service makes that tricky.

Other observers we respect don't necessarily see it our way and say that Wilson can reinvent herself. That's what makes for a good debate, but we see the R's spinning overtime trying to keep this race in play. Wilson has shown she is qualified to hold a US Senate seat, but she is going to have to show us better numbers to make us a believer that her past baggage is not bogging her down.

This survey was a team effort between a GOP and Dem firm. The R company is Public Opinion Strategies (POS) where Nicole McCleskey, wife of Governor Martinez's chief political advisor Jay McCleskey is employed. The Dem firm is Fairbank, Maslin etc. The poll was conducted in early January for the Colorado College State of the Rockies Project and is posted here.

By the way, in that poll the job performance of Gov. Martinez is "strongly approved" by 34% and 27% "somewhat approve." A December PPP poll had her favorable rating at 50%. This poll would have the overall favorable at 61%, but we don't like the phrasing, "somewhat approve." It seems misleading. Why not ask if is she doing an excellent, good, fair or poor job? Or ask straight up whether voters approve or disapprove of her performance? That's what PPP did. We'd say Susana--as of early January---had an overall approval rating of over 50%. That's good for a GOP Governor in a Dem state. Until we see a clear cut polling question that takes her higher, we'll stop at that number.


Raul Burciaga, you are right. But you are going to
take heat for your level-headed decision denying a request from Governor Martinez and not permitting photos of foster kids up for adoption to be posted on the walls of the Roundhouse. A newspaper editorial decried the decision, calling it heartless. But it isn't.

As director of the Legislative Council Service, Mr. Burciaga presides over a spectacular building that has a special place in the hearts of New Mexicans. The one-of-a-kind and awe inspiring art collection on permanent display is a testament to the hard work and loving care that has gone into making a visit to the capitol an unforgettable adventure for resident and tourist alike.

The last thing we need is the bevy of interest groups that parade to the capitol arguing that their cause deserves to be highlighted upon its walls--no matter how controversial or off-putting Everyone has a soft spot for kids and it's unfortunate that the Governor has gone down this road, but Burciaga's job is to look at the big picture and that he does. He says:

The issue is simply that we have always done our best to keep any kind of cause, if you will, from being featured at the Capitol. As soon as we do that, then we start getting things that are little more questionable.

And that's putting it politely. In today's toxic political environment who knows what requests Burciaga would be fielding once he broke with the valuable tradition of not allowing any postings other than the timeless and apolitical art that celebrates our state.

Since 1966, the capitol has been a repository of New Mexico culture and art. There is plenty of partisan politics in the House and Senate chambers and committee rooms--more than enough. Do we really want that spilling out into the hallways? That's where we're likely headed if the no posting decision is reversed.

Burciaga made a tough call, but that's what he is there for--to protect the politicians from themselves. Thanks, Raul.


It's newsman Milan Simonich, not the other first name we gave him in a blog first draft Tuesday, He toils for Texas-New Mexico newspapers of which there are eight....And candidates for statewide judicial offices file their petition signatures on Feb. 14, not the date or dates we have been using.

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