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Thursday, March 08, 2012

Expectations Game For Dem Preprimary: Can Heinrich Muscle Hector? Griego Looks To Make Move On Marty & Michelle, Plus: Honoring Edward Lujan 

Can Martin Heinrich put away Hector Balderas? Can Eric Griego have a break away day? Those are the questions at the top of the list for politics watchers preparing for that ultimate insider event--this Saturday's Dem Party preprimary convention.

It's a lot of insider baseball but it can have a major impact on a campaign's momentum and fund-raising. Take that race for the Dem nod for the US Senate seat between Rep. Heinrich and Balderas. Both are expected to easily win 20% of the delegates needed to win an official spot on the June primary ballot, but can Heinrich win 60% or more of the vote and thus put pressure on Balderas to drop his candidacy?

Hector's fund-raising is anemic and our insiders say he did not appear to show much muscle at the Bernalillo County Dem ward meetings--the prelude to the preprimary. If his delegate share does not put him within shouting distance of Heinrich, pressure will grow on him to get out and clear the way for Heinrich.

(On the R side, Lt. Governor John Sanchez dropped his bid when his campaign headed south, sparing likely nominee Heather Wilson a major challenge. Greg Sowards remains in that race. The GOP preprimary convention will be held March 17).

Insiders say while Heinrich is the heavy favorite among Bernalillo county delegates, Hector is expected to do well in northern counties like Taos and Dona Ana in the south. If he scores an unexpected surge and can then turn that into fund-raising prowess, the Senate race could be redefined. But if Heinrich comes with a big win, his camp will have a valid case that the Dems should avoid a potentially divisive primary and clear the path for him. In return, Hector, serving his second term as state auditor, can perhaps broaden his support for a future political run.

THE HOUSE SIDE

Rarely has the Dem nomination for the ABQ congressional seat been more valuable. With Obama expected to come with a big win in November in the ABQ area and our R's sources here and in Washington indicating the R'S are not keen on putting up a major fight to keep the seat, the three Dem candidates are pumped.

The expectations for Saturday's preprimary? They've shifted. At first, former ABQ Mayor Marty Chavez was seen as the default winner simply because of his superior name ID and long party involvement which could help activate an organization. But his long-standing troubles with the liberal Dem base and the indictment of his former live-in girlfriend on embezzlement charges has the insiders saying that State Sen. Eric Griego has a shot at taking first place. Bernalillo County Commissioner Michelle Lujan Grisham, joining the race later in the game, has always been seen as a third place preprimary finisher and still is. All three candidates are expected to get the 20 percent of the delegates needed to get an official spot on the June ballot.

Griego is an unabashed liberal in a year when that is very much in style with the Dem activists. Chavez has always been more popular with moderate and conservative Dems. His endorsement from Clinton was a good get, but it is Obama backers who are driving the narrative and that is where Griego is scoring.

None of the three candidates has packed much punch in the fund-raising department. A break away preprimary win by one of them--not really expected--could attract cash.

With this nomination so valuable, expect all three candidates to keep charging ahead for the nomination no matter what happens Saturday.

GET THAT 20

If a candidate at the preprimary does not get 20% of the delegates, they can still score a spot on the June ballot by gathering additional petition signatures. However, no candidate who has failed to reach 20% at the preprimary has ever won the party's nomination for the office they sought.

RHONDA RIDES OUT

Dem State Rep. Rhonda King of the legendary New Mexican political family will not seek re-election to her Santa Fe County seat. The seat has been in the family for decades, including in the hands of the late former Governor Bruce King and his son, Attorney General Gary King. Rhonda, a conservative Dem and owner of Rhonda King Realty in Stanley, has held it since 1999. She is a niece of the late Governor. The R's think they have a shot now that the well-known King is headed toward the exits. The reason she's leaving?:

I want to spend more time with my family, including my young daughter. I also look forward to continuing my service to the community, particularly my work on the Tri-County Juvenile Justice Board which provides programs to help improve the lives of youth in our communities.


Like a Senior Alligator told us, the new slogan for Santa Fe and the Legislature is: "It's just not fun anymore."

WHAT WE LEARNED


What did we learn from this week's muni elections in the state? Well, the pressure of the Bear Market continues to be felt in Santa Fe as voters watching their wallets refused to approve a bond issue for buildings and equipment for the police and fire departments. (They did approve the other bonds). And we also learned that Governor Martinez should immediately begin negotiations with Mexico to cede to them the border town of Sunland Park.

DOWN AND DIRTY?

The Independent Source PAC, a union-backed group watchdogging the Martinez administration, has its teeth in that Downs at ABQ lease deal approved by the state and is nipping again. They sent this off to the FBI:

We have developed...additional information...that raises further questions about the propriety of the awarding of the billion-dollar plus Racino contract. Andrea Goff, Susana PAC’s (Governor Martinez’s political committee run by Jay McCleskey) main fundraiser, turns out to be the daughter-in-law and business partner of State Fair Commissioner Kenneth “Buster” Goff. Andrea Goff was raising money for Susana PAC months before Martinez appointed Buster Goff to the State Fair Commission.

It appears this relationship between fundraiser Andrea Goff and Governor Martinez factored into Buster Goff’s appointment to the commission. As you may recall, Buster Goff was provided the unique ability to alter the terms of the lease allowing him to support the contract after having publicly opposed the contract. It was Buster Goff who cast the tie-breaking vote that awarded the contract to the Downs at Albuquerque...

That's the type of stuff you are used to seeing in the newspaper, but things have changed.

PORK WATCH

The Guv signed the capital outlay bill Wednesday, making a point about waste but not depriving the state of a needed shot in the arm from the construction projects in the measure. She vetoed $23 million of the pet projects approved by the legislators, but the bill approved still provides $122 million. A separate bond package will go to the voters to decide in November. It totals $139 million.


Those are pretty solid numbers, but we could double them given that the state ranks last in the nation in construction employment. We're sure the Guv has been hearing from the biz community about keeping the capital dollars flowing. Shaving $22 million makes the point that the capital outlay process needs reform, but doesn't throw the baby out with the bath water.

HONORING EDWARD


National Hispanic Cultural Center Foundation President Clara Apodaca checks in with this news regarding longtime ABQ business executive and former NM GOP Chairman Edward Lujan:

The National Hispanic Cultural Center Foundation is hosting "An Evening at the National Hispanic Cultural Center With Virginia & Edward Lujan" on May 24. The night will include a special production highlighting the Center’s five programs. Dinner co-chairs are Sherman McCorkle and Ambassador Ed Romero...

Lujan, who built the family insurance business into a state powerhouse, is now 79 and still going strong. He was a key player in starting the cultural center. We ran into him at Barelas Coffee House where he was having a friendly lunch with Apodaca, the Democratic first lady of NM from '75 to '78.

There's always bipartisanship when they trot out the enchiladas....

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(c)NM POLITICS WITH JOE MONAHAN 2012
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