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Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Political Action Gets Hot And Heavy: Prez In NM Today, Candidate Filings Make For Much Blogging, John Sanchez Clarifies And Dan Lewis Gets Out; It's All Here And It's Up Next 

Welcome into the Wednesday blog, and welcome to New Mexico, Mr. President. The political news is coming at a fast and furious pace this week with that presidential visit, the official filings of the legislative and other candidates and the withdrawal from the ABQ congressional race of Republican Dan Lewis. We've got you covered--from the races that caught our eye on candidate filing day to the Lewis story which we broke to the state Tuesday morning. Now it's off to the key action and analysis from the home of New Mexico politics...

After all the blog work we did on Eddy County and the presidential visit, what happens? The White House apparently got its signals crossed when it said Obama would visit the Carlsbad area in Eddy County. Now they say he's going to be in Lea County:

In spite of earlier news releases from White House sources, President Obama will be near Maljamar - not Carlsbad--when he makes his statement on domestic oil and gas production Wednesday afternoon. Maljamar is in Lea County, some 40 miles due east of Artesia. The presidential party will travel to oil and gas production fields located on federal lands, an area home to more than 70 active drilling rigs... 

Well, Lea County was an even worse performing county for Obama than Eddy in 2008. And this won't be the first presidential visit to Lea. President Bush, in 2004, stopped there in his drive for re-election. The way Obama loses in the SE it's no wonder the White House has trouble remembering how to get around down there.

FILING DAY ACTION

So here are some of the races that grabbed us while we pored over the candidate filings Tuesday on the SOS web site and Bernalillo County's.

In the GOP primary contest to replace retiring ABQ GOP State Senator Mark Boitano, it will be Lisa Torraco against political newcomer Gerges Scott. Torraco, an attorney, was the GOP nominee for Bernalillo County district attorney in 2008, but lost the general election to Kari Brandenburg. Alligators say that experience gives her the starting advantage over Gerges Scott, an energy analyst and VP with DW Turner public relations, but the race is in play and the nomination is valuable. Either Torraco or Scott are nearly guaranteed a trip to Santa Fe once one of them cinches the nomination. The district is heavy R.

In the race to replace Dem ABQ North Valley State Senator Dede Feldman, it looks as though Dem State Rep. Bill O'Neill may have caught a break as he seeks to replace Dede. Two Hispanic Dems--Laura Sanchez and Carlos Cordova--have also filed for the Dem nomination. That could conceivably set up an ethnic split that would benefit O'Neill who is leaving his House seat to go for the Senate. Chris Catechis is also running for the Dem nod.

Meanwhile, it will be a spirited race to replace O'Neill in the House. Joe D. Craig who runs a firm that provides marketing services to architects and engineers is in on the Dem side. So is Matt David Munoz and so is Emily Kane. The R's have fielded Kenneth King and Chris Saucedo, an attorney with connections to GOP US Senate candidate Heather Wilson. This is a swing seat that goes down into the North Valley and Los Rancho as well as up into the far NE Heights.

And is it going to be crazy or what for ABQ Dem State Sen. Bernadette Sanchez. She has drawn three primary opponents including..hold on to your hat--the old Valley Alligtor himself--Steve Gallegos. The other candidates are Jacob Candelaria and Carlos Jose Villanueva. Bernadette's foes say she has been too conservative for the low-income Valley and West Side seat. No R's need apply. This is Valley action all the way, Gators....

FREE RIDES

There's nothing like a free ride and Dem Bernalillo County Clerk Maggie Toulouse Oliver just got one. She is the only Dem candidate for the June primary and no Republicans filed. That means Maggie gets a second four year term in November. Now, will she start thinking more seriously about running for Secretary of State in 2014?

And there goes ABQ Dem State Sen. Cisco McSorley, in the Senate game since 1997, getting a free ride. No Dem opponent and no R filed to take him on in his university area liberal district. Didn't we just seem him the other day planning campaign strategy at a UNM area coffee stop? You can put the briefing books away, Cisco.

And there goes Republican free rider Sander Rue zipping by. The first term lawmaker from the city's west side is going to get a return trip to Santa Fe for four years. No primary foe and no Dem filed to take him on in November. Nothing for him to "rue" about today.

TIM VS. SHANNON

Dem State Senator Tim Keller is unopposed for his party's nomination in the June 5 primary, but the general election promises to be entertaining. Colorful Shannon Robinson who Keller beat in the Democratic primary in the mid-NE Heights district four years ago is back running as a Republican and with the support of former State GOP Chairman Harvey Yates, Jr.

The play here isn't so much about taking Keller out. He's a rising star in the party and and is weighing a run for higher office--perhaps Mayor of ABQ or state treasurer. By getting Shanon in the battle they force Keller to spend his campaign treasury and rough him up as he tries to improve his image for that possible future run at higher office. Shannon is an attorney who has enough political baggage to fill the largest suitcase produced by American Tourister, but that doesn't mean you won't want a front-row seat for this one. Robinson knows how to play.

PINTO STILL PLAYING

Back in May of last year, we got all excited when we learned--erroneously it turned out--that State Senator John Pinto--the longest serving senator--was going to retire. Pinto, who arrived in Santa Fe in 1977 and is now 87, filed Tuesday for yet another term. The Indian Country lawmaker is being opposed by Matthew Tso.

NO TO DR. NO?

Did you see where Dr. No drew a Dem primary opponent? We speak of conservative Dem State Senate Finance Committee Chairman John Arthur Smith. One Larry Martinez filed against him for the Dem nomination. Smith is heavily favored for re-election in the Deming area seat, but his conservative Dem ways have turned off many of his compatriots. The Martinez candidacy reinforces that message. And who is this prospective giant killer? Martinez emails us from Lordsburg:

The poverty rate in parts of this district is the highest in the state and hasn’t dropped in 25 years.  I’m running because I think whoever represents Deming, T or C, and Lordsburg needs to be someone who supports making investments in our people that will draw jobs and better opportunities to southwest New Mexico.”
 

Martinez says he is retired from PNM, where he was a journeyman electrician for over 20 years. He is also Secretary of the Hidalgo County Democratic Party and a member of the Board of Directors of the Hidalgo Medical Center.  Martinez is a native New Mexican, 54 years old, and owns a small electrical contracting company in Lordsburg.

Look out, Dr. No. This fella sounds like he's serious.

THE NORTHERN BEAT

From up north, the ABQ Journa's Dan Boyd reports:

After being paired with a fellow House Democrat in redistricting, incumbent Rep. Thomas Garcia, D-Ocate, has decided to leave the New Mexico House of Representatives to run in the primary election against longtime Sen. Pete Campos, D-Las Vegas.

And the Associated Press comes with this filing day news:

(Former ABQ GOP State Senator) Diane Snyder...is running against Sen. Tim Eichenberg, a Democrat who defeated her in the general election four years ago....In the House, Democrat Nate Cote of Las Cruces is challenging Republican Rep. Rick Little of Chaparral, who defeated him in 2010. Cote served in the House in 2007-2010. 

MUST WATCH RACES 

Veteran Republican political analyst Bruce Donisthorpe (he'll be with us Election Night on KANW 89.1 FM Radio) comes with some of his must watch races from Tuesday's filing day frenzy:

--Senate District 9--Dem Senator John Sapien faces primary and general election challenges! Dem Ben Rodefer and Rep. David Doyle who is favored to win the GOP nod for the seat.

--SD 33--A  Republican primary between incumbent GOP State Senators Rod Adair of Roswell and Bill Burt of Alamogordo. Lincoln County voters are the kingmakers in this race folks! Tularosa Dem Stephanie DuBois faces the winner in November.

--SD 29--State Senator Michael Sanchez versus Republican challenger David Chavez. Will probably be one of the most expensive and nasty races of the fall. Take no prisoners will be the campaign war cry of each side. No disrespect meant to the state prisoners in the area.

--SD 8--A Dem primary between upstart Mora County Superintendent and State Rep. Thomas Garcia and veteran incumbent Senator Pete Campos of Las Vegas.

--SD 22, A four-way Dem primary featuring incumbent Senator Lynda Lovejoy and three challengers including Benny Shendo Jr., Josh Madalena and Anthony Montoya. 

--SD 30--A four-way primary for the seat held by David Ulibarri of Grants. Clemente Sanchez, who lost the primary by six votes last time is back for the rematch. GOP has entrant in Vicky Perea.

--SD 39--A three way primary for seat held by Sen. Phil Griego. Griego starts the race as the favorite, but this race bears close watching in this unpredictable year.

--SD 4--Dem Sen. George Munoz of Gallup draws two challengers. That should be interesting.

--SD 14--Four Dems vie to replace Sen Eric Griego, including former Sen. James Taylor who lost the seat in 2008. Michael Padilla, Cecelia Tkach and State Rep. Elanor Chavez are also in the race.

--SD 21--Three Republicans file to win back the seat held by Kent Cravens who resigned. Dem Lisa Curtis is the Dem appointee until the Nov election. Seat leans to the R's.

STURGESS STALLS

We thought he would make it, but Republican attorney Chris Sturgess came up short in his efforts to get enough petition signatures to qualify as a candidate for Bernalillo County district attorney. That means the R's will have no candidate for this high profile office. Democratic District Attorney Kari Brandenburg is being challenged for the D nomination by former public defender Jennifer Romero.

DONA ANA DOINGS

We have all the match-ups for the Dona Ana County legislative races here. One of the highlights:

Longtime House member Joseph Cervantes will give up his District 52 seat to seek Nava's Senate seat. He'll be challenged by former Sunland Park Mayor Jesus Ruben Segura in the Democratic primary. The winner will face Republican Brett C. Preston in the general election.

THE WINDER ROAD

How about this for a first time political break? Republican ABQ District Court Judge Sam Winder, appointed to fill a vacancy by GOP Guv Martinez, apparently dodges any primary opposition. Attorney Paul Barber was thought to be preparing a run against Sam, but opted to seek the GOP nomination for the newly created state House seat 68 on the west edge of ABQ. But Winder, who says he's the first Native American Republican appointed to the district court, still has an uphill climb to stay on the bench. In the November election he will face Democratic Metro Court Judge Ben Chavez who filed Tuesday for Winder's judgeship.

JOHN SANCHEZ RESPONDS

Lt. Governor John Sanchez has been taking it on the chin from us and others over the first time he ever voted. He says there is an explanation for his weekend statement that he voted for Ronald Reagan, even though he was not of legal voting age in 1980 when Reagan first ran for president. 
 
In response to questions regarding my remarks made at last Saturday's Republican Pre- Primary Nominating Convention, I want to be perfectly clear. I turned eighteen on January 11, 1981. The first time that I was able to cast a ballot for President was in 1984 and I proudly cast  that vote for Ronald Reagan. On Saturday, I stated that ‘My very first vote when I turned eighteen years old was for a man called Ronald Reagan.’ I was referring to the first time that I was able to cast a ballot for President after turning eighteen years old...

Well explained, John, but who wrote that line, "I want to be perfectly clear?" That's one of the most famous lines from former President Richard Nixon who was first elected in 1968. We know you didn't vote for him, John, but it appears you are channeling him.

OUR LEWIS COVERAGE

In case you missed it...
Dan Lewis
What a 60th birthday gift for Janice Arnold Jones.  As she celebrated her birthday today, the ABQ congressional hopeful  received the news that her chief rival for the Republican nomination is  getting out of the race. We broke the news to the state via our Twitter account Tuesday morning. Here's the story....

Dan Lewis  announced today he is out of the race for the GOP nomination for the  ABQ congressional seat, paving the way for the June nomination of former  ABQ State Representative Janice Arnold Jones who trounced Lewis at  Saturday's preprimary convention. She garnered about 63% of the delegate  support to Lewis' 34 per cent. Retired Army Seargent Gary Smith received four percent.

In getting out Lewis said he did not want to "split the party," the same reasoning Lt. Governor John Sanchez gave when he recently gave up his challenge of GOP US Senate candidate Heather Wilson. Lewis said he is not endorsing Arnold Jones because the ABQ primary is still contested.

Here is his complete withdrawal statement

Lewis, an ABQ west side city  councilor, has had trouble putting his campaign together. He began with  political consultant Doug Antoon, but when he left he never did hire a permanent campaign manager. His fund-raising was also anemic. At the end of the  year he only had $102,000 banked. But Arnold-Jones has been even more  challenged in the fund-raising department, She showed only $20,000 in  cash on hand at the end of the year. But that is all about to change as  R's pull out their wallets to give her a push toward November.

The withdrawal of Lewis means a bloody, internecine battle between Janice and Dan is avoided and the R's can prepare for the fall battle. It also denotes that while the hard-right of the Republican Party talks a tough game their candidates have proven to be only electable in southern New Mexico.

Lewis,  a pastor, tangled with 2010 ABQ GOP congressional hopeful Jon Barela  and also split with ABQ GOP Mayor RJ Berry on a number of occasions.  That tarnished his conservative credentials in some quarters and was  seen as a factor in his decisie defeat at the preprimary.

The  rush to Arnold-Jones is seen as a play by the R's to bolster the  chances of GOP US Senate hopeful Heather Wilson. She needs a good ABQ  area performance and the presence of Arnold-Jones on the ticket is seen  as drawing conservative Dems and independents to the R side. They also  see Arnold Jones as the best bet against liberal Dem State Senator Eric  Griego, the current front-runner for the Dem nomination, believing that  the ABQ district, despite becoming more blue in recent years, still  desires a moderate congressional representative.

But  Arnold Jones is not popular with the conservative Republican base. Her  refusal to endorse the death penalty is especially problematic with them  and her reaching across the aisle to Dems in Santa Fe has also drawn  critics from the conservative column.

Arnold Jones  looks good on paper, but her lackluster performance when she sought the  2010 GOP Guv nomination haunts her, She only manged to win 3% of the  vote. Still, the Lewis withdrawal catapults  Arnold Jones to the highest  political plateau of her political career. Smith says he will stay in  the race and get on the June ballot by collecting extra nominating  petitions, but the party is quickly closing ranks behind Janice and she  will be the prohibitive front-runner.

The ABQ  congressional seat went Dem for the first time in its history in 2008  when Dem Martin Heinrich was swept in with the Obama landslide. He  narrowly won re-election in 2010 and is now leaving the House to seek  the open US Senate seat. We have the ABQ seat ranked as "likely Dem." 

This is the home of New Mexico politics.

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