Monday, March 26, 2012

Where's The Mo? Balderas Preprimary Showing Yet To Tranlsate, Plus: Latest Campaign Trail Action, And: Pounding Away At Paseo 

Sam Valencia, Balderas & Brian Colon
So where's the mo? That's the pertinent question in the wake of the heavy spin that came from the Hector Balderas for Senate campaign after his showing over two weeks ago at the Democratic Party's preprimary convention. Balderas lost the convention vote by nearly 10 points--55% to 45%--to Rep. Martin Heinrich--but spun it as a "phenomenal" success that surpassed all expectations. So what has happened in the weeks since then? Not much. Balderas has not come with any big name endorsements or announcements of a fund-raising breakthrough--events that you might expect if there was truly a change in momentum in the contest.

The fact is nothing much has changed. Hector did score some earned media for his intervention in the scandals surrounding the border town of Sunland Park. Otherwise, the campaign has been flat.

Heinrich plods along, making no major blunders and apparently building on his million dollar money lead. (He had $1.3 million banked at the end of the year, compared to about $400,000 for Hector).

While Balderas made a valiant effort to spin the preprimary, expectations among the chattering classes have not been altered. They fully expect a Heinrich victory unless the dynamic of the campaign is radically altered in April, before early voting begins in early May.

Heinrich came with a poll in January that showed him thumping Balderas 52% to 22% with 26% undecided. Few expect Heinrich to win the June 5 primary by 30 points, but unless Balderas delivers a new and stronger message he will have to rely on the natural tightening of the race that will occur along ethic lines to put him over the finish line. That may work for a lower level race like State Auditor but rarely in in a big league Senate contest where voters are more discerning.

A number of insiders say it could be argued that a close reading of the tea leaves shows the momentum Balderas claimed after the convention was somewhat manufactured. They say blogs and media that lean to the right built up the victory because they want a bloody battle that would weaken Heinrich before he faced off with probable GOP nominee Heather Wilson. Blogs and media that lean left read more into the preprimary than was there because they are partial to his anti-corruption credentials and solid record on government transparency--the raison d'être for these outlets existence.

But reality is reality. The Balderas message of fiscal accountability and a veiled attack on Heinrich as a "Washington insider" has yet to take hold. The momentum shift that would be evidenced by a major influx of money, volunteers and endorsements is not to be found--at least not yet.


Probable GOP US Senate nominee Heather Wilson isn't waiting for momentum to switch to Balderas. She is going all in on Heinrich. From her campaign:

My likely Democrat opponent voted for the so-called stimulus bill and against the balanced budget amendment to the Constitution.  He voted for cap-and-trade and against building the Keystone pipeline.  He wants to increase taxes, including on New Mexico oil and gas production, that will cause us to lose more jobs. 

Meanwhile, a Heinrich operative was quick to send in this item penned by the ABQ Journal's Michael Coleman in which Heather once again equivocates over a key national issue:

"House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan released his federal spending blueprint  to cheers
from most Republicans and jeers from most Democrats. Ryan’s 2012 budget has triggered fierce criticism from Democrats, who contend it’s an assault on the middle class and Medicare, in particular.. But for the second year in a row, Republican U.S. Senate candidate Heather Wilson declined to take a clear position. Last week, Wilson said in a statement she “may not agree with everything” in the Ryan budget, but that he “deserves credit for trying to have a serious debate.” Wilson also pointed out the federal debt is growing by $1 trillion per year. When I followed up, Wilson’s spokesman wouldn’t specify what she didn’t like about the proposal.

If she's smart, Wilson will move away from the Ryan Medicare reform once she secures the June nomination. It is proving to be the kiss of death for the R's, especially among those most likely to vote--Americans over 50.

Yep, the battle lines are being drawn for the 2012 New Mexico US Senate race, without question one of the most important of our lifetimes.


Yet another one cashes out. ABQ Dem State Senator Bernadette Sanchez is the eighth sitting senator to say "no thanks" to the Santa Fe scene. She filed for re-election last week, but late Friday withdrew her candidacy. She will have served three terms when she retires at the end of the year. Sanchez cited the political gridlock in the capital as a chief reason for her departure. Once again we invoke the Senior Alligator saying for why we are seeing so many incumbent legislators packing their bags:

"It just isn't any fun anymore."

The Roundhouse is like an office building filled with drones. The drama has been drained out of the place by a GOP Governor and a Dem controlled legislature that gets little of consequence done. And more of the same is in the cards. Add on top of that the lack of funny money to go around for various projects, cutbacks by the lobbyists on their partying budgets for legislators and you get...well..that slogan--"It just isn't fun anymore."

So who gets the Sanchez Senate seat? Certainly no R. Is there even one running in this heavily Dem west side enclave? The front-runner is now seen as newcomer Jacob Candelaria. Political old timer Steve Gallegos withdrew from the race late Sunday and endorsed Candelaria. A third player is Carlos Villanueva.

Candelaria is only 25 and would be one of the youngest state senators ever elected. Candelaria, a recent Princeton graduate, is the president of Equality New Mexico, an advocacy group for gays and lesbians. He says Gallegos represents old school politics and he represents "strong, new leadership."

Candelaria may have to wrestle with his status as an openly gay candidate in an area with a large presence of Hispanic Catholics who harbor socially conservative views. He will be able to tap progressive groups for campaign cash. Gallegos has business contacts that could help him shake the money tree.

(We updated this story with the news of the Gallegos withdrawal and his endorsement of Candelaria.)


Are all these incumbent state legislators about to be thrown off the ballot for a technical violation?

State Sen. Tim Jennings, Sen. Sue Wilson Beffort, R-Sandia Park; Rep. James Roger Madalena, D-Jemez Pueblo; Sen. Pete Campos, D-Las Vegas; Rep. Dianne Hamilton, R-Silver City; Rep. Rodolpho “Rudy” Martinez, D-Bayard; and Rep. Rick Little, R-Chaparral.

The answer is "no." From the wires:

Attorney General Gary King's office says New Mexico courts likely will allow a dozen candidates, including the Senate's top leader, to remain on the primary election ballot despite the omission of some required information from their filing papers. King's office provided a legal memo to Secretary of State Dianna Duran late Friday in response to questions whether she should exclude Senate President Tim Jennings of Roswell and other candidates from the ballot.

Not that the hearts of all those incumbents didn't skip a beat when they learned of their technical foul.


There will be plenty of wailing and gnashing of the teeth when the ABQ City Council holds a special meeting beginning at 5 p.m. today to hear input on whether $50 million in bonds should be approved by the council and not sent to the voters for their approval. Expect Mayor Berry's team to pack the council chambers to target the three Dems--Garduno, O'Malley and Benton--for demanding that the public vote on the $90 million plus Paseo rebuild.. But don't expect them to back down, either. Berry may very well win the short term PR battle--especially on the west side where traffic woes are epic--but long-term is another matter.

It takes a super majority--seven of the nine councillors to bypass the voters and approve the bonds--Several readers pointed out that Councilors Benton and O'Malley--in 2006--wanted to do just that when it came to building a street car system for ABQ. The controversial street car died without a vote but the councilors are now being called hypocrites and accused of blocking the Paseo bonds only because they want to embarrass Republican Berry politically.

Well, you can question their motives, but those of us out here in the bleachers have been consistent, We wanted a public vote on that street car and we want one on Paseo. On November 29, 2006 we wrote one of a number of blogs on the street car mess and the push for a public vote. We parted company with the liberal Dem councilors and supported the R's who were asking for the public vote, but now the Dems are on the right side of the equation--for whatever reason.  The point being that the politicos can and do stake out their territory for political purposes, but around here we have always been and always will be an independent voice.


From the Paseo mailbag, Republican and former city public works head Bob Gurule writes:

Mayor Berry is now sanctimoniously criticizing Democratic councilors for opposing $50 million funding without voter approval for the Paseo del Norte interchange project. This follows the mayor's attempted political trickery of last year when he tied the project at the ballot box to his misguided Sportsplex project.  Man up, Mr. Mayor!

That is a major problem with the mayor's position, Bob. He is now a do or die advocate for Paseo but last October he would not permit Paseo to stand alone on the ballot, dooming it to defeat by forcing voters to approve an unpopular sportsplex as well as the Paseo rebuild. Instead they voted down the bonds for both projects.

And another reader writes:

Somehow everyone is forgetting an important part of the story about Paseo. Berry never wanted Paseo to begin with. Look at the story that was in the Albuquerque Journal in July of last year.  Mayor Berry never even included Paseo in the original package he sent to the City Council for voter approval. In fact, the council changed the bond package from Berry's "4 fun projects" to the Paseo and the Sports Complex package because there was not support to pass Berry's "ABQ: The Plan."  Paseo was never part of Berry's proposed plan to the council and it was, I believe, Councilor Brad Winter that made the Paseo change to cover Berry's rookie mistake of submitting a plan that had no support, even from his Republicans.

Yep. Here's the money quote from GOP Councilor Dam Lewis right after Berry submitted his bond plans for the October election:

City Councilor Dan Lewis said he’s disappointed the Paseo del Norte and Interstate 25 interchange didn’t make the list. The project could be phased in, he said, even if there’s not enough “ABQ: The Plan” funds available to do all of it right away.

Maybe the three Dem councilors who are going to force Berry to ask voters for approval of Paseo are hypocritical, but Berry's new found love for Paseo leaves him open to the same charge. Are he and his political consultants intentionally dividing the community because they see political gains to be had? If Paseo is such an emergency why did the mayor not put it on his list of bond projects last July? When it comes to hypocrisy none of these politicians have a corner on the market.

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