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Monday, April 16, 2012

April Showers For Willams Stapleton, But What About June? Plus: Chavez Fund-raising Fades As Griego Marches, And: Radio Pioneer Jim Roper Dies 

Williams Stapleton
The hammer continues to fall on State House Majority Whip Sheryl Williams-Stapleon, but it's far from clear that it means the controversial lawmaker is doomed defeat in the June primary. The latest twist on the representative's dealings with her employer--the ABQ Public Schools--hit the media vortex with enough force that Williams-Stapleton trotted out high-powered lawyer Sam Bregman to make her case. He appears to have given her enough cover to fight back on the campaign trail in the final weeks, but will she have the cash she needs to keep her seat? Her sole opponent for the Dem nod in the SE Heights district--political newcomer and UNM law school student Cara Valente-Compton--points out that Williams Stapleton only had $650 in the bank at the end of March while she had nearly $5,700.

Are donors holding off because of the controversy over Williams Stapleton getting paid leave from her APS job while serving in the Legislature and an earlier one in which she referred to Governor Martinez as "that Mexican?" Maybe, but insiders say don't read too much into it. One Alligator of the Senior variety says;

Contributors could come for Sheryl later because they don't want their donations or their organization to be made a campaign issue. Their contributions in May would not be as subject to as much attention.

The next finance reports are due May 14th and May 31st. That's plenty of time for Williams Stapleton to raise money from labor and other traditional supporters and sparing them from any hits for doing so. Meanwhile, Valente-Compton is not going to be able to amplify the charges against Williams Stapleton if she doesn't step on the gas and raise a lot more cash.

NEW DEM LEADERSHIP?

In Santa Fe, the wall-leaners tell me that if Williams Stapleton returns to Santa Fe, her position as majority whip is in danger. She has been damaged enough to make her a liability and while the Dems can handle her getting re-elected, there is much concern over keeping her in the leadership role. Still, she is the only African-American in a high profile post at the Roundhouse and that could be a factor in any coup attempt.

As things stand now, my veterans tell me Grants area Dem State Rep. Kenny Martinez is in line to replace Ben Lujan as Speaker in 2013 and ABQ Dem State Rep. Rick Miera is positioned to become the new majority leader--the post Kenny currently has.

Talk of the R's taking control of the state House or a conservative coalition of Dems and R forming has quieted. Obama's continued strength in New Mexico signals a tougher road for the R's who will now find it more difficult to make any House gains.

CONGRESS MONEY NUMBERS

If you go solely by the cash on hand, the race for the Dem nomination for the US House seat has become a two way affair and surprisingly to some, it is former ABQ Mayor Marty Chavez who finds himself the odd man out. Eric Griego reports that he ended the first quarter with $322,000 cash in the bank and raised $275,000 from January through March. Earlier Michelle Lujan Grisham reported she had $344,000 in cash at the start of April and raised $205,000 during the year's first quarter.Chavez says he raised $153,000 in the quarter and has $202,000 in cash, considerably lagging his foes.

Griego decisively took the role of front-runner at the Dem mid-March preprimary convention and has yet to relinquish it. Lujan Grisham has slightly more cash on hand, but does not have the field organization to match Griego who is consolidating the liberal vote. Lujan Grisham has gained momentum with women and seems to be splitting older and more conservative Dems with Chavez.

With Griego's liberal base going relatively untouched by his two rivals, he is positioned to take the prize. Lujan Grisham is slowly becoming more of a threat to Griego than Chavez. The middle of the road Marty has long had problems with the nominating wing of the Democratic Party and this is deja vu all over again.

Griego and Lujan Grisham will apparently have more of a TV presence than Chavez, unless the former mayor gets a sudden gusher of funds. Lujan Grisham has been hoping that Griego and Chavez would rip each other up and she could coast up the middle, but with Chavez lagging, she may have to pivot and launch her own broadsides against the ABQ Valley state senator.

As for the voluble Griego, he needs no mistakes. An Alligator jokes: "They have Eric tied up in the basement with scotch tape on his mouth. They don't want any problems."

JANICE NEEDS JUICE

Republican Janice Arnold-Jones is the presumptive nominee for the GOP nomination for the ABQ House seat. Her lone rival--retired Army Seargent Gary Smith is sputtering and awaiting a decision to a challenge to throw him off the ballot. Even if he stays on, this one is Janice's. But the general election is another story. In fact, it looks bleak. She reports raising only $55,000 in the first quarter and having only $38,000 cash on hand. The Alligators immediately pounced, saying this only confirms their view that the GOP has written off the race to the Dems. Hard to argue with them.

Up North, Congressman Ben Ray Lujan is well positioned for a GOP challenge. He has $442,000 in cash on hand after raising $210,000 in the first quarter. Two R's are competing for the right to challenge him, but that's like two guys debating over who is going to jump off the cliff first.

BALDERAS MONEY

A disappointing fund-raising quarter for Dem US Senate contender Hector Balderas. After beating expectations at the mid-March preprimary convention, Balderas failed to gain money momentum.
He said he raised only $127,000 in the first quarter, compared to nearly $500,000 for his rival---US Rep. Martin Heinrich. And while Balderas says he has $395,000 in cash on hand headed into the weeks when you need to buy a lot of TV, Heinrich sports a $1.5 million cash balance. These fund-raising numbers reinforce Heinrich's status as the heavily favored contender for the nomination. But nothing is to be taken for granted in today's volatile atmosphere. 

HEINRICH VS. BALDERAS

The ABQ Journal has come with its election profiles of Dem US Senate candidates Martin Heinrich and Hector Balderas. The news? None. Neither candidate took a jab at the other and their positions the major issues posed by Journal Washington correspondent Michael Coleman are remarkably similar. The Heinrich profile is here and the Balderas profile is here.

The Journal is coming with its candidate portraits much earlier than previous cycles. That's because well over half the vote anymore is cast before the actual election day. The primary election is June 5.

NO HORSING AROUND

With the news filled with the possibility that New Mexico could be home to the first slaughterhouse for horses to open since 2007 (Guv Martinez will oppose it) the political endorsements of the Animal Protection Voters New Mexico are timely. You can find them here.

JIM ROPER

When New Mexico broadcast pioneer Jim Roper passed, his many years of broadcasting high school games were highlighted, but Roper is also well-remembered in the world of La Politica.

It's a media world that has largely disappeared now, but in decades past--the 60's, 70's and 80's and into the 90's--a trek to Roper's distant radio outpost in Raton was de riguer if you were really serious about seeking statewide office. He had an open door and an open mic where candidates and incumbents were invited to talk of the news of the day. It seemed the whole town was listening to KRTN-AM in the morning and your words had impact. So did Roper's. He was an enthusiast for conservative Republican politics in addition to the world of northern New Mexico sports.

Roper, who started at the station in 1948, was from a far more polite media world than the one we grapple with today. There were no "gotchas" just questions and conversation and a shared concern for New Mexico. His listeners included his daughter, Mary Lynn, who caught the broadcasting bug and today is the president of KOAT-TV.

At its heart broadcasting is a public service. We sometimes forget that, but we have the example of  Roper and his mighty KRTN to remind us.  Jim Roper died at the age of 81.

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