Tuesday, May 01, 2012

It's May Day And Some Campaigns Are Sending Distress Signals, Plus: Chaos In Clovis; Guv's Political Team Runs Into Cowboy Courage As R's Go Cannibal In State Senate Battle 

It's May Day and the new month arrives with a sense of urgency for a number of the political campaigns. They now have only weeks to get their houses in order or else face extinction June 5. Maybe they don't even have weeks. With early voting so popular and getting underway in earnest May 18, if you're not firing on all cylinders by then, you may be a goner.

Right now no one is gone, but some are teetering. Dem US Senate candidate Hector Balderas is one. The underdog since the beginning of his campaign for the Dem US Senate nod against Rep. Martin Heinrich, Balderas is now running out of time. Heinrich is up with his TV, continues to roll out endorsements and has plenty of cash in the bank. Most campaigns running behind would have gone on the attack by now, but Hector has played it cool. His odds of victory are slim and he has a future political career to protect. That's been his problem since the start and remains so today on May Day.

Hector could use a prime-time TV debate or two to try to shake this one up, but there is no word yet on any being scheduled. If Heinrich stumbles badly, Hector is positioned to take advantage. The problem? Heinrich is taking no chances. Saccharine has more flavor than Martin's campaign.


Balderas comes with his first TV ad today and it goes right to his core strength--his personal narrative of growing up in tiny Wagon Mound, his family using food stamps to get by and his becoming a law school graduate. He names education as his top issue and also hits upon his service as state auditor.

All in all, this ad can be slugged "local boy makes good." Remember, Martin Heinrich is not a local boy.

Balderas closes out the ad with a full camera shot and the director coaxes out a confident Balderas, although the spot seems to end a bit abruptly. Copy from the ad:

Most Senators don’t come from places like this. Don’t grow up on food stamps. Or become the first person from their village to earn a law degree. But because Hector Balderas did…

He understands the power of education in a way most Senators never will. As Auditor, Balderas stopped corrupt officials who stole from schools. As Senator, he’ll invest in our future again.

I’m Hector Balderas, and I’m sponsoring this ad because I know education is the road to the middle class.

This ad is going to pull votes from rural New Mexico, but probably not so much from the cities where Heinrich has a large lead. But the ad does lay the groundwork for a spot that contrasts Balderas with Heinrich--if Balderas wants to go there.


Marty Chavez is nothing if not a fighter, and he will have to don his boxing gloves again if he is to pull out a victory against Eric Griego and Michelle Lujan Grisham for the Dem nomination for the ABQ congressional seat. His moderate and conservative stripes continue to pen in him with a liberal leaning primary electorate.

He finished third in the fund-raising sweepstakes for the first quarter and the Alligators were all over him for it. His supporters countered that Chavez has superior name ID and that his substandard fund-raising performance will not hurt because he doesn't need as much money as his lesser known rivals. But there's a problem. If you have superior name ID, you should have superior fund-raising.

Chavez probably remains ahead in the race based on that name ID but this is the kind of race that is set up to break toward the liberal late in the game. Marty will need to ride herd on Griego in the coming days. Griego has raised the money, put together the organization, wrangled the endorsements and is the love child of the left.

Michelle Lujan Grisham gets kudos for her aggressive fund-raising and her first TV ad which is superior to that of Griego's, but Griego still has the organizational edge. She needs to find a quick way to get campaign trail dust under her fingernails.

A major question that looms: Can Chavez make Griego lose his famous temper? Marty needs some kind of emotional drama to start turning this one around. Like Hector, some TV debates could give him the opporunity that has so far eluded him. And we have news on that front...


My insiders report at least one TV debate has now been scheduled for the ABQ Dem congressional candidates. It will take place on KOAT-TV on Saturday, May 19th from 6 to 7 p.m. That is borderline primetime, but still better than late Sunday afternoon where in the past the station has pigeonholed its debates. A  TV face-off between Dem US Senate hopefuls Heinrich and Balderas is also slated. Our insiders say the KOAT debate will take place June 3 at 6 p.m.. too late to influence the outcome of the June 5 election--the way front-runner Heinrich wants it.


While she has no primary opposition, ABQ GOP congressional hopeful Janice Arnold-Jones still has work to do this May Day. How about raising oodles of cash and putting up some media that grabs your attention? Her race is already begin written off as a Dem pick-up in November. Arnold-Jones could use May to begin changing that perception. The problem? She needs money to do it.
 Back to the phones, Janice.


Can Heather Wilson, who served 10 years in the US House from ABQ, be made to appear fresh and new? Her campaign gives it a shot in their first TV ad for the June 5 primary. In it she talks about her Air Force record but nary a peep about being a professional politico and ex-member of Congress. It's a softie spot and maybe it will help make her more likable.

And where is Greg Sowards, Wilson's opponent for the GOP Senate nomination? Not much of anywhere yet. The hard-right candidate has a war chest of $600,000, mostly coming from his personal bank account, but so far he isn't spending it.

Pat Woods
We've said that the Governor's political team may have bit off more than they can chew when they directly interfered in a GOP state senate primary on the east side. The news from there keeps confirming our impression:

A heated state senate primary became a heated two-person race. Mark  Myers dropped out of the state senate District 7 race and endorsed  fellow Republican candidate Pat Woods. Both said the move was made  out of concerns Gov. Martinez has lined up resources behind  Angie Spears, the other candidate in the GOP race--a move Woods said  he’s never seen before in a primary race. Woods and Angie  Spears are now the only candidates in the June 5 Republican primary. The  winner faces no Democratic opposition in the general election.

This is the seat held by Clint Harden who was forced from the fray when it became clear the Governor's political team was gunning for him. SusnaPAC has donated heavily to Spears.

We say the Governor's political team because our best intelligence out of Santa Fe doesn't tell us whether Martinez is personally sitting in a war room declaring who she will work to oust or whether the decision is left entirely to political advisor Jay McCleskey. Our sense is that Jay decides and the Guv signs on to the war strategy with relish--in this case too much relish.


Now back to Mr. Pat Woods. Unlike some of his squishy brethren in the big city, Woods, a wheat farmer with long family ties in Clovis, isn't taking any guff from the Governor. Our Clovis Alligators send us this full-page ad that Woods took out in the Clovis newspaper listing dozens of supporters in the small city.

Jay and company are pounding the snot out of Woods in robo phone calls for giving campaign donations to Democrats, including ABQ Dem State Senator Tim Keller. Woods says it isn't that big of a deal, but Spears says it shows Woods is for the "liberal" agenda.

But what it really shows is that Woods is the first prominent Republican to openly split with the Martinez machine and go to war. It is going to cost the Guv with Woods' many GOP friends.

And remember when the Guv's political posse toyed with fielding a Republican more to their liking against State Senate Minority Leader Stuart Ingle, also from the Clovis area? They didn't, but memories are long out on the open range.

And what does Martinez get for all this grief? Any Republican elected from Clovis would have carried her water in the Senate, but she apparently wants R's who will never question her. Susana and Jay have been able to lead the big city R's around with a ring through their noses, but Woods is showing them the backbone they thought their machine had turned to mush.

Angie Spears may get elected to the Senate, but it could be Woods who has the lasting impact by giving other Republicans the courage to question--not kowtow--when the Fourth Floor tells them how to herd their cattle.

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