Thursday, May 24, 2012

More From Our Exclusive Poll: Leaders In PRC Races, Plus: The Guv's Consultant Becomes Public Issue In Clovis Senate Race; He's Hit In Flyer, Also: Heinrich's Defense Flip 

Valerie Espinosa
A couple of well-known names in political circles are the front-runners in the two races for the Democratic nomination for a slot on the state's powerful Public Regulation Commission. ABQ's Al Park is out polling his two rivals and in the four way Dem race for the northern PRC seat, Valerie Espinosa, the Santa Fe County Clerk, has established a healthy lead.

Those are the key findings from a poll conducted Tuesday night for New Mexico Politics with Joe Monahan.

Park already had spent $113,000 from his fat campaign coffers before our survey was conducted Tuesday night.And his spending continues on TV ads and direct mail. That has put the ABQ SE Heights state representative in the driver's seat. Still, Bernalillo County Assessor Karen Montoya, relying on only $30,000 in the public financing that Park rejected, came with a good showing.

Park polled at 33%, Montoya at 25% and attorney Cynthia Hall at 21%. Undecided was 21%.

The winner of the primary will face GOP attorney Chris Ocksrider in November.

Our automated phone poll Tuesday was conducted in conjunction with Manzano Strategies, under the supervision of veteran New Mexico Republican consultant Bruce Donisthorpe, a senior vice-president at the firm and who has been in the polling trade since 2006. He said of the results:

Park is heading toward what could be a comfortable win. He is trending toward breaking 40% on election night, He has a strong lead among men and also leads among women. Montoya, as might be expected, has a good lead among Hispanics. Hall is running competitively for second, but has an uphill battle to get to first. Twenty-seven percent of Hispanics are undecided, perhaps giving Montoya an opportunity to come close or for the upset.

Hall also took public financing and is running her campaign on $30,000. Park's state House district is in the PRC district and that helps him. He has served in the Legislature since 2001.

We polled 676 likely Democratic voters in this PRC district, giving the survey a margin of error of 3.76%.


In the northern PRC district Espinosa polls 26%, Santa Fe County Commissioner Virginia Vigil gets 20%, Brad Gallegos 13% and Danny Maki polls 12%. There were still 29% undecided.

Said Donisthorpe:

Espinosa has a considerable lead among men and a strong lead in Rio Arriba County. She is winning Santa Fe County. She is well-positioned to win. As you would expect, Vigil is running strong in Santa Fe County where she serves as a county commissioner. Gallegos and Maki are new candidates and they are not as well-known. The others have been elected officials and it shows. 

David Montoya, a Dem and president of Manzano strategies, noted this race is to decide who will replace scandal-ridden Jerome Block, Jr. who was forced to resign:

Voters appear to be rejecting untried, unvetted and inexperienced candidates in the wake of the Block scandal.

The PRC regulates the state's utilities and other industries. It has five elected commissioners. There is no Republican candidate seeking the northern seat.

We polled 511 likely Dem voters in the northern PRC district. The margin of error is 4.33%.


Insiders say look for the ABQ Journal to come with its primary election in this Sunday's editions....We did not have a chance to post our Senate poll cross tabs when we came out with our exclusive poll Tuesday. They can be found here...

Our exclusive poll showing Eric Griego and Michelle Lujan Grisham in a virtual dead heat for the Dem congressional nomination was big news in the state, as it was the first independent poll in the high-profile contest. Veteran political reporter Stuart Dyson of KOB-TV spread the word on his station's multiple newscasts....And KRQE TV's Katie Kim entered the maze of the candidates' own internal polling...Not to worry. We broke the tie with the first independent polling--thanks to the support of our many readers and advertisers....

Eric Griego's lousy driving record which includes multiple arrest warrants for failing to show up for court hearings regarding traffic violations tickets and a DWI to boot comes under scrutiny for the first time in this campaign. Conservatives are loving it....


Now our continuing coverage of the big political story--the showdown in Clovis:

After searing dozens of campaign foes for better than a decade, Jay McCleskey, Governor Martinez's hot-button political consultant, is getting a taste of his own medicine.

McCleskey has come under public fire in a piece that hit the mailboxes in the fiercely fought eastside GOP state Senate primary between Governor-backed Angie Spears and rancher Pat Woods.

McCleskey has been leading the negative charge against Woods and now Woods is fighting back. But he is not hitting Angie Spears who is publicly backed by popular GOP Governor Martinez, but instead focusing on Jay who is used to giving fire but not taking it.

The flyer (click to enlarge) shows a menacing picture of McCleskey, acknowledged in the political community as  Martinez's most powerful advisor, and urges Clovis area voters to "reject mud-slinging and negative attacks."

Woods says Spears paid McCleskey "nearly $10,000 last month," a figure meant to drive home the control he has over Spears.

This flyer is another sign of the can of worms that the Guv has opened up by fighting so openly and vociferously for Spears. Martinez stands to gain very little and risks much.

Here's some more fire and brimstone from Woods as he fights for his political life against what he is now calling the "Albuquerque machine":

 I intend to meet the Spears Political Machine’s lies with the truth--both about me and about Ms. Spears. Please know that I am deeply disappointed in the current tone and direction of this race.  But I simply cannot let these malicious and false attacks stand.  I’m a proud rancher, farmer, community leader, husband, father and grandfather.  As a life-long Christian, I must defend my reputation and the meaning of my word and my handshake. They are more valuable to me than Ms. Spears and her political consultants may ever know. 

Yeah, now we're playing the game.

As for McCleskey and his hope of remaining a behind-the-scenes power, that hope has now been definitively dashed. First he earned the nickname "The Fifth Floor" for the purported power he has over Martinez and now this. Jay is now radioactive. His days as an unquestioned enforcer of Republican political uniformity ended in Clovis thanks to Pat Woods. Unlike many who came before him, Woods is staring down McCleskey. It is a major embarrassment for Martinez, but she unleashed the attack dogs and now must let them feed.

As we blogged this week, Martinez was flying around the district this week going all in for Spears as this race has morphed into the most important GOP senate battle of the primary season and arguably the most important race of all.

This attack on the Guv's consultant is a major political event because of McCleskey's influence in the New Mexican government. If he has become too much of a lightning rod, it could lead to Martinez enlarging her small circle of advisors and giving Jay some competition.

Don't bet Pat Woods' ranch on it but it could happen.


The Guv's plane had a "hard landing" at the Santa Fe airport when it returned from a trip she took to Tucumcari to support Angie Spears. No one was hurt, but the pilot--businessman Sid Strebeck--forgot to put down the landing gear after taking it up before landing because of high winds. The Guv's husband and Clovis area District Attorney were also on board. No one was hurt. Now, will there be another "hard landing" for the Guv Election Night when the Spears-Wood vote is tallied?


A reader writes of the below-the-radar negative campaigning going on in the Dem race for the ABQ US House seat:

We received a phone call from someone who said she was "Shirley" and lives on the westside.  She wanted us to know that Eric Griego has been an enemy of the westside; that he favored building no new houses there; that he had opposed the Montano Bridge and the extension through the Petroglyphs; that he was just generally anti-development and anti-jobs.  She ended by hoping we'd look at Eric's record and vote for Marty Chavez instead. That was the first indication of negative campaigning I've run into in this race...

And there will probably be more like it in the final, frenzied days.


Heather Wilson is starting to tear her hair out over Martin Heinrich. You can't blame her. The ABQ congressman and presumed Dem US Senate nominee flipped this week and voted for a defense bill that he previously voted against.

Heinrich did it because of the funding it contained for the state's massive national security establishment,. It was the smart vote politically as it positions Heinrich in the tradition of former GOP Senator Pete Domenici as the guy who brings home the bacon. But stop the presses (do they still have those?). Presumptive GOP senate nominee Wilson wants to inherit the Domenici legacy.  She says:

“Only my mother can have it both ways,” Wilson said of Congressman Heinrich’s vote in support of the $642 billion House defense authorization bill.  “A year ago, the Congressman voted against the House defense authorization bill that fixed funding for our labs and in August he voted to slash defense spending as part of legislation to increase the debt ceiling. The Congressman’s sudden conversion to being a defense hawk won’t fly.”

Unfortunately for Heather, she is right about Heinrich's conversion to defense hawk, but she is wrong that it won't fly. Some Dems in the primary are going to be upset with him, but not enough to make a difference. He has a huge lead over Hector Balderas who said he would not have voted for the defense bill as Heinrich did (Our Tuesday night poll shows Heinrich at 57% and Balderas at 29%).

In the Fall election when he likely will face Wilson, voters are more likely to reward Heinrich for his conversion and for seeing the light, rather than punishing him for hypocrisy. When it comes to putting cash in the wallets of New Mexicans. Hypocrisy is allowed and encouraged.

This is one example the problem R's are having in finding an Achilles Heel on Heinrich. He leads the early polling and the Senate race is ranked "lean Dem." Wilson may end up doing a jello act--keep throwing the stuff against the wall and see what sticks.

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