Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Northern GOP Congress Race: Who Gets To Face Firing Squad? Plus: Our TV Ad Watch, And:: A Curveball For Kari 

The race for the GOP nomination in the northern congressional seat is like two guys fighting to be the first to face the firing squad. That's because the district is overwhelmingly Democratic and Congressman Ben Ray Lujan is expected to chalk up a big win in a presidential election year when turnout is high, Nevertheless, the contest featuring businessman Rick Newton of Taos and rancher Jeff Byrd of Mosquero in tiny populated Harding County, is drawing some attention from an Alligator sympathetic to Byrd's cause. Let's check in:

The momentum seems to have swung to Byrd. Newton won the GOP pre-primary convention 65%-35% but has not done much since. Newton recently had a falling out with his campaign staff and is basically running things on his own. Newton is also receiving a lot of heat from the locals due to the fact that he moved from Albuquerque into the northern district this past October. Byrd has mailed the district and launched two radio ads. Byrd has picked up the endorsement of Pat Lyons, the former State Land Commissioner and current Public Regulation Commission chairman Pat Lyons. He has solidified eastern New Mexico support with endorsements from State Senator Clint Harden and State Representative Dennis Roch....

Newton received the endorsement of former US Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld who lives in Taos and there is the superior pre-primay performance by Newton which in the GOP is often indicative of the primary election results to come. Byrd will have to keep spending--and spinning---if he is going to knock him off (Newton did not respond to an email asking him about the fate of his campaign staff).


Eric Griego's campaign says he cut his Wall Street TV spot before the latest financial implosion that cost one of the nation's biggest banks $2 billion. But like most everything else so far in this campaign, Griego has been the beneficiary of serendipitous timing. The paid spot is now airing, with the latest financial mishap playing loudly in the free media.

Griego is hot in the cool medium of TV, often a distraction, but the Dem liberal base is fired up and Griego feeds them the red meat they want. In his ad he calls for jailing bankers who have done wrong and laments that so far no banker has served time behind bars since the Wall St. crisis struck in 2008. That won't get them out of their chairs in Tanoan, but it will have them running around the field in jubilation in the SE Heights.


Will the embezzlement indictment of his girlfriend Loretta Mares be the defining moment for former Mayor Marty Chavez in his battle for the Dem nomination for the ABQ congressional seat? If he loses, it will certainly be pointed to, He is still grappling with the touchy matter in public, Over the weekend he was asked about it on KOB-TV's "Eye on New Mexico." The veteran politico came with a well-crafted response, but it is the association and the ongoing publicity around it that does the damage. Here is what Chavez told the TV audience:

This is an individual for whom I care very deeply. The first I heard of this was when everyone else read about it in the paper and when reporters called. And I certainly would be shocked if it’s true. I respect the right of the Attorney General, if he has some evidence, to prosecute. I hope people will respect the right of this lady to defend herself because she is entitled to a presumption of innocence.

The woman that I know is a successful business woman, raised two daughters on her own, no assistance from their Dad. Has four grandchildren, is a cancer survivor, double-mastectomy, hysterectomy, and is just a dynamo as an independent businesswoman. That’s who I know.

So, I would be shocked if the allegations were true. And I will do nothing to hurt her. She is entitled to defend herself. And frankly she should be entitled to defend herself free of some of the glare of a campaign. We no longer reside together. She’s focused on her business and her good name. I’m focused on this campaign. There has been no suggestion that I was aware of the facts underlying the charges, and I think that’s important to state. And I think that from here we have to talk about what concerns the folks of this district.

For you kids starting out in politics, that is about as good as it gets in dealing with a no-win situation.

Meanwhile, Chavez tries to warm up the room with this robo call from former President Clinton who has endorsed him in the three way primary.


Hector Balderas, fighting an uphill battle for the Dem US Senate nomination against Rep. Martin Heinrich, brings out some guns in his latest TV ad, but he is firing over Heinrich's head and at presumptive GOP nominee Heather Wilson:

Now, Heather Wilson and the Republicans in Washington say we need to cut education and job training.  I say we need to invest in our future again...

Nicely produced ad, but it serves to soften the ground up for Heinrich when he faces Wilson in the Fall, not take the battle to him and try to snatch the nomination from his hands.

Balderas needs to throw a "Hail Mary" pass, not just say the prayer.


Another curve ball for Kari. First, her chief deputy district attorney resigns after allegedly assaulting a sheriff's deputy and now the ABQ Journal shakes her up with an endorsement for Jennifer Romero, her Dem primary opponent.  An excerpt:

Romero would end the incumbent’s questionable practice of taking police shootings to a special investigative grand jury that has been criticized by civil rights lawyers and others. Romero says she doesn’t like “a secret system with the police treated differently” and would use the preliminary hearing track to “clear the innocent and examine what went wrong in questionable shootings.

This is the first sign of the numerous police shooting having a political consequence. ABQ Mayor RJ Berry has refused to dismiss police chief Ray Shultz, but he is putting forth some reform proposal for APD as he anticipates a 2013 re-election effort,

As for Romero, she had only $2,900 in her campaign account when she reported this week. Kari had only $12,000 but the ability to write a personal check anytime it is needed.

There is some incumbent fatigue here. Brandenburg is in her third term and going for her fourth. That would be 16 years as DA, a nearly unprecedented run.

While Brandenburg took a hit from the paper, she actually had a good week in public prosecuting the death penalty phase in the Michael Astorga case. Ironically, Astoraga was found guilty of shooting a sheriff's deputy in 2006.


Reader and attorney Elena Moreno Hansen says our analysis of the DA race is giving Kari a pass:

Joe, you're giving Ms. Brandenburg too much of a pass. She is resting on her laurels while Jennifer Romero and her supporters are attending rallies, going door to door, and otherwise taking this race to the people. Don't count out the poor hometown girl. Bernalillo County voters are more like Ms. Romero than Ms. Brandenburg. Also, at the end of the day, the voters will pick transparency over ineptitude.


Another sleeper race that is starting to awaken the Gators features veteran northern Dem State Senator Pete Campos facing challenger and State Rep. Tomas Garcia. Some surprising news here:

Still, political observers aren't counting Garcia out as election day nears. Garcia has reported nearly $40,000 more campaign cash on hand than Campos...

Put that one on your list to watch.

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