Friday, June 08, 2012

Primary 2012: A Final Wrap; Susana Did Not Gain Much And Neither Did Her Foes; Analysis & Perspective, Plus: More On The Week That Was 

Try as we might we can't see how Tuesday's primary election represented any significant change in the state political landscape. What it did signal is a new paradigm in gubernatorial campaigning that may or may not end with this administration.

Meanwhile, the argument that the Guv's hand was strengthened in the Legislature because Senators Phil Griego, John Arthur Smith and Pete Campos won their primaries seems a stretch. Weren't their wins simply a ratification of the status quo? Are they suddenly going to be even more Martinez-friendly because they defeated Dem progressive candidates and received some financial help from the Martinez-affiliated Reform NM super PAC?

Well, they may be more anti-progressive because of it, but that doesn't necessarily mean even more pro-Martinez. Perhaps, as one wag suggested, they cast a couple of more crossovers votes for the Guv. Perhaps.

One newspaper headline blared of the election results: "Progressive Dems Lose Ground."

Not true. Progressives did not pick up any seats, but they didn't lose any either. The Senate seems much the same. 

As for the state House, we're going to have to wait until November to see if the electorate will put the R's in charge. It's a long shot in a presidential year, but that's where the GOP might be best off concentrating its efforts.


Former State House Minority Whip Dan Foley had a reaction to the election results that was provocative:

On the Republican side, legislators know if you don't get in line with Gov. Martinez's agenda you could be facing a well-financed primary opponent...

The Governor lost big when she personally intervened on behalf of east side GOP State Senate candidate Angie Spears who was soundly defeated by rancher Pat Woods in what was widely viewed as a rejection of outside interference in a local race.

Foley seems to mean that even though Martinez lost that expensive and bloody battle to Woods, the Governor's political machine will still act as a deterrent to R's thinking about being independent.

We have no doubt that Martinez--a former prosecutor with a dig-in-your-heels style--is now going to double down, with her campaigning (and attacking) becoming even more intense. That's her way and that's the Jay McCleskey way that we have seen in action for the last decade.


As for the spin that Susana's direct and high-profile interference in that disputed GOP Clovis Senate primary was similar to how Democratic Governor Bill Richardson conducted himself in the 2004 Dem legislative primaries, we don't find that to be the case.

Searching our blog archives from that year, we find that Richardson did issue a high-profile endorsement of Ben Ray Lujan for the northern seat on the Public Regulation Commission. It was controversial, but not similar to what Susana did because it was not a Legislative race--and he did not attack Ben Ray's opponents.

In that primary Richardson was also moving funds from his Moving America Forward PAC to support Hector Balderas who was then seeking a state House seat, but Richardson was not seen in the media campaigning for Hector as Susana was in the Spears-Wood race. And Richardson was not seen forming PAC's to interfere in the primaries of the opposite political party

Richardson was careful with his political capital. Martinez not so much. She spent a bunch on Angie and lost. What effect that will have--the one Foley predicts or another--will play out over time. But we have never seen a prior Governor authorize her political advisor to openly unleash the kind of vituperative attacks on a fellow party member that Susana permitted in Clovis. They were so incendiary that the political adviser himself--McCleskey--became a campaign issue in the paid and unpaid media. That did not happen under Richardson or any other Governor in modern history.

Others have written---correctly--that this Governor has come to a fork in the road with one sign that says "compromise" and another that says "fight." She has chosen to fight and attempt to change the composition of the Legislature to her liking. She has an uphill climb, and if the same scorched earth tactics continue to be applied to those in her own party as well as the Dems, Foley, McCleskey, et al. will find that fear is a short-term strategy and that open rebellion is the danger.


The problem with taking the "fight" road is that when you lose, the opportunity to compromise may pass. That means measures dear to the Guv's heart such as eliminating driver's licenses for undocumented immigrants and social promotion will again end up in the legislative graveyard.

The Governor's agenda is limited but maybe it will grow as she matures politically. What then? In that case you have to stop campaigning and fighting and dealing with those who have the votes.

The primary election results signal no advancement of any particular agenda and the gridlock goes on. The Governor does not have the votes and the Dems can't override a veto. Divided government in Santa Fe has meant a 60 day legislative session that seemed like 60 years.

Governor Richardson's first term was an example of what can get done when you get a majority on the same page (and the money is flowing downhill into state coffers). But there was that second term when one party control led to widespread corruption.

Divided government can work if both sides agree that it is indeed divided. What we have now is a Governor and a Legislature who both think they run the show. Martinez thinks she can break the tie by literally taking over an independent branch of government, but her limited agenda is not nearly inspirational enough to prompt voters to follow her. That's why it is necessary for her to use searing (and overreaching) campaign tactics to try to get her way.

The people of Clovis laid down a marker for her that she has gone too far, but it seems it will take more than one spanking for the Fourth Floor (and the Fifth) to get the message.

 Rep. Alcon
Grants area Dem State Rep. Eliseo Alcon is mighty proud of his Tuesday night primary win--and with good reason. You might call him a happy warrior. His campaign sends this:

Rep. Eliseo “Lee” Alcon (D-Cibola and McKinley) claimed the only decisive victory in Tuesday’s Primary against a controversial super-PAC whose efforts derailed various Democratic political campaigns across the state. Rep. Alcon defeated his Democratic opponent Billy Moore, who was backed by the “Reform New Mexico PAC” to secure a third term representing District 6...

“I am so proud we ran such a strong campaign in the face of such dirty politics. We overcame negative ads, theft and vandalism and I never said a disparaging word about my opponent or the Governor.” Alcon said.

Rep. Alcon’s...positive messaging...proved significantly stronger than the barrage of negative mail from Reform New Mexico, a super-PAC made up largely of oil and gas companies from Southeast New Mexico and who shares a billing address with Governor Martinez’s Susana PAC and the governor’s political advisor Jay McCleskey.

Representative Alcon defeated Billy Moore 1565 votes to 1274 votes, 55.1% to 44.9%, according to the New Mexico Secretary of State election results.


A supporter of Valencia County GOP State Rep. Alonzo Baldonado says far from being the worst campaign sign of the season, Alonzo's sign, featured on the Thursday blog, is part of a strategy, emails Tom Greer:

For those who are actually in the know, more than two years ago Alonzo's campaign started out with "Who's Alonzo?" well in advance of the election as place holders on his billboards. That created suspense, curiosity and name awareness and when he finally identified himself he was already well on his way to high name recognition and winning the election. 

Stay tuned  for more interesting strategy from District 8 State Rep Alonzo Baldonado,

Baldonado faces Dem Frank Otero in the November election.


We'll sit down with longtime political reporter Stuart Dyson for one last look at Primary 2012 this Sunday morning at 10 on "Eye on New Mexico." If you can, pull up a chair and grab a cup and join us for some fun.


We owe a lot of thanks to too many folks to mention here for their help this week in covering the 2012 primary. When an election like this one is somewhat below the radar of the mainstream media, the audience for our KANW-FM broadcasts rockets, as we are the sole source for wall-to-wall broadcast coverage replete with analysis and returns. We hope we rose to the occasion.

I do know that my heart started to race and my tongue too (probably too quickly) when the first early votes flashed across our computer screens. Even the eyes of old war horses like Lenton Malry and Sen. Jerry Ortiz y Pino light up at those first rush of returns.

And that is the wonderful part of politics, an art which has gone so astray with far too much money, too much negativity and, yes, too much coverage.

The dance of democracy is at heart still a joyous one--a celebration of freedom--even if you have to sometimes look pretty hard to find it.

Mark Bralley assisted with photos this week.

This is the home of New Mexico politics.

Reporting to you from Albuquerque, I'm Joe Monahan

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