Monday, June 04, 2012

Primary Election Eve: Our KANW 89.1 FM Special Is At 5 PM., Plus: Pollster Predicts ABQ Congress Winner, New Super PAC Plays With Susana's Fingerprints On It, Also: The Showdown In Clovis & The Heinrich-Balderas Debate Reviewed 

It's Election Eve in New Mexico and that means it's time for the last round of analysis and predictions at our traditional round table at KANW 89.1 FM. That's at 5 p.m. today (The table really is kind of round).

On Tuesday night--Primary Election Night--we return to the same microphones beginning at 6:30 p.m. to call the results and provide the most in-depth analysis in the state.

This marks our 24th consecutive year in the broadcast booth on election nights for the public radio station. We hope to have you with us for all the excitement and final vote tallies.

Our radio programs will also be streamed from the KANW web site so if you're outside the ABQ/Santa Fe listening area, you can join us at 5 p.m. today by Clicking Here and again tomorrow night at 6:30 p.m.

We have an expert panel lined up for today's pre-game show. Former NM Democratic Party Chairman John Wertheim, Dem State Senator Jerry Ortiz y Pino and former ABQ City Councilor Miguel Gomez will be joined by Republican consultant Bob Cornelius and journalist Rob Nikolewski of Capitol Report New Mexico in Santa Fe.

These analysts are all known for their "tell it like it is" approach to state politics. As a result their opinions are sought after from both sides of the political aisle. It's a broadcast at 5 p.m. today you won't want to miss.


Thanks much to our sponsors of this year's radio coverage. They make it all possible:

 PNM, the Albuquerque Teacher's Federation, JD Bullington Government Affairs, The Garrity Group (public relations) and the law firm of Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck, LLP.

You don't have to wait until 5 p.m. today for a major prediction. Veteran Republican analyst and pollster Bruce Donisthorpe of Manzano Strategies comes with an Election Eve thunder maker:

Joe, I am calling the race for the ABQ Democratic congressional nomination for Eric Griego. After the party's pre-primary convention in March, you quoted me as saying, "It is Griego's to lose." I am still of that view. Based on the polling we did for your blog on May 22 and my turnout model for this election, I believe Griego will emerge as the nominee tomorrow night.

This will be due to his ability to rally the large liberal base in the party and little to do with the last minute negative fireworks. That will have an impact, but the overall lay of the land points to a Griego nomination.

Bully for you, Bruce. If you're right, you'll be placed upon a polling pedestal for all to praise. If you're wrong, look out for the rotten eggs and tomatoes while you're up there.

Donisthorpe's prediction is significant because he has polled for us (and other clients) for over five years, using automatic phone technology combined with excellent voter lists and scientific methodology.

He nailed the 2008 congressional race, with his poll showing Martin Heinrich heading for a big victory over Republican Darren White. In 2010, he was the first public pollster to break the news that Susana Martinez had pulled ahead of Allen Weh and would be that year's Guv nominee.

His May 22 poll for us in this year's Dem congressional race had Griego in a statistical dead-heat with Michelle Lujan Grisham. Marty Chavez was lagging. Days later the ABQ Journal poll--conducted by the estimable Brian Sanderoff--came with the same outcome--a dead heat.

Donisthorpe, who was a top aide to Republican NM Congressman Joe Skeen and GOP Governor Garrey Carruthers, will be an on-air contributor on KANW tomorrow night, offering returns and analysis in key races across the state.

It's another great reason to be with us on the radio for Primary Election Night 2012.


Santa Fe Mayor Dave Coss appears to have gotten a big break in his battle with Carl Trujillo for the Dem nomination for the Santa Fe area state House seat being vacated by Speaker Ben Lujan. But it was not anything Coss did.

The new Reform New Mexico Now super PAC is obviously formed to help Governor Martinez and  is funded primarily by oil companies based in Artesia. One TV newser calls it the "wild step-sister of SusanaPac." The same oil companies have also given money to SusanaPAC, run by Martinez svengali Jay McCleskey. The PAC, with a cash kitty of $205,000 sent out a mailer in support of Trujillo, saying he will be a reformer of public schools.

Trujillo has no control over the group, but the fact that Susana is now being associated with his campaign may doom him. Coss supporters are going for a final-hours kill, with Santa Fe State Rep. Brian Egolf among those leading the charge:

Governor Martinez...is taking unprecedented steps to defeat (Coss)...We need David Coss in the legislature to make sure we don't give the governor a blank check. Some of the governor's Big Oil campaign backers just endorsed Carl Trujillo. The Big Oil front group--Reform New Mexico Now PAC--is funded by the same oil companies that are working to roll back our most important air and water protections. The governor's Big Oil cronies would rather see Carl Trujillo in office, not David Coss. We can't afford to give Susana Martinez a rubber stamp legislature...

This might be just the tonic Coss needed. He's been struggling because of concerns over whether he can be effective as both Santa Fe's part-time Mayor and as a legislator.

Coss and a slew of other Dem candidates who saw the PAC get involved in their campaigns filed an ethics complaint with the AG and Sec. of State to get as much juice out of this late news as possible.

Eyebrows have also been raised over the role of Speaker Ben Lujan's son in the race. Dem Congressman Ben Ray Lujan has given money and gone door to door for Coss in what has looked to some like a revenge move. Trujillo nearly beat Lujan's father in the 2010 Dem primary.

Trujillo tried to get the monkey off his back with this Sunday statement:

Sometimes we get support from organizations who may have agendas that are likely to be at odds with our interests...Reform New Mexico.. sent out their mailers without our involvement or approval, and we don’t know their reasons. Perhaps they have their own genuine, legitimate concerns about Mr. Coss, because while David Coss and I, as fellow Democrats, may not be that far apart in our specific stands on specific issues, we seem to have very different views about the political process when it comes to fairness, openness and transparency.

Trujillo, who was not far behind Coss in insider polling recently, may have been shot in the foot at the last minute by Susana's groupies. He had established himself as an independent Dem, calling Coss and Lujan "the machine." But if this last minute development means he's perceived as an agent for the R's who might help tip the balance of power in the House, Trujillo may be in for another close call Tuesday night, but not a space in the winner's circle.


The oil-financed PAC group is also playing in the Dem primary of conservative Senator John Arthur Smith of Deming. He faces a challenge from retired PNM electrician Larry Martinez of Lordsburg. The oil super PAC's radio ad praises Smith for being an eduction reformer, while attacking Martinez for being a captive of the education unions.

Smith, chairman of the powerful Senate Finance Committee, might want to say to the oil-financed PAC: "Don't do me any favors."

Smith is expected to win his primary and the general election and will face a Senate full of progressives as well as some moderates who have grown weary of his non-stop conservatism even as the public indicates it wants a somewhat more activist agenda from Santa Fe. This backing from a PAC associated with Martinez is not going to help him calm down segments of of the Senate caucus.

If the oil-backed group is trying to do Susana's dirty work in Dem races so she can keep her fingerprints off of them and not have Dem voters know what she's up to, all we can say is that we've spotted the elephant in the room---and it looks just like Susana Martinez.


Here are what the top sources in New Mexico politics are saying on key Dem Senate races this Primary election eve:

--State Senator David Ulibarri looks like a goner. Attorney Maxine Velasquez is positioned for the win.

--State Rep. Eliseo Alcon is in trouble. Challenger Billy Moore could pick him off

---State Sen. Lynda Lovejoy is getting a tough challenge from Bennie Shendo. It could tip either way

--State Senators John Arthur Smith, Pete Campos and Richard Martinez are appearing safe from their primary challengers

--State Senator Phil Griego's race has tightened at the end. A close race is expected.

--Rep. Bill O'Neill will coast to a primary victory in ABQ's North Valley

No guarantees, but that's what the top guns say it looks like.


We take advertising from political candidates, but we don't donate to them. We remind you of that because when we put predictions and the like up, we sometimes get asked whether we have donated. We don't.


The Santa Fe Wall-Leaners, Alligators and Insiders are predicting that Governor Martinez may very well suffer a serious political setback tomorrow night.

They see Clovis rancher Pat Woods--publicly opposed by Martinez--as squeaking by Martinez-supported Angie Spears in the GOP primary for the state Senate seat held by retiring Sen. Clint Harden. They are basing their outlook in part on the brutal campaigns, but mostly on history. One of them at the Capitol says:

Joe, Look at the history of this district.  For decades it has been represented by independent-minded senatos. Democrat Johnny Morrow had it then Republicans Pat Lyons and now Clint Harden. All of them have been east siders with a mind of their own. Woods follows in that tradition, Spears does not because of her backing by Martinez and the go-for-the-jugular campaign that her political advisers have run.

That's one of the more persuasive arguments we've heard in favor of Woods, but the attacks on him have been absolutely brutal and continue until the last minute. Suspense is the final adjective to describe the Showdown in Clovis. No one will be sure until tomorrow night.

(We have special staffing in place to cover the Showdown in Clovis).


All the power and might of the New Mexican governorship has been corralled by Jay McCleksey in an effort to avoid the first major political embarrassment for the popular Republican Governor.

For example, there is this flyer condemning rancher Woods for taking $1.7 million in  federal agricultural subsidies. But this might be the overreach of overreaches in the agriculture-heavy east side. A Woods supporter comes with the rebuttal:

Good luck, Governor,  on getting support from the agricultural community again. Agriculture is a huge part of New Mexico’s economy and the government subsidies that farmers collect go right into that economy. They also pay taxes. The nimrods who put this mailer together don’t know much when they say that Pat will promote even more subsides. Farm subsidies are a federal program authorized by the US Congress.  

How are these subsidies any different from federal funds that come into this state for the national labs and military bases? For that matter, how are they different from all the money that Jay McCleskey takes out of Susana PAC?

Looking at the PAC financial report since June 2011, I add up close to $150,000 paid directly to McCleskey. Then there is the money he gets by donating PAC funds to candidates. He then works as their consultant and gets that money and more back into his business...

Like we said, this campaign has been absolutely brutal and there is no way Susana gains anything--even if Angie wins tomorrow night.

Insiders report that Angie was emotional a recent forum where she was accused of mud slinging. You have to feel for her. She and her family are well-respected members of the community and she could never have anticipated she would become the focal point of one the most contested GOP senate primaries in modern history. (A Spears supporter says she was peppered with questions, but was not emotional).

This gubernatorial decision to go so overboard in a GOP primary will be long-remembered as one of the great overreaches in state politics. How could Susana let Jay go after the federal agricultural subsides?

And when has a Guv's top political aide become a statewide issue? And Jay is. Woods--in his own version of the overreach--has bought time on the statewide airwaves of KRQE-TV to run his anti-McCleskey TV ad. All this for a GOP primary in Clovis that will attract less than 5,000 voters. Clearly, Pat Woods is determined to take down McCleskey as much as he is Spears--even if he dies trying.
Folks, things are so stirred up in Clovis, an F-5 tornado out there couldn't compete.


The Showdown in Clovis and other key legislative primaries from around the state, courtesy of newsman Milan Simonich. And The AP comes with this legislative primary preview.


So much to cover now and so little time. Readers help out as in this dispatch from an Alligator who points out that Clovis is far from the only GOP primary race where intra-party warfare is going on. They tune in on one that has been rarely mentioned:

...It's not only going on in Clovis, it's also going on in the Albuquerque area. The same "outside forces" working in Clovis recruited and are helping to fund a primary opponent against ABQ GOP west side State Rep. Tom Anderson.  

This "outside force" also has sent out hit pieces about Tom. And the "outside force" has ensured that Tom is not able to raise the necessary funds to respond...Tom's opponent--Peggy Muller Aragon--is the wife of ABQ attorney Robert Aragon who Martinez appointed to the state Board of Finance.

Robert Aragon, the son of former Dem State Rep. Bennie Aragon, is a former Dem, ( We're told he changed his registration to Republican earlier this year). He's been a longtime supporter of Republican Martinez and was removed as a Dem Party ward chairman because of his GOP politics.

And was that Dominic Aragon we saw as one of the officers of the now hyper-controversial Reform NM Now PAC? Sure was. Dominic is the nephew of Robert. A few years ago he ran in the Dem primary for the state House seat now held by Rep. Moe Maestas. Dominic is still calling himself a Democrat, but it is Uncle Robert calling the shots for his nephew.


Sometimes it's because you are juggling too many balls. Sometimes it's because the money and power make you sloppy. You be the judge of this one:

Reform New Mexico Now has the same address on Uptown Boulevard in Albuquerque used by Martinez's Susana PAC, as well as the governor's political adviser, Jay McCleskey. 

A Dem campaign operative sends this list of candidates they say are being supported in the primary by Reform NM Now PAC:

RNMN has sent out mailers in at least five Democratic primary elections (candidates supported by McCleskey/Martinez are in bold):

David Coss vs. Carl Trujillo  in northern Santa Fe County
Jack Sullivan vs. Phil Griego Santa Fe County, Parts of Bernalillo, San Miguel, Lincoln, Torrance
Larry Martinez vs. John Arthur Smith
Genevieve Jackson vs. George Munoz
Eliseo Alcon vs. Billy Moore
Eleanor Chavez vs. James Taylor and Michael Padilla in Bern CO

So the super PAC--linked to Susana and Jay--is also helping Democrats? But the Guv's operatives are attacking Republican Pat Woods in Clovis for his past donations to Dem candidates? What's wrong
with that picture.


Lovefest doesn't even begin to describe it. Last night's one and only TV debate between Dem US Senate contenders Martin Heinrich and Hector Balderas had the two young stars of their party acting like they were out on a first date--they were so polite to each other that they almost crossed the line to obsequious. But in the end they both pretty much vindicated themselves when it comes to logic, reasoning and the intellectual ability to serve in the US Senate.

Self-described underdog Balderas gained just by being on the same KOAT debate stage with the ABQ congressman. There was no deer in the headlights demeanor from the Wagon Mound native, but a calm aura of a...well....state auditor.

Heinrich was his usual self--knowledgable and robotic. He is the presumed winner of tomorrow; night's primary, but he has room to improve before he faces off with presumed GOP Senate nominee Heather Wilson. But Wilson is prone to over emoting and the mechanical Heinrich should match up well. Also, unlike other Wilson opponents, he will not be taken out on TV for being ill-informed or fearful.

On the issues, Hector and Martin hit the standard Dem themes--protect Social Security and Medicare, improve education, etc.  While hardly every disagreeing with one another, they frequently bashed Wilson before the statewide audience--no doubt to the delight of Dems on both sides of this primary.

The only moment of tension came when a questioner tried to throw Heinrich off his game on funding for the national labs and state defense bases. Which would he cut if forced to make a choice? Heinrich hung tough saying this was a "false choice" and that he was going to fight for the federal funding and work to have the labs pursue future missions that were worthy of receiving the funding.

That's the right answer for a state increasingly nervous about possible big fed budget cuts, but Wilson was surely taking notes as it was President Obama's budget that recently caused layoffs at Los Alamos national labs.

From the beginning Balderas has been hamstrung by his ambitions for future office. He has not attacked Heinrich for fear of losing and knocking himself permanently off the political stage. His performance last night insures that Heinrich--if elected to the Senate--is not going to hold a grudge, but it also means Balderas basically wrote off any chance of winning. That will be used against him in future runs in the Dem Party when his rivals are sure to say they "will fight harder" than Hector.

But Balderas, an attorney and 38, has come a long way from his nervous Nellie look when he was thrust into the race for state auditor six years ago. He has done his homework and any school teacher will tell you that usually means higher grades.

Like we said, Heinrich, 40, did well but this is a large load being placed on the shoulders of a two-term congressman. Voters generally seem to like the first look they have taken of him, but his
presence last night suggested that voters will want to take a longer, deeper look before giving their final blessing. That's why in this Demorcatic state Heather Wilson still lives.

The full one hour debate is here


Reader Joe Campos came with a take on the debate that was not without support in its caustic outlook:

Must have been one of the most boring debates! Martin referred to his opponent as "Hector the Auditor" and Hector kept on using the word "appalling." Did you get anything else out of this debate?


Greg Sowards, the gadfly conservative from Las Cruces challenging former ABQ Congresswoman Heather Wilson, comes with last-minute TV attacking her for--among other things--her 2008 vote to bail out the banks.

If Sowards had gone on the tube for a couple of weeks instead of a couple of days, we might have had an interesting race. As it is, Wilson is polling at 66% in the ABQ Journal poll. She will have some damage to clean up Wednesday morning, but this primary season has been somewhat of a gift for Wilson who gets squeamish when having to deal with the radical fringe of the GOP.


A late court ruling gave publicly financed ABQ Dem Public Regulation Commission candidates Karen Montoya and Cynthia Hall an extra $60,000 in matching funds to spend. That's in addition to the $30,000 they received when they qualified for public funding, They are flooding the airwaves with last minute TV and radio in an effort to overtake Al Park, who has spent a whopping $150,000 on the contest. He did not take public funding. Here's one of Montoya's TV spots hitting Park, courtesy of the matching funds. Will the last minute money be enough for Montoya--who was running second to Park in our May 22 poll--to pull an upset?


Any broadcaster worth his salt is pulling for a good showing for GOP Bernalillo County Commissioner Michael Wiener on Primary Election Night. Cold you imagine if Wiener, under siege since he was caught up in a sex "scandal" last month, actually comes close or even wins his primary challenge over Lonnie Talbert? Talk about a ratings grabber.

Realistically, Wiener was probably taken out when the media sensationalized that photo of Wiener surrounded by a bevy of Phillipino beauties, with the implication that they were hookers in the notorious red light district that was in the area Wiener was visiting. He says he was there with his fiancee. It was a knuckle headed move by the colorful and controversial Wiener, but he fights on--hoping to give all of us on radio and TV something to talk about tomorrow.

And maybe he's on to a little something,

His primary opponent for the mainly NE Heights commission seat is businessman Lonnie Talbert who mailed the flyer posted here (click to enlarge) but had to apologize for wrongfully attacking Wiener. The ABQ Journal printed Talbert's retreat over his statement that Wiener voted in 2008 to buy a downtown ABQ office building and wasted taxpayers money in the process. The problem? Wiener was not even on the commission at the time.

Wiener calls it "outrageous" that he was wronged in a last-minute mailer, but he doesn't stop there. He says that Talbert has made his personal life an issue by running the sensational headlines from Wiener's Philippines excursion in his campaign lit. He says what is good for the Wiener is good for the Talbert. Here he is firing away:

Lonnie Talbert went to court on Jan 31st, 2012  to modify his Child Support Payment agreement.On that date he made a pleading (matter of Public Record) stating that he was unemployed (that he had been "laid off") and asked to have his child support lowered. Only weeks later he opened a campaign account and deposited $50,000 of his own money into this race. he is trying to BUY this election using $50,000 of his own money--instead of taking care of his child support from his first failed marriage!

Wiener sent court documents showing that Talbert had indeed asked for a reduction in child support.

Wiener also points out what he calls Talbert's "job-hopping in the past dozen years, listing eight jobs Talbert has had since Dec. 2001. His latest position is listed by Wiener as a "business development action coach."

No Dem is running for the seat so the winner of the GOP primary goes on the commission. And it seems even if Wiener's political days end up being over, Lonnie Talbert has the potential to be almost as colorful--and maybe controversial.


And the email keeps coming, some with an air of desperation. Santa Fe County Commissioner and northern Democratic Public Regulation Commission candidate Virginia Vigil, writes:

Please review the email that summarizes a robo call that came from a phone number 505.216.6900.  I also received this call! The robo call falsely states if one selects me for the PRC, that I supported Jim Hall, a Republican for the state legislature in Los Alamos. As you know, County Commission's submit a replacement for Legislators when there is a vacancy.  Jim Hall's name was submitted by the Los Alamos County Council and appointed by Governor Martinez! Neither I nor any other members of Santa Fe County Commission ever considered Jim Hall.  How does one reverse a lie like this?

Reversing a lie is never easy, Virginia. We find it helps if you just keep telling the truth.

As for that Dem PRC race, our May 22 poll showed Santa Fe County Clerk Valerie Espinoza as the leader. We'll track it for you tomorrow night.

See you on the radio at 5 p.m. today.

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