Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Joe Carraro: He's Got A Lot Of Color But Does He Need Cash? On The Comeback Trail, Plus: Speculation Corner: Will Susana Keep John Sanchez? And: Romney Looks To Tap NM Oil Money 

Joe Carraro
No one we've quizzed can ever recall an independent being elected to the New Mexico State Senate, but you have to wonder if that 100 year streak could be broken if Joe Carraro raised some money. The colorful politico has switched from Republican to independent and is running in the November election against GOP State Senator John Ryan who is seeking a third term to an ABQ west side and Rio Rancho area district.

Carraro is a well-known figure in La Politica, serving a four year term in the Senate back in the 80's and then returning in '93 and staying until he announced his retirement in 2008. Never one to downplay a campaign theme, the onetime restaurant owner and current business consultant is dubbing his web site, "The Return of Joe Carraro."

Ryan, first elected in 2005, is also a business consultant who has about $19,000 in his campaign account. Carraro is reporting zero dollars as of the end of June. But the race remains tantalizing because no Democrat is running. A confident Carraro explains his lack of campaign cash this way:

The financial report was due three days after I filed for the seat which was 10 days after I decided to run, and two weeks before I got on the ballot. I just got my website up with a contribution page. Do you really think it's going to take me as much as Ryan spends to win? When I went to get petitions signed, just about everyone knew me, but I should probably raise a few bucks just to be sure. 

The district is 41% Dem and the question is: Where will they go? Independents number 17% of the electorate, R's make up 39% and the remainder are other parties. Conceivably, Carraro could put together enough Dems and Indys and take the seat from John. But while Carraro has all-important name ID that will only take him so far. He still needs cash to let it be known that he is in the game.

Sen. Ryan
Carraro left the R's because he was fed up with the insider wheeling and dealing of the shadow government that has emerged in Santa Fe. And he's always been one to carve his own path, going against the establishment candidate in a GOP US Senate primary in 2006 and on occasion donning an opera cape while pontificating on the floor of the state Senate.

Ryan is a tough-minded conservative Republican--some have argued too conservative for his urban district. His ties to Gov. Martinez run deep. His wife, Veronica Gonzales, is secretary of the state cultural affairs department.  If he runs into serious trouble, he will be able to count on Susana PAC money to see him through.

Carraro's personality has been an issue--you either like him or you don't.

Carraro vs. Ryan. Will something come of it, or is it just another topic for idle summer conversation as we swing in the hammock? We'll soon know.


Speaking of idle chatter, what do you think the chances are that Susana will seek out another running mate in 2014, replacing Lt. Governor John Sanchez? The two have had some nasty encounters, especially when he briefly ran against Heather Wilson for the GOP US Senate nomination earlier this year. Since dropping out he seems to have become more cordial with the Guv.

We'd put the chances of the Guv dumping Sanchez as slim simply because it rarely happens, but that doesn't mean there aren't some R's positioning themselves in the event of a Sanchez departure.

As for Sanchez's political future beyond Light Guv, that weather forecast is very cloudy.


We have more on our exclusive (yeah, we still chase the ambulance once in a while) reported here last week that Mitt Romney is scheduled to make his first New Mexico visit on August 23 when he touches down in Hobbs for a fund-raiser. Here's details circulating in GOP circles:

It will be a fundraiser luncheon at the Rural Events Center in Hobbs. As discussed earlier it is $5,000 for the photo op and lunch or $500 for the lunch (per person). There are also $25,000 and $50,000 levels . All monies must be LLC or personal.

Talk about high-dollar. We're glad Mitt is headed to Hobbs. They have a bunch of oil money to spare, while the rest of the state continues to pinch pennies.


We speculated on the blog this week that Heather Wilson was chomping at the bit to attack Dem Martin Heinrich in TV ads, but could be held back by her high unfavorable rating--49% in the most recent PPP poll. Well, wait no more. Wilson on Wednesday came with the first negative TV ad against her opponent for the open US Senate seat.

She charges that Heinrich "puts his left-wing politics before jobs," citing his vote against repealing  a "medical device tax" that she says he previously criticized. The tag line is "Martin Heinrich. Too extreme for New Mexico."

The problem is voting against repealing a medical device tax doesn't quite measure up to being "extreme." But it is July and one supposes the Wilson's producers have better examples of Heinrich's alleged extremism that will be unveiled in the fall. The campaign also put up a billboard attacking Heinrich's vote.

The Senate race here is currently ranked "lean Dem." Newspaper analysis of the Wilson ad is here.


Former ABQ City Councilor Miguel Gomez, now with St. Joseph Healthcare, has been digesting our regular reports on the New Mexico bear market and says that makes a pet issue of his (and ours) all the more important if we are to build any kind of decent future around here:

Invest In Kids Now proposes a constitutional amendment that would allow an annual distribution increase of 1.5 percent from the Land Grant Permanent Fund to be shared between K-12 and early education, funding a continuum of learning beginning at birth. Modifying the Permanent Fund distribution to include early education will not increase taxes, will not take money from K-12, and will not deplete the fund; in fact, the fund will continue to grow. Every dollar invested in early childhood education returns at least $10. This return on investment benefits all New Mexicans by improving the quality of life and early learning will save millions.

Studies show quality early education cuts in half the likelihood that a child will become a  career offender. Today, one out of 90 New Mexicans is in jail - this rate is higher than the national average.New Mexico currently spends $35,000 a year to keep an inmate in jail but only $250 per child for early education. We are spending in the wrong place. New Mexico now spends $283 million for adult and juvenile corrections yet only $35 million on early childhood programs...

A constitutional amendment requires majority approval in the state House and Senate. It is then sent to the voters for their decision. State Senate Finance Committee Chairman John Arthur Smith has been the key stumbling block in getting the amendment through. He and others fear that it is "a raid" on the state's permanent savings account (Invest in Kids is one of our blog sponsors).

Governor Susana this week also said it is a raid. Her signature is not needed on the amendment for it to go to voters, but her moral support would have been a major boost for the effort. We don't see it as a "raid" but as a small and necessary gamble to break the generations-old cycle of poor education performance that holds the state back.

And just as we were wrapping this subject up, along came this email from NM Voices for Children:

The Annie E. Casey Foundation’s 2012 KIDS COUNT® Data Bookshows that New Mexico made a few gains in children’s health status, but the state has a long way to go in improving the economic, education, and  community-related well-being of its children. The state ranks 49th out of the 50 states. Only Mississippi ranks lower. This most recent data show that the recession and slow economic recovery are continuing to hurt struggling families in New Mexico. Since 2005, 30,000 more children live in poverty...In 2010, more than one-third of the state’s children had parents without secure employment, an increase of 23 percent from just two years before. (The) data book looked at 16 indicators of child well-being, broken down into four categories. In those categories, New Mexico ranked 49th in Education, Health, and Family and Community, and 48th in Economic Well-being.  


Reader Peter Ives writes:

You mistakenly referred to Rio Rancho as "the state's second largest city."Current Census 2012 estimates list Rio Rancho at about 89,000 population and Las Cruces at about 99,000...

And in a first draft Tuesday we said there was a "zero balance" in the majority leader campaign account of state House Majority Leader Kenny Martinez. Readers pointed out tht the fund actually had a $60,000 cash balance as of the end of June.

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