Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Fast Friends: First Susana PAC Hit Is Against Susana's DA Friend; Not A Legislator, Plus: We're On Duty In Dona Ana With More Southern Politics, Also: Heinrich And The Magic 50; Is He There? 

Susana PAC hit piece
Governor Martinez has come with one of her first campaign attacks of the fall election, but it's not a state legislator she's after--it's the opponent of one of her best friends in Las Cruces--Amy Orlando, the Dona Ana County District attorney. That was the job Susana held for 14 years before she became Governor and Orlando succeeded her. But politicos here in Las Cruces tell me Susana is still deeply interested in the DA's office as well as three judge contests here--perhaps even more interested in them than the scattered legislative races around the state in which her Susana PAC is expected to pump significant money.

Martinez is not known for having many close personal friends but Orlando is one. Susana PAC punches hard on her behalf in the piece we posted here (click to enlarge) and that recently hit the mailboxes.

The target is Democrat and retired federal prosecutor Mark D'Antonio--Orlando's challenger. In the process of slamming D'Antonio, Susana gets some hits in on a potential 2014 Dem Guv rival in 2014--noted ABQ trial attorney Sam Bregman. The piece picks at Bregman, calling him the "go to lawyer for Democrats in trouble" and for defending former State Treasurer Robert Vigil in a "kickback scheme." The hit piece asks: "Why are criminal defense lawyers who defended corrupt politicians lining up to support Mark D'Antonio?"

Bregman has emerged as a major thorn in the side of Martinez, becoming a player in emailgate and forming a political action committee to counter Susana PAC. No wonder Sam is now in the sights of Jay McCleskey, the Guv's chief political adviser who runs her PAC (and much of her government).

D'Antonio is now in private practice and not well-known in the county, say Dem insiders. But those same Dems would relish a chance to pull off a repeat of Clovis. That's where Susana PAC and the Governor were punished in the June primary for backing one Republican state Senate candidate over another. Susana and Jay's candidate got clobbered, handing the Guv's political machine their first major campaign loss since she took power in 2011.

Martinez's chances of prevailing in the Orlando-D'Antonio contest may be better than they were in Clovis, but her backing of her friend who worked under her in the DA's office again places the influence of her governorship on the line.


The Dems are trying to push back against the big purse held by Susana PAC and have started their own legislative PACS to combat Jay and the gang. They won't have as much cash as Susana's, but it will help them shore up weakness as they look to expand their majority in the House by up to three seats and limit their losses in the state Senate to just a single seat.


On The Dona Ana Trail
Here we are with Dona Ana County Democratic Party Chairwoman Christy French at party headquarters in Cruces this week. They are fortunate to have a very large building (over 10,000 square feet) and are beginning to fill it with offices for all the county candidates. Already a small phone bank is buzzing where calls for Dem US Senate candidate Martin Heinrich and President Obama are made from.

In addition to that too hot to handle DA showdown, French and her team have a variety of races to keep their eyes on, with the contest featuring newly independent State Rep. Andy Nunez high on the list. He used to be a Democrat. If the R's stick with their candidate, will the Dems and independents split between Nunez and the Democratic contender?

Another tough one for French to bring home Election Night is the Little-Cote race. GOP State Rep. Rick Little is being challenged by Dem Nate Cote who lost his legislative seat in the last election. Republicans tell us Little is looking tough.

But the Dems are going to have no problem holding on to the seat being vacated by State Rep. Joe Cervantes who is expected to easily win his state senate bid. And neither State Senator Mary Jane Garcia nor Rep. Mary Helen Garcia--Cervantes' cousin--is on the endangered list.

President Obama and Heinrich should carry Dona Ana, but by how much? Former NM Dem Party Chairman Art Trujillo, touring the area with us, pointed to a long row of adobe houses and said: "They are all Hispanic households and they support us, but they don't register to vote."

And that's why the nights will soon start to get longer for Chairwoman French as she works to boost  turnout in a county that continues to add population and is increasingly important to New Mexico's Democrats.


No, this isn't about GOP Clovis area district attorney Matt Chandler. It's about Chandler, Arizona and why they are getting all the goodies and not Intel at Rio Rancho:

Intel Corp. unveiled plans Tuesday to build a $300 million research and development facility at its Chandler, Ariz., campus, the Phoenix Business Journal reported. The facility is expected to employ several hundred workers. Construction on the 285,000-square-foot structure will be finished in the second half of 2013.

Intel recently had to give back some cash to Sandoval County because it could not meet local hiring goals for the positions it does have open. Intel tells us there is a lack of qualified workers with an engineering background. They said:

As our technology becomes more complex, our need for highly skilled individuals with a Masters or Doctorate in engineering increases. We are experiencing a shortage of highly skilled engineers...

There are now about 3,000 workers at Intel here, down from a peak of some 5,500 during the great bull market.


Martin Heinrich has hit the magic 50% mark in the first major poll of the season--but there is a catch. The survey was commissioned by a coalition of environmental groups who have been supporting the Dem US Senate nominee. Still, the poll is getting national attention. It shows Heinrich at 50% and GOP challenger Heather Wilson at 41%. That's a whopping nine point lead and four points more than Heinrich had over Heather when the group last polled the race in late June.

It does seem time for Wilson to crack the whip and shake things up. She has not been ahead in a single poll all year long. Her campaign commercials accusing Heinrich of being "extreme" are not connecting and the selection of budget slasher Paul Ryan as the GOP VP nominee is putting her under the gun.

But what to do? Sharper political minds than ours are befuddled. The state's changing demographics--more Hispanic voters--and the turn of the independents this cycle toward the Dems--leaves them scratching their heads.

Heather has those three TV debates in October where she gets a chance to make Heinrich fumble, but R's now have to fear that the race may be too solidified by then.

Hey, anyone looking for a media advisor job? Call Heather. She may have an opening.

Reporting today from Las Cruces and Silver City....

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