Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Campaign 2012: State House Up For Grabs; Top Races Gamed: Dems To Pick Up Or Not, Plus: Susana Puts Space Between Her And Romney, And: Udall Gears Up For '14 

Today the 2012 campaign trail has us tracking the high stakes action for control of the New Mexico House of Representatives....

The state GOP is pressing its case that it can take over the state House for the first time since 1953, but the betting line still favors the Dems hanging in there and picking up a seat or two. But a Dem pick up of more than that appears challenging.

There are currently 36 Dems, 33 Republicans and 1 independent in the state House.  If there is no change or a Dem increase, State Rep. Kenny Martinez should have no trouble becoming the next House Speaker to replace the retiring Ben Lujan.

If the GOP picks up even one seat, they might be able to put the speakership in play. Of course, if they managed to pick up three seats, they would have the outright majority. Let's take a look at why at this stage the Dems seem positioned to continue their 58 year hold on the House.

Andrew Barreras is favored to beat Kelly Fajardo for a Valencia County seat. That would be a Dem pick up as Republican David Chavez currently holds the seat but has left it to run for state Senate.

Stephanie Richard remains a favorite to beat appointed GOP State Rep. Jim Hall in Los Alamos. Now we are up to a two seat Dem gain.

But hold on. Republican Chris Saucedo is slightly favored to beat Emily Kane for the ABQ House seat being vacated by Bill' O'Neill who is running for Senate. That takes you back to a Dem pick up of just one seat.

Out on ABQ's west side, insiders say Dem Marci Blaze could very well prevail over Paul Pacheco. Let's say she does. Now we're back up to a two seat pick up for the Dems.

But the Las Cruces area seat held by independent Andy Nunez appears to be tilting toward the Republicans. Okay, we're back to a one seat Dem edge.

Keeping it in the Cruces area, how about if former State Rep. Nate Cote takes out freshman GOP Rep. Rick Little? It could happen. So now you are back to a two seat Dem pick up.

But there's another but. The northern House seat held by Dem Tomas Garcia disappears in redistricting and moves to ABQ's west side where Republican Monica Youngblood is favored.

Now you are back to a Dem pick up of one.

There are some other races in play in the 70 member state House but those are the main events.

One addendum. Dem State Rep. Donna Irwin who would not vote for Ben Lujan for House Speaker apparently will not have that attitude when it comes to Kenny Martinez. She'll be returning to Santa Fe so there is a one vote Dem pick up for Speaker even before the election results come in.

Renegade Dem Sandra Jeff is expected to win re-election and vote for a Republican for speaker. Independent Andy Nunez has been voting with the Rs so if he loses his seat to the GOP, it won't make much difference in the Speaker's race.

A two seat pick up would give the Dems 38 seats. Assuming Nunez goes down, the Rs would have 32. With Dems Jeff and Irwin cancelling each other out, Martinez would then appear to have 37 votes for speaker--two more than needed to take power.


We blogged this week of readers wondering if Governor Martinez would step up her campaigning for the GOP ticket and use some of her popularity to lure voters to them. Well, it appears she's headed in the opposite direction. Asked about Mitt Romney's "47%" comments made at a May fund-raiser and leaked out this week, Martinez moved to separate herself:

Asked if she was offended by the comments, Martinez said New Mexico has many people who are living at the poverty level and their voters count just as much as anyone else. She says it's "a good thing" her state provides a safety net for those in poverty.

The AP reported that "The video shows Romney telling wealthy donors that almost half of all Americans "believe they are victims" entitled to extensive government support. Romney has said the comments weren't "elegantly stated" and they were spoken "off the cuff."

Romney is an almost certain loser in New Mexico and as Martinez mentioned, the state suffers from widespread poverty and is dependent on the federal government. No wonder she moved away from him. There are a lot of votes for her at stake. And it's not the first time. She also parted company with Romney on immigration.

The Martinez statements and the softer TV ads from GOP US Senate candidate Heather Wilson and ABQ GOP congressional hopeful Janice Arnold-Jones signal that the party is over for the Tea Party and the radical right of the GOP. All three of them are reading the tea leaves correctly, but only Martinez may be around after November to benefit.

Dems could not help but take note of Martinez's Operation Separation. They came with this:

She is conveniently forgetting her very own record - or lack thereof - on creating jobs here at home in NM, refusing to expand Medicaid or help the NM education system. With 22% of our state living below the poverty line, this is more of the same rhetoric from Gov. Martinez, and it once again fails to match her own record and actions when it comes to bringing opportunity to all New Mexicans. 


Speaking of those softer TV ads, GOP hopeful Heather Wilson follows-up her spot on Social Security with one in which she details how she was the first person in her family to attend college. She appears to get choked up in the spot--evoking the melodramatic aspect of her personality that voters here are quite familiar with.

And it is that familiarity that continues to haunt Wilson. Many voters are tired of her or have negative feelings toward her because of the many toxic campaigns she was involved in as a congresswoman. Others associate her with the unpopular President Bush.

Her effort to have the electorate warm up to her is running out of time, but she cant stop trying thus the warm and fuzzy TV ads about her in the middle of September. They didn't work in the middle of the June. She can only hope that something has changed since then.


It doesn't appear there will be an early retirement for Dem US Senator Tom Udall. After some speculation that he could follow fellow Dem Senator Jeff Bingaman to the exits, Udall is now stepping on the fund-raising accelerator, signaling that a 2014 re-election run is underway. He sends this:

 In the political climate we have today, there's no such thing as "too early." The truth is, our democratic process isn't what it used to be. Special interests are using the Supreme Court's decision in Citizens United to their full advantage. We're living in a new political world where outside groups can spend millions and millions of dollars attacking whoever they want. The key to success in this new reality is preparation. We need to build a strong foundation early so we have the resources to fight back down the line. The third FEC fundraising quarter of the year ends on Sept. 30th. I want to raise $20,000 from 1,000 supporters by then -- can you contribute $10 or $20 to help?

Udall, 64, had an easy time of it when he was elected to his first term in 2008, defeating GOP US Rep. Steve Pearce who was widely viewed as too conservative for the state. Unlike 2008, however, 2014 won't be a presidential election year. That gives the GOP a better shot.

Udall has a stellar vote-getting record in the state, winning two terms as attorney general and repeatedly winning re-election to the northern US House seat.

The GOP is saying his first term Senate record is skimpy and that will be a line of attack from their eventual nominee.

So who will run against Udall in '14? Pearce's name is still floating as is that of NM Economic Development Secretary Jon Barela and Clovis area District Attorney Matt Chandler.

Expect some clarity from the Rs following the November election.


It's why we support a Constitutional Amendment to tap the state's Permanent Funds for resources that could be used to reach children ages zero to five in this state:

...All 69 schools that received “F” grades under the new system are high-poverty, defined by the federal government as those where at least half the students qualify for lunch subsidies. Among schools that received a “D,” about 95 percent are high-poverty. Conversely, only 41 percent of the 39 schools that received “A” grades are high-poverty. Overall, about 80 percent of New Mexico schools have high levels of poverty, according to the Journal analysis, which found the relationship between poverty and school grades by several different measures and methods.

Teacher evaluation and keeping third graders back if they can't read proficiently are atop the Martinez education agenda, but we are going nowhere long-term if we don't make an all-out effort to chip away at poverty around here and/or ameliorate the effect of it. It is cited in every reputable study as a chief cause for poor student performance.


With doomsday scenarios being rolled out about the future funding prospects for Sandia and Los Alamos National Labs, the WaPo comes with an in-depth look at the nation's nuclear weapons needs. The paper reports there is a lot of work to be done to keep the nuclear stockpile in shape. That could be the silver lining in the funding cloud hovering over the state. Here is the report centered on Sandia and here's the one centered on Los Alamos.


A memorial service will be held this Saturday at 6 p.m. for veteran Santa Fe lobbyist Bob McBride who died of cancer Saturday morning at 75. The memorial will be in ABQ at the Arroyo del Oso Park on Spain NE, west of Wyoming. Details can be found here. The obituary is here.

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