Wednesday, September 05, 2012

NM Dems Frolic In Charlotte; They Have Reason To; Heather On The Ropes; National R's Try To Walk Back Their Walk Out , And: Gardner Snared In Emailgate; Feared Jail Time If He Used State Email Account 

Patty Cervantes & Ida Cordova
Why wouldn't these two New Mexico delegates to this week's Democratic National Convention in Charlotte be smiling as they arrive for the festivities? The Dark Age that descended over the state's Dems in 2010 appears to have lifted.

President Obama, Senate hopeful Martin Heinrich and ABQ US House contender Michelle Lujan Grisham all appear to be in the driver's seats in their respective elections. And the Dems also appear set to hold their own in the state legislative contests. Their toughest opponent may be potential voter apathy. Races that don't look close could keep voters at home.

But that's a distant worry for the partying Dems. While state Republicans rejoiced over the appearance of Governor Martinez at their national party convention last week, if the present trend continues it will be the party of the donkey that ends up doing the rejoicing that matters on Election Night.


The most disappointing development for state R's has been the early body blows suffered by GOP US Senate candidate Heather Wilson. Her campaign has been turned into the political equivalent of the Bataan Death March as word spreads that that the National Republican Senatorial Committee is not going to go gung-ho with TV ads for Heather. That and those bad polls led pundits across the USA to join us in ranking the Senate contest "lean Dem."

In light of the damage this is doing to Wilson's fund-raising and overall standing the NRSC is trying to walk back that report about its ash canned TV buy, but they have a lot of convincing to do. Here's a portion of a memo they are circulating:

The NRSC often reserves time in advance when we believe it might be difficult or expensive to make an advertising buy because of a high demand for television time. In this instance, the NRSC reserved the time when it was not clear how significant a role New Mexico would play in the presidential race. The state has not surfaced as a presidential battleground...Furthermore, none of New Mexico’s congressional campaigns are on television, and there are no other statewide elections in New Mexico this year. Therefore, outside organizations have found that it is not necessary to reserve time--they just make a decision to spend money in New Mexico at a low cost and buy the time with little to no advanced notice. Heather Wilson is running a tough, smart campaign in New Mexico. We believe she has the ability and strategy to be New Mexico’s next US Senator....

Not a bad try for the young politicos at the NRSC, but the pundits and the cynics in the bleacher seats are mumbling, "Thanks, but we heard you the first time."

Wilson's campaign is now going to be afflicted with rumors of personnel changes, money shortages, campaign infighting and all the other glorious internecine details that go with an effort that appears permanently damaged. And to think Heather has to put up with that for 60 days. No wonder she kicked the NRSC in the shins for that memo.

One of Wilson's problems--heck, the problem of the entire GOP around here--is the public's mistrust of them when it comes to Social Security and Medicare funding. Dems own this issue and in the past it has been troublesome for Wilson. She came with a new ad pledging her support for Social Security, saying when her father died her family received Social Security benefits so she knows its value and will fight to protect it. Heinrich immediately cited her past support of partially privatizing the system--a no-no for most Americans.

Heinrich's latest ad is a Spanish language spot which he finishes off himself.


While Heather is about seven points back in the public polls, ABQ GOP congressional hopeful Janice Arnold-Jones trails Dem Michelle Lujan Grisham by about five or so, according to a number of internal polls that are floating around. But it could get worse as the Dem contender becomes better known.

Janice comes with her first wave of TV in an effort to hold back the wave that could come at her. The first is a bio spot of the former NE Heights state legislator that touts her record for open and transparent government--an issue that is sure to induce a sleep that Rip Van Winkle would envy.

The other spot, called "An America We Can Believe In," is a semi-gauzy ad that talks in general terms--and we mean general--about job creation.

Janice has the smarts, but she is gong to need a whole lot more fire and brimstone if she is going to get this race in play. And she only has a month to do it. 


You would think Darren White, the former Bernalillo County sheriff who was the losing 2008 ABQ GOP congressional candidate and who was bounced from his job as ABQ's Public Safety Director when he interfered at the scene of his wife's auto accident and who has since parlayed his political connections into becoming general manger at the Downs at ABQ, would quietly be thanking his lucky stars that he has any job. But no. We blogged recently of how Darren continues to stab at fellow Republican Janice Arnold-Jones via his Twitter account. Reader Cynthia Leyba has had enough:

I'm a Democrat but Darren White doesn't have room to criticize Arnold-Jones. He lost big time when he was the nominee in 2008.. If he dislikes her positions so much he should have run again. Oh, that's right, he was too far to the right to win. Republicans, instead voted for a Democrat or didn't bother voting at all.

And it's not as if Darren doesn't have enough to keep him busy. The Downs at ABQ, already mired in pay to play allegations--one of which is that White was given the general manager job as part of a deal for the state to approve a new racino for the Downs--is having major problems in getting that hyper-controversial racino built:

Construction of a new 65,000-square-foot casino for the Downs at Albuquerque is about a month behind schedule, but general manager Darren White said that the owners are planning to open it “early in the second quarter” of next year. Officials at Expo New Mexico, the state-owned fairgrounds that leases land to the racino, said the construction will have an impact on the upcoming New Mexico State Fair, which will take place Sept. 12-23 at the fairgrounds. 

Other questions: Are banks going to be forthcoming with the financing necessary when the attorney general says he is investigating possible corruption in awarding the racino to the Downs? And what about White's management qualifications--or more precisely the lack of them--will that have an impact on bank financing? Maybe those are the questions Darren should be pondering rather than spending time dissing Janice. Somehow we don't think that's what his new racino bosses are paying
him for.


Martinez & Gardner
More grist for Attorney General Gary King as he investigates emailgate and more trouble--maybe big trouble--for Governor Martinez Chief of Staff Keith Gardner.

Attorney and possible 2014 Dem Guv candidate Sam Bregman comes with a sensational tape recording in which Gardner is heard saying he "never uses his state email" because "I don't want to go to jail." The news:

... the secret recording is of a conversation between Gardner and a friend, Brian Powell of Roswell. Powell told Bregman he made the recording when he and Gardner were having a conversation about family issues. Powell, who works for the Roswell Fire Department, did not tell Gardner he was recording him and it's unclear why he was recording him. "That's why I never email on my state email ... anything that can come back and bite my ass," said a voice that Bregman claims belongs to Gardner. " Shit,  I never use my email because it's all done on different stuff ... I don't want to go to court (or) jail."

Gardner, deputy chief of staff Ryan Cangiolosi, Guv political adviser Jay McCleskey, Republican National Committeeman Pat Rogers and others, appear to have been conducting a shadow government that did state business via private email. TV news explained that Bregman released the tape as part of a legal case he is involved in. He says the Gardner statements show he is "drunk with power" and running a secret government.

Gardner says the tape was released "out of context." The AP:

Gardner said in a statement  that the 24-second clip of a private conversation was "intentionally misleading" and was about potential evidence in a sexual assault case involving Gardner's relative, not state government business."Sam Bregman today crossed the line. He tried to use a snippet of a private conversation about two young girls in a sexual assault case to mislead the press," Gardner said in a statement. "He knew what he was telling the press was false and he knew that his actions would result in identifying my female relative in the case. Bregman should be embarrassed as a lawyer and utterly ashamed on a personal level."

The full 24 second audio tape of Gardner is posted here.

The union-funded Independent Source PAC, which has been investigating the administration's dealings with the racino lease at the Downs at ABQ, saying it suspects bid-rigging, pounced on the Gardener tape and called for the staff chief's resignation:

...Keith Gardner, was heard in a recording boasting, that not only does he not use his state email account to communicate, but that he intentionally goes “off-line” to communicate information he doesn’t want disclosed to the public. Gardner stated that he did so especially in situations where disclosure of his communications could result in his going to court or jail. The admission of intent to deceive the public should be enough to end Gardner’s employment with the governor. So too should it end the employment of Ryan Cangiolosi, the deputy chief of staff and Gardner’s right hand man.

There are two schools of thoughts here--that the drip, drip, drip of emailgate is bound to take a political toll on Martinez and could lead to serious legal charges against key players. The other school says it is much ado about nothing--that using private email for state biz is no big deal.

Our Alligators say emailgate has been hard for the public to understand, consisting of separate chapters and that the state's Dems have not produced a comprehensive narrative that would cause political damage. They also point out no paid media has been done on the story or much of a drumbeat heard from party headquarters. Further complicating the affair is the potential Guv candidacies of both Bregman and Attorney General King.

Still, the law is the law and it appears if nothing else Gardner and company are going to be tied up in legal strings for months to come. Whether they ensnare the Governor as well is a chapter yet to be told.


The ABQ City Council meets today and reader Ted Cloak has a question for the nine member panel:

Joe, Any chance that the ABQ City Councilors could come up with a deal: A supermajority for both the I-25/Paseo makeover and the minimum wage hike?

That would be an interesting play. Mayor Berry is trying to avoid a Nov. 6 vote on $50 million in bonds for the rebuild of the Paseo Del Norte/I-25 interchange by winning a "supermajority' of the council. That would take seven of the nine councilors. Five R's and one Dem support Berry, but the three remaining Dem councilors want the public to vote.

Lurking in the background is the mandated election on raising the city's minimum wage from $7.50 an hour to $8.50. It's mandated because citizens filed enough petition signatures forcing a vote. But if a council supermajority approved of it--like Paseo--it would not have to go to the ballot.

As things stand, the Republican majority appears determined to have a special election in the dead of December on the minimum wage measure rather than place it on the November ballot where its chances of passing would be better than at a low turnout special.

The compromise would be for the Dems to vote to approve Paseo without a public vote and the R's to go the same route with the minimum wage.

This is the home of New Mexico politics.

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