Friday, November 02, 2012

Post-Election Santa Fe: A No Win Zone, Plus: Super PAC Money Flood; Millions Spent In Legislative Races, Plus: Ocksrider "The Ox" Gored, Janice's Last Stand, Heather & Hurricane, Martin On The Road And A Byrd In The Air  

Martinez & Pirtle
There may be little certainty about how the key state legislative races will settle out Tuesday night, but one thing is for sure--when it's all over the toxic atmosphere at the Capitol will be even more so. It probably won't degenerate into those fist fights you see break out in the Italian Parliament, but it's going to be brutal and personal.

No Governor has ever gone this far publicly to try to get her way in Santa Fe--letting her chief political consultant go hog wild in races up and down the board--but no matter what happens Election Night it is clear she is not going to get her way.

The only path for legislative success for Martinez remains compromise. Could the approach of her own re-election bid in 2014 lead her down that path, despite the political assault she has led against the Senate leadership and in the toss-up state House races? You can hope.

Even if Senate leaders Jennings and Sanchez were to be defeated and the Republicans took control of the House for the first time in 60 years--the roadblocks in the Senate would still stand. And the personal animosity toward the Fourth Floor for what happened would run deep.

Maybe the Governor thinks legislators would cower in fear if she plays out a successful hand Tuesday night, but the odds are prohibitive for her to sweep. In fact, a number of observers believe the opposite could happen--the survival of Jennings and Sanchez and the Dems hold the House

The Governor is simply asking for too much--complete acquiescence on the part of the political system--a system in which Democrats comprise nearly half the electorate and her party barely a third.

We are at an inflection point with Governor Martinez. For two years she has governed in campaign mode, with her campaign consultant serving as shadow governor. Now, if she is to have any legislative success at all she will have to truly govern through negotiating and traditional tools of persuasion.

The alternative and the one we fear we shall see is a Governor as uncompromising as ever, determined to run in '14 against "a do-nothing" Legislature.

Everything in Santa Fe beginning next Wednesday gets harder because of the malevolence of this campaign. Harder feelings, harder heads and harder economic times.


The pic posted with the lead story is that of the Governor and Cliff Pirtle, the 27 year old Tea Party friendly rancher who seeking to upset Roswell Democratic State Senator and Senate President Pro Tem Tim Jennings. Pirtle's campaign has been run by Reform NM NOW, the PAC run by Guv consultant Jay McCleskey.


He's known as a salt of the earth kind of guy to his rural New Mexico friends and neighbors and Senate President Pro Tem Tim Jennings has come with a strong close for them in his battle with the Guv and Pirtle--a battle that will be recounted for decades to come. In his final TV ad, he calls the campaign against him destructive and that the charge he is soft on child killers "ridiculous." Jay and the gang are also finishing strong, with more new charges. It has been relentless and who will win is still up in the air.

The other strong finish comes from trial attorney and Democrat Lisa Curtis who faces an uphill fight as she attempts to take the state Senate seat vacated by Kent Cravens. Here's her final TV ad (we know. TV ads in state Senate races!) taped in her home kitchen and from where she says New Mexico is the poorest state in the nation, but politicians want to talk about other, less important, issues:

Politicians want to focus other issues, and I get it. We do have bad laws like driver's licenses that must be reformed. But honestly, we are the poorest state in the nation and we have got to work together, put party aside and get things done...

Curtis is opposed by Republican Mark Moores. One of his supporters knocked the Curtis spot for being filmed in her expensively outfitted kitchen while she waxed sorrowful over the state's economy.

Curtis, who has largely self-financed her expensive campaign, has built a lot of name ID during this campaign, but she tells us she is not aiming for higher office. But we learned decades ago when they put their name in lights, it hurts when they see it dim.


We're now in the millions in the spending derby in the state legislative contests. The jaw-dropping totals in this new era of super PAC's:

A PAC with ties to Gov. Martinez reported spending $1.4 million on House and Senate races last month, with $4 of every $5 going for advertising and mailings. That was matched by a Democratic-leaning group called Patriot Majority New Mexico, which spent $1.3 million during October. More than three-fourths of that went for mailings and ads.

Reform New Mexico Now...reported raising $1.6 million last month and is targeting about two dozen legislative races. Its top donor was a national GOP group, the Republican State Leadership Committee, which contributed $715,000. Sheldon Adelson, owner of the Las Vegas Sands casino empire, gave $200,000...Two oil and natural gas companies, Occidental Petroleum and Devon Energy Production, each gave $100,000.

Patriot Majority raised $619,500 during October, with most of that from labor unions. The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees contributed $200,000, a political committee of the American Federation of Teachers gave $150,000 and a PAC of the Southwest Regional Council of Carpenters contributed $180,000.

As one of our Alligators, put it: "A new age has dawned and it isn't pretty. It will forever change the friendly and small-town climate of the Legislature--where friendships abound across the aisle and personal animosity may exist, but is held back from public view."

She started the underdog and she'll end that way, but she's also come a long way in terms of her personal confidence and ability on the stump. Here's ABQ GOP Congress candidate turning it on at an outdoor rally. She calls former ABQ GOP Congressman Manuel Lujan ('69-'89) to the stage and says she intends to honor how he handled the job--especially his effectiveness with constituent services.

But if the polls are right and they usually are when they show as big a gap as they do in this contest, it will be Dem Michelle Lujan Grisham in the victory circle week and trying "to honor" the Lujan way. She is related to Manuel.


Now it is so close for Grisham. Sure, the position of congresswoman may not be as celebrated as it once was, having been reduced to a constant chase for campaign dollars, but it's still the United States Congress. And it's about to be hers. No missteps into the weekend, just the release of a final TV spot touting her newspaper endorsements, some meet and greets and exhorting all to vote for the entire Democratic ticket. That's it. You take no chances. You practice a joyful acceptance speech that includes a good dose of humility. On Tuesday you walk this one home...and into history.


He's partisan but veteran field operative Steve Cabiedes says the tide will come in for the Dems Tuesday.

We are now working for Democratic legislative candidates in far north areas of Bernalillo County, precincts that we usually don't go into. But the campaigns are telling us they are fine in the middle of the city so we are now up there. That means the districts of GOP State Reps Nate Gentry and Conrad James.

Cabiedes says if a Dem wave hits in the county Tuesday, James is especially at risk, Gentry could get wet and Dem state Senate candidate Lisa Curtis could benefit in her race against Mark Moores.


She's never been one of them and now with a victory for her looking as likely as New Mexicans boycotting red chile, the conservative wing is piling on GOP US Senate standard bearer Heather Wilson:

Heather Wilson was always overrated as a candidate. She was a Domenici protege and state party favorite going back to her first term as a member of the House, and leaders in the state party kept trying to foist her on Republican voters. As a moderate Republican, she has never inspired a lot of enthusiasm from many rank-and-file Republicans and conservative independents, and as a reliable yes vote for bad Bush administration policies in the 2000s she embodied everything that most New Mexicans came to dislike about the national Republican Party...

In the rough and tumble of the increasingly hard-edged politics of the 21st century, the slogan isn't just to kick them when they're down but to kick them even harder.


Popular New Mexico musician Al Hurricane was on the final days campaign trail for Heather Thursday. We've seen him in the last hours of previous Wilson efforts but this time was different--she joined the guitar playing pro on her banjo which she features in one of her closing TV spots.

We said yesterday she could play "Oh, Susana, don't you cry for me, I'm going to Rio Arriba with a banjo on my knee..." but a campaign operative pointed out the musical duo did not campaign in Rio Arriba County, but Taos, Las Vegas and Mora.

No word on what Al and Heather were playing here, but the song "I believe in Miracles" would be appropriate as she faces front runner Dem Martin Heinrich. Here's the Pearl Jam version.


Another take on the US Senate race. This one from Clara Hittel writing in the Santa Fe Reporter:

I don’t know about you, but I’ve become far too familiar with Heather Wilson’s pristine kitchen, and I’m not even sure it’s real. I have grown equally weary of Martin Heinrich’s need to convince us that he comes home to New Mexico “almost every weekend.”---We’ve all seen the current US Senate campaign ads, and I, for one, am more fascinated than ever before by the candidates’ presumptuous method of force-feeding us broad and flawed information in the midst of our favorite TV programs. They spend the majority of airtime tattling on each other like schoolchildren, declaring that the opponent is “too extreme” or has “the wrong priorities” for New Mexico. While slandering your competition is a proud American custom, it’d be nice if more of the ads actually elaborated on the issues in question. Aren’t politics supposed to be serious?

Politicians serious, Clara? Now that's what you would call the triumph of hope over experience.


And here's Dem Martin Heinrich down in Dona Ana asking the faithful to raise their hands if they've already voted. (Or was he asking how many would like a free lunch from his campaign?) Looks like a lot of them have. Over 50% of the statewide vote is expected to be cast before Tuesday's traditional election day.

We've been covering statewide campaigns a long time--and have helped run a number of them--so it caught our interest that Martin was down in Dona Ana with only days left in the campaign.

What that tells you is that he is more than comfortable that his base in big Bernalillo County is nailed down and he can get out of here and hype turnout in other parts of the state.

Not that Heinrich has had a cake walk. It's been a campaign that has tested him and Heather's last hours hard-driving effort could shave his margin of victory next Tuesday.

We look forward to working with the next US Senator from New Mexico. It will be tougher if it is Heather because of the hard edge she and her operatives have taken with us and sometimes other media during her lengthy career. But we will do it as we are committed to performing our little part to advance the state's interests in Washington during these critical years. For us, it's about progress, not personalities.

Martin's staff is more than competent and he seems to grow leaps and bounds as the years roll by. We know he can do the heavy lifting that we expect of him in Washington--and if he wins next week, we're all going to expect it.  His press operation was criticized this week for excluding an advocacy reporter from a right-wing think tank from a Heinrich campaign event, but that's par for the course on both sides these days.

We've called this the most important New Mexico US Senate election in our lifetime. And we still believe that. Both Wilson and Heinrich have broken with the Martinez administration and the conservative press and pledged an all-out battle to preserve our immense federal funding as New Mexico works to become less dependent on that spending in the years ahead.

We're proud of both of them for standing up for the people of this state.


Dem US Senator Tom Udall comes with a radio endorsement of Dem Valencia County House contender Andrew Barreras who is locked in a do-or die battle with Republican Kelly Fajardo.

We told you about Barreras being buried under an avalanche of more than 25 mail pieces from Reform NM Now PAC.  Hey, if Andrew survives, maybe his campaign supporters will buy him a paper shredder.


We were a wee bit surprised that northern Dem US Congressman Ben Ray Lujan passed on doing any TV spots this cycle, but he does have an overwhelming lead over GOP rancher Jeff Byrd of Tucumcari.

Byrd has struggled to raise money but he finally raised enough to put a couple of TV spots up, including this bio spot that shows him working on the ranch.

The Lujan district is heavy Dem but Byrd will run well in conservative San Juan County in the Four Corners and his late TV will mean more GOP voters around the district will know him.

If Lujan takes the win, he will begin his third two year term in the US House in January.


The mostly out-of-sight race for the ABQ Public Regulation Commission seat goes wild and wooly and down and dirty.

First, Republican attorney Chis "Ox" Ocksrider implies in a TV spot that Karen Montoya, the Dem Bernalillo County Assessor who is his PRC foe, is under investigation by the FBI. But there is no confirmation of that or any other probe.

That hit on Karen earned Ocksrider a bristling radio and TV retort that implies he's a problem gambler who owns no property in his own name, has never been married and speculates that his gambling had something to do with a nonprofit being unable to keep its financial commitment to a charity. Let's take a look at the script in which "The Ox" is gored:

We can't afford to gamble with the Public Regulation Commission. We can't afford to elect Christopher Ocksrider, 47 years old, never married, a known gambler. Is that why he doesn't own any property. His home? Owned by his mother. Touted as one of Albuquerque's hot singles. Was gambling the real reason he left a nonprofit after discrepancies were discovered? We don't need another Jerome Block...

Kids, that's how the game of innuendo for innuendo is played.


Well, we're just about at the end of another long march down the campaign trail, and that means it's soon time for the Election Eve Special.

We'll kick it off at 5 p.m. Monday live on KANW 89.1 FM and streamed live at kanw.com. It will be a full hour of the best and most complete political analysis anywhere in the state. My guests will include former NM Dem Party Chairman John Wertheim, Dem Santa Fe State Rep. Brian Egolf, Republican veterans Bob Cornelius and Jamie Estrada. And we're pleased to have journalist Milan Simonich of Texas-New Mexico Newspapers Partnership on hand to keep all of them on the straight and narrow.

I am looking forward to having you with me Monday and again on Tuesday night on KANW-FM for our traditional Election Night coverage officially beginning at 6:30, but we will be on the air before then with east coast presidential results.

Our sponsors this year are PNM, Griffin and Associates, J.D. Bullington Government Relations, IATSE Studio Mechanics Local 480 and the Albuquerque Teachers Federation. Thanks much to all of them for their support of public radio.

Our first Election Night broadcast was in June of 1974 on KUNM-FM radio when we announced the first ABQ mayor's race under the then new mayor-council form of government. We started Election Night coverage at KANW in 1988 and have covered every primary and state election for them since. Station Manager Michael Brasher tells me our audio will be streamed on cable TV this year. We'll tell you more about that next week.

It's been quite a run, and we thank the station, manager Brasher, our many sponsors over the years and, of course, you, our listeners.

Back here with the Monday blog or before if events merit, and on Twitter as well. In the meantime, once again....

I'm Joe Monahan reporting to you from Albuquerque

This is the home of New Mexico politics.

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