Friday, October 19, 2012

Driver's Licenses Imbroglio Makes TV Debut (Baby Brianna, Too), Reform PAC Spot Urges Support For Susana's Repeal, Plus: Guv Shows Some Late Love For Spaceport, And: Flood Of Early Voting Starts Saturday  

Forget jobs, taxes, education or crime. The big issue in this year's legislative races, according to the political action committee run by the Guv's political adviser, is the granting of driver's licenses for undocumented immigrants. Maybe those other issues will pop up later, but in the first major TV ad from Reform it is all about those controversial licenses.

(Developing: We're told on Friday tht Reform is also up with a spot dealing with the well-known Baby Brianna case prosecuted by then District Attorney Martinez. The ad, we're told, slams Senate Leaders Jennings and Sanchez for not being tough on child abuse. Will post when it comes in)

 However, Reform, which has been flooding the districts of state senate leaders Michael Sanchez and Tim Jennings with negative mail, radio and robo calls, does not mention either of them in the statewide TV that goes up today and which has been anticipated since our a senior media Alligator reported here on October 9 that Reform had booked over $200,000 of TV for the final stretch of Campaign '12.

Instead, the ad takes a softer approach showing a picture of Governor Martinez and the Roundhouse while a female narrator urges New Mexicans to make the legislature's failure to repeal the licenses the major issue when they cast ballots their ballots in House and Senate races this year:

New Mexico is one of two states still giving drivers licenses to illegal immigrants. It attracts people from all over the world. Some who want to do us harm. Governor Susana Martinez is fighting to repeal the law but she is being blocked in the Legislature. In this election support candidates who support our governor. Early voting runs until Nov. 3. Vote early and lets stop giving driver's licenses to illegal immigrants.

Since day one Reform (and Governor Martinez) have believed their best chance of taking control of the state House from the Dems and increasing GOP numbers in the Senate has been the driver's licenses. She has tried and failed three times for the repeal, and along the way rejecting a compromise form Senator President Pro Tem Jennings.

The issue polls well, with over 70% of the public saying they want the repeal, but how intense they are about it varies widely. And in a presidential election year where the rhetoric is more lofty and the turnout among casual voters higher, it remains a big if whether Reform and Susana are going to get much bang for their buck.

Reform Now could still come with additional TV directly attacking Jennings and Sanchez, but it is mostly a waste of money as those races will only involve several thousand voters and the TV spots reach virtually the entire state.

Also, Reform has to be careful not to directly associate Martinez with the campaigns against Jennings and Sanchez throughout New Mexico. Even after the pummeling Reform has handed them, they are still favored to win.

Many Dem legislative candidates have already made themselves immune to the driver's license hit by saying they will support repeal. However, if Sanchez and Jennings come back to Santa Fe bruised and bleeding from the beatings they have received, the last thing they are going to do is handing Martinez a victory on this measure. In other words, when she runs for re-election in 2014, guess what her banner issue will be? That's right--the failure of the lawmakers to repeal the licenses.


Several readers email that the Reform PAC TV spot is wrong when it says only two states allow undocumented immigrants to get driver's licenses. Here's one of them:

You quoted the ad as stating: "New Mexico is one of two states still giving drivers licenses to illegal immigrants." This is the number that has been tossed around for a while, and I knew right away that it was wrong, as the California legislature recently passed, and Governor Brown signed, legislation that allows some undocumented Californians to get licenses. Washington, as we know, allows licenses to undocumented individuals. Utah also allows driving permits for undocumented individuals. This LA Times piece (looks like an Op-Ed) on the new California law elucidates matters:

"That would move California closer to the policies of three other states: New Mexico and Washington allow illegal immigrants to apply for licenses, and Utah allows them to apply for driving permits that
don't count as government IDs. A proposal to add Colorado to that list may be on the state's ballot this November."

Probably worth thinking about, that the most populous state in the country is reversing the trend, no?


There are, of course, many other matters much more important to the future prosperity than the emotional wedge issue of those driver's licenses. One of them is the NM Spaceport and whether it will thrive in an increasingly competitive environment. Governor Martinez, who shunned the project in her opening year, appeared this week at a space symposium in Las Cruces and continued to warm to the project and even make it her own: 

 It is my goal that New Mexico is branded as a place where someone with a good idea can make it happen," Martinez said. "Our rich heritage of space flight runs the gamut. Such a commitment should be a broad and long-term endeavor. We're interested in economic development and will do what we can to support (commercial space flight).

It's good to see the initial animosity the administration seemed to have against the Spaceport--the brain child of Governor Big Bill--fade away as we get closer to her re-election campaign. Now she needs to back it up by successfully working the Legislature for a liability bill that will put us on an even playing field with competing spaceports--including the one in Colorado.


You know the score in the US Senate race. Heather Wilson needs Dem Martin Heinrich to make a big mistake to make this contest competitive. She hasn't been able to do it in two TV debates and now the conservative media is giving it a shot. The "Who Said New Mexico" web site intercepted Heinrich following the Las Cuces TV debate Wednesday and soon Heinrich was dodging their camera.

The Who Said representative wanted to know if Heinrich would "maintain coal level production or reduce it." Kind of a soft ball considering the source of the question but Heinrich is shown scampering away, obviously determined not to be caught in a media trap after only moments earlier escaping the clutches of Heather--a dangerous opponent if there ever was one.

Steve Haro, Congressman Heinrich's Chief of Staff, gives the questioner the brush-off while carrying a tray of cupcakes given to Heinrich by Wilson in honor of his 41st birthday which occurred on debate day. Hey, maybe they were running to dispose of those "tasty" treats." Not that Heather would ever put anything in them--like something that could cause a brain freeze.

The complete entertaining one minute video is here.


Well, it's a little of Susana for Heather. By that we mean the Guv agrees to appear in this amateur video apparently shot by a Heather Wilson staffer. She strongly praises Wilson but it's not something you will see on your TV screens. 


Was that so hard, Mayor Berry? A poll on the ballot measure to rebuild the Paseo del Norte/I-25 interchange in ABQ is winning support from 63% voters surveyed and appears on its way to easy passage Nov. 6.

The Mayor and the GOP majority on the city council did all they could to keep the $50 million bond issue from going before voters. In 2011, Republican councilors put before voters the Paseo rebuild, along with a controversial sportsplex. Voters would have none of it and defeated the measure. They wanted Paseo but not the sportsplex. Then Berry unsuccessfully tried to muster a "super majority" of the council to pass Paseo and avoid the judgment of taxpayers. That also failed.

But given the chance to approve Paseo as a stand-alone project voters are more than willing. Berry is fortunate that Paseo is going to pass because if it failed his political machinations to keep it off the ballot would have had voters looking to bypass him at the next election.

NO ON #2

We don't make endorsements in contested political races but as longtime readers know we do on occasion weigh in on specific bond issues and constitutional amendments. This year there's only one amendment on the ballot that we urge voters to reject. Constitutional Amendment #2 calls for certain qualifications for anyone who wants to be a Public Regulation Commissioner. What could be wrong with that? Well, the amendment leaves to the Legislature exactly what qualifications a commissioner should have. We think the amendment should state the qualifications and let the people decide if they are fair--not the political class.

The powerful PRC, regulator of a variety of important industries--including electricity--has been a comedy of errors ever since its inception, The personal foul-ups of commissioners--some criminal--are legendary. Having better qualified commissioners is a laudable--even necessary--step. Ultimately, however, we need to abolish the panel and return to an appointed commission.

Meanwhile,  if we are going to continue to elect the five PRC members but exclude entire classes of voters from serving on the panel, let the people see just who would be excluded instead of asking then to hand that power over to politicians who may or may not come up with acceptable qualifications.

We will vote "No" on Constitutional Amendment # 2.


Tomorrow (Oct. 20 will be one of the heaviest days of voting in the state and the ABQ metro as 16 satellite voting centers open in Bernalillo County. Governor Martinez will rally the GOP Saturday morning at the Target store on Montgomery. Dem Congressman Ben Ray Lujan, Senators Bingaman and Udall and Senate hopeful and US Rep. Martin Heinrich will rally in Santa Fe on Saturday, at 9 a.m., followed by another rally in Eldorado at 11 a.m. with state House candidates. 

ABQ political consultant Sterling Fluharty reports that he confirmed with Bernalillo County Clerk's office that the number of registered voters in big Bernalillo is about 429,000. If we get a 70 percent turnout that would mean about 300,000 county residents casting ballots. That would be nearly 38% of the statewide total of about 800,000 that our experts expect to vote this year.


A Memorial Service for George Buffett is scheduled for Friday, October 19, 2012 at 1:00pm at Mountainside Church of Christ, 12300 Indian School Road NE. In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions in George's name may be made to the New Mexico Boys and Girls Ranch, PO Box 9, Belen, NM 87002-9901 or United Way of Central New Mexico, www.uwcnm.org.

This is the home of New Mexico politics.

Thanks for the company this week.

Reporting from Albuquerque, I'm Joe Monahan.

E-mail your news and comments. (jmonahan@ix.netcom.com)
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Thursday, October 18, 2012

A Million Dollar Finish In Fight For Legislature; Last Minute Money Flowing, Plus: Spotlight Of La Politica Falls On Big Spending Lisa Curtis, And: A Senate Sit Down In Cruces--Or Maybe Not; 

The heated campaign for control of the New Mexico Legislature will have a million dollar finish--and probably much more. The Patriot Majority Fund--a PAC funded mostly by the NEA union in DC--has begun spending the nearly $800,000 it reported having on hand at the end of September, and Reform NM Now PAC led by Guv political adviser Jay McCleskey reported over $300,000 in the bank at the end of September, most of that from the Republican State Leadership Committee. (Former Big Bill aide Amanda Cooper is with Patriot). That cash is now flying out the door and into the legislative races and is in addition to what the individual campaigns are spending.

Where's it all going? Our readers report that Patriot Majority has started to hit Kelly Fajardo, the GOP candidate for an open Valencia County legislative seat in which she faces Dem Andrew Barreras. The seat is seen as key to Dem hopes of holding their slim majority--36-33 (with one independent) in the state House.

Patriot is also playing in much tougher territory for a Dem, but if Obama has a big showing the ABQ race for the NE Heights seat of freshman GOP State Rep. Nate Gentry could get close. Mary Ellen Broderick is getting boosted by Patriot in her effort to pull off the upset.

Reform NM is flooding the mailboxes for Republican Paul Pacheco who is engaged in a heated contest with Dem Marci Blaze for a House seat in the northwest metro area. This is another contest that is seen as important in determining control of the House which has been in the Dem column for 60 years. Both sides say their internal polling shows them in the lead so you know this one is going down to the wire.

Up in Los Alamos, Dems and PACS sympathetic to them may have to spend more money if they are to take out GOP State. Rep Jim Hall. Stephanie Garcia Richard has been hammered with Reform NOW hit pieces and Los Alamos County is conservative enough to respond. Hall was appointed to the seat by Governor Martinez.

And that's a very short list of where this PAC money is going to eventually go. If some of it hits your mailbox, feel free to send it to us so we can post it here.


Sen. Lisa Curtis
It's not every day that a candidate for the state Senate puts up $80,000 of her own money to buy TV time. In fact, we can't recall an ABQ metro area Senate contender ever doing it. So what's up with Democrat Lisa Curtis? Her TV spot is in regular rotation throughout the state, even though she is seeking only a slice of ABQ votes. She was appointed to hold the ABQ NE Heights Senate seat vacated by Republican Kent Cravens and is waging an uphill battle  against challenger Mark Moores to keep representing the heavy R district.

Curtis, 48, is a successful trial attorney who apparently isn't used to losing--no matter the odds. But that TV buy has the Alligators wondering if Lisa is looking past this campaign and perhaps to another.

Her TV spot--seen here--reveals Curtis, a UNM School of Law graduate and mother of four teenagers, as photogenic and well-spoken but most important she is a new face. And that gets attention.

In modern politics name ID is paramount and Curtis--win or lose--is going to come out of this race with a lot more of it than she came in with. Will she try to build on it and perhaps seek another office in 2014? A number of insiders say the Dems would be best off with a female nominee to take on Governor Susana, but so far no possibles have surfaced. It might seem premature for the speculators to even think of Curtis in that regard, but Martinez was elevated to the top spot with only the office of district attorney as a credential.

We first noticed Curtis when she played a role in killing a liability bill that supporters of the Spaceport says is needed to advance the project. Her status as a trial attorney would be fodder foe her foes and it is also unknown if her political personality could withstand scrutiny.

Still, Curtis has anted up and for that you get the spotlight of La Politica pointed in your direction. If she loses the Senate seat, she will have her hands full keeping it on her, but if her ambition burns as bright as that light, we'll be hearing more.


Stand-Off Over Sit Down In Cruces
And we do mean sitting for one candidate. Last night in Las Cruces GOP US Senate hopeful Heather Wilson stood and debated while Dem hopeful Martin Heinrich sat. It made for this bizarre photo posted here. Wilson's camp said she needed to stand in order to speak directly into the microphone. The various media sponsors were apparently unable (or unwilling) to enforce the rules--kind of like that presidential debate Tuesday night.

Heinrich and Wilson battled for an hour over the airwaves of El Paso's KFOX-TV which is widely viewed in Dona Ana County. However, the debate promoters also said the debate would be broadcast on national cable network CSPAN but when we tuned in at 6 p.m. CSPAN was not showing the debate. They probably taped it for later broadcast. But who knows? When it comes to news coverage, Las Cruces is like a district in the Twilight Zone.

As for the content, the duo pounded away at one another on jobs, energy and gay marriage. There was no blood, according to our debate watchers, with Wilson turning in a solid performance and Heinrich ably defending himself. Too bad the same can't be said for the producers of this flat affair. Maybe the would like to keep it a secret. As of 10 p.m. Wednesday, the debate still had not been posted on the KFOX-TV site or that of the Las Cruces Sun-News.


Reader Jeffrey Paul writes of the Obama-Romney debate:

In the aftermath of the 2nd Presidential debate, I have two observations. First, Romney's campaign is based on the premise "If I say it often enough, people will start to believe it". The truth is not relevant with this strategy. Second, Fox News is so distraught by Obama's winning performance that they are attacking the moderator, Candy Crowley. Very telling, indeed.

Paul is the author of "Inside Politics in America: A View from the Outside"

In our first draft of the blog Wednesday assessing the presidential debate, we said former ABQ city councilor and state legislator Greg Payne was a Republican consultant. Payne informs that several weeks ago he became a registered independent.


Governor Susana is playing it low-key on the state campaign trail, preferring to do most of her polticking out of state for Mitt Romeny, but she is surfacing with some regularity in campaign literature. Here she is in a newspaper ad promoting five judges she appointed to the bench, all of whom face stiff election contests Nov, 6

ABQ attorney Paul Kennedy was named to the state Supreme Court by Martinez, but he faces northern Dem District Court Judge Barbara Vigil. No R has won a high court seat since the 80's so Vigil is heavily favored. More on the race here.

The chances of GOP Bernalillo County Metro Court Judge Henry Alaniz are much better. This Martinez appointee is unopposed. Henry still campaigns, though, and says he has a special interest in helping young people in trouble with the law.

ABQ District Court Judge Brett Loveless is going to need some luck to hold on to his judge's gavel. Democrat and Metro Court Judge Briana Zamora is the front-runner to take the job.

Martinez also appointed NM Court of Appeals Court Judge Miles Hanisee. He is a well-respected jurist, but in a presidential election year Dem turnout could set the bar too high for him. He faces ABQ District Court Judge Monica Zamora whose political family hails from the Santa Fe area and where she is going to be getting big vote totals. Still, Hanisee has come with a solid TV spot that could keep this race close.

ABQ District Court Judge Sam Winder is a find for a Republican Party trying to diversify. His late father was an African-American from Louisiana, and his mother was part Navajo and part Southern Ute. Still, it appears Sam is going to be overwhelmed by Metro Court Judge Ben Chavez who has been biding his time and awaiting a move up to district court. This year looks like his year.


On a campaign swing through Silver City and environs we ran into former Dem Silver City Mayor Terry Fortenberry who was out campaigning for the state House seat held by the formidable Dianne Hamilton. Terry knows he has an uphill battle but interestingly he is getting some top level help. Senators Bingaman or Udall have joined with Diane Denish in recording a robo call for Fortenberry. Bingaman is a native of Silver City and his mail piece for Fortenberry has popped up in SW NM mailboxes. Hamilton has been a morning radio host for a number of years in Silver City and is a popular politician and the favorite in this election, but Fortenberry is putting some heat on.

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Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Obama Spicy As Green Chile In Round Two; No Back Down From Mitt, Plus: The Showdown In Roswell; How GOP Support Is Helping Jennings, And: Recreational Sex On The Campaign Trail  

President Obama stopped the bleeding last night, but for a moment there we thought there might be blood on the debate floor. The second presidential debate held in a town hall format with undecided voters was that aggressive.

Both Obama and Romney came out swinging--no soft jabs here--and when it was over voters in flash polls and media pundits  declared Obama the winner, but on points. Romney was not knocked down. Far from it, but Obama may have done just enough for him to rally the Democratic base and recharge his campaign for another term.

The line of the night may have come when a frustrated Obama being pressed by Romney said he didn't know the details of his personal pension plan but it wasn't as big as Romney's. With that, the economic divide that so threatens the middle class of the American nation was summed up. It could be what your grandchildren read about this election (And a rowdy presidential debate that may have forever changed the rules of engagement).

How can it be, given the lousy economy and Romney's always persuasive dissection of exactly what is wrong, that Obama isn't already on his way to the showers? Our feeling is that voters are not assigning enough blame to Obama. They instinctively see the recession/Depression as a global phenomenon and are unwilling to place the blame on one man's shoulders--even a president's.

NM Republican analyst Bruce Donisthorpe called the presidential clash "a spirited tie." But in the important matter of rallying the Democratic base--depressed beyond the reach of Prozac after Obama's performance in debate number one--this time it was different. ABQ Dem State Rep. Antonio "Moe" Maestas expressed it on his Twitter account with a New Mexican flair:

Two men entered. One man leaves. Obamanos!!

Obama supporter and veteran NM field organizer Steve Cabiedes declared:

Obama shows up for the gunfight with.... a gun!

Is that the kind of energy Obama's performance generated in swing states like Ohio and Colorado? The dramatic answer to that question will come in the days to follow.


We asked former ABQ City Councilor Greg Payne, a longtime Republican political consultant who recently registered as an independent, to assess last night's debate action:

...The real turning point was the exchange over Libya...Romney questioned the president's concern over the assassination of Ambassador Christopher Stephens and three other Americans, accusing the president of jetting off to fundraisers in Las Vegas and Colorado instead of caring about the situation there.

Obama delivered a velvet hammer, reminding Romney--as he looked straight at him--that those were "his people" that "he'd sent there" that he was "the Commander-in-Chief" and "the suggestion that anybody in my team ...would play politics or mislead when we've lost four of our own, governor, is offensive," Obama told Romney. "That's not what we do."

The final Obama hit was at the end over Romney's "47%" remark. "But I also believe that when he [Romney] said behind closed doors that 47% of the country considered themselves victims?.. Think about who he was talking about. Folks on Social Security who've worked all their lives. Veterans who sacrificed for this country..."  Obama did what his supporters wanted him to do in Denver and knocked that one out of the park.

The first debate in Denver flipped the momentum 180 degrees for Romney. This one brought it back 90 for Obama. If we've learned anything it's how incredibly fluid this election actually is. Nothing can be taken for granted by either side. Every electoral vote in every battleground state is going to count.  And so will the last debate. 


The crack in the state GOP is canyon-sized down in Roswell. Governor Susana and her political adviser Jay McCleskey are having trouble taking Tim Jennings out because so many Republicans like the veteran senator who also happens to be the Senate President Pro Tem.

Guys like Harvey Yates Jr., the former chairman of the NM GOP, are openly supporting the 62 year old lawmaker. And that GOP support can also be found up here in ABQ.

Longtime GOP businessman Tom Tinnin, who turned in his resignation from the Board of Finance to Governor Martinez in protest of the down and dirty racino lease deal at the Downs of ABQ, has donated $1,000 to Jennings and he sweetens the pot for the Senator with this letter of praise:

Senator Jennings is one of those who stands out from the crowd. Fair,  candid, to the point, all the cards on the table, upfront, no hidden  agendas, describes Senator Jennings. Did we always see eye to eye on the  issues we discussed?  Of course not.  Did we have a healthy and open  dialogue? Absolutely!  Did I leave our meetings knowing that I just met  with someone that was listening, not arbitrary, and was making every  effort to find common ground and not play political games?  A resounding  yes!  This man should to be sent back to Santa Fe once again to  represent District 32. How we select out representatives should not be  based solely on party affiliation, but the standard should begin with  character.  Senator Tim Jennings has character, the best interest of his  constituents, and much more.

Those are pretty kind words from an R for the Democratic President Pro Tem of the Senate. But remember Jennings has that leadership position by virtue of a coalition with the GOP state Senators. All of them voted for Jennings and with the support of half a dozen so of the Dems, Jennings became president to the 42 member Senate.

There is plenty of grumbling among state Republicans about all the money the Guv and Jay are sending to fight Jennings. They think it could be better spent in the R effort to take over the state House. But there is also a lot of fear in the GOP and few are willing to speak out. But if Jennings and Sanchez are victorious, Susana and company may have some brave Republicans on their hands.

Don't say we didn't tell you. 


The Guv's spinners better start practicing for Election Night now because the Senior Alligators we are consulting see Jennings and Senate Majority Leader Michael Sanchez--who is also getting a several hundred thousand dollar pounding--to retain their seats.

The two leaders, however, don't seem poised for landslide wins--not surprising considering the negative campaigns waged against them--but our analysts say the foes of the Senators will have trouble growing once they hit the 45% mark. 

The GOP vote, combined with independents is expected to take Pirtle and Sanchez opponent David Chavez to that mark, then it will be like pulling teeth. For Sanchez, his identity in the community, combined with a strong showing for Obama in Valencia County form a firewall for him. For Jennings it is Republican support that should make Pirtle's climb much above the 45% mark a challenge.


Here's another of the multitude of hit pieces in the Jennings-Pirtle race (click to enlarge), with this one showcasing Jennings' position on driver's licenses for undocumented immigrants. But 27 year old Cliff Pirtle, a farmer who is a tea party sympathizer, is trying to turn into a giant killer. Reader Greg Lennes says he's been doing some research and he comes with this:

Cliff Pirtle works for his father Paul Pirtle as a partner. The list of federal subsidies to the Pirtle Farms can be found here. It shows Pirtle & Sons received nearly $600,000 in federal farm subsidies from 1995 through 2011.

 Lennes says that's hypocrisy:

Mr. Pirtle wants "working Americans to rely less on government services." However, Mr. Pirtle is dependent on his father and federal subsidies--a bit hypocritical!

And, of course, this info is already being used against Pirtle in that no-holds-barred, win-or-die-trying showdown in Roswell.


Have any of the major NM candidates said anything yet that has really engaged voters? You know, had folks talking about it at the office? Not really. The campaigns have been saccharine like. But there was one statement that came close and has brought in the email. It came from ABQ GOP congressional candidate Janice Arnold-Jones and it went like this:

“Is it my obligation to pay for your recreational sex? No, it’s not,” Arnold-Jones said, referring to a moderator’s question about whether limits should be placed on insurance coverage of women’s reproductive services, such as birth control and abortion.

And that caught the attention of the bleacher seats. Here's Dem Michelle Meaders with a sharp retort:

Isn’t it interesting that Janice is a long-time Navy wife, which means she has gotten lots of federally-paid services, including health care, for years.  And she only has two kids, which means that like 98% of sexually active American women, she used contraceptives.  In the CD1 health care debate at the Unitarian Church on Sept. 19, she said she didn’t want to pay  for other people’s “Recreational Sex.” In other words, for thirty years of marriage. Who gets to say how much of a couple’s sex is recreational, instead of procreative?  I thought not having unwanted children was “personal responsibility.”

New Mexicans may not realize how good our health care coverage is here, compared to the rest of the country. Yes, we have the biggest percentage of people with no health coverage. But for those who do, state law already covers parts of the Affordable Care Act (ACA): not charging women more than men for health insurance (only 8 states have this), drug coverage must include contraceptives, and others.  These would be lost in most other states if the ACA was repealed. 

As for Janice's contest with Dem Michelle Lujan Grisham, the Oct. 1 cash on hand totals for the campaigns tell the story: 

Campaign finance reports showed Lujan Grisham with cash-on-hand of almost $379,000 at the end of last month and Arnold-Jones had $53,500. 


Animal Protection Voters of New Mexico come with their traditional campaign endorsements on behalf of our four-legged friends. The group offers a joint endorsement in one of the state's hottest contests for the NM House. They give the nod to both Dem Marci Blaze and Republican Paul Pacheco who are battling for the seat in the northwest corner of the ABQ metro.

It's hard to believe that Marci and Paul--who are so far apart philosophically--can agree so much on a topic that they are both endorsed. Srill, it's  certain the voters will place one of them in the dog house come Election Night. (No groaning, please.....)

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Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Election Day Sneaking Up On Us: A Veteran Analyst Offers Insights, Plus: Another R With A "Family Values" Problem; Doyle Fading Against Sapien, And: Got Space? In ABQ The Answer Is "You Bet" 

Malry & Monahan On Election Night
We didn't realize how close we were to the finish line of Campaign '12 until we picked up the phone and there was former Bernalillo County Commissioner Lenton Malry on the line reminding us we had to get together for our traditional ballot review. We only have three weeks to go, Lenton reminded, so it is indeed time next week for a sit down with him to prepare for our Election Night broadcast on KANW 89.1 FM.

Together we've called every state and primary election on KANW since 1988. Some years we've held forth until nearly dawn as the vote count trickled in for extremely tight races. But this year--unless the presidential race is a cliff hanger--we could have a much earlier night.

Democrat Malry, who became the first African-American state legislator in the 60's, is happy with what he is seeing out there, predicting comfortable wins for Dem Martin Heinrich in the race for the Senate and another Dem win in the ABQ congressional seat where he sees former Bernalillo County Commissioner Michelle Lujan Grisham prevailing. He says the R's, as expected, will celebrate the re-election of southern GOP Congressman Rep. Steve Pearce.

Malry, now nearing 70, came to ABQ from Shreveport, LA in 1962, and is the first of our major analysts to make a prediction about the two top state Senate leaders targeted by the Governor and her chief political advisor. He predicts both Senate President Pro Tem Tim Jennings of Roswell and Senate Majority Leader Michael Sanchez will win their races.

Republicans might say that is a partisan prediction, but Malry has a strong track record and hasn't been shy in the past about pointing out Dems in trouble. He says Republican support for Jennings is key. "He is like a Republican too those in that part of the state. That is going to keep him in there."

He sees the Jennings race against Republican Cliff Pirtle as more competitive for the R's than the equally expensive campaign being waged against Sanchez by the Reform NM Now PAC led by Guv advisor Jay McCleskey. Sanchez is being opposed by Valencia County GOP State Rep. David Chavez.

So where will the suspense be Election Night if the national presidential race falters? Well, there is that fight for control of the NM House. The R's have a shot at taking the majority in the 70 member chamber for the first time in 60 years. Malry asked me for my take at the same time I asked him for his. Looks like we both still have some home work to do.

It seems there's always something that keeps us up late on Election Night in New Mexico, Lenton.


There are new numbers in the ABQ congressional contest today and they back up the conventional wisdom that the race is Michelle Lujan Grisham's to lose. The Dem contender leads Republican Janice Arnold-Jones 51% to 37% with 12% undecided. That gives here a 13 point lead and puts her above the magic 50% mark. The Journal poll was taken last Monday thru Thursday. Michelle's own polling firm--Greenberg, Quinlan Rosner Research came with a poll Oct. 10 that had her up 15.

(We've had good luck with this polling firm over the years. If the numbers are lousy for their candidate, they stay mum and don't attempt to mislead. But when they do release numbers that show their candidates up, they are more often than not confirmed by public pollsters.)

Women supporting Grisham were key to her June primary win and she is courting them to the very end. Her latest TV spot takes on the family planning issue:

Do you think women should make their own decisions about health care? I do. But some in Washington would rather eliminate Planned Parenthood and score political points than protect women’s health. Enough is enough. In Congress, I’ll protect access to women’s health care and stand strong against the attacks on family planning and birth control. I’m Michelle Lujan Grisham and I approve this message because I won’t let Washington roll back the clock on women’s rights.

Arnold-Jones hasn't come with any new media recently. Her campaign has been cash-starved due to the consistently bad polls and opposition to her candidacy within her own party because of her reputation as a moderate R.


By the way, both US Senate candidates--Heinrich and Republican Heather Wilson--reported having about $1 million in cash for the final five weeks of the campaign. Each have raised about $6 million since the beginning of the campaign way back when.

Hear that Tom Udall? The Dem US Senator has begun raising money for his '14 re-election bid. It appears $6 million is the floor if he finds himself in a hotly contested race--not counting the gazillions of dollars that pour in for both sides from third party groups.

What if the R's put up a second-tier candidate? Then the price of Tom's race would probably plummet by half.


Rep. Doyle
You can move what everyone thought was going to be a close race for state senate to the "likely Dem" column. We speak of the re-election bid of Corrales area Dem State Senator John Sapien who is being challenged by one term GOP State Rep. David Doyle.

The bottom is falling out of Doyle's campaign.

The liberal group ProgressNow NM--following up on widespread rumors--tracked down Doyle and discovered that he is not living in the Senate district he is seeking to represent, but in the ABQ Country Club area near downtown. They interviewed him on his door step. And to top it off, they also noted his personal relationship with Katherine Martinez, who was appointed by Governor Martinez to head the state's Construction Industries Division. Oh, Doyle is a contractor.

Earlier, Independent Source PAC, a union-funded group, did a report on the ugly divorce Doyle has gone through and the battle over his child support payments. Meanwhile, candidate Doyle pictures himself with his current wife on his web site and portrays himself as a family man. (Doyle says he is buying a home in Rio Rancho to make sure he lives in the district).

First it was Martinez Chief of Staff Keith Gardner with a tape recorded potty mouth followed by GOP Bernalillo County Sheriff Dan Houston. He called one woman "a fat slob" and other women around him "whores." Now it's yet another Republican tripped up in the "family values" category. Maybe NM GOP Chairman Monty Newman should have a class in that "old time religion" he was brought up with down in Hobbs.

Meanwhile, Corrales area voters are going to have a short fuse with all of this. David Doyle, thanks for the memories. Your time on the brightly lit stage of La Politica appears to have expired.


We've blogged about speculation that Katherine Martinez, a Democrat, could be in line for a mayoral appointment to the ABQ City Council. Debbie O'Malley is poised to be elected to the Bernalillo County Commission in November, leaving her city council seat vacant. Her replacement would be appointed by Republican Mayor Berry. Martinez previously ran against O'Malley and is an appointee of the GOP Guv thus the thought that Berry could appoint her. But will Martinez's involvement with Doyle dash those plans--if there ever were any? We're just asking.


Got space? Asks the commercial real estate sign around ABQ that is as common as the hundreds of political signs that dot the major intersections. No jobs being created means the answer to the question is: "You bet, we've got space":

The vacancy rate for office space in the Albuquerque metro area has been stuck at 18 percent or higher for three years running with no end in sight. The ABQ Journal reports that the average asking lease rate appears to have bottomed out at the level of mid-2007. Office construction is at a standstill. Office real estate and commercial real estate in general tend to absorb the front end of recessions pretty well and then lag behind any recovery. Real estate experts say office leases during the pre-recession boom years were typically for five-year terms, although many were also for three years or seven years.

The newspaper is now saying that much of the commercial real estate crash is being caused by our loss of government contractors--federal, state and city. But the reporting has not been quantified in the general or business press.

Who are the contractors? What did they specifically do? How many did they employ? Are they gone for good? What, if anything, will replace them? What is the size of the government contractor work force today? What was it in the past? How about the future?

The old assignment editor in us awaits some crackerjack reporting on this--one of the biggest economic stories in the city's modern history.

Meanwhile, next October ABQ GOP Mayor RJ Berry stands for re-election. If the commercial real estate depression continues you would think it would be an issue--whatever its chief cause.

The list of possible Dem mayoral challengers in the early going includes former Lt. Governor Diane Denish, ABQ City Councilor Ken Sanchez, former ABQ Public Safety Director Pete Dinelli and State Treasurer James Lewis. They are expected to make their decisions after the November election, but before the end of the year. (Yes, Lewis, who ran for mayor of ABQ back in 2001, says he is seriously considering another run.)


Former ABQ GOP State Rep. George Buffett who died over the weekend and whose obit we wrote here Monday was a popular character of La Politica. Some reaction from NM GOP Court of Appeals Judge Rod Kennedy:

What a loss to those Republicans and conservatives in New Mexico who have their principles in the right place and had a voice through George Buffett. George was a rare eagle whose vision and strength of purpose showed a lot of emperors to be scantily clothed. He pointed to loudly-voiced ideas that have become canon in the GOP and showed them to be nothing more than gaudy balloons filled with stinky gas. George was the bullet who so often popped those balloons, and I will miss him...

John Lattauzio, chairman of the NM GOP in the 90's, emails from his home in Utah:

George Buffett will be long remembered for unselfishly serving New Mexico. His wit and humor, coupled with his common sense benefitted his constituency, his party and all New Mexicans. George served honorably as Republican National Committeeman. I knew him as a political ally, a supplier for my business, and a customer for his delicious candies. I found him honest and straight-forward in all of his dealings.

GOP activist and advertising professional Angie McKinstry:

George was in my office a couple of weeks ago. He wanted some information about weekly newspapers in the southern part of New Mexico to help advertise his candy store in Ruidoso and I gave it to him in exchange for a couple of bags of popcorn. He looked older, but then don't we all, and spry and enthusiastic about helping his store down south.  He said the candy business was booming and he was laughing and joking!  I am saddened by his passing.  He was all you described.  A man of principle. RIP, George Buffett. 

And Linda Buffett, the sister-in-law of George, wrote:

Joe, thank you for your excellent descriptions of George Buffett. George was a forthright, forceful and highly principled individual and I was privileged to know him as my brother-in-law. 

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Monday, October 15, 2012

Strange Bedfellows: Obama & Martinez Used Against Dem House Hopeful, Plus: The Potty Mouths Of La Politica; First Gardner Now Houston Fouls The Air, And: The Bear Market; Still Here & Still Covered Here, Also: GOP's George Buffett Called By Death 

Talk about politicians making for strange bedfellows. Take a gander at these mail pieces (click to enlarge). Governor Martinez and President Obama are portrayed as being on the same political page and being used to slam a Democratic legislative candidate.

They hit on ABQ Dem State Rep. candidate Emily Kane from the now ubiquitous Reform NM Now PAC run by the Guv's political adviser.

In a departure from the usual Reform bash and burn formula, this one attempts to be clever and scores Kane, an ABQ firefighter, for not opposing the practice of "social promotion" and says "Obama's administration and Governor Martinez stand united on this issue.."

Martinez is supporting a measure that would require a certain level of reading proficiency from third graders before they are allowed do to advance to the next grade. Despite having the support of 75% of voters polled in a recent newspaper survey, the Guv has been unable to get the Legislature to put a bill on her desk.

Kane is in a tight contest for the NE Heights seat being vacated by Dem Bill O'Neill. She is opposed by Republican attorney Chris Saucedo, chairman of the board of the National Hispanic Cultural Center.

And all you hard core Republicans, don't worry too much about Susana embracing Obama in this lit piece. Today she's campaigning for Romney in Texas.


You can continue to color New Mexico deep blue as the latest ABQ Journal poll shows the Prez sporting a 10 point lead over Mitt. It's 49 to 39, with former NM GOP Governor and 2102 Libertarian nominee Gary Johnson coming in with 6%.

The Alligators put this race away months ago for Obama, but have been monitoring the airwaves for signs of life from either presidential camp--just in case. The airwaves remain dark.

As for Johnson, the Gators set the "over-under" on his Election Night performance here at 5% way back when he was polling in the double-digits. Personally, we'd take the under.

The state's newspapers are starting their traditional round of election endorsements and Obama picks up the Las Cruces Sun-News in Dona Ana County. The paper opined in Sunday's edition:

We believe the country has turned the corner and is heading in the right direction under Obama. Given the intentional vagueness of his proposals and his many reversals on core positions, we're not sure which direction Romney would lead us.

Obama's statewide win here will be built on the same blocks as his '08 victory. He will have landslides or near landslides in the big cities---ABQ, Las Cruces and Santa Fe and score another major win in the Spanish North. Will Obama reach the 56.9% mark he registered in his '08 win? That's unlikely because of the presence of Johnson on the ballot and also because he is not quite as strong with the New Mexican public as he was four years ago.


One hesitates whenever the urge comes to write the political obituary of Heather Wilson, especially as she faces a foe in Dem Martin Heinrich who is less experienced than her. But the latest ABQ Journal polling numbers put Heather at death's door. There's just no other way to see it. She trails by nine points--48 to 39--with conservative independent candidate Jon Barrie getting 4%. Among Democrats it is ugly for the former ABQ GOP congresswoman. She loses them 75 to 10. No wonder she is up with a new TV spot featuring all Democratic women. But she is also losing independents 49 to 36.

Wilson did her best to try to pry the ball from Heinrich's hands in their first TV debate last week, but he held on tight. She has a couple of more TV debates to finally shake up this race which has been about as exciting as a Saturday night in Clayton.

The polls are not saying much that they haven't been saying for months--the campaign is all on the shoulders of Heinrich. If he can get through the final weeks without a major error, he is going to assume the Senate seat occupied by Jeff Bingaman since 1983. That's enough to make any young politician nervous, but is it enough for him to make a major gaffe? So far, it isn't.


Keith Gardner
Sheriff Houston
Keith Gardner has company. It's foul-mouthed Bernalillo County Sheriff Dan Houston. Just like Guv Martinez Chief of Staff Gardner, the Republican lawman has been caught on audio tape tossing around obscenities (and insults) like a frat boy who hit the beer keg one too many times.

In calling a female employee "a fat slob" and several other women in the Sheriff's office, "whores" did Houston commit political self-destruction? Women are already protesting outside his office.

Ironically, both Gardner and Houston are conservative "family values Republicans," identified with religious movements that look especially askance at potty mouths. Gardner is a Mormon who in a leaked tape calls Senate President Pro Tem Tim Jennings "a cocksucker" and Houston has long been associated with ABQ's fundamentalist Legacy Church. He even took heat for holding cadet graduation classes at the church.

Despite the widespread belief among the Santa Fe political class that Gardner's usefulness to Martinez in dealing with the Legislature is over, she says he is going nowhere.

In the case of Houston, voters could mount an effort to remove him before his term ends in 2014, but the requirements for doing so are daunting. More probable is that Houston--like Gardner--limps along and leaking power as they do. Perhaps Martinez calculates that things can't get any worse for her in the Legislature and Houston figures another two years of paychecks is better than none.

Back in the day after these kind of scandals, public figures would cringe with shame, retreat to the shadows and maybe try to rehabilitate their images for a comeback. Nowadays they stay in their government bunkers and carry the stink around with them--the public be damned.


Incredibly, the bear market here continues to rage with the same intensity as the heat of the battle political campaigns, look at this:

1 in every 737 homes received a foreclosure filing in September 2012

1 in every 351 homes received a foreclosure filing in Q3 2012

Foreclosure properties: 1,223

September 2012 foreclosure filings were up 31.36 percent from a year ago

No doubt the state's anemia when it comes to creating and keeping jobs is a large part of the foreclosure equation--along with the remains of the housing bubble.

The campaign trail talk on the state's economy is very general, but the problem is complex. The left seems bereft of any significant ideas and the radical right thinks massive across the board tax cuts will pave the way for job creation.

Our prescription remains unwavering--fight with all our might in DC to keep our share of the federal pie and even add to it; tax reform that cuts the gross receipts tax and increases the low property tax rate; boost the tourism budget monetarily and creatively; pass a liability bill to protect our investment in the Spaceport and its jobs of the future; build a dental school at UNM to expand the state's professional class; pass a capital outlay bill--a big one--that is used for repairing bridges and roads and gets the construction industry moving again; send to the voters a constitutional amendment to invest a portion of the state's giant Permanent Fund in very early childhood education to break the ugly cycle of generational poverty that haunts the state and holds back the work force; spend more on drug education and intervention to make our work force more competitive...

The historic jobs bleed continues and there just doesn't seem to be much urgency about it from our political and business leaders. Where's the debate on the campaign trail? You mean driver's licenses for illegal workers is what's important?


A Senior Alligator writes of the New Mexico Spaceport:

The Spaceport is in need of Public relations, dynamics, energy, zing. Spaceport director Christine Anderson is no "ball of fire." She is a "friend" of Heather Wilson and is a retired Air Force bureaucrat.  

Christine's background is pushing paper not creating enterprise. Visit the Spaceport office in Albuquerque. It resembles Governor Martinez's office--dull, unappealing and lackluster.


The unprecedented out-in-the-open, consequences-be-damned move by a sitting Governor and her adviser Jay McCleskey to take out state Senate leaders Tim Jennings and Michael Sanchez continues unabated and the news coverage is starting to pick up.

They may be drinking Kool-Aid on the Fourth Floor if they think they can go ballistic on these guys, lose the races and face no payback. The thinking they apparently have is that the public will reward them for standing up to the Legislature and blame the lawmakers for the lack of progress. But they may be forgetting something. The public may not like the Legislature, but they also aren't that kind to losers. If Martinez loses one or both of these races the Dems will be newly empowered.


It may seem like there is no race for the southern congressional seat, given the lack of advertising, but Dem Evelyn Madrid Erhard and GOP Congressman Steve Pearce are out stumping for votes. They did their one and only TV debate recently on public station KRWG and you can see it right here.


One of La Politica's legends is gone. 83 year old George Buffett, a Republican's Republican, died over the weekend. His crusty and no-nonsense personality was on full display during his tenure as an ABQ GOP state representative from 1979 through 2002 and in his well-known and anticipated newsletter "Buffett's Bullets." It was that publication filled with his conservative wit and wisdom and frequent ribbing of the Democratic majority that made him a statewide political presence.

Buffet was a cousin of famous Omaha investor Warren Buffett. He invested with him early and was richly rewarded, but George was also one of New Mexico's most successful businessmen in his own right. Buffett's Candies on Lomas Blvd. with its iconic candy cane is a local institution, in business since 1956.

Here's a profile of Buffett from the Omaha World-Herald written in 2011.

Former NM GOP executive director Kevin Moomaw now in Austin was among the many who worked with Buffett offering a remembrance:

George was one of the must principled individuals I have ever had the pleasure to have known. He always put principal above political expediency. His insight and integrity will be missed.

Buffet had the courage of his convictions. Unlike many of today's Republicans, he took it directly to the faction of the GOP dominated by--among others--lawyer lobbyist Mickey Barnett. We blogged in June of 2004 of his stunning upset over Barnett when he ousted him as the New Mexico GOP national committeeman.

Buffett was a conservative, but not a bully and not in the game to feather his own nest but to spread his message of hard work and fiscal discipline. He did so as a curmudgeon and with a perseverance that won him admirers on both sides of the aisle. His chapter in the never-ending book of La Politica was well-earned.

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