Thursday, January 16, 2014

Governor's Latest Poll Numbers: Strong But Not Invincible, Plus: Children In The News Drive Politics This Week, And: A New ABQ Newspaper? Attorney Will Ferguson Says "Start The Presses" 

Governor Martinez's approval rating of 55% among registered voters in a poll conducted for NM Common Cause is nothing to sneeze at, but gone are the heady days when she polled well north of 60%.

Pollster Brian Sanderof advises that a poll of "likely" voters--not registered voters--would mean more Republicans would be polled and would probably put Martinez's approval rating a couple points higher, but she is still far below the lofty levels she peaked at.

Martinez peaked in public polling at a hefty 69% in September 2012 in the immediate aftermath of a well-received speech before the Republican national Convention.

Martinez has completed 3 years as Governor and like her predecessors has gradually accumulated baggage. She also faces the challenge of being a Republican in a Democratic state as well as deflecting blame for one of the worst economic stretches in state history.

An incumbent is considered vulnerable when they poll below 50%. This survey shows that the worst is over for the Dems when it comes to Martinez's popularity, but they have their work cut out for them to bring her below 50% and get the '14 Guv race in play.

Still, if the Democratic nomination for Governor traded on the stock exchange at 10 bucks a share and you bought it early last year, today those shares would be worth modestly more.

Since Martinez has not been subjected to any significant paid media attacks in the past 3 years analysts will be watching to see what the first wave of attack ads does to her standing. Are there any hints of a glass jaw or is her support solid?

On the plus side for the Governor in this survey is her 55% approval rating among Hispanics who are predominately Democrats. Also, she scores 61% approval among men, many of whom are Republicans. She also nabs 53% of the independent voters. Dems have an opening with women as only 50% of them approve of Martinez's performance.

The poll was conducted Dec. 20 thru Jan. 2 by Research and Polling which also conducts political polls for the ABQ Journal, a part owner of the firm. This survey was commissioned by Common Cause. The MOE is plus or minus 4.5%.


Some sensational news stories involving the Governor have erupted since that poll was taken. There's the horrific abuse death of 9 year old Omaree Varela, allegedly at the hands of his mother. That the Governor and her Children Youth and Families Department (CYFD) taking major heat. Then there's this week's school shooting in Roswell where two youngsters were wounded and the story vaulted into the national headlines. More now on both....

Coverage on Omaree continues with journalist Wally Gordon coming with a piece that examines the huge caseloads at CYFD:

Omaree had been on the CYFD radar for four years before he died, and the department had twice opened a file on him, once when his mother went to prison on drug charges and again in 2012 when Omaree showed up at school with wounds he said his mother had inflicted on him. 

Although the governor insisted nobody could have prevented the boy’s death, the former CYFD worker disagrees. CYFD had options, he says, and he doesn’t understand why they were not utilized. He said there needs to be a full investigation of this failure.

The reasons people don’t want to work at CYFD seem to begin with problems of salaries and management but focus even more heavily on the huge caseload. The typical caseload in one office is 30 to 45 clients a month, and many of those are emergency cases that must be resolved within six hours. In other words, the typical case worker has to deal with about two new cases every working day.. . .

Governor Martinez has proposed an additional $600,000 to hire 10 more CYFD social workers, but couldn't the Legislature in its upcoming session easily triple that to $1.8 million and hire 30? With these burdensome caseloads and Omaree's death in the background would government austerity hawks still carry the day? Would Martinez risk vetoing such an increase?


Chief Kassetas
Just as coverage of Omaree's death was winding down, the shooting that wounded two middle school students in Roswell brought us back to the state of the state's children.

The 12 year old shooter apparently came from a family that is well-off, but still that ranking of New Mexico last year as the worst state in the nation for child well-being haunts us each time something like this happens.

The shooting had Governor Martinez and top state law enforcement officials rushing to the Roswell middle school to offer assistance and to take charge of dispersing information.

The NM State Police which has had a dreadful run of public relations in recent years was finally seen in a positive light. That was mainly due to State Police Chief Peter Kassetas, a 20 year veteran of the department, but who only assumed the chief's position last August.

Kassetas offered concise, professional briefings and stood patiently for questions as the national spotlight fell on him. He came across confident, open and informed--key traits to alleviate worry in a panicked public.

With the state police and ABQ police department both surrounded by so much controversy of late, it was a relief to see that the ball was not dropped during this most emotional and tender moment for New Mexico.


A newspaper? In this economy? And aren't they supposed to be going the way of the horse and buggy, anyway? Well, hope springs eternal for veteran NM reporter Dan Vukelich and longtime ABQ personal injury attorney Will Ferguson. Vukelich, a stand-out from the old ABQ Tribune, says he will start a new ABQ weekly newspaper and Ferguson says he will provide the financing for the venture--at least $500,000.

Vukelich tells us more about the "ABQ Free Press:"

It's not news, as in chasing events, but analysis, investigative and interpretive reporting. Chasing issues would be a better description. Pieces will be written by paid freelancers who show me they can write with authority. . . We’ll be covering politics, the economy, civil liberties, privacy and things that actually affect the lives of people. . . I have seen the need for a more centrist and inclusive voice in the media in this town.

The paper hopes to hit the street in May. Like the Weekly Alibi, Vukelich says the Free Press will be...well...free.

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