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Thursday, September 04, 2014

Polling Has Pearce Sitting High On His Perch; Reps Grisham And Lujan Coasting, Plus: The Great Tesla Tease Ends Predictably; Blaming Susana Or Not 

Steve Pearce is going to be difficult to knock off his congressional perch. That's no surprise but the stiffness of the challenge the Dems face in unseating the southern NM Republican may be an eye-opener. Insider polling--not affiliated with the Pearce campaign or that of his Democratic opponent Rocky Lara--shows Pearce hovering around the 60% mark in his match-up with Lara, an attorney and former Eddy County Commissioner.

The national Dems have pounded the table over Lara arguing that a Hispanic candidate is poised to take back the conservative leaning district. They've helped raise a boatload of cash for Lara who at last report had nearly a million dollars. However, over the summer she did no media and gained no ground on Pearce.

A consultant familiar with the race says Lara should start climbing once her media campaign kicks in, but being so far out means the Dems are now looking for a close call on Pearce and the hope that Lara could come back in '16 and take him out in the high turnout presidential year.  That same consultant says voters in the district who have been polled may not realize Lara is Hispanic and once they do she will benefit.

That Lara is getting all the attention from DC Dems has not gone without grumbling. The argument being that national Dems were quick to write off Dem Gary King in his battle against GOP Governor Susana Martinez, but now you have Pearce polling at 60% and Martinez at 50%. Why not send some cash King's way and see if he can get the incumbent down to 49% and the Dem juices flowing?

For Lara election night will be a nail-biter, but not in the traditional sense. She will be anxiously waiting to see if she can keep Pearce's victory in single digits. If she can't, there may be no second chance.

Real Clear Politics recently went in-depth on the Pearce-Lara match-up.

IN THE HOUSE

We've seen no polling on the other two NM US House seats. That's because incumbent ABQ Dem Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham and northern Dem Rep. Ben Ray Lujan are not receiving serious challenges.

One of the biggest political events in our 40 years of covering New Mexican politics has been seeing the ABQ congressional seat no longer defined as a "swing" seat. It is now seen as lean Dem or even safe Dem.

The R's held the seat exclusively from 1969 until Martin Heinrich took it from them in 2008. He went to the US Senate in 2012 and Grisham took his congressional spot, garnering just over 59% of the vote. In the lower turnout year of 2014, she will be pressed to repeat that performance, but a double digit win is easily in her sights. Engineer Mike Frese is her foe, but getting no national support. He is, however, a happy warrior, coming with a 60 second spot that pokes fun at the spelling of his last name.

As for the North, nothing much has changed there in the past 40 years. The Lujan seat is labeled "safe Dem" without hesitation. He took the seat in 2008 when Tom Udall left it for the US Senate. In 2012, Lujan scored a 63% victory. In the nonpresidential year of 2010 he commanded 57%. In '14 his win can be expected to equal that 2010 number. His foe this cycle is rancher Jefferson Byrd who also ran against Lujan in 2012.

JOB APPLICANTS

The NM Business Coalition did its candidate "job interviews" with the contenders for secretary of state, auditor and land commissioner at a forum recently in Santa Fe. You can see video of the event here.

THE TESLA TEASE

The Great Tesla Tease is over for New Mexico. There will no second date. Nevada gets the girl--or in this case the coveted battery "gigafactory." It will be remembered as a bizarre adventure, with the electric car maker essentially trying to blackmail five states--including ours--into offering incentives bordering on the ludicrous. The 6,500 good-paying jobs were more than enough to make the politicos drool and start opening the cookie jar. The price tag for the incentives (corporate welfare?) was officially set at $500 million but could end up well north of that mark.

Are there political ramifications for Gov. Martinez in not attracting Tesla? Gary King did put out a news release blaming the loss for her "failure of leadership." Well, it was always a very long shot--as repeatedly noted by our Senior Alligators--but the business press played it more seriously than it deserved so some will be genuinely disappointed that Tesla ditched us in favor of Harry Reid's Nevada.

The Governor is definitely vulnerable on jobs and business conditions--if her opposition would package it--but Tesla is a ripple in a much larger pond of stagnating water that is today's NM economy.

Hasta la Vista, Tesla. Nice meeting you, but gold-diggers really are better off in the Silver State.

ALLIGATORS ARISE

The Tesla decision brought forth the Alligators, their jaws snapping at the latest offering of red meat One of the Senior Gators (at least 20 years experience in La Politica; minimum age of 45 and a reliable source for exclusive political news) thrashed about and came with this:

It's time for the state to get serious about the challenges we face and stop heading off on one fool's errand after another, like the latest Tesla fiasco. Our leadership class--both Republican and Democratic--needs to either try a different approach , or they need to go. New Mexico cannot endure their collective failures much longer.

An Alligator of the Dem variety says Martinez owns the Tesla loss:

The Governor got out of the Tesla project what she put in--nothing. The Governor failed to mobilize a team of community leaders, agencies, elected officials as other states did to bid for the deal. Her "my way or the highway" approach and inability to get along with anyone who is not completely on her side is what's going to make this loss stick to her. Her economic development secretary lacks the sophistication and knowledge to drive a deal like this. She and her administration own this loss. We are playing single A ball and the rest of the states are playing in the major leagues. She can continue to pick on Bill Richardson but at least he had the gravitas and knowledge to understand that you don't approach a deal as big as this one as a solo effort. Remember when it was Richardson and Domenici that introduced the New Mexico partnership? That's called bipartisanship, Governor. 

Feel feel to email us your take on the events of our time, or thoughts about your restless, existential angst that has yet to be resolved.

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(c)NM POLITICS WITH JOE MONAHAN 2014. Not for reproduction without permission of the author
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