Friday, October 17, 2014

Big Weekend For Campaign: Heavy Early Voting Starts And We Get The Only Real Guv Debate, Plus: SOS Race Gets Out Of Gate; A Reader Predicts Winners and Losers, And: Ben Hall's Campaign Haul Questioned 

Campaign '14 grinds on with a big weekend ahead. 18 additional "My Vote Centers" will open for early voting in Bernalillo County on Saturday and stay open through November 1, 2014. Hours of operation are Monday through Saturday 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Thousands of votes will be cast on Saturday alone so candidates without their media act together could suffer. . .

On Sunday Governor Martinez and her Democratic challenger Gary King will face off in what will be their only real debate of consequence. It will air on KOAT-TV Sunday at 6 p.m. and will be King's last chance to force a gaffe or at least drum up more interest in the race among the Democratic base.

Well over half the votes of this election are expected to be cast early. That is before Nov. 4. We had about 607,700 total votes cast statewide in the last mid-term in 2010. For this election yhe Alligators are setting the early "over-under" betting line at 600,000. . .

The women who would like to be the states's chief election officer are out of the starting gate. Incumbent GOP Secretary of State Dianna Duran joins her Dem challenger and Bernalillo County Clerk Maggie Toulouse Oliver on the air with her first ad. In it she says she deserves re-election because she cleaned up mess left behind by her Dem predecessors.

Third party national money also came into the contest this week. Super PAC SOS for Democracy is airing this spot calling Duran "reckless and incompetent" for turning over the names of 64,000 registered voters to the state police. She thought they might be involved in voter fraud but nothing ever came of it.

Insider polling in the SOS race has it starting tight. However, Oliver is ahead in her home county of Bernalillo. The race could hinge on how well Oliver performs here. A big score and it will be hard for Duran to make it up elsewhere. All three TV ads in the race thus far--Oliver's, Duran's, and the independent group's--are strong. The other foot to drop in the race is what negative Duran hits Oliver with.


The WaPo's Chris Cillizza wrote this about The national election scene but it especially applies to New Mexico:

The election is boring, sure. But it's more than that. It's vapid and inconsequential at a time when the world's challenges suggest a need for something more. We now live in an era of political smallness mismatched to the big-ness of the societal issues we face. It's no wonder everyone is so anxious about the future. It's as fuzzy as it's been in a very long time.


The high-tech age continues to change the way candidates talk to the voters:

The Albuquerque-based tech firm microIT Infrastructure, LLC, is pleased to announce the release of a free mobile app for the iPhone, iPad, iPod, and iTouch platforms in support of the Jefferson L. Byrd for U.S. Congress, New Mexico, campaign for the 3rd congressional district. The app can be download in the Apple App Store.

Byrd is the Tucumcari rancher who is making a second attempt to unseat northern Dem Congressman Ben Ray Lujan who is a heavy favorite for re-election.


From the trail in the North we learn of the super PAC supporting the GOP state House candidates getting sloppy, but it doesn't seem to much bother former Clovis area District Attorney Matt Chandler who heads the PAC:

A Super PAC mailer targeting incumbent state Rep. Stephanie Garcia Richard blasts her for voting in favor of expunging criminal records. The problem? She actually voted against it.

The glossy mailer, sent to residents in Garcia Richard's hotly contested House District 43, which includes Los Alamos and part of Santa Fe County, comes from Advance New Mexico Now. It features a dark photo of a classroom with the ominous words "A violent criminal working in a day care center ... And no one knew?"  On the back is a photo of Garcia Richard, a Democrat who won election to the more conservative district two years ago. Next to the photo are words accusing her of voting "to HIDE arrest records from employers like daycare centers and schools."

Matthew Chandler, who heads Advance New Mexico Now, doesn't deny that the PAC got the facts wrong. But he says Garcia Richard's voting record on public safety "swings back and forth depending on who's in the room." 

But, Matt, if her vote "swings back and forth" why didn't you say that instead of getting it wrong on your mailer?

Garcia Richard faces Los Alamos County Councilor Geoff Rodgers. Richard has the edge with insider polling and talks with political professionals pointing to her re-election.


Ben Hall
Dem attorney and activist Robert Lara reacts to the news we broke here this week that southern NM GOP Public Regulation Commissioner Ben Hall appears to be paying himself and his wife a salary from his publicly financed campaign account:

The goal of public financing is to provide for clean elections that prohibit wealthy interests from purchasing influence in political races. Candidates are required to not only raise seed money to qualify for public financing, but are limited on how much they can spend on a race once they voluntarily accept the taxpayers money. Once the candidate is given this money, they are obligated to comply with not only the rule of the law but the spirit of the law.

As a former finance director for several campaigns I can tell you that no candidate I have ever heard of has paid themselves a "salary" out of the funds being raised for the campaign. The standard is that campaign funds are used for campaign expenses and that these expenses are justified, documented, and necessary for the furtherance of the campaign and not the personal benefit of the candidate.

A review of the other campaign finance reports of every other candidate running for the PRC this cycle show that expenditures included fuel costs, printing, advertising, meals, lodging, phone banking....all the normal costs of a campaign. All of these expenses should come with a invoice or receipt and the proper taxes are included in the transactions.

Commissioner Hall's reports show he had most of those normal expenses but in addition to those there are several "campaign work" expenditures. However there is no detail in the report to show what "campaign work" or "campaign consulting" was done. Whatever work was done it was handsomely rewarded out of the taxpayers pocket. I find it difficult to believe that, as his report shows, you can incur, in a one week period, a salary of $2580.00 in one week. That would be an annual salary of $134,160.00! Nice work if you can get it! At this rate none of the public's funds given to Commissioner Hall will be left over to return to the Public Election Fund.

So my question is why is it that the Commissioner feels that his state issued $90,000 + benefits and pension salary as a PRC Commissioner needs to be supplemented by funds reserved for campaign expenses? Using public money for your private benefit is a slap in the face to the people you are elected to represent in District 5. As one of those constituents, I am appalled at this behavior and know that the citizens of NM want their money spent on clean and fair elections, not the private piggy banks of our elected officials.

And we await Commissioner Hall's response. He faces Dem Sandy Jones for that PRC seat.


Reader Gil Armijo is first up with fun political predictions for 2014, He claims an 84% batting average:

This is a low-low turnout election cycle. That is the lowest type of turnout models. All of the time wasted on targeting low propensity voters or wasting time on voter registration is exactly that; a complete waste of time, human resources and in some cases, precious campaign money.

Voter behavior strongly favors R voters. These voters are perhaps the only group of voters who have an issue which motivates them to the polls. In this regard, it is all about Obamacare with R voters.

I do not see any tipping point in this election cycle. It will be almost perfectly textbook. Low, low turnout with R voters more motivated than any other group.

Translation: Despite the fact that bottom down ballot positions are largely non-competitive races; D's as a whole will under-perform and there could be as many as two bottom down ballot positions going to the R win column.

The House will stay D. That is because the Navajo Nation will send a superbly qualified D to Santa Fe, replacing the R incumbent. It will end with the House D's holding a razor thin margin of 1 vote.

The governor's race is already yesterday's news. Although I predict that Gov. Susana Martinez will be offered a Cabinet position following the 2016 presidential election. And it will be a POTUS-R after 2016. And I further predict she will accept.

So there is some good news to look forward to in the near future because as you know better than most from your extensive experience; New Mexico politics is never more interesting when there is a shakeup in the Roundhouse with their accompanying appointments, etc.

Some of that is pretty wild, Gil. But keeping it interesting its what it's all about.


Reader Tony Davis writes in defense of Dem State Land Commissioner Ray Powell who is being lambasted from one end of the state to another by his Republican challenger Aubrey Dunn:

Aubrey Dunn, Jr. has implied that Powell's poor land management has resulted “in overgrown forests, then massive forest fires and flash floods [which] impacts all New Mexicans.” He cites as examples the Las Conchas fire and the Little Bear fire.

I’m sorry, Mr. Dunn, but those fires began on Forest Service land, not State land, and if you are to become Land Commissioner, you should learn the difference. As someone evacuated before the approaching Little Bear fire, I resent that you assume we voters would not know.

In his ads Mr. Dunn has also accused Commissioner Powell of being a “career politician”. Ray Powell has run for State Land Commissioner four times and served three terms, two from 1994 to 2002 and 2010 to the present. Mr. Dunn has run for office three times: he was a Republican candidate for US Congress, CD-2, in 2008; he was the 2012 Republican candidate for District 39 of the New Mexico State Senate; and now he’s running for State Land Commissioner.

So you could call Mr. Dunn a career politician as well, since he has run for office almost as many times as Ray Powell – he just hasn’t won.

Dunn vs. Powell--one of the key races we'll be watching Election Night.


Reader Peter Ives writes:

You might be amused to see that the 29 Sept issue of The New Yorker (p.11, "Chile Pepper Festival") referred to our sacred NM veg as chile and not chili. Is this a cultural turning point--or just a new style book detail? Have the Texans "lost"? Will wonders never cease?

Good one, Peter. And you've heard this one:

In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. Then He turned around and someone else made Texas.

Thanks for stopping by this week.

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