Thursday, October 16, 2014

Blogging Campaign '14: The State House Money Explosion, Oil Price Slide Could Slam Santa Fe, Is Hector Missing Someone? More On Tim's TV Timing And A Matanza Alert 

The explosion of money in the battle for control of the NM House was expected but it's still startling to see it play out. The engorged super PACS have so much cash--too much--that they are now buying radio ads that reach only a tiny fraction of their intended audiences in the key battleground districts in the ABQ metro.

It's what happens when you have a nearly unregulated campaign finance system. Legislative races that not long ago might see $30,000 in total spending will now see $200,000 or more. Well, economically challenged New Mexico has at least one growth industry between now and November 4. . .

Our challenges could get even greater as the price of oil craters. Crude oil is trading down near $80 a barrel--almost a four year low. The experts at the Legislative Finance Committee in Santa Fe (hat tip to David Abbey) tell us the state budget for the current fiscal year that ends June 30, 2015 is based on an average oil price of $92 a barrel. For the budget year that begins July 1, 2015 the state is counting on an average price of $88 a barrel. We have pierced both of those support levels.

If oil were to stay in the current range or lower for a number of months, it would impact energy royalties the state heavily depends on. Economist Gerry Bradley with NM Voices for Children tells us for each $1 change in the price of a barrel of oil--up or down--the impact on the state treasury is $6 million.

So while New Mexicans enjoy what amounts to a big tax cut at the gas pumps, their state services could get squeezed if this oil downturn becomes a full-fledged bear market and not just a short-term correction. . .

Back on the battle for the state House for a second. Since most of the super PAC radio ads are not posted on line, the best way for a political junkie to keep up with all them is by checking out 770 KKOB-AM in ABQ. Most, if not all, of the  PACS have bought time on the 50,000 watt conservative talk station. . .

The newshounds are already complaining that they can barely keep up with the flood of TV ads that is pouring forth as we approach the final two weeks of Campaign '14. That's in addition to the deluge of other campaign news that starts to come this time in the cycle. More politics watchers are relying on Twitter for breaking campaign news. Here are the Twitter handles of some of the NM reporters who follow the action:

@steveterrell, @bmasseyAP, @DanBoydNM, @AlexG_Reporter, @NMTelegram, @RussContreras and  @Peter_StCyr. And, of course you can find us at @newsguy44.

While it is getting busier, we have to say this has not been a campaign year that has been exceptionally busy. The low-key race for governor has a lot to do with that. . .

Gary King takes a lot of heat for not being very telegenic, but in this interview with public TV's Lorene Mills, King comes to life in a way that not many New Mexicans have had a chance to see. . .


You know there is no love lost between State Auditor Hector Balderas and Attorney General Gary King, but now that Hector is the Dem AG nominee and Gary is the Guv hopeful, the split is more notable. Look at this campaign missive from Hector:

I head out to northern New Mexico and I hope you will join me in supporting our great Democratic ticket--Maggie Toulouse Oliver, nominee for Secretary of State, Tim Keller, nominee for State Auditor, Tim Eichenberg, nominee for Treasurer, and Kerry Kiernan, nominee for NM Court of Appeals.

We're sure the omission of Gary's name was purely unintentional and just a typo. If not, we propose a peace meeting between the two at Barelas Coffee House following the election. Hector, you're buying--and here's why:

Democrat Hector Balderas holds a more than 8-to-1 campaign cash advantage over Republican Susan Riedel in New Mexico’s race for attorney general. Balderas spent nearly $334,825 in the past month, with three-fourths of it for television advertising, according to the latest campaign finance reports. Balderas had cash on hand of $601,692 as of last week, and Riedel had a balance of $69,627. Her campaign spent more than $161,527, with about 90 percent for ads. Balderas is a two-term state auditor, and Riedel is a former prosecutor and district judge from Las Cruces. The reports filed with the Secretary of State’s Office cover contributions and spending from Sept. 2 through Oct. 6.


The Wednesday blog detailing how Dem State Auditor nominee Tim Keller went negative on his Republican opponent in his new TV ad got them talking. Veteran Dem consultant Harry Pavlides thought it was unnecessary for Keller to go negative on the tube. Here are some different takes:

The Dem base has all but given up hope that there is a Democrat with enough moxie to call things out as they are. Keller did just that. Aragon is an unethical tool of Martinez, who as state auditor would target Dems and ignore her admin's wrongdoing. Further, the ad is clearly one that will cause people to talk. The more discussion about an ad the more impact it has. Clearly that is an ad that will generate a lot of buzz.

And another:

Not only is it a good, creative ad. I have been waiting for someone to do a "Breaking Bad" tie-in, which even got him some national attention. It shows he has some chutzpah and is not afraid to go after people. Plus with only so much money you can raise in an Auditors race, you've got to use it wisely, which makes it hard to do with a full positive ad. Overall, I think it is one of the better ads I have seen in NM this cycle.

As that reader mentioned, the ad also drew attention because Keller filmed part of it at an ABQ car wash featured in the TV series "Breaking Bad." While that drew a lot of attention among the millennials dominating social media, the reference probably had little punch with the off-year NM voter whose average age is near 60.

Insider polling has Keller trailing Aragon by about four points, but that's before any media in the race. The survey does show the power of ethnic voting and the turnout problem the Dems have this year and that's why Keller went negative. We go back to consultant Pavlides for a reaction to our email writers.:

If Keller did not have enough money to do a positive spot to introduce himself and follow that up with a negative one on Aragon he could have pursued a different strategy--do a positive TV ad and use the mail to attack Aragon. It would be less costly and  just as effective and leave Keller out there as a positive personality.

As for Aragon, he responded to the Keller attack this way:

Aragon called the charges in the ad half-truths, and said that by using Breaking Bad it implies he’s a criminal. Aragon has previously disclosed the tax liens against him, and his law firm and has said the liens were the result of an audit. Aragon said the firm had employees to handle tax matters. “But I take responsibility. ... Every dime they said I owed, I paid.”

The tag line to Keller's ad is "the clean choice," not the clean "candidate" as we originally blogged. And. . .

Several readers wrote in to tell us it was Presbyterian Medical Services, not Presbyterian Health Services that had the behavioral health issue with the state and that they are very different companies. We erred in our first draft.


Can you be a candidate and be paid to consult your own campaign? That question arises from a look at the campaign fiance reports of southern NM GOP Public Regulation Commissioner Ben Hall. He reports spending $20,042.58 to pay himself and his wife--Maria Cottom Hall--for campaign expenses
and campaign work. (In his first report he said the purpose was for campaign expenses and in the second he said for campaign work).

Hall chose public financing for his race against Democrat Sandy Jones and received $50,000 to run his campaign.


Campaign '14 has been a pretty joyless affair so surely it's time for a matanza to perk things up:

Please join us at our 3rd Annual Senator Michael Padilla Matanza and BBQ. This community event will be held on Saturday, October 18, at 10:30 AM, at 7241 Isleta SW. Enjoy fresh chicharrones, beef brisket, pork loin, papas, beans, chile, tortillas, cobbler, and biscochitos. Mariachi Tenampa will play New Mexico favorites. And, win one of fifteen sacks of New Mexico green chile roasted during the event.

This invite appears to be in order but we had a number of questions so we convened a special meeting of the Committee on Chicharrones of which we are an honorary gringo member with no voting power.

We queried the Committee about the 10:30 a.m starting time for the Matanza. Isn't that too early? No, the Committee ruled. 10:30 a.m. is fine, although it is the earliest starting time permitted. Also, beer consumption is not permitted until 11 a.m. However, those stirring the chicharrones are allowed beer before 11 a.m. but the Committee stated it can only be difficult-to-find cans of Coors that require a can opener. After 11 a.m. all attendees can have the beer of their choice.

Also, the Committee notified matanza organizers that speeches from the political candidates are strictly limited to 90 seconds each. Violation of this rule could result in the cancellation of next year's 4th Annual Matanza.

It goes without saying that the Committee reiterated the mandatory requirement that the chicharrones be stirred with a wooden paddle and not metal of any kind. Photographers from the Committee on Chicharrones will be present to ensure compliance with all rules and regulations. It is ordered that they be fed first and reimbursed for any expenses from Senator Padilla's campaign fund. Now go enjoy the matanza. . . .

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