Thursday, October 09, 2014

Guv Race Sputters But Battle For State House Is Hotter Than Hatch Green, Plus: Estrada And Emailgate; What History Will Remember, And: Our Exclusive Poll: Balderas Holds Lead Over Riedel In AG Contest 

With the Guv race still sputtering all eyes are on the Battle Royale for control of the New Mexico House of Representatives.

The historic confrontation between the two major parties is fully engaged with hit lit flooding the mailboxes in the battleground seats, radio ads up and running and field crews combing the precincts working to boost voter turnout.

Today we posted a sample of the negative mail out there.  This one fries freshman ABQ State Rep, Liz Thomson over education. It's paid for by Advance NM, a legislative PAC for the R's. Its Dem counterpart is Patriot Majority which is strongly backed by the labor unions. (Also, enviro groups are slamming James, says newshound Deborah Baker.)

Thomson is being challenged by Republican Conrad James who served one term before Thomson ousted him in the 2012 election. He is walking the district. She is unable to walk but is on the phone daily trying to win a second term and perhaps thwart a GOP takeover of the House. The Dems control the chamber 37 to 33 and need only three seats to take control and perhaps only one to form a coalition with conservative Democrats and force a change in the leadership.

The Dems are playing defense with three incumbents enduring an especially intense hammering by the R's--Thomson, Emily Kane in ABQ and Phil Archuleta in Las Cruces. But could the Dems score an unexpected upset out in Indian Country that could thwart the R's attempted House coup? The Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee in DC has put a race on its "Races to Watch" list in hopes of doing just. It's the seat held by freshman GOP Rep. Sharon E. Clahchischilliage. Harrison Todacheene is the Dem challenger. From the DLCC:

Air Force veteran Harrison Todacheene has spent over 40 years serving his Shiprock community as a member of IBEW, a Project Manager for the Navajo Nation and Commander of the Shiprock Veterans Organization. He's played an instrumental role in getting dozens of projects funded and built in his home community. Through his leadership, HD4 now has the San Juan Multigenerational Center, a new facility that cares for both elders and preschoolers and the Chaco Hills Apartments, quality affordable housing for working families. 

Polling on the Navajo Reservation--where many of the voters in the district reside--is notoriously difficult. We won't know until Election Night whether the Dems are bluffing on this one or whether it indeed proves to be a "race to watch."


Estrada (Sorber, ABQ Journal)
So Jamie Estrada is off to prison for nine months for hijacking Susana Martinez's campaign email account. That the short-lived campaign manager for Martinez deserves some punishment--if not prison--is certain, but what will history really remember of his caper? The fact that the campaign account was unlawfully hijacked or the revelations that were on those emails, especially the revelation that showed a shadow state government was operating on private email?

And what will history say was the larger infraction? Estrada's email hijacking or Governor Martinez's secret government?

For now the Governor's spinners and the mainstream media accept that Estrada is the villain and the emails--some of them showing possible bid rigging for the Downs at ABQ racino lease that has been investigated by the FBI--are mere asides. Here's how one news account innocuously puts it two years after the firestorm that raged over the content of the emails:

Those emails included personal and political communications and emails from ordinary citizens to Martinez or her staff. They included emailed bank statements to campaign staff; Martinez’s online shopping for underwear and books; and confidential political messages. . . 

What about the conduct of official business on back channel email accounts that Martinez was forced to rebuke in the wake of the Estrada bust? And what about her chief political adviser being caught on those emails asking a government agency for a list of email addresses of all school teachers?

At his sentencing Monday Federal prosecutors said Estrada was "dishonest, devious, spiteful and conniving" during the time he took control over the campaign email system in mid-2011 after Martinez became governor and leaked email to damage or embarrass Martinez.

Federal prosecutors from the US Attorney's office could easily use the same language to describe the back channel, shadow government that Estrada's crime revealed. But they haven't and they won't. It will be left to history to sort it out.

Meanwhile, what's going on at the US Attorney's office? Is Greg Fouratt still running the joint? Or maybe lawyer Pat Rogers--a member of the shadow government who was all over the private email messages pushing his ABQ Downs client with the Martinez administration? He was appearing on TV with a straight face last night asserting how he and others had been severely harmed by Estrada's email disclosures. Sorry, Pat, but your crocodile tears aren't convincing to the Alligators of La Politica.


After months of vilifying Estrada, Martinez political operatives showed some self-restraint and withheld gloating over the demise of their enemy. However, one of them--former Bernalillo County Sheriff Darren White--did make this legal point:

Estrada gets 9 months in prison. Had he been sentenced to a year and a day, with good time he would have served 9 months. Now, no good time.

White's point being that even though the federal judge sentencing Estrada did not officially give Estrada the maximum sentence of a year and a day, Estrada will serve the same amount of time as if he had been slapped with the maximum. But Estrada could serve some of that time in a halfway house--not prison.

And what was Gov. Martinez doing at the Estrada hearing? Playing victim? Getting revenge?  Not necessary, Susana. And the same goes for your TV spot where you mention by name former Gov. Richardson. Bad form. You're way ahead. Why not stay above the fray and look like a leader?

(And if you want more free advice, Guv, meet us at the Pink Adobe for lunch and we'll make Jay jealous).


State Auditor Hector Balderas is on his way to nailing down the race for attorney general, according to a poll conducted for New Mexico Politics with Joe Monahan on Monday and Tuesday of this week.

Balderas leads his Republican rival Susan Riedel 48% to 41% with 11% undecided, reports Bruce Donisthrope of BWD Global whose firm conducted the automated phone call survey. It drew 1,509 responses from likely voters and has margin of error of 2..5%.

Says Donisthorpe:

Balderas is on a trend line toward winning the election with 54% of the vote if these numbers hold up on election day. Balderas has strong leads (where almost 2/3 of the votes are located) in the Albuquerque Metro (56%- 36%) and Northern New Mexico (68%-25%) areas, while Riedel has strong control of the race in Southern New Mexico (61%-24%), including the lead in Dona Ana County (44%-39%).

The complete poll with cross tabs is here.

Balderas, a native of Wagon Mound, is the lone Democratic Hispanic statewide down-ballot candidate. It's helping his cause. He scores 70% support among Hispanic voters. That is key as Riedel holds the lead among independent voters as well as Republicans. Among all Democrats Balderas garners 74%.

Both candidates have been up on a statewide TV for several weeks. Shortly before this poll was conducted Governing magazine drew attention to the race by calling it a "toss-up." But this poll shows that is currently not the case.

Donisthorpe, a Republican, has been polling for this web site since 2008. This cycle his firm has polled for both Republican and Democratic political candidates, but not the attorney general's contest.


We have a soft spot for legendary newsman Sam Donaldson who calls New Mexico home. In 1974, shortly after President Nixon resigned, New Jersey Rep. Peter Rodino--chairman of the House Judiciary Committee--appeared at an ABQ news conference. We attended it for the UNM Daily Lobo and barked a question at Rodino drawing a reaction from the aggressive Donaldson of ABC News  who bellowed out to the gathering "Good question!"

 It was a heady moment for a 19 year old cub. So we wish Donaldson well as he returns to NM public TV to host a series of debates among the political candidates. Tonight at 7 p.m. on KNME it will be ABQ US Dem Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham facing off with Republican Mike Frese with Donaldson asking what we are sure will be "good questions."

This is the home of New Mexico politics.

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