Friday, October 24, 2014

An Unusual Newspaper Endorsement, Dona Ana Vote Problems Explained, More On Ben Hall's Haul And Debating The "Latino Heart" 

The liberal Taos News endorsing the Republican candidate for Governor? It's that kind of year for the D's:

Gov. Susana Martinez has helped Taos County in crisis, such as during the natural gas outage in February 2013. During fires and floods in other parts of the state, her office has come to the aid of affected citizens. New Mexicans can count on help from her during times of natural disasters, including a health crisis. We wish, however, she had shown more concern when Questa’s molybdenum mine closed, and we urge her to give more assistance to our local miners looking for work or wanting to start their own businesses.

Taos County is heavily Dem and Martinez scored only 30 percent of the vote there in 2010.

More news that the Dems aren't going to like. It appears that the Navajo presidential election--scheduled for the same day as the NM election--is not going to happen. The Navajo Nation Supreme Court called it off. Dems were counting on that election to attract Native Americans to the polls--most of whom are Dems---and casting ballots for Dem state candidates. . .

New Mexico born human rights activist Dolores Huerta, 84, --a recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom--will campaign with Dem Guv hopeful Gary King this weekend. A schedule of stops is here. Maybe that will help him shore up some support. . .

And here's a report on Mitt Romney's Thursday appearance on behalf of Gov. Martinez. . .

And how negative is Campaign '14 getting? Well, we just saw a mailer accusing Nate Gentry of killing Jasper the Tasmanian devil. Now that's negative :). . .


Dona Ana County Clerk Lynn Ellins reports on problems with voting tabulators that made some of our readers nervous:

Joe, the cause of the problem with the two voting tabulators is that the ink in the pens that were used did not dry quickly enough, thereby obstructing the ability of the tabulator to read the ballot – resulting in ballot rejection and re-insertment of the ballots by voters until the votes finally registered. In an attempt to remedy the problem by cleaning the lenses on the two tabulators, it inadvertently activated them to go into a different mode, causing the tabulators to count and record each insertion. Thinking that the problem was solved and unaware of the inadvertent activation, the tabulators were put back in service. It was at that point that two voters inserted and reinserted their ballots in the two separate machines, having the ballots counted each time.

Accordingly, the tabulator was not at fault. The problem was human error which will not be repeated. Also, we received new pens from the Secretary of State which should prevent a repetition of the problem for the remainder of the election. A new tabulator was brought in and the ballots were fed into it, resulting in the number of ballots counted equal to the number of ballots issued.


The newspaper comes with a follow-up to a story broken here recently--how southern NM GOP Public Regulation Commissioner Ben Hall is using his public financing in his race against Dem Sandy Jones::

Public Regulation Commissioner Ben Hall is using public financing for his candidacy to pay himself and his fiancee to campaign for his re-election. Hall paid himself and his fiancee, Maria Cottom, nearly $7,000 for “campaign work” over a month-long period, according to his campaign-finance reports. Hall said he pays himself and Cottom $25 per hour, but that he pays himself only for campaign work after 5 p.m. on Fridays and on weekends. Hall earns $90,000 a year as a PRC member.“If I didn’t hire and pay myself, I would have to hire someone else,” Hall said. “What is the big damn deal?” The commissioner said he also paid himself when he campaigned for election to the PRC in 2010 and that the Secretary of State’s Office, which oversees public financing of PRC campaigns, has approved the arrangement. “Everything I have done is legal and aboveboard,” Hall said. “I’m not trying to hide anything.”

 It isn’t unusual for a public official to pay a family member for campaign work, but it is for a candidate to pay himself.

If nothing else the Hall example calls for a rewrite of the regulations regarding how a candidate can spend public financing. It is not meant to be a salary.


More push back for our "no" vote on the advisory questions on the Bernalillo County ballot. One proposes decriminalizing marijuana and another calls for a property tax increase to finance mental health programs. BernCo Dem Commissioner Debbie O'Malley writes:

I also consider you to be very conscientious, however, I disagree with your assessment of the County advisory questions. The County advisory questions before the voters this November are reflective of relevant public issues and concerns that affect the day to day lives of the people in Bernalillo County. These questions don’t just ask a few people their opinion, but all people and in the most public way possible, an election. Should we begin a process to decriminalize marijuana for those in possession
of an ounce or less? Should the County enact 1/8 of a cent GRT (12 cents for every $100 spent) to address the mental and behavioral health crisis affecting our community? We’re asking the good citizens in our community to honestly respond to these questions. Their vote will count, and it will inform us on how to move forward on these highly important issues.

We blogged previously that we don't believe "advisory" questions belong on the election ballot.


Reader and Ambassador James Sweeney, a native New Mexican who served in the Clinton Administration as a Senior Advisor to the President on nuclear technology and nuclear nonproliferation, brings us back to the discussion over Gary King saying Martinez does not have a  "Latino heart."

Susana's response was that she "knows what is in her heart." I think any fair minded New Mexican and in particular Hispanics know full well what is in her heart, and that is certainly not a concern for Hispanic needs and aspirations. Her actions speak louder than words and those actions consist of favorite treatment to her wealthy contributors in the oil and gas industry at the expense of programs for the middle class and the poor. Her inability to secure new and high-paying jobs in New Mexico has been a dismal failure and affected all New Mexicans and especially Hispanics. Her economic development initiatives have been totally ineffective, and that is why New Mexico is at the bottom in recovering from the recession. Why is it that all the states bordering New Mexico have better recovery rates than New Mexico?

A true Hispanic would not continue year after year to push for the elimination of drivers license's for Hispanics that are not legal citizens. The vast majority of these people are hard working and honest individuals that work to provide for their families and incidentally do work that most Americans would not do. 

A senior member of the Martinez Administration was harshly critical of the English speaking ability of the late state House Speaker Ben Lujan. Governor Martinez did not advise him that she was a Hispanic and would not tolerate that kind of talk. Speaker Lujan was a loyal and dedicated advocate for Hispanic causes, and if Governor Martinez has a Latina Heart, she would have stood up for Speaker Lujan, but she did not. So Hispanics have a right to question her support of Hispanics.


What's the best radio spot of the 2014 cycle? Hands down, it's this rib-tickler from the conservative GoalWest PAC. It goes after ABQ Dem State Rep. Emily Kane who is locked in a tight race with Republican challenger Sarah Maestas Barnes. Key line: "JLO"--Just Like Obama. The ad is here

Interesting to note that the brother of southern NM GOP Congressman Steve Pearce is the treasurer of the GoalWest PAC registered out of Texas. . .

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E-mail your news and comments. (jmonahan@ix.netcom.com)

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

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Mitt Has A NM Moment Today, Maggie Urged To "Go North," Susana's "Espionage," And Reader Pushback On Ballot Measures 

Early in the campaign we thought we might see some big Democratic names campaign in the state, but only a visit by US Senator Elizabeth Warren came close. Today the R's pick up the slack and bring to town Mitt Romney to campaign for Gov. Martinez and the GOP ticket. He will do a high-dollar fund-raiser but also have a free public rally with Martinez. The duo will appear at 2 p.m. at Martinez headquarters located at 12000 Constitution NE.

Martinez had some mild criticism for Romney following the 20102 election which he lost to Obama, but national R's continue to embrace Martinez for her fund-raising ability and status as the nation's first female Hispanic Governor. Will Mitt run in '16? It's visits like today's that keep the tongues wagging. . .

The Romney visit is not going unnoticed by state Dems who slashed away with this:

Like Mitt Romney, Governor Martinez continues to show her contempt for poor and middle class New Mexicans by failing to create jobs, failing to solve the education crisis she promised to fix and now using Mr. Romney to solicit contributors at $2600+ per couple.


Go North, Maggie. So say the pundits, wall-leaners and Alligators closely watching the close race for NM secretary of state. Following our Tuesday night poll that showed Dem Bernalillo County Clerk Maggie Toulouse Oliver narrowly trailing GOP Secretary of State Dianna Duran 47.6% to 45.0%, we heard a Gator crack:

The poll showed that Duran is getting way too much Hispanic support--over 45%. Oliver needs to do a swing through the Hispanic North, come with a TV spot that is more compelling than she has on the air and buy more TV time. And, of course, do some Spanish media.

Oliver's campaign points out that most of the undecided vote is Democratic and Independent and in the end that could put her over the top.

Duran is shy of the critical 50% mark, but the poll buoyed her supporters, some of whom pointed out she could benefit from the big lead Martinez has in the governor's race in more ways than one. One R came with this:

Ballot position could work for us. The secretary of state's race is right below the race for Governor. Some of those crossover voters supporting Martinez could stick with Duran. In a tight race--like this one appears to be--that could make a difference.

The secretary of state's race is rated "toss-up" or as Dan Rather might say, "This thing is as tight as the rusted lugnuts on a '55 Ford."


This is making some of our readers nervous:

Two ballot-tabulating machines malfunctioned Tuesday during early voting at the Doña Ana County Government Center. . . However, county election officials assured the problem--which is still under review--won't harm the integrity of the election. That's because paper ballots counted by the affected machines can be fed into different, functional machines, they said. Doña Ana County elections supervisor Scott Krahling said election workers at the site noticed Tuesday morning that ballots weren't being accepted by the machines as readily as in past days of early voting. Voters often would insert a valid ballot, only for the machines to reject it. Then, one voter whose ballot was rejected more than once noticed that a counting device on the machine he was using increased by one each time he attempted to insert the paper ballot. In the case of a rejected ballot, the machine's tally isn't supposed to increase.

The Sun-News also reports that "the county's series of ballot tabulators are relatively new. Purchased by the New Mexico Secretary of State's Office, they were used for the first time in the county's primary election in June. They've worked well up until now, said the Dona Ana County elections supervisor."


You have to wonder if Gov. Martinez is re-elected if these sticky allegations of illegal political espionage in her 2010 campaign are going to haunt her. A witness has now emerged;

In a recent interview with a former staff member, the Santa Fe Reporter exposed alleged evidence of Martinez’s unlawful political espionage in an article published Tuesday. Anissa Ford, the former staffer, told the Reporter that Martinez asked her take a picture of an anti-Martinez bumper sticker on a car and send it to an investigator in Martinez’s Third Judicial District Attorney’s Office. The bumper sticker read, “Say No To Susana la Tejana,” a phrase used by Democrats at the time as a dig against Martinez. The investigator used law enforcement databases to trace the vehicle’s owner using its license plate number in the photo, Ford told the Santa Fe Reporter.

And the response from the Martinez camp:

"It is simply reckless and bad journalism to try to breathe life into baseless smear by a disgruntled hack whose home was raided by the FBI for her involvement in federal crimes and from a politician whose campaign benefited from the federal crimes for which his operative is now going to prison," a spokesman said.

Baseless smear or not? Attorney General King says he is investigating the disappearance of emails from the Dona Ana County DA's office. Now we have a person on the record who says Martinez appears to have ordered a license plate check on an opponent.

Current Dona Ana DA Mark D'Antonio may be the man to watch here if this stuff is going to get legs and find its way before a grand jury or other legal venue. Still, it does seem as if alleged abuse of federal databases would also be of concern to the feds.


This week we came out against all five of the constitutional amendments on the ballot as well as an advisory proposal in Bernalillo County that calls for raising property taxes to finance mental health programs. Not everyone agreed. Here's Jeff Greene on Amendment #2:

Dear Joe and readers, I was the 2011-12 Student Senate President at Northern New Mexico College. Our student government worked very hard to get a constitutional amendment passed through the Legislature and on the 2014 ballot, which would create a student regent position on the college's Board of Regents for the first time. Currently, NNMC is the only 4-year public college or university in New Mexico that is exempt from the constitutional law requiring each public institutional of higher education to include a student representative, appointed by the Governor, serving on the Board of Regents. This  amendment would empower NNMC students by giving them a voice and a vote in the shared governance of the college, on par with every other public college in New Mexico.

For the students and community of Northern New Mexico, this measure is incredibly urgent and important. We feel strongly that student representation on NNMC's governing body will create increased accountability and transparency. In recent years, NNMC's Board of Regents has come under intense criticism for its role in creating an atmosphere of financial crisis, raising tuition beyond what many students can afford, cutting academic programs, driving students away from the college en masse. . . NNMC is the only college in the area, but hundreds of students in the last few years have been dropping out or transferring to more distant schools, thanks to the mismanagement and incompetence of the current Board of Regents and administration.

Passing this constitutional amendment for a student regent is a small but very significant step toward reclaiming NNMC for the interests of the students whom the college is supposed to serve. 

And on the BernCo advisory measure proposing a property tax hike for mental health programs, reader Tom Gagliano pushes back with this:

This is not just an advisory question--it is a vote showing the County Commission the public supports solutions for much needed services for mental health (12.5 cents gross receipts per $100 spent). Those afflicted with behavioral health issues, an affliction they do not invite, are worth at very least that. It does not slam lower income people disproportionately, but will help communities invest proportionately in services that will benefit all populations. I would guess that both high and low income families would be willing to support 6 cents for every $50.00 they spend for this moral purpose.

A positive outcome on this vote will create a deeper awareness of the problem because it will show the good will of the voters—voting is a public opinion poll, and I believe the FOR vote will be the beginning of a movement for badly needed social change. On top of its original purpose, the polling at this election will also send a message to the state legislature that informed voters care highly about making changes in mental health services, so it’s time they do too. The mentally ill and homeless have been long neglected, ignored, misunderstood and abused, or killed for sport by teenagers--while they wait for decisive action.


Did you catch this one?

A local church is blurring the lines between religion and politics after it handed out sample ballots to members with specific candidates highlighted. Parishioners at Legacy Church in Albuquerque said they were given the highlighted sample ballot after service on Sunday. The church is a nonprofit.

“Churches have a 501 c3 status with the IRS, so they are actually prevented from taking any political positions one way or another,” Bernalillo County Clerk Maggie Toulouse Oliver said.

Some names on the sample ballot have been highlighted, including Sheriff candidate James Scott Baird. Baird is a member of the church and beat out current Sheriff Dan Houston in the primary. Legacy pastor Steve Smothermon once endorsed Houston from the pulpit, but Houston left the church after a rift between the two. That led to Smothermon supporting Baird.

Republican Scott Baird is opposed by Dem Manny Gonzales in the race for Bernalillo County sheriff.


The ABQ Free Press--which we write a column for--has a beefy issue now on the newsstands.

Valerie Plame speaks out on the Guv race and other matters. There's articles on APD's advance weaponry and whether they need it and another on whether the new police oversight board is already toothless. We come with a column on some of the negative ads of the election cycle. Available at ABQ newsstands.

This is the home of New Mexico politics.

E-mail your news and comments. (jmonahan@ix.netcom.com)

Interested in reaching New Mexico's most informed audience? Advertise here.      

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

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Our Exclusive Poll: Martinez Holds Ample Lead Over King; Duran And Oliver In Tight Battle For Secretary Of State, Keller Leads Aragon In State Auditor Contest; The Numbers And The Analysis On Your Wednesday Blog 

The race for the governorship of New Mexico remains static with Republican Governor Susana Martinez continuing to hold an ample lead over Democratic challenger Gary King, according to a poll conducted for New Mexico Politics with Joe Monahan Tuesday night (Oct. 21).

Martinez garnered 56.2% to King's 37.4% with 6.4% undecided.

In the ABQ Journal poll of Sept. 9-11 Martinez polled 54% to King's 36%.

Our poll, conducted by BWD Global led by Bruce Donisthorpe, was taken with just two weeks before election day Nov. 4 but already over 50,000 New Mexicans have opted to cast ballots at early voting sites and by absentee ballot. Over half the total vote is expected to be cast early, leaving King little time to reverse the course of the contest.

Martinez has run a relentless negative TV and mail campaign against cash starved Attorney General King who only recently came on TV with a single ad after an absence of over a month. That barrage of ads and the lack of any major news coming out the campaigns has played to Martinez's benefit who won election in 2010 with 53.29% of the vote.

The poll was taken on the heels of Sunday's televised gubernatorial debate but it appeared to have no measurable impact on the contest. BWD Global president and pollster Donisthorpe says:

King's inability to respond to the Governor's negative attack is key. The public is seeing a very one-sided  campaign and our survey reflects that. Martinez continues to trend toward re-election.

In Bernalillo County, the state's largest, Martinez leads King 57% to 35%. A glimmer of good news for King is that the undecided should break mainly his way, getting him over the 40% level, but still leaving much ground to cover.

Of the 1,077 likely voters BWD Global surveyed by automatic phone calls in the governor's race, 205 of them said they had already voted. Also, unlike some automatic phone polls, we do not randomly dial voters and ask them if they are registered to vote. We use the phone numbers of a list of confirmed likely voters--those who have cast ballots in both the 2010 and 2012 elections.

The margin of error in our Tuesday night polling is plus or minus three percent.


Duran & Oliver
The race for secretary of state will keep you interested. Our poll of 1,027 likely voters shows Republican Secretary of State Dianna Duran holding a 47.6% to 45.0% lead over her Democratic challenger Maggie Toulouse Oliver. 7.4% are undecided.

Analyzed Donisthorpe:

Duran is getting more Democratic support than you might expect, but that could change as the race enters its most intense phase and Oliver's TV takes hold. Duran has to be concerned that as the incumbent she is not at the 50% mark yet and much of the undecided vote is Democratic and independent. This is going to be a race to watch.

Oliver is the two-term Bernalillo County Clerk. She leads Duran here 50% to 43%. She will work to up that margin here in order to overtake Duran. Third party TV money is playing in both sides of the race.

In 2010 Duran became the first Republican elected secretary of state since the 30's.


In another closely watched down ballot race Democrat Tim Keller has opened up a 51% to 42% lead over Republican challenger Robert Aragon. 7% are undecided in the poll of 1,007 likely voters. Keller, an ABQ state senator, recently unveiled a TV ad in which he goes negative on attorney Aragon. Donisthorpe said:

Keller is over the magic 50% mark. Aragon's support among Republicans is not what it needs to be and that's probably due to Keller's TV ad which Aragon has not responded to. Keller is beating Aragon 55% to 37% in Bernalillo County so his ad is paying big dividends here. Also, it's been nearly 50 years since New Mexico elected a Republican state auditor. That history helps Keller.

The polling memo and complete crosstabs for all the races is here.

Donisthorpe has successfully polled for us since 2008. This cycle he has also polled for a number of Republican and Democratic candidates. He has done no polling for any of the candidates for Governor, secretary of state or state auditor which are featured in today's report.


There has been controversy this cycle over the partisan composition of the electorate that is used in state polling. Our poll by BWD Global is comprised of 50% Democrats, 38% Republicans and 12% independents. This is based on the results of the 2010 election, the last off-year election. Our weighting is very similar to the polls being conducted this year by the ABQ Journal.

The early voting trend confirms this weighting model. Of 39,000 votes cast at early voting sites as of last night 47.2% had been cast by Democrats, 42.1% were Republican, 8.2% independents and 2.3% from other parties, If anything, Democratic performance--at least in the early going--is lagging the ultimate performance number we see them achieving--50% of the electorate.

Some Democratic consultants and pollsters are arguing that Dem turnout will comprise more of the electorate this year because in 2010 fervor for the conservative Tea Party movement was at its zenith. But pollsters Donisthorpe and Sanderoff point out there are fewer competitive contests to drive voters to the polls compared to 2010. The governor's race being the prime example.

As for the Tea Party voters, Donisthorpe points out they haven't gone away. Anti-Obama sentiment is getting them into the voting booths.

In a presidential election year, the polling models do reflect a higher Democratic turnout--about 53% of the electorate in 2012. This, of course, is not a presidential election year.

Also, unlike some automatic phone polls ours does not randomly dial phone numbers and ask the person who answers if they are registered to vote. We use phone numbers from a list of confirmed likely voters--those who have cast ballots in both the 2010 and 2012 elections.


The King campaign has been unable to muster the funds to answer Gov. Martinez's relentless TV and mail attack campaign so his supporters have turned to social media. They land some solid blows in this 2 minute video that uses Martinez's 2010 campaign rhetoric against her. In it she says if you like New Mexico being 49th in a variety of categories, you should vote for Democrat Diane Denish. Four years later the state is 49th or 50th in more categories than when she took over. . .


A local news producer responds to criticism from reader Hal Gershenson that the media did not cover a large teacher rally over the weekend. Gershenson wrote:

Albuquerque teachers were not surprised by the media black-out of their massive rally on Saturday, but not to get a mention from you....that hurts.

The media responds: 

Failure to alert the media to your event does not constitute failure on our part but a failure on the planners' part.  As someone who was working Saturday, there was nothing in our planner about this event. And EVERYTHING goes into the planner regardless if we plan on going to it or not.


The NYT came with one that caught our eye:

Political analysts keep urging the Republican Party to do more to appeal to Hispanic voters. Yet the party’s congressional leaders show little sign of doing so, blocking an immigration overhaul and harshly criticizing President Obama for his plan to defer deportation for undocumented migrants. There’s a simple reason that congressional Republicans are willing to risk alienating Hispanics: They don’t need their votes, at least not this year. Republicans would probably hold the House — and still have a real chance to retake the Senate — if they lost every single Hispanic voter in the country, according to an analysis by The Upshot. Such a thing would never happen, of course, but the fact that the Republicans may not need a single Hispanic vote in 2014 says a good deal about American politics today.


The Indian gaming casinos are hanging in there during the long economic stagnation, but it isn't what it used to be. Take a look:

Buffalo Thunder Development Authority, the economic arm of the Pueblo of Pojoaque, is offering holders of current notes an exchange for some due in 2022 with a higher interest rate. According to a news release, the authority has begun a private exchange offer to holders of its outstanding 9⅜ percent senior secured notes due in 2014 to exchange those notes for its newly issued 11 percent senior secured notes due in 2022.

The state reports gambling revenue at the Indian casinos has been basically flat for several years. Pojoaque is battling with the state over a new gambling compact. The pueblo wants to serve liquor to gamblers and lower the gambling age to 18 from 21.

This is the home of New Mexico politics.

E-mail your news and comments. (jmonahan@ix.netcom.com)

Interested in reaching New Mexico's most informed audience? Advertise here.      

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

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Two Weeks To Go For Campaign '14; Thoughts On Bond Issues And Conny Amendments, Plus: King Supporters Push Back Against Pundits On TV Debate, And: Michelle's "Ass Kicking" 

Two weeks to go which means the most emotional phase of Campaign '14 is kicking in even as many ponder why there isn't more passion and emotion over the future of New Mexico in this election.

Is it a sign that the public has lost so much faith in government and politics that they turn away? Maybe. But in the face of a life-changing economic and social decline for a large swath of the state's population, the politicians are offering cautious baby steps and failing to ignite the imagination of the electorate. Passion and emotion will come back when leaders emerge with those qualities--and with big ideas. . .

Given that backdrop, it's hard to take the side of those who criticize NM pollsters Brian Sanderoff and Bruce Donisthorpe for underestimating the number of folks who will cast ballots and the conservative tilt of their voter turnout models. The state's problems are epic but the election is pedestrian as well as being a nonpresidential year.


We don't endorse candidates but we do care about the future of the state and each election have thoughts and opinions on the bond issues and constitutional amendments. Here's some for this year:

One of the proposed constitutional amendments on the ballot this year sums up how Santa Fe is missing the forest for the trees. It would permit the giant $14 billion Land Grant Permanent Fund to have more than 15 percent of the fund invested in foreign stock markets. Sure, let's invest more in Zaire, but not use the fund to improve very early childhood right here in our own backyard where the social conditions crisis seems to worsen by the hour. And just forget about those expert findings that over time an investment in early childhood delivers returns far greater than the stock market averages.

And then there's the little fact that 46 percent of the revenue of the companies in the Standard & Poor's 500 index already come from foreign operations. The Permanent Fund already has more than enough foreign exposure. Enough said. For us it will be thumbs down on Amendment # 5. . .

As for the other four constitutional amendments, we see no urgency for any of them and will vote against. (The Legislative Council Service does a good job outlining the pros and cons of each of the amendments.)

On the other hand, you can vote with a clear conscience and confidence when deciding the Bernalillo County and state bond issues. The state bonds total $167 million. The county bonds total $27.5 million. We don't see a stinker in the bunch and their approval, besides improving the state, will also give us some sorely needed stimulus. . .

But then there's the Bernalillo County proposal to raise property taxes to finance open space acquisitions. Nix that one. The metro isn't going to get out of recession by raising taxes of any kind.

And even though it's only an advisory question, we'll be voting against the proposal to raise the county gross receipts tax by an eighth of a cent to finance mental health programs.  The gross receipts is the most regressive tax of them all, slamming lower income people disproportionally. The county needs to better prioritize its budgeting and hound the Bernalillo County legislative delegation to bring home the bacon to get this important task done.

Then there's that other "advisory" question on the ballot--to decriminalize the possession of small amounts of marijuana. We agree with the intent and even though we often find ourself in agreement with conscientious County Commissioner Debbie O'Malley, we don't this time. Advisory questions need to remain in pubic opinion polls--not placed on election ballots.


Gary King took heat when at Sunday night's TV debate he used his one and only opportunity to question Governor Martinez to ask her why she has hired out of state cabinet secretaries. Too soft, came the yell from the bleacher seats. A reader weighs in on that and more:

You get so much more info with visual cues than just words. Martinez gave off a very bad vibe visually. She has absolutely lost her luster to all but her base. With a massive lead she should have been calm and above the fray. She was not. She came across as angry, pinched and lacking in confidence. In short, not the way a leader looks. King didn't do any or much better, but the bar was set way lower for him because he has been hammered for his incompetence so much that not being on the mat at the end was a win.

King really only needed to convince the Democratic base that he wanted to be there. I think he did, although clearly he could have been stronger in how he did it.  He did the out of state cabinet question for a reason. It was to show the teachers and those hit by the behavioral health mess that he gets what the problem is. Mentioning both Public Education Secretary Skandera and Human Services Secretary Squier was strictly targeted to the reinforce what the base has been saying. Mirroring them in theory should help get them to the polls.


Most of the pundits, including us, thought King did OK at the debate but were looking for a stronger performance to perhaps change the dynamic of the race. But not all agreed. Back to the email:

I totally disagree on the debate summations, yours, TV, etc. King come off like a genuine caring fellow; no he is not the  brightest star in the galaxy of hopefuls, but he is all the Dems have and I will support him; frankly because Martinez comes off as self-centered and egotistical. When she walked away from the podium she walked off with an "I'm all there is" swagger. All she has done is throw up negative, backstabbling ads. Not once has she given any real solutions to the fact that New Mexico is the only state in the West that continues in a recession. The same for our lower pay, lack of good paying jobs, lack of real industry potentials, poor educational objectives, solutions for our college graduates continuing to leave the state for good jobs, more poverty than NM has  ever had and the inability for homeowners to sell their homes without having to sell for less than the purchase price. . .  I won't throw my vote away and will vote for Gary King.


An independent group took to the TV airwaves to take on Republican Secretary of State Dianna Duran and call her "reckless" and incompetent." Now an independent group is using the mail boxes to take on her Dem challenger Maggie Toulouse Oliver:

A new Albuquerque-based "independent expenditure" group calling itself New Mexicans for Honest Leadership last week sent out mailers praising Republican incumbent Secretary of State Dianna Duran and criticizing her Democratic challenger Maggie Toulouse Oliver over the issue of voter identification.The mailer features a picture of a smiling man putting a ballot into a box. "He could be casting YOUR vote," the big-letter caption blares."

Oliver has to be wondering if that's all her foes are coming with because you know she was expecting something much more harsh. Stay tuned.


It's true that blogging and reporting on politics has often been reduced to following the TV ads and money. Reader Hal Gershenson weighs in:

Albuquerque teachers were not surprised by the media black-out of their massive rally on Saturday, but not to get a mention from you....that hurts. Nearly 800 teachers, family, friends and other union supporters marched down Central to vote early at the SUB. Nearly the entire Dem ticket was there from King to Keller to Keirnan and everyone in between and no one in the press seemed to notice. While the pundits and bloggers have been focused on the money and TV, this election is really about the ground game. Teachers, state employees, and families that were hurt by the behavioral health debacle are angry and active. If someone polled a sample of those groups they'd find a huge turnout, with plenty of Republicans voting for King. There's an underground campaign going by the victims of the Martinez administration that on that "those in the the know" seem to be missing.


We were surprised to hear that ABQ GOP congressional candidate Mike Frese had kicked the ass of ABQ Dem US Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham. We do hope her derriere withstood the force of his shoe leather. From the Frese campaign:

Sorry for the language but Mike Frese kicked ass in today's debate! The Republican candidate for New Mexico's 1st Congressional District, Dr. Mike Frese, faced off with Democrat Michelle Lujan Grisham during a live, televised debate today. KOB-TV aired the debate live at noon. Mike went on the offensive when it came to showing contrast between his solid conservative values and Michelle's liberal agenda. Please help us keep momentum while she's still on the defense! Donate Now!!

Come on Mike Frese, you need to know the rules of La Politica. The following physical actions are permitted: backbiting, finger pointing, pouting, gnashing of teeth and supervised mud wrestling. Ass kicking is strictly prohibited.

Mike, since you have violated this rule in such cavalier fashion, Michelle will now be permitted to engage in the previously prohibited behavior of waxing away your chest hair and moustache. Ouch. Now behave out there. . .

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Monday, October 20, 2014

King And Martinez Spar In Final Debate, Romney To Campaign For Guv, Weh Answers Udall's "So What?" Ad And Balderas Is Bashed By National R's  

Susana Martinez may have lost the cult of personality that elevated her to the Governor' office in 2010 but she did not lose last night's final debate to Democratic challenger Gary King. Martinez played as much offense as King--if not more--and escaped the podium with a few minor scratches. King lost by not winning as he seeks to close a large polling gap with the incumbent.

Martinez has never been a strong debater. Last night presented an opportunity for King to score if not a knock out at least a punch that made her lose her balance and give voters a reason to take a second look at the contest. But when it came time for King to pose a question directly to Martinez he wondered why she had been appointing cabinet secretaries from out of state. You could practically hear the jaws drop over that softball question that Martinez swiftly dispatched and with it any possibility of a game changing night.

The King question--coming against the backdrop of ongoing economic disintegration-- reflected what everyone knows--the Democratic Party never intended to mount a serious challenge to Martinez and haven't (Remember Sam Who?).

Dem analyst Harry Pavlides spared neither contender, saying Martinez seemed like an empty vessel with a mean streak. He battered King for being a modern day version of Herbert Hoover (remember him?)  disconnected from the audience and unable to humanize the economic decline gripping the state.

Still, Pavlides sees King gaining from sharing the stage with the incumbent and arousing the Democratic base some. King has been polling below 40% so it won't be hard for him to pop up from that level and the debate may have eased that path. But victory? That's somewhere over the rainbow.

Independent analyst Greg Payne said Martinez secured her base by "creaming King" on the issue of tax cuts and said of the debate as a whole:

Martinez connected with her base emotionally, while King was the aloof policy wonk. Gary needed to weave a theme and come with some one liners for undecided voters to take something away from the night. That didn't happen.

The debate, like the entire campaign, was a joyless, humorless affair. King, however, did get off an impromptu one liner that some might have greeted with a chuckle. When Martinez quoted the ABQ Journal about his record he glanced at the Journal's debate panelist and quipped. "The Journal doesn't always get it right."

At the top we called last night's Guv debate the "final" one but it was really the only one. The pair met before a business group but they answered questions given to them beforehand. And then they debated on Spanish language TV which is accessible to only those who speak Spanish.

The New Mexico governor's race is ranked likely Republican.


Speaking of the paper, it examines the Guv candidates stances on education and reports:

The governor counts among her education policy successes an increase in overall public schools education spending, bringing the total education budget to about $2.7 billion this year – the largest K-12 public education budget in state history.

But it doesn't report this:

New Mexico is still spending 8 percent less per pupil on K-12 education than before the recession. That translates to $633 less being spent per student than funding levels in 2008, when adjusted for inflation. That’s according to a report released by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP), a non-partisan policy research organization based in Washington, D.C.

Now you know. .


You wonder if Allen Weh will pop in on the Thursday lunch featuring Mitt Romney and in support of Gov. Martinez's re-election. Mitt made his "47 percent" remark his political calling card when he lost the presidency in 2012. US Senate hopeful Allen Weh has enshrined "So what if they're making four bucks an hour" into the political vernacular. Weh does not believe workers under the age of 26 should get the minimum wage. The Sen. Udall campaign made a scorching and effective TV ad and mail piece from that statement. Maybe Mitt and Allen can exchange war stories. . . or at least compare investment portfolios. . .

Well, four bucks isn't going to get you anywhere near Mitt Thursday. Try $2,600 a couple for the Mitt meet and greet at the home of ABQ doctor Randy Briggs. Not that Martinez is cash starved and needs the dough. She reports recently having $2.7 million in her bank account while Gary King had $124,000.


Back to Weh and his now infamous "So what" comments. It is hurting him as evidenced by his decision to come with this response ad, the hallmark of which is repeating the phrase that got him in so much trouble:

In a recent ad my words were taken out of context. I spoke for all New Mexicans frustrated with the Udall-Obama agenda when we’re told, 'so what if we have 24% Hispanic youth unemployment. So what if we owe $18 trillion. So what if 30,000 New Mexicans lose their health coverage under Obama-care. So what if we don't take care of our veterans. So what if we have no strategy against ISIS. So what if there's no leadership. And so what if we can't live the American dream.' Change Washington. Change your Senator.

But the ad never rebuts the four bucks an hour comment or Weh's opposition to the minimum wage for workers under 26. And the repetition of the "so what" phrase seems to backfire, reminding voters of the contemptuous tone that Weh used when he made the original comments before a business group and was caught on audio tape. Also, several Alligators wondered why Weh waited so long in coming with a response.

Weh has vindicated himself by running a tough and well-organized campaign--more so than many observers thought he would. But. . .

The "So what" phrase remains the defining moment of the 2014 US Senate race and the contest remains ranked safe Democratic.

Meanwhile, Udall keeps it lighthearted in his latest TV outing as he labors to bring this one home. It's narrated by an 84 year old who says of Udall." I appreciate this young fella."

Say what? Tom is 66 and well into his Social Security years. Weh turns 72 next month. Well, one supposes at age 84 you get to call everyone a young whippersnapper. . .


A reader writes from the ABQ NE Heights and North Valley House district where all guns are blazing:

Have you looked at the District 15 race?  Democratic Rep. Emily Kane is showing $150,000 raised this year  and Republican Sarah Maestas Barnes is showing $130,0000 raised. the other day I received five glossy mailers from the candidates and PAC's working the district. And Sarah even has a TV ad going on for this district. Also, the "polling" calls are incessant. I am going to early vote just to get some peace and quiet...

If the R's ousted Kane their chances of controlling the NM house for the first time in over 60 years would soar. That's why the huge spending.

But a lot of campaign money is being wasted and reader Rich Talley has one reason why:

I wonder what's going to happen as the so-called millennials come to dominate the electorate. I'm much older (my sons are millennials) but my viewing habits are like theirs. I don't own a TV. The little TV I watch is on my iPad. I rarely listen to local radio anymore; I listen to Internet radio. As such, the paid part of this campaign season has passed me by. 

I've seen a couple of on-line ads. The only political ads I've seen are are some bloggers linked to as particularly good or bad. I don't have a land line, so the pollsters don't reach me.  I have already voted, so I'm reading your blog and other coverage simply as an bemused and amused observer.

Bemused and amused. That's a pretty good analysis of Campaign '14, Rich. 


Hector Balderas held a 48% to 41% lead over Republican Susan Riedel in a poll of the attorney general race conducted for us by BWD Global on Oct. 6 and 7. But the national Republican Attorneys General Association (RAGA) isn't ready to throw in the towel. They come with this TV hit on Balderas centered on a lawsuit dispute between Balderas and Attorney General and Dem guv nominee Gary King. The TV ad is vague about the lawsuit. It is based on this news from 2008:

It began with an anonymous complaint to the Auditor’s Office hotline in 2008 that Balderas used a staffer as a babysitter on work time, made improper office equipment purchases and wrongly required workers to use a time clock. The auditor contended the allegations were “completely frivolous,” but he forwarded them to the attorney general for review. When the attorney general apparently broadened the inquiry and served Balderas with a grand jury subpoena for documents, the auditor’s office refused to comply, saying it wouldn’t let the attorney general “simply rummage through its files.” According to Balderas, the attorney general abused his authority by requesting information related to other audit matters. . . No charges were brought against Balderas and the matter was resolved – but since court hearings were held behind closed doors and a judge ordered documents sealed because of grand jury secrecy, the details have never been public.

We blogged a couple of years ago that the big legal fees Balderas's office was shelling out over the secret lawsuit with King could become a campaign issue. And it has. The TV ad asks "What is Hector Balderas hiding?" and also throws up a picture of Big Bill and Balderas, saying Bill "hand-selected" Balderas for the auditor job. Balderas was selected by the by the Democratic Party to replace Jeff Armijo who withdrew his candaciy amid scandal. Richardson was governor at the time.

Balderas, who has run an aggressive TV campaign, wasted no time responding to the hit and and came with this ad narrated by former NM State Police Chief Robert Shilling:

If you want to know why out of out of state special interests are attacking Hector Balderas, it’s the same reasons cops like me support him. Because Hector Balderas is independent, and he knows that no one is above the law. Hector Balderas prosecuted violent criminals, wrote laws protecting children from predators, and as Auditor, he cracked down on corrupt politicians – from both parties – to protect taxpayers. That’s why law enforcement trusts Hector Balderas for Attorney General.”

The hit from RAGA raises doubts about Balderas, but it comes quite late in the cycle and his quick response will dampen the effect. The AG's race is ranked likely Democrat.


Reader Chris Cervini, a former NM Dem consultant,monitoring the action from Texas, comments on the erroneous mail piece put out about northern Dem Rep. Stephanie Garcia Richard. It came from a GOP PAC supporting House candidates and led by former District Attorney Matt Chandler. Even though the piece on Richard's voting record was found to be in error, Chandler did not retract it, prompting this from Cervini:

That hit on the Garcia Richard false attack sums up why the political system is completely broken and does a disservice to all citizens.You can basically lie about someone, put it out in an expensive mailer (or TV spot) and the damage is done. A strong press used to be a good referee with an ability to shame lying candidates into more responsible hit pieces that were based in facts. But with dark money feeding the beast and newsrooms generally giving up on political coverage (not to mention a populace that is fundamentally less engaged in how their leaders are chosen) and you have a perfect storm where some hack like Chandler can attack, be called out, but then pivot back with a lame "well, she's bad nonetheless" response. It's gross and shameful. But, the damage is done -- the voters cannot unsee the piece and the dark money will not issue a correction.


Reader Jim Richards writes from DC of reader Peter Ives Friday comments on green chile:

Peter Ives asks if the Texans have lost the “e” versus “i” debate over the spelling of chile. They lost it a long time ago. I don’t have to ship green from home anymore. Several grocery stores, largely due to the efforts of Jeff Witte at the NM Department of Agriculture and NM chile producers, are carrying and properly roasting fresh Hatch chile right here in Virgina. New addicts are being created daily in the greater DC area.  Back to Mr. Ives. He should know that our divine food is a fruit not a vegetable as he stated. Red or Green? Yes….

And we thought spending was the only thing they were addicted to in DC. . .

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E-mail your news and comments. (jmonahan@ix.netcom.com)

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