Monday, December 12, 2016

Cangiolosi Scores Big Win For NM GOP Chair, But Bitterness LingersAmong Martinez Crowd, Plus: Heinrich is Now "in Cycle" And Has Work ToDo 

Ryan Cangiolosi
Ryan Cangiolosi scored an easy win over John Rockwell Sunday as the GOP State Central Committee voted 251-156 to name the 45 year old as the new chairman of the New Mexico Republican Party. So, what does his 62% to 38% victory  mean? . . .

It means the Harvey Yates-Steve Pearce faction continues to consolidate GOP power as the party moves away from Gov. Martinez and her political adviser Jay McCleskey who have alienated many of their party brethren. Martinez officially became a lame duck Governor following the November election and McCleskey's client potential is drastically diminished after six years of war with fellow Republicans.

Cangiolosi, a businessman and longtime political operative who had a falling out with Martinez and McCleskey following a stint as her deputy chief of staff, follows in the footsteps of Yates, a former GOP chairman who this year defeated Martinez acolyte Pat Rogers when Rogers sought re-election as GOP national committeeman.

Despite his decisive margin of victory the Martinez/McCleskey Machine was in no mood to let bygones be bygones. On social media former Roswell GOP state Senator Rod Adair, a longtime ally of Martinez's, scorned Cangiolosi's win:

How does a "team" that is put together strictly on grievances, and hatred of the Republican governor, succeed in putting together a winning strategy and tactics? We asked how this was going to work last spring when Harvey Yates and, frankly, Steve Pearce, assembled all these naysayers. We got the answer on November 8: It does not work. 

Republicans lost the state House to the Dems in November and the Dems added to their state senate majority while also easily beating Trump in NM.

Cangiolosi urged party unity but it's doubtful the Martinez crowd, known to carry a grudge, will ever be in his corner. He said:

We need to unite the party behind our common goal of electing Republicans across the state and promoting our shared message of economic prosperity, safer communities and an education system that truly prepares our children for the future. I have been active in the party for the past ten years and am excited to continue fighting for those principles in my new role as Chairman.”

Party insiders say with Cangiolosi as chairman for the next two years the tone but not the substance of state GOP politics will change. They say there will be less personal vitriol and vindictiveness, hallmarks of the Martinez years (which also had significant electoral success). They add that Cangiolosi's big win will lessen factional strife in the GOP. (The only fly in that formula would be the unlikely ascension of ABQ Mayor Berry as the R's '18 governor candidate. He is a client of McCleskey's.

Cangiolosi, a former employee of Yates' Jalapeno Corporation and a naval reserve officer,  now works as executive project director at the UNM Health Sciences Center.  His foes said he would have to give up that job to be chair, but he says he will keep the six figure gig and UNM is not protesting.

Cangiolosi will not preside over a party starved for funds. Yates as well as Rep. Pearce will ensure that.

With SuperPacs and independent consultants creating their own fiefdoms political parties don't matter as much as they once did, but they are still important vehicles for messaging. And with races for mayor, governor and US Senate fast approaching, there will be plenty of messaging awaiting the new chairman's attention.


Speaking of that '18 Senate race, it will be Martin Heinrich, a Democrat, seeking re-election. And that brings us to this reader email:

Joe, Any idea what’s behind Sen. Martin Heinrich’s petition drive? Nearly every day he posts a Facebook link to a petition on his website protesting something President-elect Trump is doing or might do. The querulous petitions seem like an unusual political tactic: a backward step from senator to community organizer.

Heinrich is what political pros call "in cycle," meaning his re-election campaign is now activated. He has two Facebook pages his official US Senate page and his campaign Facebook. Where you are seeing the political stuff (the Trump bashing etc.) is on the campaign site.

One of the reasons he may be trying to gin up the anti-Trump crowd is to have Democrats forget that he was among the earliest senate supporters of the failed candidacy of Hillary Clinton. Heinrich correctly bet that Sanders would lose the Dem prez nomination, but he was caught by surprise when Sanders surged and only narrowly lost the NM presidential primary to Clinton. That has created friction for Heinrich among his fellow Dems. He has fence mending to do as well as building up his bona fides with the Sanders followers, They hear Heinrich talk a lot about defense spending and the like but not so much about the Sanders economic agenda (or the economy in general) that they prize so much.

Heinrich begins the '18 cycle favored for re-election, but it's unclear how aggressive the R's will be in trying to take back the seat. There are no major names circulating at this point. But they are closely watching Heinrich's polling numbers which are relatively okay, but certainly not gangbusters. In a poll conducted May through September Heinrich's approval rating was at 46 percent, below the key 50 percent mark.

Historically, Senate incumbents have an easy time of it in New Mexico, with the last one losing his seat in 1982. But these are different times indeed. Loyalties can be quickly frayed by economic distress and a distaste and lack of respect for all things political. Heinrich knows he has some work in front of him.

This is the home of New Mexico politics.

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