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Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Lt. Gov. Sanchez Publicly Attacks Sen. Heinrich And Appears Poised For A Senate Bid, Plus: First Mayoral Money Reports Out; Where Does The Race Stand Now? We Have Analysis And Answers  

John Sanchez
Lieutenant Governor John Sanchez is publicly attacking Democratic US Senator Martin Heinrich and appears poised to enter the 2018 US Senate race.

Heinrich is on guard, already raising $2.5 million in campaign funds for his re-election bid while Sanchez's fellow R's are scurrying to find an '18 gubernatorial nominee now that Sanchez appears out of the running.

Speaking to a Rio Rancho Republican group last week, Sanchez, according to one of our Alligators at the meeting, scored Heinrich for voting against the nomination of former Texas Governor Rick Perry to head the Department of Energy, criticized the Senator's support of the SunZia solar transmission project in southern NM for interfering with the mission of White Sands Missile Range and accused the freshman lawmaker of being out of touch with the state he represents because he now lives in Washington.

This would not be the first time Sanchez, 54, launched an uphill battle for the Senate. In 2012 he had a short-lived run for the GOP Senate nomination, only to withdraw and let Heather Wilson have the prize. She went on to lose to Heinrich. Sanchez's campaign was criticized for being unprepared and amateurish.

At that GOP meeting Sanchez said that he recently visited in DC with Senators Rubio, McCain and Cruz, all of whom ran against Trump in the GOP presidential primaries. He also said he consulted with White House aide and pollster Kellyanne Conway. She has done political work for Sanchez in the past.

Considering New Mexico voters have not defeated an incumbent Senator since Jeff Bingaman accomplished the feat against GOP Senator Jack Schmitt in 1982, Sanchez can ill-afford any false starts this time around. National pundits appear unanimous in ranking the Heinrich seat "safe Democratic."

The Sanchez camp sees Heinrich, 45, as vulnerable because his approval rating is at 48 percent in the recent Morning Consult poll and also below 50 in other surveys. Heinrich supporters are confident of his chances for another six year term but some have told us they want to see more of him on local TV news.

Sanchez's foremost problem would be his ties to unpopular Gov. Susana Martinez who is polling at 42 percent approval in PPP and at 43 percent in Morning Consult. The state Democratic Party is now labeling the current chaos in Santa Fe a result of the "Martinez-Sanchez administration."

Sen. Heinrich
Separating himself from Martinez and launching an effective attack on Heinrich at the same time is a tall order indeed. But Sanchez's confidantes say his high name ID and Hispanic heritage help him to at least get out of the starting gate.

ABQ businessman Mick Rich has been an announced GOP Senate candidate for the past year. He has kept a low profile and a Sanchez entry would appear to doom his hopes. Maybe Rich can take a look at running for Governor as it appears the R's need someone and fast.

Rep. Steve Pearce is expected to forego a GOP Guv run and ABQ Mayor Richard Berry, who's popularity has sunk in the wake of the ART project, a lousy city economy and a deeply troubled APD, is staying quiet about his intentions. So far the Dems have the momentum for the '18 race with Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham actively campaigning and a couple of other Dems expected to join the fray in the weeks ahead.

RICARDO WHO?

Who is Ricardo (Richard) Chaves and why did he put up $300,000 in personal cash in his just opened ABQ mayoral campaign account? And what impact will the political unknown have on the race? That's the question that went viral over the smart phones of the city's political operatives this weekend as they devoured the first campaign finance reports for the mayoral candidates. We have some answers.

(All mayoral campaign reports are here.)

Chaves, 81, is a Republican whose family accumulated significant wealth in the parking business. They own a large lot near the ABQ Sunport and other parking facilities around the nation. Here's more from the Chaves PR arm:

Parking Company of America Management. . . While you travel by plane, Parking Company of America Management (PCA) will be glad to look after your car. PCA owns and manages parking facilities at more than 15 US airports, including several of the nation's largest. The company manages another 200 parking lots and garages at hotels, medical facilities, shopping centers, and other facilities throughout the US. . . The company, which began in 1960s is run by Chaves children today.

Chaves operatives, who include veteran campaign consultant Steve Cabiedes, say Chaves is especially upset with the fiscal policies of Mayor Berry, citing his plans to build a multi-million downtown parking structure that Chaves, an expert in such matters, sees as a taxpayer ripoff. He also has good reason to make crime a top priority. He was also a recent victim of the city's car theft crime wave when thieves took off with his upscale Bentley.

Chaves, getting a late start, is working furiously to get the necessary 3,000 petition signatures of registered voters by the April 28 deadline that would win him a spot on the October 3 ballot. If he makes it the question will be how much of that $300,000 will he start spending and will he add even more? Or will the cash deposit turn out to be a head fake and go unspent?

GOP SPLIT

Whether Chaves is in the final field or not, there is no question that the GOP is in for  bloodletting that could hurt its chances to retain the mayoral digs on the 11th floor of Government Center.

In their first finance reports GOP City Councilor Dan Lewis shows a cash balance of $146,000 compared to $88,000 for GOP County Commissioner Wayne Johnson. Lewis has raised about $250,000 since the start of his effort. The Lewis forces desperately tried to persuade Johnson not to run but their failure to do so could now hurt his chances.

With no candidate expected to capture the 50 percent of the vote necessary to win the mayor's office outright on October 3, the two top vote-getters will head to a run-off election a month later. Which two candidates will get in that run-off? Lewis would be a no-brainer if he were the only solid R in the race, but with Johnson and possibly Ricardo Chaves on his tail, the GOP outcome is much more unpredictable.

DEM DOINGS

Brian Colón  
Former NM Democratic Party Chair Brian Colón has a reputation as a solid fundraiser so it was no shock that he led the list of mayoral hopefuls in the cash derby. He has raised $389,000 since the start of his campaign and showed $308,000 cash on hand.

Former Dem BernCo Commissioner Deanna Archuleta announced her candidacy last May but showed a perhaps disappointing fund-raising total of $141,000 with $93,000 in cash on hand.

Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham tried to give Archuleta a needed boost in the wake of her money report, endorsing her candidacy and saying:

Deanna Archuleta is without question the most-qualified candidate to be our next mayor. . .  From a single mom and PTA president to two-term county commissioner and chair of the Albuquerque Bernalillo Water Utility Authority, Deanna has never backed away from a problem. She’s gotten into the fight and won big for our community.

Technically, the mayor's race is nonpartisan. No party labels appear on the ballot. Grisham can argue that she is not deserting the other Dem candidates, even if that might not erase their ire over her involvement in their race as she seeks the '18 Dem Guv nod.

Grisham is the lone female contender in that Guv contest and probably figures an endorsement of Archuleta will help her with the Guv run and is worth any alienation it might cause among Archuleta's rivals. The congresswoman also came with $4,100 in personal funds for Archuleta.

Independent candidate Michelle Garcia Holmes managed to get the necessary petition signatures to get on the ballot but she is still in danger of falling off the mayoral radar, showing only $5,500 in cash on hand. Her mother is Rosemary Garcia, who served decades ago as chief of staff to Dem Gov. Bruce King. Gary King, son of Bruce, and Gary's wife Yolanda, both came with small donations for Garcia Holmes.

Watching all this from the sidelines is Dem State Auditor Tim Keller, the only hopeful to successfully pursue publicly financing and who will have about $380,000 (minus seed money he raised) to run his campaign.

That total is looking somewhat more credible because the early fund-raising reveals the top campaigns may fall short of the nearly $1 million raised by Mayor Berry when he sought re-election in 2013. That means Keller's $380k will not look like a bump on a log. Combined with any PAC that emerges to support him, that should be enough to keep him competitive with the privately financed hopefuls. And, he doesn't have to answer any tough questions about how his campaign money would influence his City Hall decision-making.

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(c)NM POLITICS WITH JOE MONAHAN 2017
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