Thursday, September 14, 2017

Mayor's Race Goes To The Dark Side: Biz Interests Nuke Front-runner Keller In TV Ad Over Sex Offender Vote; Who Is Helped If Keller Is Hurt? Plus: The Death Of Domenici; A Remembrance Of Things Past 

Tim Keller
Will it end up being the high level nuclear attack that slows mayoral front-runner Tim Keller and impacts the outcome of the race? Or will it be a dud, easily dismantled by Keller operatives?

That's the question in the wake of a very tough TV attack on the Democratic State Auditor who has had the pole position in this eight way contest ever since he announced his candidacy.

The attack in question is this TV ad released Wednesday by the "Make ABQ Safe" committee, a group financed by business interests who fear Keller's progressive politics. It centers on a controversial vote Keller took while serving as a state senator from the ABQ SE Heights. The ad transcript:

Tim Keller chose protecting sex offenders over our children, As a state senator  Tim Keller supported a bill taking away the city of Albuquerque's right to limit where child molesters can live, Not only was he against keeping child molesters from living close to schools and parks but Tim Keller wanted to make Albuquerque a safe haven to attract child molesters from around the country. What will he do as mayor? Is he the person to make our keep our community safe?

That bill was defeated on a 20-16 vote in the 2011 legislative session, but no matter. Keller's affirmative vote on the emotionally charged issue could become a mayoral campaign centerpiece, depending on how it's handled.

The spot is replete with scary images, including a petrified little girl with a hand muzzling her mouth and meant to signify a sex offender. The ad could force a TV response from the political committee separate from Keller's campaign and that last reported around $175,000 in cash on hand.

To get under Keller's skin further, the committee is posting the TV and radio ad at a site with the address "badtimmy.com"

Make ABQ Safe has not yet filed an expense report with the city so we don know the specific contributors to the committee, although it has been rumored that land developer Santolina is one of the interests behind the Keller attack. The spot comes as the new reporting period is starting and which runs until September 22. However, a spokesperson for the committee said it is purchasing $30,000 in initial air time.

The bill in question is Senate Bill 184. That bill said in part:

A city, county, home rule municipality or other political subdivision of the state is prohibited from adopting or continuing in effect any ordinance, rule, regulation, resolution or other law that imposes distance restrictions for a registered sex offender's place of residence or that creates an exclusionary zone from which all registered sex offenders are excluded.

Keller's campaign came with this response to the attack ad:

As a father of two young children, it is absolutely offensive to suggest that I would let anyone harm our kids, let alone make life easier for those who do. What the attacks don’t tell you is that as a Senator, I fought for and passed the nation’s strongest sex offender laws to date, and as Auditor have been a champion for public safety and tackling the rape kit backlog.

These are false, partisan political attacks, from well-connected right-wing special interests meant to distract from our real plans to attack crime and bring immediate relief to our families on day one.

The campaign added:

Tim cast a vote, along with many colleagues, in support of a proposal to allow restrictions on the residences of sex offenders in a manner that would ensure there is oversight, reduce recurrence, and provide proper parole and monitoring, instead of through other means where there is no real oversight or enforcement capability. The NM Attorney General and the Sex Offender Management Board both supported this position.


More mayoral campaign TV will start tomorrow when Republican Ricardo Chaves comes with this 30 second spot that calls the Mayor Berry ART project an "expensive boondoggle." The ad also cites the city's crime crisis and says "it's not just criminals running rampant, it's career politicians, too. A vote for Ricardo Chavez is a vote to crack down on crime because Ricardo Chaves is running for mayor to clean up ABQ."


Remember, we are now blogging the Mayor's race Monday they Thursday and on Friday if needed. So joins for our Monday blogs to stay in the loop on Election '17.


There's really not much I can add to the acres of reporting, blogging and analysis I have devoted to the career of Senator Pete Domenici over these many years, beginning with our reporting career in 1974 and continuing to today.

His death Wednesday at the age of 85 did evoke this thought: All that coverage was worth it. That can't be said of many political figures who bask briefly in the sun and then slip quickly into the night. Domenici mattered mightily to the history and development of modern New Mexico. (NYT obit here. WaPo obit here.)

The state has changed drastically--and not for the better--since that day 10 years ago when he announced he would not seek re-election in 2008, thus ending a 36 year career in the US Senate, the longest in state history.  If you were not around then it's difficult to impart the political pandemonium that decision set off and the emotional reaction it drew from generations of New Mexicans who had never known a US Senate without Domenici's presence.

I reviewed my blog coverage of those fateful days in October 2007 and thought it would be fitting to bring excerpts to you today to recapture the end of an era in state politics. So for a final time and with historic photos by Mark Bralley, we report on Pete V. Domenici, native son of New Mexico and whose many chapters in the never ending book of La Polticia are writ large.

The day the news broke:
    They say time waits for no man, but on rare occasions it does seem to stand still. Such a moment came for New Mexico at 2:32 p.m. on October 3, 2007 as news flashed that NM U.S. Senator Pete Domenici would not seek re-election to the exclusive club of 100 where he has served longer than any other New Mexican and from where he carved out an historic record of achievement that brought untold billions into the state since he was first elected in 1972.

    The news was particularly poignant as the AP reported in late night dispatches that the 75 year old ABQ native was suffering from a serious brain ailment that often leads to dementia. That revelation comes on the heels of a Survey USA poll that showed Pete's approval rating diving to 41%, increasing the promise of a hotly contested battle for re-election; a battle that would be played out under the klieg lights of television and put his frailty squarely in the faces of voters.

    By concluding his career now, Domenici will leave with his dignity intact and with accolades from across the political spectrum.

    "For more than three decades, Senator Domenici has been a respected and powerful champion for New Mexico’s interests in the US Senate." Said Big Bill.


    Domenici has been the state's political Godfather. He knew how to accumulate power and he knew how to use it. And he used it to distribute largess to federal installations without which many New Mexico towns would have dried up and blown away. He reached the pinnacle of his career in the 80's as chairman of the Senate Budget Committee when he became a serious prospect for the 1988 vice-presidential ticket with George Bush.

    He has been the personification of the NM Republican Party, so much so that his retirement news set off a scramble by top insiders to come up with notable candidates for offices that could be impacted by his departure.

    Until the US Attorney scandal, his age and the Iraq war sent his approval ratings tumbling, Domenici had demonstrated political appeal with Hispanics, Native Americans as well as Anglos, an impressive achievement for a Republican.

    His uniquely American life began humbly as the son of immigrant Italian parents in downtown Albuquerque. Today at 4 p.m. he returns to deliver a political valedictory in his neighborhood of birth at Saint Mary's High school where he graduated and where his sister is principal.

    Pete Domenici was a Tiger Woods of politics. He excelled when the pressure was on and when the stakes were highest. He could have made millions in the private sector, but chose La Politica and the joys and challenges of the public life. New Mexico went along for the ride and reaped benefits beyond its highest expectations.


    Monahan by Bralley (2007)
    Bralley snapped this pic of me doing a TV interview in the eye of the political storm set off by Pete's retirement announcement. The intensity of the moment is evident as it was taken immediately after Domenici had finished his speech carried statewide.

    This is an excerpt of our dispatch from St. Mary's High School in downtown ABQ on that day in October of 2007:

    The past was honored and Pete Domenici was venerated, but the birth pangs of the political future shared equal time Thursday on one of the most storied days in the history of La Politica. I was positioned just yards from the Senate legend as he uttered the words that will change the politics of our lifetime.

    "I come here today, to the site of the school I attended as a boy, to tell you that I will not run for re-election to the United States Senate." Domenici announced.

    The atmosphere was one of nostalgia and pride in the native son who went to the senate in 1973 and went on to become the state's longest-serving senator. In the crowd were the old warhorses of New Mexico politics who were with Pete at the beginning of his fabled run. They included former NM Congressman Manuel Lujan, attorney Billy Marchiondo, "Smokey" Sanchez Davis and businessman Bing Grady.

    Domenici, now frail at 75, kept his emotions in check and spoke of the work to come in his remaining 14 months, but the tears flowed freely among men as well as women. Members of his large family seemed to be bracing themselves as they stood erect behind the man who has insured that their name will be known as long as there is a place called New Mexico.


    Domenici and his wife, Nancy, seemed at peace. Introducing her, he described how she has recently been helping him to better pronounce his vowels and speak more forcefully on his weekly radio program. The humanity of the moment overwhelmed the audience.

    The great wave of history represented by the occasion was brought home as Domenici explained how in 1972 he became the first New Mexico Republican Senator elected since Bronson Cutting 38 years earlier, in 1935. I had heard him say it before, but on this day the statement had my head swirling with images of nearly a century of our state's politics and people, and I admit it sent a chill up my spine.


    Domenici chief-of staff Steve Bell described for me the phone call placed to the President by Senator Domenici to tell him of his plans to retire.

    "It was a five to seven minute conversation. I talked with the President's chief of staff the next day to find out what had been said on the President's end, but he told me the President had the room cleared while he talked with Senator Domenici. That's something special," said a wistful Bell.

    Domenici abandoned lofty rhetoric in summing up his acclaimed career.

    "We left the state in better shape than we started." He declared.

    Soon after, it was over. The Senator took no questions. He was in the arms of those who will now finally reclaim him from a lifetime on the political stage.

    I was there and that's the way it was. 

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