Wednesday, November 01, 2017

The Long And Painful Goodbye; Martinez Approval Rating Plumbs New Lows, Plus: Our Continuing ABQ Mayoral Coverage And Some Wednesday Bottom Lines  

It's a long and painful political goodbye for Governor Susana Martinez. Public polling is now catching up with the private data circulating and shows her approval rating has tumbled to a fresh low of 37 percent.

With a disapproval rating of 52 percent, only a handful of other governors in the nation are worse, according to the online Morning Consult survey conducted from July thru September and that carries an MOE of 3 percent.

Martinez's long descent can be blamed in part on the state's ongoing economic malaise which has the state's unemployment rate the second highest in the nation and overall economic growth sputtering. Another cause political observers see is her ill-advised veto earlier this year of the entire higher education budget which drew wrath from across the political spectrum,

There's another reason for her lengthy, grinding decline. It stems from December 2015, following her irregular and widely criticized behavior at a holiday staff pizza party at which bottles were thrown from the hotel balcony where it was taking place.

We said at the time that it would be the beginning of the end of her popularity because the behavior revealed was so at odds with the carefully constructed personality that until then she and her handlers had put forth. That prediction, although scoffed at by some, proved correct and Martinez has been slowly marginalized ever since. Our lead from then:

The New Mexican governorship was irrevocably redefined for the final three years of Governor Susana Martinez's second term as a cheerful holiday staff party she threw at Santa Fe's elegant Eldorado Hotel descended into a political nightmare of the highest order.

And so it has. And it may not be over for the troubled chief executive. She has 13 months to go during which time the candidates fighting to succeed her will be attacking her record and giving cause to make her even more unpopular.

Like Martinez, Bill Richardson, who preceded her as Governor, flew high in his first term only to crash and burn in his second and ended with a dismal 33 percent approval rating, Martinez rode those numbers to the Governor's Mansion in 2010.

Ironically, before she is done, her numbers stand a good chance of falling even lower than Richardson's--if they haven't already.


The ABQ Journal will not come with a poll on the ABQ mayoral race until November 12, the Sunday before the election, according to campaign staffers.

The only public poll so far was done for KOB-TV immediately after the October 3 election and it had Tim Keller leading Dan Lewis in the November 14 run-off 49 to 36.

We may get one more poll from the TV station before the balloting, says a station source. Insider polling now has Keller polling above the 50 percent mark.


Lewis & Berry
For the first time in the long campaign the name of Mayor Berry is actually said aloud in a paid media ad. The political committee supporting Tim Keller came with a mild attack ad against Dan Lewis in which a narrator says: "Councilman Dan Lewis voted for and supports the failed policies of Mayor Berry."

Mayor Berry's approval rating was at a low 34 percent in a recent Journal poll.

Meanwhile, the state GOP has come with two ads for social media. One goes after Keller for an ethics complaint filed agains him. The other attacks Dem city council candidate Cynthia Borrego who is in a run-off election in council District 5 with Republican Robert Aragon. The ad calls her "Shady Cynthia Borrego" and says she is backed by "extreme progressives like Tim Keller" and asks: "How radical is she?"

Well, we wouldn't call Borrego "radical" but the ads against here sure are.


Some push back from the Keller camp on the Tuesday blog where it was noted that Dem City Councilor Klarissa Pena was the only Democratic City Councilor who did not sign on as a "co-host" for a fund-raiser being staged by the political committee that is backing Keller. The Kellerites note that Pena is expected to give a formal endorsement of Keller's candidacy this week.

The endorsement to come of Keller by Pena is duly noted but so again is her disagreement with Keller on the controversial Santolina planned community for the far westside. She is favorable towards it and Keller is not.

The bottom line is this: If Keller becomes mayor his relationship with Councilor Pena will be one to watch. Don't say we didn't tell you.


Endorsements of candidates are usually filled with run-of-the-mill political rhetoric but this one for Keller from House Speaker Brian Egolf actually deals with the reality ABQ is facing:

Over the last eight years, crime rates have risen dramatically. Many are struggling to find a good job, put food on the table, or pay the mortgage. The city's economy is stagnant, and Albuquerque's young people are leaving to find opportunities elsewhere. It's tragic...especially because it shouldn't be this way. Albuquerque has all the ingredients to be an amazing, world-class city: a rich cultural heritage, stunning landscapes, perfect climate, and--most of all--creative, resilient people who deserve smart and innovative leadership to move their city forward. Tim Keller is that leader. . .

And in case you missed it, here's some equal time on the endorsement beat for Lewis. He finally secured the backing of Wayne Johnson, his  Republican rival in the October 3 election who finished fourth in the eight person field:

As a County Commissioner I understand the challenges our city and county face. It’s critical that our next mayor already have a working knowledge of those challenges and how the city can face them. Dan Lewis’ experience in business and on the city council make him the best choice for mayor on November 14th.


Reader Larry Gioannini in Las Cruces wants more coverage of Dem Guv candidate Peter DeBenedittis and comes with this:

Peter kicked off the southern part of his campaign for the Democratic governor nomination last Thursday in Las Cruces. He started with a very well attended "meet and greet" followed by an appearance at the Progressive Voter Alliance monthly meeting; a necessity for any Democrat on the ballot in Dona Ana County. His platform resonates with progressives. That and the fact he isn't accepting corporate money. He laid out a viable path to the nomination in a 4-way race and he exposed some of the inconsistencies in the other candidates' positions was well-received.

Freelance journalist Daniel Libit, author of the NM Fishbowl site that watchdogs UNM athletics, comes with this:

If you’ll indulge the abject cravenness of my self-promotion here, I wanted to alert you to the New York Times’ very nice profile of NMFishbowl.com.

No problem, Daniel. Running a blog on New Mexico politics makes "abject cravenness" right in our wheelhouse.

This is the home of New Mexico politics.

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Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Is She Really That Far Ahead? Poll Has Lujan Grisham Leaving Dem Rivals In Dust, Plus: Mayor '18: The Latest On The TV Spending  

Grisham, Cervantes & Apodaca
Is she really ahead that much? That was the first reaction we heard to a poll that shows Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham blowing away her three challengers for the 2018 Democratic gubernatorial nomination.

The survey, done October 12-18 by Greenberg Quninlan Rosner for the progressive group Majority Institute (formerly known as Project New America), has Grisham garnering support from a whopping 75 percent of likely Democratic primary voters.

Former TV executive Jeff Apodaca placed second with 10 percent. State Senator Joe Cervantes barely registered with 3 percent. Alcohol prevention educator Peter DeBenedittis received 2 percent. Ten percent of likely voters were undecided. The poll's margin of error was put at 4.6 percent. Greenberg Quninlan Rosner has worked with Grisham, but the poll was not done for any candidate, but for the Institute.

Surely Grisham is far ahead, having the name ID of a congresswoman who has been busy campaigning for a year and raising substantial funds. But is the race closed out as some might infer from this survey?

No, the race is not closed out but it soon could be if one of her rivals does not do something radical to change the perception of the contest. Before we get to that, here's a skeptical view of the poll from a Dem consultant:

That poll should be taken with a big grain of salt. Hillary was up similarly on Bernie Sanders in the '16 NM primary and we saw how that turned out. (Clinton won by a narrow margin). People want a choice; they don't want an anointment. It's not an easy hill to climb but there's been no paid communications in the contest and no focus on that race yet.

Okay, we've taken our grains of salt.

The trouble is that Grisham's two main challengers--Apodaca and Cervantes--may be out of position. The only area where Grisham appears weak is with the left wing of her party where disgruntled but energized Bernie Sanders supporters and economic populists reside. Yet Cervantes, Apodaca and Grisham are pretty much ignoring them. DeBenedettis is running as a progressive and is not, but he's not raising the money he will meed to get that message out.

Cervantes and Apodaca have long been associated with the moderate wing of the party. Grisham has liberal positions on matters such as abortion but also has centrist instincts.

With no serious challenger to her left and with Dems hungry for a win, she is in good position with a large swath of the party. She can keep playing both liberal and centrist politics.

Cervantes and Apodaca are not going to get where they need by deriding Grisham as a professional politician. They are going to have to distinguish themselves in a much more meaningful way. That will mean taking big risks and entertaining the notion of veering left, even if it is against every instinct in their bones.

An enthusiastic, well-funded Hispanic economic populist with moderate views on social issues could give Grisham pause and have Dems voters taking a serious look. Right now there are no takers, leaving the nomination for Grisham to take. Stay tuned.


Whoever gets the Dem nomination next June will have a valuable prize indeed. A consensus has formed among the pundits that New Mexico is poised to turn the Fourth Floor into an ocean of blue after its long season of red. From the National Journal:

(New Mexico) will be Democrats’ top pickup opportunity. After eight years of Republican Martinez and in a state that Democrats have dominated in federal races for the past decade, the winner of the contested Democratic primary will be favored over likely GOP nominee Steve Pearce. The general election would feature two House members if Michelle Lujan Grisham, who leads the field in fundraising and recently hired a campaign manager, emerges with the nomination.


Tim Keller's aggressive record as state auditor has impressed some voters but not all. Here's reader Levi Fetta pushing back against the praise Keller has received and which was noted on last Thursday's blog.

Another fluff piece on Keller. . . Keller has accused a lot of people of misuse of public funds, but how many of these cases have resulted in restitution, criminal charges/arrest/convictions, civil lawsuits? I know the State Auditor is not responsible for the this part of it, but it is one thing to claim something and another to actually see something done. 

Furthermore, Keller stated insurance companies possibly owed over $190 million in unpaid taxes. He was way off. A big number for headlines? Who knows? An outside auditor from Georgia narrowed the total to $65 million. By the way, the Office of Superintendent of Insurance has been asleep at the wheel for decades to allow this to happen. 

Voters can question Keller's record as Auditor but Lewis faces a bigger challenge with his record as a longtime councilor. Reader Kelley DuPont writes:

JoeFor me, I can’t separate Lewis from Mayor Berry and the do-nothing city councilors. I can see they all have failed the city. Lewis and his fellow councilors have sat helplessly on their hands just like Berry and watched Albuquerque burn, figuratively of course. As far as I’m concerned Dan Lewis had his chance to improve/rescue the city. There is no evidence that he would do anything different than he’s done.


Klarissa Pena
If Keller does get elected it won't be all hugs and kisses with the Democratic-controlled City Council. Klarissa Pena, who represents a Valley district heavy in Hispanic voters, appears to be a holdout when it comes to Keller. A fund-raiser for the PAC that is supporting Keller drew all the Democratic city councilors as co-hosts, except one--Councilor Pena. The co-hosts included:

Co-Hosts: State Senators Mimi Stewart, Jerry Ortiz y Pino /Cisco McSorely, State Representative Javier Martinez, City Councilors Ike Benton, Diane Gibson, Pat Davis & Ken Sanchez.

Pena's district only went narrowly for Keller who narrowly beat out Brian Colón there.

One point of contention between Pena and Keller could be over the controversial west side planned community of Santolina. She's been supportive while Keller has not. In response Santolina has financed media attacks against him.

UPDATE: The Keller camp says Pena is "all in" for Keller and will endorse him later this week.


Lewis is ramping up his TV schedule as early voting escalates and the Nov. 14 Election Day nears. Media veteran Chris Brown reports Lewis late last week added almost $62,000 in TV buys for the four network affiliates through Friday, November 10. This brings his total TV budget on the network affiliates for the run-off to $123,000 and 484 spots. Also, he spent $9,000 on Comcast.

That's $132,000 in TV for Lewis. That alone is more than the publicly financed campaign budget for the run-off for Tim Keller of $125,000.

Lewis is privately financing and has reported raising over $200,000 for the run-off. Keller does have a PAC independent of his campaign helping him and that recently reported having over $90,000 in cash.

We received late word Monday that the PAC supporting Keller--ABQ Forward Together--has made a TV buy for about $90,000, matching what they recently reported having in cash. The PAC continues to have fund-raisers.

As for the PAC getting backing from land developer Santolina and that has financed TV ads against, Keller. It has gone dark. No new media buys.


Rick Abraham of Data Flux is back with us to run the numbers for the run-off. He reports as of the end of Friday nearly 14,000 voters had cast ballots via absentee or early voting. He thinks we are on track for a turnout of about 70,000 or more, down from the 100,000 who voted in the Oct. 3 election. After the record smashing turnout then, we'll give him some leeway on that prediction.

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Monday, October 30, 2017

A Relentless Underdog: Lewis Pounds Keller In First Mayoral TV Debate; Frontrunner Fends Him Off With Blows Of His Own; Our Complete Coverage Is Up Next 

Like a dentist searching for a raw nerve, Dan Lewis relentlessly drilled down on Tim Keller in an hour long, live televised debate Sunday night. (Complete video here.)

He pounded the front-runner for being unethical, a criminal coddler and a do-nothing state senator. It had the makings of a devastating indictment if Keller had been caught by surprise. But he's nursing a double digit lead in the polls and he handled the accusations with aplomb while leveling charges of his own against the Republican city councilor.

There is rarely a knockout or knockdown punch delivered in these events and such was the case on KOAT-TV. Lewis's inability to rattle his foe and a create a headline for the debate was the key outcome because of Keller's aforementioned lead.

Let's go to the pond and get more analysis from one of our Alligators:

Lewis threw everything he had at Keller, but the attacks seemed scattered. Lewis closed strong with a fusillade of attacks over Keller's ethics saying "multiple ethics violations follow you everywhere." It was surprising that the state auditor did not mount more of a defense since he has been uncovering ethics violations across the state. 

The first thing I noticed is tone and demeanor. Keller sounds more positive, while Lewis looks and sounds angry. I was surprised at how negative the debate was. Where were these attacks before we got to the runoff? By letting Keller basically have a free ride into the runoff, the attacks seem desperate. None of the mayoral candidates spent the past few months making the case against Keller and it's going to be hard for Lewis to do it in the next two weeks.


We asked longtime political consultant, ABQ attorney and former city councilor Greg Payne, formerly an R but now a D, for debate analysis. First, was there a clear winner?

The first half hour was a little tougher than the second for Keller, but the State Auditor ultimately swatted away the attacks by Lewis and came across as the more upbeat and positive of the two candidates. Not only did Keller not lose the debate, he may have won it on a TKO.

What about the elephant in the room by the name of Richard Berry? No one seemed to name the outgoing mayor out loud. Payne's take:

Lewis' biggest problem is Berry. The city realizes the Berry Administration has been a failure. Rightly or wrongly, there is an unspoken assumption that a vote for Lewis is tantamount to voting in favor of Berry's third term. That's why Lewis's only response to Keller when asked, 'What have you done to change things in the past eight years?' was for Lewis to not answer the question directly and pivot to the ethics complaints Republican operative Pat Rogers has filed against Keller. The Berry mayoral fiasco is the political elephant in the room this election that no one is talking about, but should. That includes Tim Keller.

It's understandable that Keller wants support across the board, but Keller could have done more to fire up the Democratic base by going after Berry and APD Chief Gordon Eden by name.

Bottom line: Albuquerque is a city with an overwhelming Democratic registration advantage. You don't need Republican votes to win a city-wide election. You just need to get the majority party of Albuquerque fired up and into the voting booth.

Thanks, Greg. He'll be with us once again on KANW 89.1 FM Tuesday, November 14 at 6:30 p.m. when we bring you our exclusive wall-to-wall coverage of the mayoral run-off as well as the City Council District Five run-off featuring Republican Robert Aragon and Dem Cynthia Borrego.

Now, your blogger's short takes on the Keller-Lewis clash. . .


Keller was at his best when he asked Lewis how, after years of "skyrocketing crime and flatlining wages" and "our kids leaving our city," did Lewis allow it to happen during his 8 years as a city councilor. Lewis argued he is only one of nine councilors and that the issues Keller spoke of were those "the executive does." He then unloaded a barrage of charges on Keller who quipped, "I am not sure why you did not answer. The bus is going over the cliff and you're asking for a promotion."

Lewis scored when the candidates were asked how they defined a sanctuary city and where they stood. That had Keller dancing and he gave an answer that did not make clear his position. Lewis pounced, asking Keller why he did not simply say what he has said in mayoral forums--that he supports having ABQ as a sanctuary city.


Lewis retired for the evening his well-known but juvenile attack line about Keller's crime platform. He calls it a "hug a thug" plan. But not last night. Thanks, Dan.

The sometimes too wonkish Keller refrained from getting in the weeds on issues like planned growth and water that make the eyes glaze over. Thanks for the no "MEGO" moments, Tim.


Both candidates looked like young businessmen in their dark suits. But there was some kind of eruption on Lewis' forehead that make-up did not cover and that drew considerable comment on Facebook.


were good and covered the litany of city woes with the weight of them toward crime. The time limits gave both contenders a chance to adequately rebut and answer. This was not a freewheeling debate with a moderator following up but the rigidness of the format and the spartan stage kept the focus where it belonged--on the contenders and their answers.


Was there one? Game 5 of the World Series and an NFL game played opposite the debate at 6 p.m. The station could have done a better job of giving the potential audience a clean shot at watching.


This was the most important of the three TV debates, coming as early voting gets underway in earnest and with more undecided voters. By the time the next debates roll around--November 7 and 11--a large percentage of the vote will already have been cast and the Nov. 14 election just days away.

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