Wednesday, March 07, 2018

Dem Pre-Primary Convention Gamed; Who's Up And Who's Down Going Into Saturday Meet? Candidates Vie For Crucial 20% Of Delegate Vote, Plus: City Election Results; Webber Wins; GOP Incumbents Too 

There will be a lot of doing and some dying at this Saturday's Democratic Party Pre-Primary nominating convention. The nearly 1,500 delegates from across the state will winnow the field for the June 5 primary election when they vote to place candidates on the ballot. If a contender fails to get 20 percent of the vote, they can still get on the ballot by submitting additional petitions signatures but in almost all cases failure to cross that 20 percent threshold dooms a candidacy. Money and morale dry up.

So how does does it look only days away from when a sea of blue will form at the ABQ Convention Center? Our Alligators, Insiders, Wall-Leaners and Hangers-on have all checked in and here is how they see the pre-primary shaping up:

GOVERNOR--Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham has long been the front-runner for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination. The consensus is that she will score from 60 to 69 percent of the delegate vote. That would make it impossible for the three other contenders to each get 20 percent. Jeff Apodaca is seen as having the best chance.

LIEUTENANT GOVERNOR--State Senator Howie Morales of Silver City appears to be on the brink of a big pre-primary win, say our insiders. In 2014 he won the pre-primary in the governor's race but lost the primary to Gary King. King is the only candidate to ever win the June primary without getting at least 20 percent pre-primary support. Chasing Morales this time will be former ABQ State Rep. Rick Miera who is expected to finish far behind Morales but still get 20 percent. Light Guv contender Jeff Carr says he has the votes lined up to make the 20 percent mark.

ABQ CONGRESS--A field of six hopefuls is battling for the crucial 20 percent in this contest but it appears no more than three will make it and there's a decent chance it will be only two. Former NM Democratic Party Chair Deb Haaland is expected to finish at the head of the pack, with attorney Antoinette Sedillo Lopez seen as the second place winner. Former US Attorney Damon Martinez has raised over $300,000 for the primary but the convention delegates lean liberal and he is more moderate. He would no doubt continue his candidacy even if he fails to get the 20% but if Haaland wins big the race could be redefined.

LAND COMMISSIONER--First place likely goes to northern NM State Rep. Stephanie Garcia Richard; second to Gallup State Senator George Munoz and third to environmental leader Garret VeneKlasen. Garcia Richard is more liberal than Munoz and thus picking up more delegate support but the electorate moves more to the center for the June 5 primary. With his base in Gallup and northern Hispanic support Munoz will be in the thick if it. VeneKlasen needs to make something happen.

STATE AUDITOR--Again, the liberal make-up of the convention is going to be a factor here with Las Cruces area State Rep. Bill McCamley favored to take first place, but ABQ attorney Brian Colón, a former chairman of the party, shouldn't be far back. Like Munoz, he is counting on heavy Hispanic support to make the difference June 5, and it very well could.

SOUTHERN CONGRESS--Contender Mad Hildebrandt of Socorro told you all you need to know this week when she attacked her party, saying:

Washington’s political elite has pushed every Democrat out of this race except my Democratic Primary opponent, whom the D.C. insiders have endorsed, and me. On behalf of all the loyal Democrats. . .the insiders have tried to silence, I’m not going anywhere.

Her opponent is Xochitl Torres Small of Las Cruces, a former congressional staffer who the national Dems see as a rising star. She will score the big pre-primary win so Hildebrand will have her work cut out for her in the June balloting. But come November Small, if she is the nominee, will have no easy time of it. The seat being vacated by Rep. Steve Pearce is still a GOP stronghold.

Political parties may not matter as much as they used to because of the big independent money out there, but they still have some muscle and Saturday it will be shown off.


Mayor-elect Webber
No major upsets in the Tuesday mayoral balloting in three of the state's largest cities. Incumbent Republican Gregg Hull managed 50.7% of the vote in Rio Rancho against former Dem Mayor Tom Swisstack's 44.6% with a third candidate getting the rest. If Hull fell below 50% there would have been a run-off with Swisstack who was hoping for a more energized Dem vote given the Trump factor, but that did not appear to happen even though the 13 percent turnout was larger than usual. Both Hull and Swisstack are well-respected figures in Rio Rancho but Hull was more of the moment.

In Santa Fe the chips fell as most observers thought they would. Alan Webber, who handily outspent his rivals, was elected with 66 percent of the vote in the new ranked voting system. Webber, 69, is a successful entrepreneur who sought the 2014 Dem gubernatorial nod. His challenge will be to fully represent not just the older, wealthy Anglo class which has become a growing factor in the City Different, but also the Hispanic majority population which was attracted to the candidacy of Councilor Ron Trujillo. Webber received endorsements from prominent Hispanics so he's on his way. He will also be a mayor with new powers which should help.

In Roswell former Mayor Del Jurney failed in his comeback bid. Incumbent GOP Mayor Dennis Kintigh was re-elected with 40% to Jurney's 32%. Other candidates trailed. Kintigh is also a former police chief who is wrestling with a nasty crime problem in the SE NM city, but Roswell residents apparently didn't see Jurney handling it any better.

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