Monday, April 23, 2018

ABQ Congress Clash: Candidate TV Starts This Week As Top Three Contenders Start Primary Countdown, Plus: What Happened To Pat Davis? And: In My Time: Reflections On The Riordan Tragedy And The State Of The City  

Sedillo Lopez
The most competitive high-profile New Mexico Democratic primary race will move into high gear this week. The three leading contenders in the six person field for the ABQ congressional nomination will put up their first TV spots starting today.

Deb Haaland, Antoinette Sedillo Lopez and Damon Martinez will be introducing themselves to most primary voters. None of them have been elected to public office and while well-known among Dem insiders, they are mostly unknown to most voters. That means the TV ads will carry more weight than usual. (Haaland's ad starts today and is here. )

But it's not all TV. Sedillo Lopez is the mailing leader, already dropping three pieces to likely Dem voters, with special emphasis on the critical female vote. Haaland and the others will have to play catch-up.

Our media watchers report Haaland and Sedillo Lopez will put up TV buys of about $35,000 for their first week. Martinez is coming with a buy in the low 20k area.

The other three hopefuls--Pat Davis, Damian Lara and Paul Moya are dark.

The race is starting to come into focus and the tension between the campaigns is rising. That's because the stakes are as high as they can get. The Republicans are not targeting the district which means the winner of the Dem primary has a better than 90 percent chance of becoming the next U.S. House member from ABQ.

Furthermore, the improving chances that the national Democrats could take back the House from GOP control means a new Dem congressional representative could be in the majority, giving them more power and prestige.

Insider polling is starting to trickle in on the race. The primary electorate is seen as more heavily female than past cycles, with a tilt toward older women. That has been reflected in the fund-raising and at the Dem preprimary convention which Haaland and Sedillo Lopez have dominated.

It's more difficult for the men. Former US Attorney Martinez has been able to come in third in the fund-raising but fell well short at the pre-primary where he garnered only 10 percent of the delegate support and finished fifth.

The Clintonistas are lining up behind Haaland, the former chair of the NM Dem Party who would be the first Native American woman to win a House seat. The Bernie Sanders brigade does not hold up Haaland as one of their faves. Sedillo Lopez is hoping to capture more of their hearts and votes.

The current congressional delegation is low key on this one. But outgoing US Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham, who is running for the Dem nomination for Governor, is firmly in Sedillo Lopez's corner. Can Sedillo Lopez tap into the Lujan Grisham base to pass Haaland? A key question.

Martinez once worked for Senator Udall and he is seen as favorable to his former employee but not on the radar with any support.

Unlike Martinez, neither Haaland or Sedlillo Lopez has experience on Capitol Hill where billions of dollars for the military and the state's energy complex are divvied up. But the now deep Blue nature of the district has made that experience less of an issue. Likely Dem voters are hungering for a progressive champion, not a centrist.

We know of only one TV debate scheduled so far in this six way race--a KOAT/ABQ Journal face-off scheduled for mid-May. However, it will air on a Sunday afternoon. That, combined with so many candidates vying for attention, will make it difficult for it to make a major difference.


Pat Davis 
Davis, an ABQ city councilor, has come with a poll of the congressional race that is pretty good news for him, but it may be the last of his good news. He commissioned a Public Policy Polling (PPP) survey that showed Haaland and Sedillo Lopez each with 15 percent of the vote and himself at 11 percent. Martinez had 7 percent. 43 percent were still undecided. The automatic phone poll was conducted April 13-15 among 508 likely voters and has an error margin of 4.4%.

Other campaign polling shows Davis has the highest name ID of any of the hopefuls, but also with high negatives. And with only $61,000 in cash on hand in his last report, he is going to have to pull off the major upset by using his sophisticated ground game.

The trouble for Davis has been that he is a male candidate in a female year and his association with City Hall at a time when the city has descended into crime chaos is hurting him. Also, he played footsie with former GOP Mayor Berry on the budget and other issues and fellow Dems accuse him of being a Republican collaborator, not the true blue progressive he has been positioned as. And in a staggering blow to his candidacy, Davis, who is gay, was passed over for an endorsement by Equality NM which went with Haaland.


Marg Elliston of Corrales, a retired state employee and chair of the Sandoval County Dems, was selected over the weekend as the new state Dem Party chair. She was unopposed for the post and was approved by the Dem Central Committee. She replaces Richard Ellenberg who was forced to resign over how he handled sexual misconduct allegations against Jon Hendry, a prominent union Dem and ally of Ellenberg.

Elliston comes aboard at a fortuitous time for the Dems with the odds favoring them taking the governor's office, retaining the US senate seat on the ballot and picking up a couple of seats in the state House. But there's still a long way to go.

Elliston is the wife of legendary former US Senator Fred Harris. We said on Twitter that her term runs until the end of the year but it will actually go until next April.


The Legal Beagles say this will be only the beginning for the Riordan family of ABQ who lost 43 year old Jennifer Riordan in lat week's air mishap that claimed her life:

Southwest Airlines Co. is providing $5,000 checks and $1,000 travel vouchers to passengers who were on a flight this week when an engine broke apart, killing a woman on board. “We value you as our customer and hope you will allow us another opportunity to restore your confidence in Southwest,” Chief Executive Officer Gary Kelly said in a letter to the customers.

Because she was young and the mother of two youngsters the settlement that Southwest eventually reaches with the Riordan family could reach into the $5 million area. Maybe more, speculated one of the Beagles.


In a week long period of unofficial mourning over Riordan's untimely death there seemed a near desperation to celebrate the good she performed as a community volunteer and as an inspiration to friends and neighbors, perhaps because ABQ has become such a hub for gloomy news of all sorts. Its quality of life ranking among major metro areas has been sliding for years. Riordan exemplified the opposite and in her tragedy the city sought its own redemption.

The crushing crime wave has been so brutal and desensitizing that to insulate themselves the upper strata of city society has enveloped itself in a defensive shroud, as it watches the ghoulish and often unbearable events unfold day after day. Compared to the relatively innocuous past it is a Dantesque Inferno that they not only don't recognize but can't bear to confront.

Riordan was not a well-known public figure, appearing only irregularly in the media and never holding elective office. She was most widely known in business, political and philanthropic circles, the very circles so anxious today to have the city seen as it once was in the heyday of Domenici, the Labs and the "Lets move to ABQ!" boom.

It's a community now glued together ever more tightly as the pie shrinks and the seemingly insoluble social dilemma here widens. It's a community that rushes to reinforce what's good about the city but has few, if any members, who break ranks and lead a call for action on what's not so good--or actually awful. That approach defined the long 8 years of Mayor Berry who came from that community and who arguably presided over the worst years in the city's modern history.

Jennifer Riordan's light shines bright. Now we need leadership with the fortitude and resolve to point that light at the Albuquerque that has been allowed to slip ever deeper into the darkness.

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