Monday, May 21, 2018

Debate Action: TV Clash For ABQ Congress Nod Becomes Two Man Show; Lara Pounds Martinez To Shake Up Race, Dem Guv Candidates Also Go At It, And: Guv Martinez Machine Melting; Rep. Youngblood Busted For DWI  

Two big TV debates and the DWI arrest of an ABQ state rep tops the headlines of La Politica this busy Monday. And we're off. . .

The fast changing dynamic in that tight as a drum race for the ABQ Dem congressional nomination was on full display Sunday as the six hopefuls made their cases and sprayed criticism at one another in a 90 minute debate broadcast on KOAT.

It was the new boy on the block, Damian Lara, the ABQ immigration attorney who is himself an immigrant from Mexico, who did the most to shake things up. Repeatedly he aimed his firepower at Damon Martinez, one of the top three contenders in the six person field, threatening to peel progressive and Hispanic votes away from the former US attorney and stall what has been his impressive momentum.

Lara, who has worked for the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, the state Legislative Council Service and is president of the NM Hispanic Bar Association, has been campaigning for months but only after unveiling his first TV ad that aimed squarely at progressives with a heartfelt pitch on immigration is he garnering mainstream attention.

He was last polling in the low single digits, raising the question whether the attacks on Martinez would be enough to make him a contender in his own right or important only because he could keep Martinez from getting the nomination.

Regardless of the end game, Lara bore down on the cornerstone of Martinez's candidacy--that Martinez was "fired" by President Trump for standing up for New Mexico. Lara pointed out that the president asked for the resignations of 45 US attorneys, including Martinez's. And he sternly lectured his opponent, saying, "You make it sound like you were singled out."

Martinez responded that "when you're resignation is forced by midnight, you're being fired."

But that dismissal--made famous in Martinez's TV campaign--is the soft underbelly of the Martinez candidacy because a new president asking for the resignations of high level federal appointees, including US attorneys, is routine. And unlike the 2006 firing of former NM US Attorney David Iglesias and several others, Martinez's dismissal was not enveloped in scandal and congressional investigations.

Lara also hammered Martinez over $500,000 in what he called "dark money" that has come into the race via paid media for Martinez. He asked whether Martinez "could be trusted" because the donors to the PACS are unknown. Martinez, who was a Judge Advocate in the U.S. Army Reserve and then transferred to the NM National Guard, responded that he is honored to have the support of veterans' groups who are sponsoring the out-of-state super PACs.

In his closing statement Lara got in his final jab, pointing out that ABQ is enduring a record crime wave, despite Martinez's contention that as US attorney he was a bona fide crime fighter.

Martinez only scored 11 percent of the delegates at the Dem March pre-primary convention, signaling that his support among hard-core progressive Democrats is weak. Since then he has vigorously represented himself as a "progressive." It is the uncertainty of that identity that Lara pounded away at, and if he does it in TV spots it could have a significant impact on this race.

The third party TV support for Martinez is nearly overwhelming and could keep Martinez afloat but Lara, who was joined in his jabbing of Martinez by Paul Moya, laid bare just how much this race remains up in the air.


We blogged late last week that Moya, a 30 year old making his first run for political office, has not been on TV but his campaign reports he started his TV buy May 11. Here is his ad. Moya is a Valencia County native who grew up on an alfalfa farm and went on to Notre Dame and Harvard and today is a business consultant. He also poked at Martinez over his assertion that he had been fired by Trump.


The optics were surely interesting and accurate. Frontrunner Michelle Lujan Grisham sat in the middle and on each side of her sat one of her underdog foes for the Dem Guv nomination--Jeff Apodaca and Joe Cervantes. They repeatedly fired charges at her--and we mean repeatedly--which is covered here. The foes did their homework. But she survived without losing her cool and causing a viral moment, about the only thing in her path from securing the nod. Not that she didn't have to work on it. Her frustration was palpable if not audible. The full debate is here. There will be no more TV debates before the June 5 primary.

And what’s with some of the media calling Lujan Grisham the “perceived front runner.” She had a landslide at the pre-primary convention and every internal poll shows her way ahead and her opponents are attacking her vociferously, confirming she is in the lead by a wide margin. That’s not a  “perception” that’s reality. Anyway, that’s why we’re here, to deliver the unvarnished reality so let’s get back to it.

Now, analysis of the debate action from a Senior Alligator of the Dem variety:

Michelle is looking more and more confident and practiced. She showed she is difficult to rattle and knows her stuff. We saw some indication of the attacks Lujan Grisham might see in the general election--her business activities, votes in Congress, etc. Cervantes' new TV ad attacks mirror those lines. '

Cervantes did a good job and made me wonder, where has this guy been hiding for 20 years? If he's as aggressive as he says he is in holding the Legislature accountable for the last 20 years, how come we haven't heard of it? 

Apodaca was a disappointment. He seemed over his head and too reliant on platitudes and vague impressions of how government works. He was easily dismantled by his opponents. At this point, Cervantes may pass by Apodaca on election day. Grisham is in pole position and it's a shame Cervantes isn't running for Lieutenant Governor.


On the issues front, what caught our attention was the discussion of the spate of abuse and high-profile murders of children, as well as the recent case of an ABQ 7 year old girl being used as a prostitute by her drug addled parents. Here's how the candidates handled one of the most pressing issues of the day:

Apodaca said Gov. Martinez has "cut budgets" saying the state has "clawed back money" to the General Fund it should have been using for CYFD. He said he won't "appoint political favorites or corporate favorites," an apparent reference to current CYFD director Monique Jacobson who was a marketing executive for Pepsi, but has no experience in social work.

Lujan Grisham said the deaths and abuse are "absolutely unacceptable" and said CYFD has had a "26 percent vacancy rate and have not done anything . . . to ensure they have the staff to respond to these serious issues." She said she wants to bring back the "Children's Cabinet" so all cabinet secretaries will "actively engage in identifying programs that reduce risk" to children.

Cervantes said that properly budgeting the CYFD is important but what is more important is holding the leadership of the agency accountable. "Some of this is about funding, positions have not been filled, but we need to bring legislative accountability to the Governor and secretary." He said a pattern has emerged of continued critical failures by CYFD because of a lack of accountability.

All the while, the newspaper editorializes that "under the current administration, CYFD’s budget has been beefed up and workforce expanded."

As Cervantes said until we hold accountable the public officials who are responsible for child well-being, we are going to have more horrifying crimes against. As for the newspaper, what town are they living in? Come on, man.


Rep. Youngblood mug shot
The Governor's political machine is melting before our eyes. . .

We don't know the blood alcohol level of ABQ State Rep, Monica Youngblood when she was arrested at 1:00 a.m. Sunday on an aggravated drunk driving charge because she refused the breath test. But we do know she failed field sobriety tests and, according to the arresting officer, had slurred speech.

We also know from a Senior Republican Alligator that a plan is already in the works to have Youngblood give up her seat so the GOP can get another candidate and prevent what could be a loss in November of a GOP leaning seat. It's too late to remove her name from the June primary ballot, but Republican central committee members would name a general election replacement, if Youngblood announced her withdrawal after the primary.

The D's have recruited Karen Bash, who describes herself as a "retired faith leader, a wife, a mother and concerned citizen." Party insiders say she is a quality contender. Because this is a single county district the BernCo Commission, controlled by the Dems, would get to appoint a replacement to serve out the remainder of Youngblood's term, if she were to resign. So the GOP may fight resignation calls and work to keep Youngblood on for her final months and pursue the scenario outlined above.

A Dem Alligator ran the numbers for us and while the district leans R for the legislative contest, it could be put in play:

Joe, Clinton beat Trump by less than 100 votes in District 68 in 2016 (43.6% to 42.9%, with Johnson at 11.2%) but, midterm voting drop-off here is bad. For example, Udall lost the 2014 Senate race by 5 points (47.3% - 52.7%). Dems have a slight registration advantage (39%-38%), but Republicans have a solid turnout advantage. From recent election results, it would appear that independent voters tend to lean more Democratic.

Youngblood, who works in real estate and was first elected to the Westside district in 2012, has been one of the most ardent supporters of Gov. Martinez and her political machine led by her consultant Jay McCleskey. Here's the statement she released about her arrest:

While I regret the situation altogether, I most definitely regret not taking the breathalyzer test. I look forward to bringing this matter to a swift and just conclusion.

And why does she "regret" not taking the test? She doesn't say. And that is not going to stand under intense political scrutiny from a politician who has prided herself for being tough on crime and an anti- DWI advocate.

Youngblood has been a legislative player in making life easier for Uber and Lyft, ride companies that if she had used would have prevented her current embarrassment.


The Alligators of La Politica are on high alert on the Youngblood drunk driving case after Dem BernCo District Attorney Raul Torrez took major heat for what appeared to be his fix in the DWI case of Ryan Flynn, a former cabinet secretary under Gov. Martinez who now heads the NM Oil and Gas Association. 

Torrez was accused of making a plea deal for Flynn in exchange for the Guv supporting a huge increase for his DA budget which she did. Any hanky-panky by Raul on Youngblood’s case and he might even be scorched by the mainstream Martinez media which has treated him as a darling. 

(Uh, that would be KOAT, the Journal and KOB, just in case you're wondering).

Also being watched is how promptly APD responds in releasing the lapel camera videos of Youngblood's arrest and getting out more information about the arrest.

Finally, there's Youngblood's tattered relationship with current GOP Chairman Ryan Cangiolosi. In fact, in January the pair got into a profanity laced shouting match outside the famous Bull Ring watering hole in Santa Fe. Don't expect Ryan or GOP National Committeeman Harvey Yates, an outspoken foe of Martinez, to help Monica hang on. Heck, look for them to hang her.


Forward Not Back, the super PAC financed by heavyweight Wall Street types, including billionaires, and who apparently want a "moderate voice" in the ABQ congressional seat, is back.

They're back with this hit piece on Deb Haaland. It follows on the heels of another mailer against progressive Dem congressional hopeful Antoinette Sedillo Lopez.

Haaland's campaign did not comment on the specific charges the mailer made, including that she undermined the presidential candidacy of Bernie Sanders while serving as NM Dem Party chair, but a spokesman came with this statement:

Here is what you need to know about them from the Chicago Sun-TimesThey are a bi-partisan group that helps elect moderate Democrats and Republicans. Their donors are the ultra-rich that include many Republicans. Forward not Back, Vote Vets, and With Honor Super PAC's are trying to buy the race for the moderate Damon Martinez. It is unfortunate they want to call a woman's character, personal life, and concern for women's rights into question, They are no better than the corrupt conservatives in Washington and ultra-rich supporting Damon. 

About two weeks to go, kids.


Pat Davis turned in a polished and effective debate performance, with his experience as an ABQ city councilor showing, but he is far back in the pack and low on cash.

If Martinez should falter under the attacks of Lara and Moya, it could be Haaland or Sedillo Lopez who benefit while the men go at it. However, neither had a debate performance that would clearly signal which would benefit from an upending of the race but Sedillo Lopez is running ahead of Haaland in the polls.

Right now this is looking like the contest that could take us into the late evening hours when we call the Election Night action on KANW 89.1 FM June 5. . .


Readers and campaign reps had questions about the poll done by the VoteVets group which is supporting Damon Martinez and conducted by Lake Research in DC. It shows Martinez at 23; Antoinette Sedillo Lopez at 25; Martinez at 23 and and Haaland at 20 and undecided at 27.

Celinda Lake clarifies that cellphone users were personally interviewed but that land line users were polled by robo calls. Voters we're only asked about the top three candidates.

Here is the question asked in the May 13-14 survey of 390 likely Dem primary voters:

If the June 2019 Democratic primary for Congress were held today and the candidates were Deb Haaland. Damon Martinez, and Antoinette Sedillo-Lopez for whom would you vote? Press 1 for Deb Haaland, press 2. For Damon Martinez, press 3 for Antoinette‎ Sedillo-Lopez, press 4 for someone else, or press 5 for undecided.

"Someone else" drew just 5 percent of the respondents. 

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