Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Herrell Heat: Congress Hopeful Plays For The Hearts Of The GOP Base And The Votes May Follow, Plus: Follow The Money: Latest Reports Offer Clues On Key Races, And: Manuel Lujan Turns 90 

State Rep. Herrell
The GOP nomination for the southern congressional seat being vacated by Rep. Steve Pearce appears to be slipping into the corner of State Rep. Yvette Herrell.

She comes with a bold and unapologetic debut TV ad backing President Trump and in which she is proudly labeled a "conservative" five times in 30 seconds.

The phrase "game-changer" is overworked but this seems like one.

Herrell of Alamogordo aced Monty Newman, her chief rival, at the March GOP preprimary convention when she landslided him 58 to 26 percent. But Newman, a successful realtor and former Hobbs Mayor, was still seen as a potential threat because of his large campaign war chest and name ID. Now not as much.

Newman's first TV spot was mild compared to Herrell's, focusing heavily on his son's service in Iraq but offered no real emotional connection for the audience. Newman offered little red meat to the Trump base that commands southern Republicans. Herrell has now stepped in to throw that red meat and by doing so she may have shut this race down.

She flings it all out there--that she is a "pro-life Christian" "a Trump conservative" and "despises" big government. All of it is music to the ears of the base GOP vote.

Herrell critics are raising questions about her claim in the ad that "she fought to cut taxes" and her legislative record on the matter is a matter of debate.

Newman insisted on hiring Jay McCleskey, the media wizard for Governor Martinez who earned himself the title "Shadow Governor" for his outsized influence in her administration. But McCleskey has made so many enemies within the GOP that Newman was abandoned by many who would normally support him. Now he faces a decision on whether to unleash McCleskey to let him wage one of his well-known slash and burn campaigns against Herrell in an effort to turn the tide. The task is made more difficult by this Herrell spot. An attack on her at this point could be seen as an attack on the President who she is giving her full backing while Newman hesitates on that score.

As for the November election, it appears it will be Herrell vs Las Cruces water attorney  and rising Democratic star Xochitl Torres Small, but Herrell's able handling of her TV debut is giving pause to some Dem analysts. They still see Torres Small as a strong candidate, but Herrell's unabashed embrace of conservatives in a district with plenty of them and a large bible belt to boot, remind them of how difficult it will be for the Dems to pull off the upset.


The candidates came with their latest finance reports for Primary '18 Monday. It covered the period April 3 thru May 7. All reports are here and here's the analysis:

GUV---Michelle Lujan Grisham raised more money during the period but also bought TV and her cash balance ended at $1.6 million down from $1.8 million in her last report. For now that's way more than enough.

Joe Cervantes loaned himself another $500,000 for a total of $2 million for the campaign. He has $1.6 million in cash but probably not enough time to spend it all. Jeff Apodaca has $263,000 in cash. Lujan Grisham remains the front-runner for the Dem nod. Something--something big--is going to have to happen to change that.

On the R side, wily Steve Pearce got on TV but also raised more money. He now tops the Guv field with $1.9 million in cash on hand.

More analysis from political veteran and former city councilor, state legislator and ABQ attorney Greg Payne:

Did something happen here? Wake me if it does.

LT. GOVERNOR--Dem State Senator Howie Morales reports $63,000 in cash on hand. He established himself as the frontrunner for the Dem nod and remains so. The other contenders lag. Republican Michelle Garcia Holmes is unopposed for the GOP Light Guv slot.

Payne-- It's Howie's to lose.

AG---The Balderas money train slowed some with him now reporting $903,000 in cash compared to $891,000 last time. He is unopposed for the Dem attorney general nod and a heavy favorite for re-election over  Republican Michael Hendricks. If he does win, he will sit around and think about what to run for next with all that cash. Or not.

Payne: Maybe Sen. Udall doesn't run for re-election in 2020, but I wouldn't bet $903,000 on it. 

LAND COMMISSIONER--The news on this one is that appears Rep. Stephanie Garcia Richard has been effectively knocked out of the Dem nomination chase. She had one more shot to raise the dough but came with just $31,000 in cash on hand. She won't have a statewide presence, leaving the race to environmentalist Garret VeneKlasen and State Senator George Munoz. VeneKlasen reports $73,000 on hand but has had a healthy media presence before spending that money and a third party group is nuking Munoz. The Senator reports $210,000 in cash, most of which he lent himself. This one is only going to get more interesting.

Pat Lyons is the lone R seeking the nomination.

Payne: The enviros and Sen. Heinrich are pushing hard for VeneKlasen. That may be enough for him.

STATE AUDITOR--Bill McCamley lent himself $45,000 and started his campaign for the Dem state auditor nomination earlier than ABQ's Brian Colón. McCamley, a Las Cruces are state rep has already made a decent TV buy and Colón did not bury him in a cash pile.

McCamley reported only $17,000 in cash on hand but he has purchased TV time and production of $120,000. Colón reports $123,000 in cash but had not yet reported his TV buy. A friend says he bought a buy similar to McCamley so his cash is probably in the 20's now.

If McCamley's ad against the Trump wall brings out the progressives in a big way, he has a shot. If the race breaks with an ethnic advantage for Colón, he will win.

Payne: Joe, you said the McCamley TV ad was a bit off the wall, but it connects with progressives and Hispanics. He could crash Brian's party in BernCo and the north. Keep an eye on this one. 

Point taken, Greg, And we just looked at some insider polling that shows more likely Dem primary voters identify as progressives or liberals this cycle than in the past.

On another note, we're pleased to report Greg will join us on Primary Election Night June 5 on KANW 89.1 FM radio and kanw.com to analyze the results as they roll in.

CARL AND ANDREA-- Santa Fe County State Rep. Carl Trujillo is going to outspend Andrea Trujillo in the final stretch but not by very much. Will that make the difference in this Dem primary race that has captured statewide attention, with Trujillo being accused of sex harassment and Romero charged with unethically handling public funds? Romero has $28,000 in cash. Trujillo has $35,000 and spent the same amount in the reporting period. As they say on the playground, they are about to nuke the snot out of each other. Voters, hide if you can.


Our onetime boss, former ABQ GOP Congressman and Secretary of the Interior Manuel Lujan Jr., turned 90 this week. Here's a pic of him on his special day, sporting his usual smile and exuding optimism. Those were qualities that helped him keep the ABQ congressional seat in the Republican column for 20 years. In 1989 he began a four year run as Secretary of Interior under the first President Bush.

After leaving government Lujan concentrated on business interests and lobbying. He and his wife Jeanne live in ABQ and stay busy today with their large family. We assume he is closely following the race for Governor in which his cousin, Democrat Michelle Lujan Grisham, is playing a prominent role. But that doesn't mean he'll vote Democratic. You'll have to ask him. Happy Birthday, Congressman.

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