Wednesday, June 06, 2018

PRIMARY '18: A NIGHT OF SURPRISES: Haaland Wins In A Walk, Garcia Richard Beats The Boys, MLG Roars With 66 Percent; Reps Rodella And Trujillo Fall 

Deb Haaland (Pierre-Louis; Journal))
Complete state and local election results here.

A newly energized New Mexico Democratic Party delivered a night of surprises Tuesday. And here they are:

--Deb Haaland goes way high. Sure, Haaland was among the top three Democratic candidates for the ABQ congressional nomination going into Tuesday night and her win was not out of the blue, but no one--and we mean no one--expected her to crush her five opponents. This was supposed to be the nail biter of the night. Instead it turned into the jaw dropper of the night when Haaland won with 41 percent in the six way race. That was double what she was scoring in the polling only two weeks ago.

But a surge in women voters left Damon Martinez, who many expected to take the victory, in the dust. The women did not, as many expected, divide themselves between progressive candidates Haaland and Antoinette Sedillo Lopez but coalesced around the Haaland candidacy, an historic one. Should she win in November that would make her the first Native American woman to serve in the U.S House.

Haaland appeared to score big with Anglo progressive voters who showed up in large numbers. Throughout the campaign they were the group most receptive to what Mayor Tim Keller told our KANW-FM audience last night was the "higher calling" aspect of her candidacy. That higher calling kept taking Deb higher and higher and let Damon dangling with only 26 percent and Antoinette aching over her 21 percent showing. It also had ABQ City Councilor Pat Davis feeling rejuvenated. He dropped out of the race late in the game and endorsed Haaland. Suddenly his sagging chances at getting re-elected to his city council seat perked up.

Haaland did it despite being greatly outspent by Super PAC money that favored Martinez and Sedillo Lopez. She attributed her big bump to "thousands of volunteers." But that $200,000 media buy from Emily's list criticizing Martinez at the end sure helped. It stalled him.

Haaland can start measuring the drapes for her new Capitol Hill office. The ABQ congressional district is now deep blue and the R's are not expected to target the contest which features Janice Arnold-Jones as the GOP nominee.

--Stephanie Garcia Richard wins the Dem nomination for state land commissioner. Wow. Another exciting finish because hardly anyone saw it coming. That's what makes this business fun. She put on a show from the beginning, scoring in the early vote across the state. Soon it became clear that the "Night of Surprises" was also the "Night of the Women." She drove right between her two male opponents--Garrett VeneKlasen and George Munoz, scoring 39 percent to VeneKlasen's 37 and Munoz at 23. She becomes the first female nominated by a major party for the land office and the odds are good that she can keep Republican nominee Pat Lyons at bay and take the office in November. If so, she would become the first woman to do that in state history. What can you say? Except maybe what they were saying at her celebration: "You go, Girl!" Oh, they were also saying one other thing: "You were tricked, Martin."

--MLG scores 66 percent of the vote to take the 2018 Democratic gubernatorial nomination. Hey, that's crazy high and speaks to the rise in Dem turnout this cycle. In 2014 about 125,000 Dems voted in the Guv primary. This year it was around 175,000, a 40 percent increase. And ABQ Congresswoman Michelle Lujan Grisham owned them.

The sharks had been circling her in the wake of a late breaking Politico article that called into question the profits she made from Delta Consulting, her former health care firm. But by the end of the night the sharks appeared to be dying off. The polling had her at 55 percent but with the big turnout she goes through the roof at 66, resetting the expectations game for her face-off with Republican Steve Pearce. In other words, the expectation returned to the premise that he is a November long shot. He still grumbled last night about "cronyism and corruption" but he's going to have to play a fresh hand to get that narrative back in play.

And Jeff Apodaca and Joe Cervantes? Well, when the fella yelled, "Gentleman, start your engines!" They just couldn't get them to turn over. Apodaca came in second with 22% and Cervantes last with 11 percent.

So MLG still has to unify the party, right? Uh. The last we looked 66 percent in a three way race spells U-N-I-T-Y. (MLG victory speech here.)

Andrea Romero
--Down go northern State Representatives Carl Trujillo and Debbie Rodella. The Trujillo race against Andrea Romero gave us trouble on the radio in the early going as it looked like Trujillo might pull it out. No wonder. This race has been nothing but troubles. Both Trujillo and his Dem challenger, Andrea Romero, were two mud covered contenders who trashed each other so hard that it made cockfighting look tame.

In the end the sexual harassment charges brought against Trujillo by a lobbyist did him in. (Night of the Women, anyone?) He reacted too strongly to the charges and Romero's attacks, raising questions about his temperament which in turn seemed to give the harassment charges more credibility giving Romero her entry and her win. She took him down on a 53 to 47 count.

Then there was Debbie's deep dive into political oblivion. No way the legendary Rep. Rodella could lose to a 70 year old newcomer. No way! So the biz lobbyists kept chanting as they filled Rodella's coffers. But progressive Susan Herrera beat her with a handful of her Social Security checks. Vastly outspent but playing to the changing politics of Rio Arriba--a bit more progressive--and the long and often rocky tenure of Rodella, first elected in '93, Herrera trounced her 56 to 44. Guess who will be sitting in the retirement rocking chair now?


Turn out the lights, the party is over. And they were saying that at Monty Newman headquarters before the sun went down. The race for the southern GOP congressional nomination was always Rep. Yvette Herrell's to lose and that became even more so when Newman hired the notorious Gov. Martinez political consultant Jay McCleskey to handle his media. That put even more Rs in an uproar and helped doom the former Hobbs Mayor who made a perfunctory hug of President Trump but who Herrell hugged like a long lost brother. Newman loses it 49 to 32. Herrell will face Dem Las Cruces lawyer Xochitl Torres Small in the fall. And that one ought to keep the entertainment factor alive and well in the southern CD.

McCleskey, all over the political map in the waning days of the political machine he built, banded with PNM Resources, parent company of electric company PNM. Both fell on their swords when they ran with a $440,000 Super PAC to protect incumbent Public Regulation Commissioners Sandy Jones and Lynda Lovejoy. Both lost their seats in what appeared to be in part a backfire against PNM. The Super PAC money came from major GOP oil interests. Once that word got out PNM was given the shock treatment. Their brash move to regulate their regulators was like a spit to the eyes of the voters, and that's why PNM got its plug pulled.


Thanks to my KANW-FM radio panel for the great job. That and the night of surprises made our 30th year of calling elections on public radio most memorable indeed. We finished up at the station at around 11:30 and put the blog to bed a bit before 3 a.m. But we were not quite ready to go there ourselves, wired on the adrenaline that still comes when the people speak in unexpected ways.

Thanks for joining us for Primary '18.

Reporting from Albuquerque, I'm Joe Monahan.

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