Thursday, May 17, 2018

Cervantes Starts Pitching Negative On MLG In Guv Chase, NRA Dissed In ABQ Is Welcome In South; Herrell Nabs Its Endorsement, And A Kennedy Surfaces In Guv Campaign 

He's got a long way to go and a short time to get there. So Joe Cervantes finally took his first step to take Michelle Lujan Grisham down a notch. Actually, it's about 30 notches if the polls in the Dem chase for the '18 gubernatorial nomination have it right.

Cervantes negative TV ad on MLG was not a given. His supporters were nervous that the low-key state senator would take his lumps and hope for the best. But then there's that $2 million he loaned his campaign. What good does that do him in the First National Bank of Joe? So out came the cash and onto the TV screens came this:

Who's Michelle Lujan Grisham working for? Not us. Since going to DC Grisham has made a bundle off government contacts. Her campaigns have been bankrolled by $2.7 million in out of state contributions. Michelle Lujan Grisham even voted with Republicans to repeal part of Obamacare and benefit the wealthy. And now she wants to come back to be our Governor? That definitely doesn't work for us. 

The ad was on point but not harsh by today's standards, reflecting the personality of Cervantes who has never been one to go for the jugular, but favors the slow kill.

But slow is an issue here. His problem is not money but time. He was goaded by supporters to start his campaign much earlier and not let MLG build the lead she nurses today. He now will try to tear down in three weeks what she has spent over a year building. The moment did not go unnoticed at her campaign:

This ad is ridiculous and full of falsehoods. Congresswoman Lujan Grisham ran a patient advocacy company designed to help people get affordable care. Her small business didn’t make a “bundle” on state or federal contracts. This business saves peoples lives by helping vulnerable patients get health care after being denied coverage by insurance companies. . . 

Additionally, Congresswoman Lujan Grisham has voted over 30 times to save Obamacare from Republicans like Steve Pearce who voted for the Trump/GOP health care bill to take health insurance away from hundreds of thousands of New Mexicans. Michelle has fought to save people’s health care and will fight to expand affordable care for all New Mexicans. False attacks from her opponents won't change that fact.

The third player, Jeff Apodaca, doesn't have the money to join the hit parade. He is left to hope that voters the Cervantes' ad plies loose from MLG might fall his way.

The low cash count hasn’t stopped him from working the beat. He and his wife Jackie seem unfazed by the daunting task facing them and are campaigning seemingly nonstop and with vigor. If they could show that passion for the state in a significant way on TV in the final weeks, who knows?

But the happiest guy over this ad was one Steve Pearce. You could picture the soon-to-be GOP nominee cracking a gleeful smile when he saw the 30 second hit. And you could almost hear him saying, "Good stuff, Joe. I can use that one."


Also in the Dem race for Governor, a member of the famous Kennedy clan has made an appearance via the airwaves. Congressman Joe Kennedy III of Massachusetts, whose family legacy lingers in the Catholic and Hispanic counties of Northern New Mexico, cut this Spanish radio spot on behalf of Lujan Grisham. Kennedy is a fluent Spanish speaker and her campaign says in the spot he:

 . . . Talks about his family legacy of public service and how Lujan Grisham’s work to investigate nursing home abuse, double the number of school-based health centers for children and families, and to lower drug overdoses through better treatment reflects that same dedication.


Rep. Herrell
State Rep. Yvette Herrell won't be saying "Fuck the NRA" as ABQ Dem congressional candidate Pat Davis did in his TV ad. Herrell has announced she's received the endorsement of the NRA in her battle for the GOP southern congressional nomination.

Unlike the ABQ area, the endorsement in the south is a feather in her cap and a blow to her rival Monty Newman and his political consultant Jay McCleskey. Her campaign says:

Because of Rep. Yvette Herrell’s A-rating and Pro-Gun leadership in NM's Legislature, she is the NRA's choice for the NM 2nd Congressional district. “I am honored to have the support of the National Rifle Association,” said Rep. Herrell. “I am proud of my record defending the 2nd Amendment and will continue working to protect our gun rights."

The night and day approach to the NRA shows how New Mexico politically is often two or three states in one.


In the ABQ congressional race we've been talking about a three way battle at the top and a poll commissioned by VoteVets, a group that has endorsed Damon Martinez, shows just how tight is. The survey done May 13 and 14 by Lake Research in DC has Antoinette Sedillo with 25 percent, Damon Martinez with 23 and Deb Haaland at 20 percent. The other three candidates get only 5 percent of the vote and there were still 27 percent undecided.

The margin of error in the survey of 390 like Dem primary voters is plus or minus five percent so it's still a jump ball for the nomination. The firm has a long track record in the state and while this work was done for a pro-Martinez group they are not known for spinning.

Lake Research says the poll was conducted using professional phone interviews for cell phones and rob calls for landlines. Only three candidates were listed by name--Sedillo Lopez. Haaland and Martinez. Other insider polling in the race shows the other three candidates--Pat Davis, Damian Lara and Paul Moya in the single digits. However, Lara has gone up on TV since the poll.


New TV ads are being released. This one from Antoinette Sedillo Lopez highlights her legal expertise. This one from Damon Martinez focuses on sexual assault. Deb Haaland continues to garner national attention. The latest is from Nation magazine.


In looking over the TV ads by the candidates in the ABQ market this year, we find that KRQE is getting more ad dollars than KOB or KOAT. Media maven Chris Brown explains:

KRQE has the strongest early evening and prime time line up reaching viewers age 35+. They also command higher prices per spot for a typical schedule: 27% more expensive than KOAT, 11% more than KOB. So candidates on balance are buying more spots on KRQE, and paying more for each one, than on KOB and especially KOAT.

Although fading with the younger set, TV ads continue to be the top way to reach voters over 50 who will dominate the June 5 primary.


We referenced former ABQ GOP Congressman Manuel Lujan, Jr. this week as an uncle to Rep. Lujan Grisham. They are cousins.

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Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Sedillo Lopez Surges And Is Greeted With First Negative Hit In The ABQ Congress Contest; Out Of State Super PAC Slams Her; Who Do They Want? Plus: Look Out Damon; Damian Lara Joins TV Ad Club 

Antoinette Sedillo Lopez has come on strong of late in that crowded contest for the Democratic nomination for the ABQ area US House seat and with that newfound status come the attacks. The first one has already hit the mailboxes.

A super PAC funded by heavyweight financial types, including uber-wealthy hedge fund managers, slammed Sedillo Lopez with this mailer that scorches her on two fronts--for supporting Medicare for all which the "Forward Not Back" PAC says would cost families $7700 a year and for failing to paying her taxes on time seven times.

Sedillo Lopez campaign struck back calling the charges a "baseless smear by an out of state group with close ties to the Republicans."

The PAC says on its one page website that it supports "progressive leadership" but that's a front, says the Sedillo Lopez campaign, who believe her progressive policies have inflamed the group and they want her gone.

Reader "Westside Alligator" comes with this research from CNN Money:

What is Forward Not Back? Apparently, they are part of a larger PAC called No Labels which has the stated purpose of supporting "moderate" candidates in primaries including present office holders both Democratic and Republican.

Sedillo Lopez is an ardent advocate of Medicare for all and the cost of that is highly debatable. As for failing to pay her taxes, her campaign spokesman says she was indeed late paying property taxes seven times on rental properties. But adds:

BernCo taxpayers are asked to pay their property tax bills in two payments five months apart or pay them in full upon receipt of the bill. For several years (Sedillo Lopez and her husband Victor) did not pay their tax until the final deadline in April when they paid all that was owed. They were fined small penalties for not making any first half payments. The taxes have been and are completely paid.

Blog readers were on red alert over the first negative campaigning in the so far slow moving ABQ race. They noted that the national super PAC attackers had about $1 million in cash on hand at the end of March and that one of its donors has a big NM connection. He is Louis Moore Bacon, the billionaire hedge fund manager who in 2013 bought Taos Ski Valley.

Sedillo-Lopez's campaign says they did a data check and matched the super PAC donors with donations made to Republican candidates and causes.


So what is this out of state apparently conservative PAC doing putting their noses under the ABQ US House tent? Obviously they don't like Bernie Sanders' Medicare for all plan that Sedillo Lopez has endorsed so they are trying to take her out. But who they want in is an even more important question.

Maybe contender Damon Martinez who is seen as the more moderate of the frontrunners, even though like Sedillo Lopez, Deb Haaland and Pat Davis he says he supports Medicare for all. We double checked with him:

Health care is a human right, which is why I will support Medicare for All and single-payer health care.

Another third party group is already up on TV with a heavy buy for the former US Attorney. In any event, the leading theory among the Alligators is that Martinez may be the intended beneficiary of the super PAC hit--if they have one in mind.


As for where the race stands, it appears very tight. The news is that Damon Martinez appears to be displacing Deb Haaland in second and some polling indicates he could even narrowly be in first. Sedillio Lopez is perched right at the top with him or a notch ahead, depending on which poll you're reading.

As we said, Martinez is on TV in a big way and dominating the air. Sedillo Lopez has heavy TV as well, but she has also dropped at least a half dozen mail pieces to likely Dem voters. Haaland is stalled out and appears to need a new angle to prevent a fade. Pat Davis is in single digits and the kerfuffle over his controversial NRA ad may have hurt more than it helped.


Everyone and their brother has forgotten about candidates Paul Moya and Damian Lara but get this--one or both of them could spoil this race for hard-charging Damon Martinez.

As of March 31 Moya had $156,000 in cash on hand and Lara had $139,000  Neither has spent barely a dime since then. That kind of money could give them a more than healthy TV presence for the final ten days of the campaign.

And this just in: Damian Lara, 40, is going up on TV today with this spot highlighting his immigrant background and how he worked in the agricultural fields before realizing his dream of becoming an attorney. He also takes a bite out of Trump's immigration policies. The campaign says it has up "a six figure buy" for the June 5 primary.

We're still waiting on any TV from Moya who lent his campaign most of the cash he has.

Will Lara (and possibly Moya) now start to peel enough votes away from Martinez, leaving the battle to Sedillo Lopez and Haaland? They could. Yet another angle in this six way race.


Conservative Fox News host Tucker Carlson ripped into ABQ Dem congressional candidate Pat Davis during an interview Tuesday about Davis' anti-NRA ad in which he says "Fuck the NRA." Carlson holds nothing back. The not-so-pretty scalding is here.

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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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Monday, May 14, 2018

A Political F Bomb, A Lie Detector Test, A Guv Candidate With Millions Pleads Poverty And Future Billions Stripped From Los Alamos 

Turn away from the campaign trail and you could miss a lot. Like a TV F bomb, a political lie detector test, a Guv candidate with millions pleading poverty and billions of dollars for Los Alamos Labs going out the window. So let's put on our hiking boots and head out to the trail. . .

Pat Davis is one of the best organizers and activists the state has seen, and perhaps one of its worst congressional candidates.

Call it what you will--a fit of pique or desperation or both--the Dem ABQ city councilor and congressional candidate dropped a bizarre TV spot that began with him telling the audience: "Fuck the NRA."

So far the spot has aired only once on broadcast TV--on the KRQE noon news for $250--but it got plenty of play on social media. Predictably, the over the top 15 second spot generated the controversy and national media coverage Davis was playing for. We suspect it put some cash into his sparse campaign coffers as well, but at what price?

His decision seemed selfish--trash the political dialogue (as if it needs more of that)--in order to try to make his noncompetitive candidacy competitive. It was another dumbing down of a process whose IQ has been steadily dropping.

As for the six way Dem race to take the seat being given up by Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham, even after waves of TV ads none of the hopefuls have caught fire. The race is a muddle because no one candidate stands out for their past accomplishments and none has a personality that crackles.

By showering his F bomb on the proceedings Davis didn't explode anything. Rather, it further alienated voters from this sparkless campaign and raised further questions about the state's progressive wing which seems headed for the kind of overreach we saw with the Tea Party in 2010. The retort from the far left might be "Fuck that. We're beating Trump!" No, you're beating yourselves.


Trujillo (New Mexican)
A politician voluntarily taking a lie detector test? That sounds like Superman volunteering to juggle Kryptonite. But State Rep. Carl Trujillo needed to do something to change the subject, with prominent unions backing off their endorsements of him because of allegations that he sexually harassed lobbyist Laura Bonar. So on went the detector straps. Of course, the test showed that Trujillo had not harassed Bonar.

The obvious problem is that lie detectors are known to be about as reliable as the first budget draft for the UNM Athletic Department, so the stiff primary challenge Trujillo is receiving from Andrea Romero for his Santa Fe County seat goes on.

The question du jour is whether Romero has been able to raise funds from the controversy. Trujillo is a business oriented Dem and those interests have written healthy checks to his campaign, giving him considerably more cash than Romero has. But there's been considerable damage done to Trujillo in the media and the race remains in play.


Our heart skipped a beat when we glanced at the latest campaign missive from Rep. Lujan Grisham, thinking we were on to something big. Alas, that fizzled fast when we realized at last report the frontrunning Dem Guv candidate had $1.8 million in cash on hand, but that didn't stop her from pleading poverty:

We're still $12,788 short of what we need to stay on the air with our first TV ad and we're running out of time.

Well, either $1.8 million doesn't buy what it used to or the staffer who puts this stuff together for the campaign needs a new calculator.

Poverty is anything but the problem in Los Alamos County, by far the wealthiest county in the state, but the impact of billions of federal money going into Los Alamos National Labs is felt in impoverished regions near the storied facility. Now, as a result of DC machinations and to the lasting chagrin of the state's congressional delegation, there will apparently be fewer billions pumped into the labs in future years.

That’s because the Trump administration has decided to send most of the expensive work in producing nuclear pits for missiles to the Savannah River nuclear site in South Carolina which, unlike NM, is a reliably red state.

Not that the decision was entirely political. The safety culture at Los Alamos--or lack thereof-- contributed mightily to the lost billions but it was a  big loss for the state and for US Senators Udall and Heinrich.

Udall is not up for re-election until 2020 but Heinrich is seeking a second term this year and the campaign of Mick Rich, his GOP foe, pounced:

This disappointing news shows once again how Martin Heinrich fails to stand up for New Mexico’s national labs – and how critical they are to our economy and national security. New Mexico needs a senator who will stand for jobs and national security in Washington D.C., and Mick Rich is ready to do that on day one.

Los Alamos is still expected to expand its hiring over the next several years because of fresh nuclear policy under Trump.

The loss of the pit production casts a shadow of uncertainty over the long-term future of not only Los Alamos but other federal installations in our state. We remain badly out of position in Washington with little seniority and few open lines of communication to the White House.

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