Thursday, June 07, 2018

More Winners And Losers From Primary '18 

WINNER--The pre-primary convention. Once again no candidate who failed to get 20 percent delegate support at the March Democratic pre-primary convention won the June primary. Only one candidate in history has done so--Guv contender Gary King in 2014. Damon Martinez scored just 11 percent at this year's pre-primary but it looked for a time like he might be the second to defy history. But he fell short in the Dem ABQ congressional contest, losing to Deb Haaland. Like it or not, the pre-primary retains its predictive power.

LOSER--The polls. The Dem primary attracted new voters--many of them women who had not cast ballots in 2014 or 2016. The polling models broke down and none of the surveys--the Journal's, this blog's or the campaign polls got this one right.  Back to the drawing board.

WINNER--NM House Speaker Brian Egolf. He plays coy when it comes to ousted state Representatives Debbie Rodella and Carl Trujillo but every Alligator around is saying how much easier the absence of these willful and often conservative lawmakers will make his job at the next session of the Legislature. In short, the House is headed more left.

LOSER--Senator Martin Heinrich. For the first time the Dem Senator spent a hefty portion of his political capital on another candidate, heartily endorsing land commissioner hopeful and fellow environmentalist Garett VeneKlasen. It failed spectacularly with Stephanie Garcia Richard pulling off an upset win. Heinrich won't suffer in his re-election bid because of it, but it takes him down a notch in stature. If there's a book called "The Art of the Movida" it needs to be on the senator's bedside reading table.

LOSER--The Super PACS. It turns out they can't buy everything in sight. Their big bucks for Damon Martinez fell short as did the PNM PAC play against two liberal candidates for the Public Regulation Commission.  But don't worry, they'll probably be back to test that theory in the fall election.

LOSERS--The Trump bashers. Congressional candidate Martinez, auditor hopeful Bill McCamley and land commissioner hopeful Garrett VeneKlasen spent much of their campaigns bashing Trump. But Deb Haaland was more restrained, Auditor candidate Brian Colón did not lay a glove on Trump and Stephanie Garcia Richard also held back. They all won. Trump is easy pickings, perhaps too easy, and voters picked candidates who were offering more. That could hold a lesson for the Dems in November.

WINNER--Haaland political consultant Scott Forester. The longtime Dem consultant was on the ropes as Haaland struggled until the last week of the campaign. Critics complained that he was a local and that these congressional candidates demand out of state consultants. But Haaland's win put that to rest. And Forrester emerged from the forest.

On The Radio 
LOSER--State Senate conservatives. Can you imagine the pressure that is going to be on that small group of conservative/moderate Democrats in the Senate if the House moves to the left and there is a Democratic Governor to boot come November? When those Dems get together with the R's they control the show. But resisting too hard next year could put them on a collision course with the progressive wing which is sporting more muscle. The leader of that conservative coalition--State Senator John Arthur Smith--may face his ultimate test.

WINNER--The Old West connection. A candidate named Jesse James Casaus but who campaigned as Jesse James, won the Democratic nomination for Sandoval County Sheriff Tuesday night. New Mexico's frontier and wild west roots aren't gone yet.


The NYT takes a deep look at the historic Haaland candidacy. . . A reader writes about our Election broadcast on KANW 89.1 FM:

Comcast cable went out Tuesday night, and we had to turn to the Monahan Group radio show for results. You managed to be right on the Rep Rodella and Rep. Trujillo thing…although I detected a little bit of anxiety in your voice about 9:30 when Rio Arriba (uh hem) hadn’t reported…

First, thanks for the Comcast outage. Second, sometimes I think Rio Arriba holds back results intentionally just to make us gringos from Pennsylvania writhe in our seats.

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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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Tuesday, June 05, 2018

Primary Election '18 Draws To A Close With ABQ Congress Race Still Hot as A Pistol; Politicos Predict, Our KANW FM Election Night Coverage Starts at 6:30 PM; Plus: Dem Party Poopers; No E Nite Party And Behind The Heinrich-VeneKlasen Bromance 

We'll kick off our live, continuous coverage of today's Primary Election at 6:30 p.m. on KANW 89.1 FM and as well as KANW.COM. It's our 30th year of calling elections for the station and this one is proving suspenseful right up to the finish line so be sure to join us tonight. 

On our Election Eve broadcast Monday there was split opinion on the Dem ABQ congressional primary, the most hotly contested race. GOP State Rep. Alonzo Baldonado said that he was impressed with the campaign of Damon Martinez and picked him as the winner. But Democrat and former City Councilor Greg Payne predicted one of the leading women in the race--Antoinette Sedillo Lopez or Deb Haaland--will take the prize.

One of the campaigns told us that the early vote in the race was 60 percent women, some five percent higher than usual and that may bode well for the women, if they don't split it down the middle and let Damon run away.

The ground games for all three leading hopefuls are intense but it all finishes in just hours so stay tuned.

In the southern congressional battle for the GOP nomination, ABQ Dem State Rep. Moe Maestas calls it for Yvette Herrell who is locked in rigorous contest with former Hobbs Mayor Monty Newman. Maestas said Herrell, a state rep from Alamogordo, "has really tapped into the spirit" of the R's in the district with her embrace of President Trump and because of it she will take the nomination.

Maestas added that the "upset special" tonight could come in the Dem race for land commissioner. Environmentalist Garrett VeneKlasen was the early polling leader but big time Super PAC money has come in for Gallup State Senator George Munoz and the third contender, Rep. Stephanie Garcia Richard, has not raised much money compared to her rivals. The question, he says, is whether Munoz's late momentum will be enough to overtake VeneKlasen.


Are they all mad at each other or doesn't the Democratic Party want to foot the bill? Those were the questions as the state Dems, for the first time in memory, said they will not host an ABQ party for all their primary candidates.

Well, they are a house divided, with progressives mad at Damon Martinez and Dem Guv contenders Michelle Lujan Grisham, Jeff Apodaca and Joe Cervantes at each others throats.

MLG will be at at the ABQ Museum; Apodaca will be at his ABQ home and Joe Cervantes will be at home in Las Cruces.

Veteran politico Steve Cabiedes, who will join us on the KANW-FM broadcast, joked about the no party zone the Dems have constructed for tonight:

"Hey, they should have a big party with some good liquor. A lot of peacemaking is done between supporters of the rival candidates at those Election Night affairs, with the assistance of some good scotch and bourbon.

This Guv duel ended so bitterly it will take more than some liquid libation to ease the pain. If Apodaca or Cervantes lose tonight, will they immediately endorse MLG? We wouldn't bet a bourbon on it. Not that the Dem Party is handing out any of the stuff.


In addition to Reps Maestas and Baldonado and analyst Cabiedes on tonight's broadcast, we'll have former ABQ GOP State Senator Diane Snyder, Catherine "Cat" Trujillo, president of the Taylor Ranch Neighborhood Association, ABQ attorney David Bucholz and last but not least, the aforementioned Greg Payne.

Bring your best to this party, Primary '18, We're ready for you!


One of the more frequent questions you hear in La Politica this primary season is this: Why is Senator Martin Heinrich so all-in for Democratic land commissioner candidate Garrett VeneKlasen? Well, we have the inside story from our Alligators.

It is not unusual but neither is it very frequent that  a sitting Senator gets involved so deeply in an intra-party contest. Senator Tom Udall has a strict rule not to intervene in primaries. The late Republican Senator Pete Domenici was known to flex his muscles within the GOP primaries.

For Heinrich the reasons are both personal and political. First, the personal from one of our Gators:

Joe, Heinrich and VeneKlasen are personal friends. They hunt and fish together and there is a common appreciation for the outdoors life. That's one reason he was glad to get out front in the race.

Then there is the political angle from another Gator:

Joe, There is nothing more that Heinrich would like to do than someday serve as Secretary of the Interior. Endorsing VeneKlasen has little downside and Heinrich is endearing himself with many powerful national environmental groups like the Sierra Club the Wildlife Federation and the that want a fellow environmentalist like VeneKlasen in the land office. If and when the Democrats take back the White House Heinrich can be expected to make his move for the cabinet position. And the endorsement will give him more chips to cash in with the environmental groups that hold so much sway over that nomination. 

In fact, just last week this happened:

Representatives of organizations supporting conservation efforts gathered at Petroglyph National Monument Visitor Center to thank Udall and Heinrich for their leadership in Washington, D. C. on conservation issues.

VeneKlasen is a former head of the NM Wildlife Federation, one of the groups honoring the senators.

Heinrich is seeking his second, six year Senate term this year. He's unopposed in the June 5 primary but he's getting plenty of free TV exposure courtesy of his endorsement of VeneKlasen in TV ads. He'll save his own firepower for the November election. He won't need much of it. The national GOP is not going to target the seat.

And now, as Paul Harvey was fond of saying: "You know the rest of the story."

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Monday, June 04, 2018

Sudden Guv Drama Closes Out '18 Primary; Quiet Campaign Ends With Bang As MLG Foes Lash Out Over Delta Dealing, Plus: Congress Race Awash In Cash Sputters To Close And Much More; Our KANW 89.1 FM Election Eve Special Starts at 5 PM 

Sudden drama in the race for the Democratic Guv nomination pushed aside other contests in the final hours of Primary '18, with the pulse rate of Republicans jumping as front-runner Michelle Lujan Grisham grappled with what the R's hope is a budding scandal that will carry into November and help carry Republican Steve Pearce into the Governor's office.

Pearce remains the decided underdog, but the beating Lujan Grisham has been taking from rivals Jeff Apodaca and Joe Cervantes over her involvement with the healthcare firm Delta Consulting undermines the notion that if Grisham wins tomorrow night she automatically takes a unified Dem Party into the fall campaign. And it has the bookies heading to the sidelines to recalculate the betting odds for the November derby.

Both Apodaca and Cervantes warned voters in the final hours that Lujan Grisham's Delta troubles make Pearce more formidable. Cervantes unloaded with this:

If Democrats want win back the governor’s office in November, we must elect an honest candidate who can take on the Republican machine, not someone with a looming scandal hanging over their campaign.

To drive the point home Apodaca unveiled a three point plan to combat corruption. It calls for mandating the release of the tax returns of all statewide candidates and prohibiting elected officials from having state contracts. Interesting ideas that may get some legs as a result of the Delta debacle.

With polling from two weeks ago showing MLG winning over 55 percent of the vote, a drop below 50% tomorrow night could mean Delta sapped some enthusiasm from her at the end. We'll be watching on our live broadcast on KANW 89.1 FM and kanw.com.

No matter the outcome tomorrow, Delta delivered a blow to the general election momentum of the 58 year old congresswoman which she must now recover from. That was amplified over the weekend when it was reported that she had incorrectly reported on her congressional disclosure forms her 2013 income from Delta. Her campaign called it "an honest mistake."

While MLG's past foes have questioned her competence and temperament this is the first time her ethics and honesty is being called into question in a major way. That's significant because conservative Pearce can't beat her on the issues or on how to run the government. He can only make the race competitive by calling into question her character and ethics--the same path Republican Susana Martinez took against the Richardson/Denish administration in securing victory in 2010.

Gleeful GOP operatives boasted that it's not over, that Delta is the gift that will keep on giving. One of them saying:

Joe, you don't lay out all your cards in May. There will be more to come.

Whether that's a fact or a bluff remains to be seen. The answer could define the campaign to come.


For her part, MLG will make her last stop of the primary today in the heart of Apodaca country when she joins a South Valley phone bank at 6:30 p.m.

The last Guv debate of the primary was Saturday in the South Valley but MLG was a no-show, while Apo, Pearce and Cervantes were on hand.

The feisty Apodaca has hit the hardest on Delta and the story has more impact in the heavy ABQ media market. He has been running well with old line politicos and families in the South Valley and hosted a traditional matanza there Sunday.


The Dem race to replace MLG in the US House sputtered to a close over the weekend amid a bombardment of sterile Super PAC ads that sent voters into MEGO--my eyes glaze over.

The trio of leaders--Damon Martinez, Antoinette Sedillo Lopez and Deb Haaland never did light much of a fire under the electorate. But endless buckets of out of state money ceaselessly fanned whatever flames burned in the contest.

The six way race ends in a muddle with the polling leader being Martinez. If he wins he will immediately face a hostile progressive wing that will lament his victory even though their own inability to settle on one challenger would be what sealed their fate.

HuffPo came with its take on the race over the weekend.

The congressional primary did illuminate a new reality: the Super PACS are now the steroids of state politics. Their coffers dwarf those of the candidates' campaigns. Funded by billionaires and corporations with their own agenda, they make the political races seem more remote and disconnected from the reality of New Mexico. The Supreme Court's Citizens United ruling made possible these PACS and this new reality.


According to one of our sources, late insider polling by a Super PAC supporting Yvette Herrell for the southern GOP Congressional nomination shows Herrell with a good lead over Monty Newman. However, a Super PAC supporting Newman came with a wave of mail over the weekend so the race is still being closely watched. The winner will likely face Xochitl Torres Small who is leading Mad Hildebrandt for the southern Dem nomination.


Here's the statewide total early vote for the primary county by county from the SOS. It looks as though we will beat '14 turnout when all is said and done.


Nowhere is the Super PAC phenomenon causing more chaos and concern than in two races for the Public Regulation Commission. In a never before seen move, PNM Resources, the parent of electric company PNM, has put up $440,000 to take out the Dem opponents of incumbent Dem PRC commissioners Sandy Jones in the south and Lynda Lovejoy in the northwest, both of whom are seen as more favorable to the company than their liberal rivals.

It's a stunning power play which threatens to alter the image of PNM as a good neighbor and into a partisan outfit that seeks to evade proper regulation. That they hired Gov. Martinez hit man Jay McCleskey to execute their plan only shows how the leadership of the company, which is getting an increasing share of its profits from Texas, is unconcerned about isolating itself from the public here. And they are unapologetic about it:

PNM Resources is supporting New Mexicans for Progress to ensure that voters have the facts regarding key energy and economic issues that will impact our customers and the state as a whole.

A leading critic of the company said the spending was “shocking but not surprising.”

There’s no longer even the pretense of regulation. When PNM’s parent company spends $440,000 to bankroll the regulators of their choice, we have to seriously question the ability of the commission to govern on behalf of the public,” said Mariel Nanasi, executive director of the nonprofit group New Energy Economy.

PNM has always played in politics,  but more demurely. This blatant big money move to essentially take over the body that regulates it should give rise for calls that commissioners no longer be elected but appointed.


The Gators continue to scour the state finance reports and come with intriguing news. Here's some:

Joe, Oklahoma Oil Company Devon Energy has been a big contributor to NM Republicans and especially Governor Martinez. Now it looks like they're sticking with old friends and picking new ones. The latest report shows a $5,000 contribution from Devon Energy to ABQ GOP Rep. Monica Youngblood five days after she was busted for DWI

Devon also donated $5,000 to Republican turned Democrat candidate Mary Martinez White who is running in a three way Democrat primary for an open Las Cruces state House seat against Micela Cadena and Guenevere McMahon. White has been taking hits over her newly minted Democrat registration. She is pushing back on the charge but being linked to Youngblood and Devon Energy and their deep Republican connections isn't going to help.


Here's another Gator who is eyeing the state registration figures and has a bit of good and bad news for the R's:

Joe, In Quay County between the end of April and May 30th, Democrats lost 33 registrations to 2,395 while Republicans gained 58 registrations to 2,419. This has been a continuing trend with Dem registrations in free fall in that eastside county. 

In Dona Ana County, Republicans are now in third place. At the end of March, Independents (DTS) and other party registrations surpassed Republicans. The trend continues as the gap widens about 100 registrations per month. 


On the Radio
Join us as we wrap up Primary '18 with analysis and some fun predictions on our traditional Election Eve Special today at 5 p.m. on KANW 89.1 FM and kanw.com.

It's our 30th anniversary calling elections for public radio and we have some fine guests to share it with. They ainclude: ABQ Dem State Rep. Moe Maestas, Valencia County GOP State Rep. Alonzo Baldonado and fresh off her ABQ city council campaign, Catherine "Cat" Trujillo.

With that line-up we may have to lengthen the program. And they'll be back, along with other guests Election Night starting at 6:30 p.m. on KANW-FM and kanw.com. We can make an easy promise: something none of us expected will happen.

I look forward to being with you to bring home yet another primary election and appreciate your continued interest. See you on the radio later today and on Election Night.

This is the home of New Mexico politics.

E-mail your news and comments. (jmonahan@ix.netcom.com)

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