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Thursday, October 04, 2018

Monica To Jail For DWI But Seems Optimistic About Re-election Chances, Plus: Supreme Court Contest Takes Off, Big Bill On The Trail And Praise Of Gary Draws Panning 

Rep. Youngblood (Sorber. Journal)
Let’s head out to that crowded campaign trail and find out who's making tracks. . .

ABQ GOP State Rep. Monica Youngblood earned her day in jail when she refused to take a breathalyzer test and was charged with and found guilty of aggravated DWI. In sentencing her Wednesday ABQ Metro Court Pro Tem Judge Kevin Fitzwater gave her credit for a day served for the hours she was held when arrested and taken into custody.

The law requires a two day sentence so Monica will have to spend at least one day in the pokey, be on supervised probation for one year and use an ignition interlock in her car for a year. She has been ordered to report to jail by October 19.

Youngblood faces Dem Karen Bash in her re-election bid to her NW ABQ district which tilts Republican. It's hard to see how the Dems can't take this seat back given the humiliating video tape of Monica's arrest, her refusal to take a breath test and her guilty verdict. She has been a tough on crime legislator frequently calling for stronger DWI laws and now she has violated those laws and refused to resign. The charge in the campaign won't be the law as much as it will be hypocrisy.

But nothing is for sure and Bash said after posting a brief Facebook comment that she is not going to use the issue. That leaves the dirty work to the Dem PACS. Based on this statement she made following her sentencing, Youngblood seems to think she has a fighting chance:

I want to thank. . . my constituents all who seem to be supportive of what I have done and how I have handled this.

Well, this will be a fun one to watch Election Night when we take to the airwaves of KANW 89.1 FM to call all the action.

As for that one day in jail for Monica, that shouldn't be too tough on her--as long as they don't have her sharing a jail cell with Jessica Kelly.

A SUPREME CONTEST

He was administered a rare Republican knockout when he ran two years ago for a NM Supreme Court seat against Bernalillo County's popular Judy Nakamura, now NM Court of Appeals Judge Michael Vigil is back for a second try at a high court seat and he thinks this time his chances are much better. Here is his first TV spot. It's a short 15 seconds because Supreme Court candidates who agree to public financing only get about $180,000 for their campaigns.

This time Vigil will be going up against GOP Supreme Court Justice Gary Clingman, the former Hobbs District Court judge who was appointed this year by Gov. Martinez to fill a court vacancy but now must stand for election. And that's tough because Nakumara pulled off a rare feat when she beat Vigil, becoming only the second R since the 1980's to win a high court seat. Clingman is not taking public financing. He reported a cash balance of $60,000 in early September,  including a personal loan of $20,000. Vigil had a balance of $140,000.

BIG COURT CHANGE

The five member Surpeme Court is going to look a lot different come January. You have that battle for the open seat between Vigil and Clingman but also two Justices--75 year old Charles Daniels and 70 year old Petra Maes are retiring at the end of the year. Their positions will be filled by the new Governor from a list provided by the judicial nominating commission. If underdog Steve Pearce were to win for Governor and he appointed two GOP judges to go along with Nakamura that would be the first GOP majority on the high court since when? If that happened, it had to be back in the 20's or early 30's when NM was heavy R.

One other note. If attorney Lujan Grisham becomes Governor she might channel her grandfather, the late Justice Eugene Lujan who was the first Hispanic chief justice of the court serving from 1945 through 1959.

A HEINRICH VET

Senator Heinrich comes with an appeal to veterans in his latest TV spot featuring an army veteran who says the Dem lawmaker "expanded outpatient clinics (for veterans) in Gallup, Raton and Santa Fe."

Meantime, state Dems have been blasting Gary Johnson's Super PAC for filming campaign commercials about NM in Utah:

New Mexicans know Gary Johnson, but his Utah-based Super PAC doesn't seem to know New Mexico. The most notable of the bunch is called "Washington Doesn't Work" and appears to have been shot entirely at an outdoor mall in Salt Lake City.

The PAC may have been shooting ads but none, as far as we know, have yet shown up on broadcast TV here. Johnson is the Libertarian nominee for the Senate and Mick Rich is carrying the R banner.

PANNING GARY

Johnson won some praise from us Tuesday for running a relatively corruption-free, eight year governorship. Of course the Dems aren't going to let that stand. From a Dem Alligator:

Johnson may be free from scandal based on the standards set by Governors Richardson and Martinez, but when he was governor he was held in contempt on welfare reform, and forced special legislative sessions. Not to mention that he promoted and benefitted from the John Dendahl/GOP scorched earth strategy against Democrats, minority voters and Republicans who dared opposed the Johnson agenda in Santa Fe. I don’t think Republican Senator R.L. Stockard and Republican State Reps Andy Kisner and Townsend thought Gary Johnson was very kind when they saw primary challenges after opposing him.

BIG BILL SIGHTING

Big Bill has been spotted on the campaign trail. The former two term Dem Guv hosted a $25 a head fund-raiser for Dem congressional hopeful Xochitl Torres Small in Mesilla last Saturday. 25 bucks? In Big Bill's heyday that number would have had a couple of zeros added but given that Pearce is using Bill as a foil in his corruption campaign against MLG, it's probably best to keep the solicitations on the very low side--at least the high profile ones.

CONSERVATIVE OR NOT?

Dem Guv contender Lujan Grisham took heat over her congressional junkets to Azerbaijan and Puerto Rico. Now ABQ attorney Jeffrey Baker applies some junket heat to Republican hopeful Steve Pearce:

Is Steve Pearce a fiscal conservative? In November, 2012, after a Congressional trip to Egypt was canceled, Congressman Pearce decided to go by himself. He stuck the taxpayers for a $19,525 plane ticket (the Journal found available flights for $2400). You might also check out Stephen Colbert’s July, 2014 segment on a Pearce “fact finding” mission to Central America. Pearce spent a weekend visiting Guatemala and Honduras, and, according to Colbert, spent most of his time in the hotel lobby. Perhaps Congressman Pearce can tell us how this behavior is consistent with fiscal conservatism.

THE BOTTOM LINES

The first TV ad in the ABQ congressional race is finally out. It comes from Deb Haaland, who is far ahead in the fundraising, with her opponents Republican Janice Arnold-Jones and Libertarian Lloyd Princeton lagging.

This is the home of New Mexico politics.

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Wednesday, October 03, 2018

Name Game On Possible New Guv Cabinet Picks, Janice Releases Tax Return And Haaland Camp Readies Hers, Plus: Keller's New "Assistant Mayor", A Gun Totin' Xochitl And Chuck Says Guv Susana "Likely" To Go Back To Law  

The Michelle Lujan Grisham camp is not measuring the drapes at the Governor's office yet. Far from it, as she remains engaged in an intense contest with Republican Steve Pearce. Having said that, the first names are starting to float of possible cabinet picks by MLG should she win the November 6 race that is rated "lean Dem." Those names are environmentalist and recent state land commission candidate Garrett VeneKlasen and outgoing Las Cruces state representative and recent Dem State Auditor candidate Bill McCamley.

No word on what agency VeneKlasen might end up at but the environment or energy and natural resources departments are good guesses.

McCamley's name is circulating in connection with the NM Department of Workforce Solutions, aka, the old labor department. That is an agency deeply important to state labor unions who are backing MLG.

McCamley's auditor campaign was tripped up when he filed a state report that showed he had no income over $5,000 but he later revealed he had received rental income of over $5,000 on a Las Cruces house. He lost the auditor nomination to Brian Colón. He faces appointed GOP State Auditor in the election.

VeneKlasen, the former executive director of the NM Wildlife Federation, ran a high dollar campaign for land commissioner and was endorsed by Senator Heinrich, but Dem State Rep. Stephanie Garcia Richard seemingly came out of nowhere in the year of the woman and took the prize from him. She faces Republican Pat Lyons in the November election.

And if Pearce wins? How about Lujan Grisham foe Jeff Apodaca as a member of the State Investment Council?

Well, the rumor mill really gets going when the leaves start to turn color in an election year.

JANICE'S TAXES

John and Janice
In that under-the-radar ABQ congressional race Republican Janice Arnold-Jones tries to surface some action by releasing the 2017 tax returns of her and her husband, John Jones, who is a GOP candidate for the ABQ NE Heights state House seat being vacated by House Minority Leader Nate Gentry. In making the unusual move, Arnold-Jones challenged Deb Haaland, her Dem opponent, to do the same, saying:

Transparency should not be just another talking point. Advocating for transparency without being transparent, is nothing more than politics as usual. We’ve had enough of that in our state. I challenge Debra Haaland to release her tax return as well.

The challenge didn't last very long. The Haaland campaign said this after it was issued:

Deb will definitely release her taxes. She's a single mom who understands the struggle many New Mexicans face, and her taxes show that. The GOP's tax cut, which Janice Arnold Jones supports, will rob New Mexicans to pad the wallets of the ultra-wealthy. This is a strange publicity stunt at a time when New Mexicans need real solutions.

The Haaland camp did not say when the campaign would release her '17 return

Arnold-Jones and her husband showed total income of $183,376. They listed $64,112 in pensions, $24,802 in Social Security and $86,491 in wages. He listed his occupation as a water manager. Arnold-Jones listed hers as retired. The couple paid about $31,000 in Federal tax and $7,412 in state tax on income that after deductions and exemptions came to $159,000. They reported $4,532 in charitable contributions.

The complete return is here.

The couple also reported $9,500 in dividend income of which $1,077 come from General Electric stock. The back story is that GE stock has crashed and burned, its price slashed more than half in the past year, the dividend was cut and it was kicked out of the Dow Jones Industrial Average after being in it for over a century.

Well, Arnold-Jones, 66, never said she was running to be your stockbroker but she may get points for loyalty. She says her first job was with GE in ABQ and she has a soft spot for the company.

NM congressional and gubernatorial candidates have traditionally not released their returns, but Lujan Grisham this year released five years worth of them. Now comes Arnold-Jones with Haaland to follow. Also, Steve Peace says he will release his '17 tax return at mid-month. It seems we are getting a new tradition in La Politica and not a bad one at that.

THE "ASSISTANT MAYOR"

Obama and Lee
That's the new title of the man who is about to join Mayor Keller's inner circle at City Hall, according to the Alligators over there.

That's causing a bit of a stir because the title has never been used before. "Assistant to the Mayor" is the normal nomenclature for various mayoral assistants. But Assistant Mayor Gary Lee, a former assistant staff secretary under President Obama, will not have anyone reporting to him. One of the Gators puts it this way:

He will be bird dogging policy. There are a lot of cats to herd in the administration as the pace picks up, and he has the experience to keep things on track. He helped advance Obama's initiatives and is a serious guy.

Okay, but be careful herding those cats when you're bird dogging.

Lee, the son of Korean-American immigrants, told the WaPo that his hometown is Albuquerque so this will be a return trip home. In 2011 he talked about himself in an interview with the University of Southern California where in 2007 he graduated with a poly science degree. That makes him about 34.

His position will be unclassified which means he serves at the will of the Mayor. Because he is filling a slot normally called "Assistant to the Mayor," the bureaucracy's very sensitive antenna has picked up on it and has tongues wagging over the parameters of Lee's new position. They'll find out soon enough. Heck, Keller probably won't even know until he sees how Lee fits in.

For all you City Hall employees on edge about the Assistant Mayor here's his Twitter account and his Facebook page. But look at them on your lunch break. You never know who's watching.

SUSANA'S FUTURE

So what will she do? That's been a natural question about Gov. Martinez as she prepares to wrap up her final term in office December 31. Insiders claim she has been looking hard for a new gig, but she has announced nothing. However, Susana's hubby Chuck Franco has. The first gentleman told El Paso TV station KVIA he believes Susana will return to the practice of law when her Guv run ends:

He said the governor, formerly the Doña Ana County District Attorney, will likely return to the field of law after she leaves Santa Fe. "She's got it in her heart," Franco said. "You have to really enjoy it to pursue it the way she does. She's awesome in the courtroom. Any type of litigation, she's very good at. I don't foresee that being ruled out of her life. I don't."

Will Susana become a trial lawyer, a group she speaks of with dread and they of her? Well, the pay is good and her once rising star has fallen to the ground. She sports a very anemic approval rating of 35% in the final Journal poll. Then there was her dissing of Trump. That closed a lot of doors to high-profile jobs.

Franco has taken a three month, temporary job with the Dona Ana County Assessor's Office. A former undersheriff for the county, he says he hopes to eventually become administrator of the local jail. Susana's sister and brother are in ill health. She has said she will help tend to their care when she moves back to Las Cruces from Santa Fe.

THE EX-GUV CLUB

Former Governors usual end up doing something after the spotlight fades. Dave Cargo practiced law and ran for political office every chance he got but never caught the magic again; Jerry Apodaca tried his hand at business only to end up lobbying; Bruce King worked his ranch; Toney Anaya, an attorney, got back in that field after being Guv. Garrey Carruthers, an educator, became chancellor of NMSU; Gary Johnson became a professional candidate and Big Bill resumed his globetrotting on behalf of pet causes.

GUN TOTIN' XOCHITL

Xochitl Torres Small, on the trail and seeking an elusive upset in the southern congressional district against R Yvette Herrell, is wooing gun owners with a TV spot that shows her enjoying shooting her gun with her husband. From CBS:

Torres Small is the latest Democrat to showcase her shooting skills in a political ad, signaling to the conservative district she hopes to represent that she's not the kind of Democrat who wants to take away its guns. That's the underlying message in her new ad, "Hunt," which highlights her devotion to New Mexico's public lands. "We know what we need for a shot at a brighter future," Torres Small said in the ad, which depicts her loading and shooting a gun on a hunting trip. "Because out here makes the squabbles in Washington seem small." She even delayed her honeymoon after getting married to hunt with her father and husband. 

Not a bad play but Herrell received the endorsement of the powerful NRA in the GOP primary in which she easily dispatched Monty Newman to take the nomination. And it appears that backing is going to come in handy again.

OTHER OBAMA NODS

We inadvertently left out two of former President Obama's NM endorsements Tuesday. Here they are.

The former Prez also endorsed Melanie Stansbury, the Dem trying to unseat ABQ GOP State Rep. Jimmie Hall in District 28 in the NE Heights and Dem Karen Bash who is running against GOP State Rep. Monica Youngblood, who was found guilty of aggravated DWI and who will be sentenced today.

THE BOTTOM LINES

It being October the political news is coming like a deluge around here, making for longer hours and longer blogs, and that sometimes leads to a few missteps. Thanks to readers for pointing out that in our first draft Tuesday we obviously erred when we said US Senate terms are for four years. Of course, they are six years. And in describing Lujan Grisham we said she would be the "first female Democratic Governor." We left out the key word--she would be the first "female Hispanic Democratic Governor."

Thats it for now, kids. See ya' mañana,

This is the home of New Mexico politics.

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

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(c)NM POLITICS WITH JOE MONAHAN 2018

Tuesday, October 02, 2018

Obama's NM Endorsements: One Could Be A Door Opener, Plus: Heinrich's Free Ride; Rich And Johnson So Far Fail To Deliver  

Can a long shot candidate for the NM House become a history maker now that he's been endorsed by President Obama? Abbas Akhil, vying for the ABQ House seat held by GOP Rep. Jim Dines, would be the first Muslim-American elected to the state legislature. He was among 260 candidates the former President endorsed Monday:

Obama released a second wave of candidate endorsements ahead of the November midterm elections, including Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a democratic socialist who gained national fame earlier this year. Obama's new list includes 260 candidates across 29 states who are running for U.S. Senate, U.S. House, governor and state legislature. He endorsed 81 candidates in August.

Akhil, a native of India, came to New Mexico 45 years ago to attend NMSU. He says he has never met Obama. The ex-President's father was Muslim. although Akhil's heritage apparently played no role in Obama's endorsement. Akhil, 70, says:

I greatly appreciate the endorsement.  There are not many immigrants getting this kind of encouragement to run for elective office. But I think the primary reason the President endorsed me is because I am an engineer and would bring to the House in-depth knowledge about subjects such as renewable energy that are critical to the future of the state and nation.

Akhil is a retired Sandia Labs engineer.

Rep. Dines, 71, was first elected to HD 20 in 2014 which encompasses the far east side neighborhoods of Four Hills, East Central and the Sandia foothills south of Indian school. He has built a record as a strong advocate for open government and was a key player in developing legislation for a state ethics commission that voters will decide this election.

It would take a big blue wave for R Dines to be ousted. The district is 39% Dem, 35% Republican and 25% independent, short of swing seat status. And in '16 Dines scored a 55-45 win over his Dem foe. But Dems point out that also in '16 Hillary Clinton beat Trump in the district 45% to 41% and that the Four Hills area--while still heavy R--has grown less so in recent years.

In the money race, it's close. At last report Akhil had $26,000 in cash on hand to Dines' $28,000.

Whether Akhil wins or not, the Obama endorsement could encourage more Muslims and immigrants in NM to make a run in the future.

HOCHMAN VS. WINTER 

Akhil wasn't the only NM state House hopeful getting the Obama blessing. In that hotly contested and toss-up ABQ state House race between Democratic attorney Day Hochman and GOP City Councilor Brad Winter, Hochman was celebrating her endorsement from the ex-Prez. She is after the seat being vacated by Republican Rep. Sarah Maestas Barnes.

This is a true swing seat.

Hochman had more money banked than Winter in the last money reports in early September but Winter has name ID built up over decades. The Obama boost is sure to help Hochman with fund-raising and also encourage the Dem PACs to play even harder in this contest.

Finally, Obama gave the nod to Dem Michelle Lujan Grisham in her race against Republican Steve Pearce. She is chair of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus and would be the first Democratic Hispanic female Governor the nation has seen. Obama said:

The last eight years have left New Mexicans waiting for a leader like Michelle, a leader who can restore hope and put opportunity back within reach. As governor, she’ll break down barriers to invest more into our classrooms, create clean energy jobs, expand workforce training, and bring quality pre-k to every New Mexico child. I know with your help she can get it done.

Not surpassingly Steve Pearce wasn't impressed with the Obama nod to his opponent. He declared:

Barack Obama just endorsed Michelle Lujan Grisham, along with dozens of other liberal candidates--like radical democratic socialist Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez--across the nation. This sums up Grisham's campaign. Far left, out of state, political celebrities coming into New Mexico to push their radical values on to our state.

Also on the Guv beat, the Pearce campaign recently accused Lujan Grisham of "lying" for including Socorro County Commissioner Glen Duggins on a list of republicans endorsing her candidacy. He says he did not endorse her. Here's a look at this from an MLG supporter who works with Duggins:

For Pearce to call MLG a "liar" for putting on a campaign piece that she was endorsed by 100 Republicans which was denied by Glen Duggins is unfair. Duggins is chairman of the Middle Rio Grande Conservancy District, Several of us went to D.C. to meet with the congressional delegation to discuss water issues. Duggins, a chile farmer in Lemitar, was really worried about finding workers to pick his chiles and wanted to talk about immigration and a policy that would not jeopardize his livelihood. When we met with MLG he really wanted her help and he gave the distinct impression that he would support her. She should have gotten an email response from him before publishing his name but she was not "lying." 

OTHER OBAMA NODS

The former Prez also endorsed Melanie Stansbury, the Dem trying to unseat ABQ GOP rep. Jimmie Hall in District 28 and Dem Karen Bash who is running against GOP state Rep. Monica Youngblood, who was found guilty of aggravated DWI and who will be sentenced today.

HITTING HEINRICH 

Gary Johnson 
Talk about a free ride Here we are in early October with early in-person voting set to begin October 20 and there are no campaign TV ads from the two challengers of Dem US Senator Martin Heinrich. Neither Republican Mick Rich or Libertarian Gary Johnson have been very successful at raising money and that has given Heinrich free reign as he seeks a second six year term.

It's not like there is nothing to pick on Heinrich for, as we see in this opinion piece from the Our Western Values group that advocates for Western-friendly policies and supports Johnson:

. . . Over 67 percent of Heinrich’s donations come from outside New Mexico. He raises almost as much in Washington as he does from Albuquerque. Second to lawyers, Heinrich’s biggest donors are lobbyists. . . Heinrich lives in Silver Spring, Md.; he’s really a resident of the D.C. region now, so his wife works for a big D.C. public relations firm. . . 

Heinrich’s weird campaign slogan even sounds like something a big D.C. PR firm would cook up: “If we plan for what we can be, we won’t lose who we already are.” It’s possible that rich folks in affluent enclaves back East know what this means, but do you?. . . 

Johnson won’t take marching orders from Beltway lawyers, lobbyists. . . He’ll be a true independent voice. Johnson is the true anti-establishment choice in this race. He’s the only candidate who will be truly accountable to New Mexicans. . . 

That Heinrich slogan heard on his TV ads is indeed odd and sounds as if it came from a focus group that was sipping martinis or puffing on cannabis.

There will be a couple of Senate TV debates and Rich is up with some radio spots. Out of state canvassers are hitting the doors for Johnson, but don't expect him to attack Heinrich. Throughout his career Johnson has sworn off attacking his opponents. It's an admirable quality, especially in this polarized environment.

Johnson also has an enviable record when it comes to corruption in politics. His two terms as NM's Governor were unmarred by major scandal.

Heinrich is an earnest Senator but it's rare not to have some rough going when seeking a second term to that chamber. And it deprives the public the chance to fully appraise his performance. That Heinrich was not polling at 50 percent approval when the contest started should have made that appraisal all the more urgent for the NM GOP. But they failed in their duty to field a strong candidate.

Johnson came in because of that vacuum and many thought that would give us a good give and take. Maybe we get some of that here in the late innings but Heinrich's free ride comes with a price--the lack of a vigorous debate on the state's standing in the US Senate. We'll have to wait until 2020 for that. Or maybe not.

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

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Monday, October 01, 2018

September Goes To Lujan Grisham After Two Wins By Pearce; Now The Defining Month Begins, Plus: Cancer Patient Spot Heats Up Guv Trail, Herrell's Surprise TV Ad And A Kavanaugh Bump For Dems?  

The streak stops at two. That's the number of months GOP Guv candidate Steve Pearce won consecutively in his battle with Democrat Michelle Lujan Grisham. But his momentum was interrupted in September. MLG claimed the month on the strength of the first Journal poll showing her beating her rival 50% to 43%. Throw in her victory at the media event of the month--the first televised debate--and you have a September comeback.

Lujan Grisham also took June when she handily won the Dem primary but July and August went to the southern congressman whose superior media and messaging set the narrative for the summer months and prevented him from getting blown out of the race early, a possibility that was shadowing his candidacy. The duo are now tied 2 to 2 in months won and lost. Now we start October.

Absentee ballots go out October 9 and in-person early voting that will attract the majority of voters before actual Election Day November 6 kicks off October 20. This will be the defining month for the contenders.

Only 34 percent of the total votes cast in the '16 presidential election in the state were cast on election day. The early turnout may be lower for this mid-term election but such voting has truly changed the campaign dynamic.

HEAT GOING UP 

As expected, negative campaigning has intensified as the days of reckoning draw ever closer. How about that ad where the Pearce camp attacks Santa Fe attorney Diego Zamora, the dying cancer patient? In his own ad Zamora defended MLG against corruption charges from a Pearce TV hit about Delta Consulting, the healthcare group she co-founded. Zamora tells viewers that rather than being corrupt, as Pearce claims, she and Delta were a "godsend" for his health care.

Pearce's response ad comes at Zamora for being the attorney for former Democratic State Senator Phil Griego when he faced corruption charges for which he was eventually jailed. That was the weaker part of the ad. It then comes with the tough stuff. The ad points out that Zamora, who grappled with a crack cocaine addition in the 90's, was disbarred for 20 months in 2001when he was found to have stolen money from clients. It' a tight 15 second hit that reads this way:

The man in Grisham's ad defending her corruption — same lawyer who defended politician Phil Griego, convicted of corruption. Tied to Richardson cronies. Suspended by the court for embezzling money. If he's defending Grisham, she's corrupt beyond doubt.

Now MLG's campaign comes with a a response ad decrying Pearce's attack on cancer victim Zamora, declaring it "reprehensible" and a "smear."

Who would smear a man with stage IV pancreatic cancer just to win a political campaign? Steve Pearce. It's reprehensible. . . .

Geno Zamora, the Dem Santa Fe attorney well known in political circles and the brother of Diego Zamora, reacted to the ad this way:

Grotesque desperation does not become you, Mr. Pearce. I pray that you learn to demonstrate the strength, courage, and dignity that my brother has shown in much tougher circumstances than you face today.

NO LINES CROSSED?

The Pearce attack has drawn guffaws from some observers but for most voters it's just another day at the office. In a political milieu where the narrative and the rules are no longer set by television or newspapers--but the bustling and often belligerent on-line media--nothing is off limits. Even so, a number of longtime observers we ran this controversy by did not think Pearce crossed any lines with the Zamora hit. Independent consultant Steve Cabiedes opined:

The real problem is the decision of the Lujan Grisham campaign to have an attorney with so much ethical baggage respond to an ethics attack by Pearce. Did they not vet him?There was no other cancer patient who used the Delta high risk insurance pool who could have done the ad? That was an unforced error. Zamora's illness is tragic but this is politics. If those stricken with cancer were exempt from any criticism in response to their attacks on political candidates, we would have nothing but cancer patients making charges. 

And so it goes when playing at the highest peaks for the power of La Politica.

HERRELL'S SURPRISE

The hot contest for the southern congressional seat being vacated by Republican Pearce has taken a very unusual and surprising turn. In the first time in years a competitive, major party congressional candidate is up with a TV ad about abortion.

That's an issue that has been in hibernation in general election campaigns with neither Dems or R's especially anxious to ignite passions over a matter that has been legally resolved and with a majority of voters taking the pro-choice position.

But conservative State Rep. Yvette Herrell is having none of that. In an effort to push a higher voter turnout among her large Republican base Herrell takes direct aim in the ad at Dem nominee Xochitl Torres Small:

Xochitl supports taxpayer funded abortion--and abortion in the last months of pregnancy when babies feel pain. Xochitl even worked for Planned Parenthood, and in Washington she'll work for Nancy Pelosi to push her radical agenda, Xochitl Torres Small--extreme liberal. Extremely wrong for us. 

That ad will obviously resonate with Christian conservatives in the Bible Belt of the southern district in the eastside counties. However, it could also help Herrell with socially conservative Hispanic Democrats across the district--Apodaca Democrats--and slow the expected Hispanic surge for Torres Small.

Torres Small needs a larger than usual turnout in the more liberal Las Cruces area to pull off the upset in the district which has been owned by the R's. Herrell knows that and is trying to pump turnout up among the long neglected, but large pro-life crowd to counter her. Not coincidentally that higher R turnout would also benefit Steve Pearce in the district where he is expected to post a large win.

HITTING STRIDE

Meanwhile, Torres Small seems to finally be hitting her stride after a so-so start to her media campaign. In her latest spot she cites the long drives many in the heavily rural southern district face when dealing with medical issues. It's a bread and butter issue that brings her a bit closer to the Democratic base, even as it does not offend conservatives.

But the initial contradiction we have seen in the Torres Small candidacy remains. Her careful effort to position herself as a moderate Democrat and not suffer a landslide in the Eastern counties is easily undone by Herrell, as seen in the abortion spot. Torres Small, a water rights attorney who is a former staffer for liberal Senator Tom Udall and married to liberal State House Dem Nathan Small, is indeed a liberal but one in hiding.

The path to victory for her may be to add a dash of Beto O'Rourke liberalism to her agenda. That is how she can increase turnout. (Why not bring the El Paso congressman into Cruces for a rally?)

Right now she suffers an authenticity gap with Herrell as she shies away from her true political identity. That said, a Torres Small candidacy could better thrive in a high turnout presidential year. Maybe she's playing the long game and setting her sights on 2020.

A KAVANAUGH BUMP?

Could Torres Small and other Dem candidates in winnable but uphill battles get a Kavanaugh bump? Dems are hoping that higher turnout will begin to manifest itself as Republicans struggle with the Supreme Court nomination of Brett Kavanaugh and the sexual assault allegations that surround him.

A demonstration in ABQ Friday to protest the nomination drew about 100. Not too shabby. If there is a turnout bump by voters upset over the Kavanaugh imbroglio consultants say it would be mostly in the metro areas and media centers of ABQ, Santa Fe and Las Cruces and in that order.

LYONS VS. RICHARD

Republican Pat Lyons is up with the first TV ads in his race for state land commissioner against Dem Stephanie Garcia Richard and she's trying hard to keep up:

Our state came up over $40 million short in revenue under my opponent's watch. Now I need your help to make sure we don't come up short against his big television buy. We need $5,033 right now to go up on TV. Donate $27 and help make sure our ad is seen on TV! Our opponent just purchased over $130,000 in air time but with your help, we can do more!

Lyons is also getting outside help. NM Strong, a PAC financed by big oil, including Chevron, is financing media against Garcia Richard. Earlier this month it reported over $500,000 in cash on hand.

We have the land commission race rated a toss up.

MONICA UPDATE

Attorney General Hector Balderas is seeking a second, four year term this cycle and has been busy in the news release department. One of his latest announces that he is reviewing the arrest of ABQ GOP State Rep. Monica Youngblood who was recently found guilty of aggravated DWI. The AG says the video of that arrest raises questions about Youngblood attempting to use her legislative position to influence the arresting officer.  It's against the law for a lawmaker to use their office to get a personal benefit.

Youngblood is opposed by Dem Karen Bash in her NW district. The Dem PACS are sure to use the AG's announcement, along with lapel video of the DWI arrest, as key points against her in an effort to flip the seat. Meantime, Balderas has some catching up to do to "out Monica" his GOP foe. Michael Hendricks has called for the resignation of Youngblood, the only Republican candidate to publicly do so.

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