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Thursday, October 11, 2018

Who's Got The Energy? Wave Or No Wave? Plus: Debating Johnson Vs. Colón, GOP Spooked Over Cabinet Rumors, Trump Sours On Heather And Your Blog Turns 15 

Who's got the energy? That's the perennial question when voting time comes around. It's especially intriguing now that absentee voting has begun in the state and it comes right after the tumult over the nomination of Brett Kavanaugh to the US Supreme Court. Will it prompt a wave of Democratic women who don't normally vote in NM's mid-term elections to flock to the polls? Will it energize Trump Republicans in the conservative southern congressional district?

If the "Year of the Woman" creates a blue wave it could make the most difference in the race for land commissioner in which Dem Stephanie Garcia Richard appears to be locked in a tight battle with Republican Pat Lyons. Also, the southern congressional district contest could be impacted where Republican Yvette Herrell is favored but Dem Xochitl Torres Small could pull off the upset if she gets an unexpected bump.

The land commission race continues to be rated a Toss Up. The southern congressional race in our rankings moves from Likely Republican to Lean Republican in light of the new national developments.

BEMOANING BRIAN

Our ranking of the race for state auditor as "Likely Democrat" gets some push back from one of the Alligators friendly toward the candidacy of appointed GOP State Auditor Wayne Johnson who is being challenged by Dem Brian Colón;

I disagree with your assessment. I do agree that it should be likely Dem, but it's not. Even the progressive and far left Daily Kos recently ranked the race as a Toss Up. Johnson has made this a race by doing an aggressive job of going after fraud and abuse that has been ignored for years. He's been on the news constantly working on high profile audits that actually impact New Mexicans. He's even matching Colón in fundraising. That's a huge feat given that Colón is a known as a fundraising powerhouse. Colón's candidacy is flawed. He's run for so many offices even longtime Democrats I talk to say, "Not that guy again?” He's the weakest link on the entire Dem ticket. For all these reason, this is a race to watch.

That Toss Up ranking from the daily Kos surprised us because in the early September ABQ Journal poll Colón was at 45% and Johnson at 39%. Also, no R has been elected auditor since 1966. And while they are pretty evenly matched on money, it would seem Johnson will need to outspend Colón with a negative campaign to peel Dems away from him. Johnson, a former BernCo Commissioner and ABQ mayoral candidate, is well known in the metro but this is also a big blue patch that is anti-Trump and that should help Colón. We rank the race Likely Dem not "Safe Dem" because of some of those argument for our Gator, but this one is still Colón's to lose.

GOP SPOOKED

Our blog mentioning that the rumor mill has two prominent liberals as possible cabinet choices should Dem Michelle Lujan Grisham win the Governor's race really spooked the state GOP. They came with this reaction:

Lujan Grisham has allegedly been floating names for potential cabinet nominees . . She’s signaled to New Mexicans that she will make absolutely no effort to work in a bipartisan manner by floating the names of far-left partisan insiders like radical environmentalist Garrett VeneKlasen and corrupt State Representative Bill McCamley.

“If Michelle Lujan Grisham needs a reminder about the dangers of measuring the curtains before votes are counted, she should ask Hillary Clinton,” said RPNM Chairman Ryan Cangiolosi. “Instead of laying out a vision to govern on behalf of all New Mexicans, Lujan Grisham has embraced far-left radical politicians and abandoned any dwindling illusion that she would be a bipartisan leader. Lujan Grisham and her would-be cabinet nominees are cut from the same radical partisan cloth. They would march arm-in-arm as Lujan Grisham leads the state toward bankruptcy.”


So Bill and Garrett don't make any plans yet for those state paychecks, okay?

AD WARS

Reader Janet Blair writes of the ad wars in the race for the southern congressional seat:

I think the prize for misleading ads this campaign cycle has to go to a RNCC PAC ad for (Republican) Yvette Herrell. The spot implies that (Democrat) Torres Small will eliminate employer-based healthcare and send all the premium money to DC with nothing in return. A low-information voter might reasonably be terrified by this assertion. It doesn’t explain that this proposal is  “Medicare or Medicaid for all” and that if implemented could mean even better benefits with lower administrative overhead---as compared to profit-making health insurance companies. I think that is a long way off, politically speaking, but this ad with its lopsided information is totally irresponsible. We now watch TV with the remote in hand---ready to mute these kinds of ads in a millisecond!

And here's some analysis of the race from a seasoned veteran on the Dem side who requested anonymity:

There indeed may be a blue wave, but the Republicans are very supportive of Trump in this district and Republicans feel strongly about immigration issues and guns (hence the Xochitl gun ad).

Yvette easily dispatched Monty Newman in the GOP primary, but some of Monty’s people were not pleased with her treatment of him. Will that result in them not voting in this race? Maybe, but is the number significant? Yvette will get help from Steve Pearce as he needs maximum votes out of this area if he has a chance to win.

There may be a blue wave, but I think Republicans here will stand up for their candidates. That being said, Xochitl may be banking on the fact that this district is 40% Democrat, 36% Republican, 23% declined to state and 1% Libertarian. She is well-funded and comes across as intelligent, articulate and humble. She will need to maximize her vote among Democrats and the “decliners,” especially in Dona Ana County (52,770 Democrats vs. 30,193 Republicans). I still give Yvette the edge, but it may be close.

SOUR ON HEATHER

Heather could get the hatchet. That's the word circulating as Wilson, a former ABQ GOP congresswoman who is now Secretary of the Air Force, is having trouble navigating the Trump White House:

President Trump is peeved with Heather Wilson over her handling of his directive to stand up a separate Space Force in the U.S. military, and he’s considering ousting her after the midterm elections, three sources with knowledge of the matter told Foreign Policy. Wilson recently angered Trump as well as Deputy Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan, Defense Secretary James Mattis’s second in command, with what is seen as a campaign to undermine the Space Force effort, the sources said.

Not even her Republican friends on Capitol Hill will be able to save her if Trump warms up his "You're Fired" mantra.

BILL'S PEANUTS

We joked of the low dollar amount--$25--for a fundraiser for Dem congressional hopeful Torres Small hosted by former Governor Big Bill who is known far and wide as one of the state's most prodigious fundraisers. That brought this from Joni Gutierrez, a former Dem national committeewoman, who attended the event:

Hey Joe, I agree with you and do believe Gov. Richardson could bring in a crowd at a high dollar event but for crying out loud we are a low income county, in a low income state. Our goal was to have access for our voters to not only see Gov. Richardson but more importantly Xochitl. 

Well, Bill can be frugal when need be. We'll always remember an ABQ South Valley fund-raiser he had for his second run at Governor in 2006 where the price was something like $100 bucks. And for that he served bottled water and peanuts. But he did win, scoring the biggest landslide--68%--in state gubernatorial history.

HAPPY ANNIVERSARY--TO ME

It's been so hectic we forgot to pause and celebrate our 15th anniversary of bringing you New Mexico Politics with Joe Monahan. We achieved that mark earlier this month. But it's still hectic around here so let me simply say thank you to all the readers and advertisers who have been supportive of my efforts these past 15 years as well as to my critics who make me better. And join me November 6th for our 30th consecutive year of Election Night coverage on ABQ's KANW 89.1 FM and on kanw.com.

That's a lot of time on the clock and worthy of a final quote for today from author Henning Mankell writing in "The Man from Beijing":

The passage of time was relentless and capricious, and one would lose the battle with it in the end. The only resistance a man could offer was to make the most of time, exploit it without trying to prevent its progress.

Thank you, New Mexico.

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Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Spending Craze Hits New Peaks: $1 Million To Air One Ad? Super PACS Take Control Of Airwaves, Plus: Are Dems Too Progressive For North? And: Zombies And Aliens On The Campaign Trail 

They're spending with reckless abandon now so soon it will be time to hide under our beds to avoid the media warfare from the giant Super PACs invading the state yet again.

When we say reckless abandon we mean it. How else to explain the news release from Emily's List and other progressive groups that they have banded together to spend $1 million on a TV spot and digital ads in support of Dem congressional candidate Xochitl Torres Small?

Sure, you buy both the ABQ and El Paso TV markets and lots of social media but if they actually spend that kind of money on this ad with less than a month before the election it will bring new meaning to the term overkill.

By the way, the spot did not require much research. It's a rehash of the ad that the Democratic Governors Association ran against State Rep. Yvette Herrell, the GOP rival of Torres Small. It slams Herrell over her family's business getting "sweetheart contracts" with the state and not reporting them on her disclosure forms. It also accuses her of using state money to take "lavish trips."

Both charges have been explained in the free media and the ads are not generating any news coverage or a response from Herrell. Will putting a million bucks behind the charges make a difference? Here's the gold plated ad.

There's more crazy spending. The Save the Children Network says it will dole out $415,000 on TV supporting Dem Guv contender Michelle Lujan Grisham. Crazeeee.

That and more is headed your way in the weeks ahead courtesy of the US Supreme Court and its Citizens United ruling that opened the floodgates to this inglorious excess a number of years ago. Like uncontrollable weeds in your garden, it grows and grows.

At the start of the campaign we thought the TV stations might have only a so-so ad year because there was not a competitive US Senate race and only one competitive US House contest. We didn't count on the no limit Super PACS to go overkill. Staffs at the stations ought to be clamoring for a pay raise.

And in this cash-crazed environment it's only appropriate that we shot too low Tuesday when reporting the total spending of the two Guv candidates so far. Michelle Lujan Grisham has raised a total of $7.8 million since the start and Steve Pearce has raised $4.3 million.

MORE SUPER SPENDING

And even more Super Spending. The same Super PAC helping Torres Small is coming with nearly $400,000 over two weeks for this TV hit on GOP Guv nominee Steve Pearce.

It scores him for voting to repeal Obamacare, although the spot does not use that often controversial phrase. It also hits him for wanting to do away with the requirement that insurance companies cover pre-existing conditions, although on his website Pearce says:

We need lawsuit abuse reform, and a ban on discriminating against pre-existing conditions.

Pearce was looking for critical votes in Bernalillo County this week where Dems hope to blow him away in a landslide. His campaign said in a news release:

Congressman Steve Pearce toured Sandia National Lab with United States Secretary of Energy, Rick Perry.

And while the Super PACs we're playing bad cop for MLG, she was playing good cop, releasing her latest TV ad which is a positive take on New Mexico's clean energy potential. Remember when she called the enviro foes of the oil industry "crazy"? Well, she's busy offering olive branches.

This is also the season for the campaigns to start time releasing opposition research on their foes as the first absentee votes are cast and widespread in-person early voting gets going October 20. Take a look at this report that calls out Steve Pearce for questionable ethics, the same charge he happens to be hurling at Lujan Grisham:

. . . Pearce owns two companies that actively lease oilfield equipment to undisclosed customers even as he campaigns to regulate a booming petroleum sector and expand an oil-dependent economy. . .Pearce’s campaign confirmed that the congressman’s businesses, Trinity Industries and LFT, provide oilfield equipment rentals after The AP found corporate registration documents that describe the activities. . . Pearce has reported holdings in Hobbs-based Trinity Industries that were worth between $5 million and $25 million in 2017. . . 

And the predictable turning of the screws on Pearce by the MLG camp:

. . . Despite the 2003 sale of some oil and gas-related assets, and repeated claims to have businesses involved in party rentals, Steve Pearce still has millions of dollars in business with the New Mexico oil and gas industry. Steve Pearce has yet again been caught lying to New Mexicans, while he continues to hide his tax returns. 

Pearce has said he will release his income tax return for 2017 this month.

INTERNET ONLY

Then there's this Internet only ad. It's a strange trip indeed. A PAC financed by oilman and former NM GOP Chairman Harvey Yates puts this 2:30 video up. It features Hispanic Northern New Mexicans who profess themselves tired of fellow Democrats who they dub "ultra-progressive."

The ad doesn't mention any candidates but it's clearly aimed at weakening Hispanic support for Lujan Grisham and building support in the Democratic Spanish North for Pearce. He is among those circulating the video. Also, some of those appearing in the ad are supporters of State Rep. Carl Trujillo, who lost a bitter northern Dem state House primary battle to progressive Andrea Romero. The GOP PAC is taking advantage of that rift.

Because the ad is not on broadcast or cable TV and resonates with mostly older, rural voters not heavily engaged in social media, its impact will be negligible. However, a Senior Alligator of the Dem variety thinks it could portend things to come in Santa Fe:

It does possibly predict the dissent we will see among Democrats at the next legislative session. State Representatives Trujillo and Gonzales and State Senator George Munoz and others may be on to something here. Could they join with Republicans and form an anti-progressive, Anti-#MeToo majority in either chamber? Could there be dissent in the race for state party chair next spring? 

MORE STATEWIDE ACTION

Cockroaches? Is it an ad for Raid? Dem Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver who is running against Republican Gavin Clarkson as well as a Libertarian candidate, shows the roaches getting the shoe crushing treatment and the SOS says:

With the lights on, it's easy to see what needs to get squashed, That's why I've shined a light on dark money and worked to clean up state politics.

Nothing like a big heel crushing scurrying cockroaches to break through the political ad clutter.

Meantime Republican Clarkson is running into a headwind over his service in the Bureau of Indian Affairs in the Trump administration:

Clarkson, then a business professor at New Mexico State University, was selected in July 2017 for a top job in the Bureau of Indian Affairs. As part of his role. . .he oversaw the program that had guaranteed (a) loan in 2010 for the Lower Brule Sioux. . .Clarkson resigned in November, shortly after. . . ProPublica reported about the loan.

ZOMBIES AND ALIENS

Clarkson still seems to be having fun in the race that is ranked Safe Democratic. He accused Toulouse Oliver recently of registering "aliens and zombies" to vote when she was BernCo Clerk.

Chill, Gavin. We can assure you that the only zombies and aliens registered to vote are three candidates who are seeking elective office this year and we aren't telling.

CONSERVING ADS

You want your state auditor to be fiscally conservative, right? Dem hopeful Brian Colón goes that route by putting up the same TV ad for the general election that he used in the primary.

The ad recounts how he "grew up pretty poor" and understands "the value of money because I understand the value of investing in people."

Don't worry about Brian having to use old TV ads. If he needs some help he can call on his BFF Attorney General Hector Balderas who this week reported he now has $962,000 in cash in his campaign account. And that's for a race ranked Safe Democratic. Hmm.

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Tuesday, October 09, 2018

Guv Candidates Have Plenty Of Money But Who Has The Winning Message? Plus: A Round-Up Of The Latest Money Reports In Key Races 

Michelle Lujan Grisham will easily take the title of top fund-raiser for the 2018 gubernatorial derby. Still, Republican nominee Steve Pearce is not a pauper and if he could find the right message in the final month he has the money to make it count.

The money reports released Monday covering Sept 4 through October 1  ended with $782,000 in cash on hand, compared to Pearce's $1.254 million. She out raised him three to one in the month--$1.1 million to $416,000--but by harvesting his cash Pearce is prepared for the end game financially, if not philosophically.

Lujan Grisham announced her run in December 2016 and so far has raised $7.8 million. The later starting Pearce has raised far less--$4.3 million--but both US House members  have high name ID and strong bases of support so Pearce was not blown out early because of the money gap.

Not blown out but maybe not making as much progress as he would like.

The Democratic Governors Association came with a big late August TV buy blasting Pearce but has since disappeared. That likely signals that their polling shows Lujan Grisham with a lead the DGA considers healthy.

The NEA PAC is up with a big buy for Lujan Grisham. But there is no third party money on the air for Pearce. That stings.

The polling is no doubt what hurt Pearce's September fund-raising. The Sept 7-13 Journal survey had the race 50 to 43 against him. Donors pay attention.

The Lujan Grisham camp remains wary of Pearce as they should of the wily political veteran. He has just a couple of weeks to come up with something that could finally pick the lock for him. Money is not the problem. It's the clock.

The Governor's race is ranked Lean Democrat.

NO TOGETHERNESS

The two Guv candidates have been strangers to one another after a couple of joint appearances back in the summer and a mid-September TV debate. But only two joint appearances--two TV debates--are definitely on the calender for the remainder of the campaign. Both sides blame the other. Pearce says MLG has been ducking out of forums as she nurses a polling lead. Her camp says Pearce has been fiddling with his schedule, causing two joint appearances to be canceled. Whatever the case, this Guv run will feature few side by side appearances.

LAND ACTION

In the only other statewide race clearly in play besides the Guv run, Dem Stephanie Garcia Richard and Republican Pat Lyons seem low on cash for the final stretch. But there is a caveat. While Lyons reports just $55,000 in cash on hand he spent $188,000 on TV and mail in September. And he can expect hundreds of thousands in support from PACS funded by the oil boys. Garcia Richard reports $41,000 in cash after making only modest media buys. She will need the enviro PACS to help her take Lyons out.

The land commissioner race is rated a Toss Up

AUDITOR ACTION


In the state auditor's contest that conceivably could get into play, Democrat Brian Colón and appointed GOP State Auditor are pretty close in cash on hand. Johnson had $120,000 to Colón $160,000. However, Colon outraised Johnson for the month--$64,000 to $16,000.

On the campaign trail, Johnson has been calling into question Colón's ethics. He'll probably do the same with his TV buy, but without something new and inflammatory this one goes in the Dem column. The race is rated Likely Dem.

STATE HOUSE RACES

GOP State Rep. Monica Youngblood reported $59,000 in cash at the end of September. Dem Karen Bash improved her game somewhat and has $25,000 for the final innings in the NW ABQ district. But as we've said before the hits on Monica are going to have to come from the labor union PACS over her aggravated DWI conviction and refusal to take a breath test. If they do come in and do a good job, the odds are Monica is out. If the Dems hesitate in the attack, she could sneak in.

In a hot ABQ NE Heights contest, Republican Brad Winter is being outscored in the money department. He reports $18,000 in cash compared to Day Hochman's $52,000. This is a swing district and with those numbers the race is now rated Lean Dem.

Natalie Figueroa and R John Jones are basically tied in the cash on hand report with both in the low 40's. But the far NE Heights district is moving Blue and it's Figueroa's second time around the track. This race continues to be rated Lean Dem.

Still in the NE Heights, R Jimmie Hall is struggling with Dem Melanie Stansbury. He reports $52,000 in cash to her $97,000. This district is still R friendly and Hall can survive but this one goes down to the wire.

NETFLIX PERSPECTIVE

It is certainly very good news that entertainment giant Netflix is buying ABQ Studios at Mesa del Sol and saying it hopes to employ1,000 there annually and invest $100 million a year in new production for ten years. We could use the shot in the arm, even if it is costing taxpayers $14 million to get them here. 

And our ridiculous crime rate did not scare them away!

But the politicians aren't satisfied unless they convince us such announcements are akin to the Second Coming. ABQ Mayor Tim Keller has a habit of reaching for the stars in making these announcements and he did it again with Netflix. The quote:

This is Intel equivalent. There has been nothing like this in central New Mexico other than Intel. For us though, Intel was one of 13 fab (fabrication) plants. This is it. It is their only studio they have in the United States that they’ve purchased. They are putting their anchor here and it’s going to redefine the economic landscape in Albuquerque and the Southwest.

Not quite. Well, not even close to "equivalent." Intel's Rio Rancho chip manufacturing facility was the biggest private sector development in the ABQ area in the post-WWII era.

For example, the company did two multibillion upgrades to the plant, in 2007 and 2010.  And those were just upgrades. At its peak Intel employed 7,000 and the vast majority of those jobs were high paying. Now that redefined the economic landscape. And so did the end of the party. Today Intel employs about 1,500 and is no longer doing multibillion upgrades. The impact of the downsizing has been felt across the metro.

Having a major NASDAQ listed company like Netflix is a feather in our cap and congrats to the Mayor and his team as well as the state film office. He pointed out that many of the Netflix studio jobs don't require college degrees--unlike many of the Intel jobs. Because we did not have the trained workforce necessary, Intel had to pay penalties for not being able to hire enough locals, a requirement for obtaining certain government economic incentives. With the ABQ economy still losing college grads a larger percentage of the workforce is made up of high school grads. Netflix will make a difference for them (and train them) and its main impact will be a large shot of adrenaline to the important ABQ and NM film industry.

There is a big issue for the film industry with this announcement. One of our Senior Alligators points out:

Joe, Netflix alone will suck up all the state film incentives which are capped at $50 million a year. Easily. Now we have to revisit how we do things. All of our incentives were written to bring in outside dollars and good jobs. Mission accomplished. Now what? If we just throw more money in the cap, it’s a waste. It's time to focus internally which also benefits our newest local businesses: Netflix.

There has been chatter about increasing the $50 million incentive cap but as our Gator wonders, what for? We have attracted the big kahuna and for a ten year commitment. Welcome to the high desert, Netflix.

ABOUT THAT "RIFLE"

That's a shotgun that southern Dem congressional hopeful Xochitl Torres Small ad is toting in one of the more talked about ads thus cycle--not a "rifle" as we blogged. Several gun enthusiasts wrote in, including this one:

That is a shotgun, not a rifle, in that Xochitl ad. She was ostensibly shooting at little birdies, not ferocious carnivores as might have been the case had it been a rifle.

The ferocious carnivores Xochitl has to worry about are all those Eastside Republicans starving for a Republican win under the banner of GOP contender Yvette Herrell.

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Monday, October 08, 2018

Pearce Again Plays Corruption Card In Guv Chase But He May Need A Higher Hand, Plus: PAC TV For Johnson And Herrell Fires At Xochitl's Gun Ad 

At the beginning of the campaign they teased that there would be something new, perhaps something shocking, but instead of an October surprise Steve Pearce's camp is providing a predictable dish that will bolster his already strong GOP support but may do little to break down the Democratic brick wall in big Bernalillo County that Democrats are relying on to propel Michelle Lujan Grisham into the governorship.

The dish Pearce serves up in his his latest TV ad is Republican comfort food, painting Lujan Grisham's past government service as riddled with corruption and inextricably tied to the corruption tinged years of former Dem Governor Bill Richardson. That was a recipe for GOP success in 2010 when Richardson was still in office and Susana Martinez easily surfed to victory on the wave of scandal. But that was then and this is now.

One problem with the ad is that Richardson doesn't ring the emotional bells he once did. He seems a somewhat distant memory. Perhaps the Pearce polling says otherwise. But after eight years of Governor Martinez the years of Big Bill, when the state and city were on the move, appear to be a high point not a nadir.

The ad relies on controversies while Lujan Grisham presided as Secretary of Health under Big Bill and again cites MLG's involvement with the healthcare firm Delta Consulting that has become the centerpiece in the Pearce effort to cast doubt on her integrity. Large photos of Bill are displayed during the ad (but none of them with MLG) as if it were his name on the gubernatorial ballot.

That worked when he was fresh in the memories of New Mexicans and his approval rating crashed to 33 percent. Voters craved a chance to rebuke him. But since those bad old days MLG has been elected to the BernCo County Commission and three times to the US Congress. Most of the charges--serious as they are--have been vetted (except Delta) in previous campaigns. The electorate is not going to be jolted unless Pearce comes with something new--a true October surprise that was teased but so far has not been delivered.

BILL'S CRONIES

The Pearce ad features four faces who are dubbed "Richardson's cronies" and who the ad says will make a corrupt comeback under Lujan Grisham. While the public at large has no idea who they are the political community is quite acquainted with these four horsemen of the GOP apocalypse. The ad dubs them the  "Richardson Gang" and says they are "behind Grisham's campaign." Here they are:

Gilbert Gallegos served as communications director and deputy chief of staff to Big Bill. He later found work with Rep. Lujan Grisham but left her staff to join the ABQ police department and is not working with her campaign today. Oldtimers will remember Gallegos as a political reporter for the now gone but not forgotten ABQ Tribune.

Bill and Contarino
Dave Contarino was a key member of Bill's inner circle, serving as his political adviser and chief of staff. The ad is on more solid ground pinpointing him as being involved with Lujan Grisham. The campaign confirms he worked for her as a paid consultant in the primary but is not now working for her in a paid position. However, it is well known in political circles that Contarino is indeed involved in the campaign, if not on a paid basis. To that the R's yell: "We told you so!"

Deborah Armstrong is a former cabinet secretary and currently an ABQ Dem state rep who is a BFF of MLG. She served as director of Rep. Lujan's district offices. Together they founded Delta Consulting to provide insurance for high risk patients and won state contracts. Armstrong, an attorney, served as MLG's campaign treasurer but was recently replaced after the Delta story broke. Like Contarino she has influence with the candidate.

Johnny Cope is a Hobbs oilman who made millions and then became a kingmaker in state Dem politics by forming close ties with Big Bill. He donated major dollars to Bill and other Dems and became head of the state Transportation Commission under Richardson. Cope is a colorful figure with a colorful past who has brushed up against he law. A full accounting is here. Cope is not employed by the Lujan Grisham campaign. His name just surfaced, however, as controversy erupted over the selection of a company to run the state's final racino. Take a look:

The chairman of the New Mexico Racing Commission has owned racehorses with two partners in a company that is competing before the commission for a license for the state’s sixth racetrack and slot machine casino. According to a national database of racehorse ownership, Ray Willis, a Roswell oilman who has been on the Racing Commission since 2006, has owned horses with Shaun Hubbard and Johnny Cope, investors in a company proposing a track and casino in the Clovis area. Cope, who made a fortune in oil field-related businesses, served as chairman of the state Transportation Commission under Gov. Bill Richardson.

The Hubbard racing family have been donors to Governor Martinez.

TRAIL DUST

In other news of La Politica this Columbus Day, Libertarian US Senate nominee Gary Johnson is finally getting some air support. It comes from a PAC that supports Libertarians. The TV ad positions Johnson as a fiscal conservative who says while he served eight yeas as NM Governor "our state flourished" and that he prevented "reckless spending," leaving the state with a surplus. Johnson has been polling third behind Dem Senator Martin Heinrich and Republican Mick Rich. The race is now for second, with Johnson threatening to upend major party candidate Rich for the honor who has yet to air TV ads.

YVETTTE VS. XOCHITL

This one keeps hopping. The latest is an internal poll from southern GOP congressional contender Yvette Herrell. It shows her prevailing over Dem rival Xochitl Torres Small by a margin of 49 to 45. Here's more:

Herrell led 49 percent to 45 percent, within the margin of error and 6 percent still undecided, according to a telephone survey of 400 likely voters from The Tarrance Group. The poll was conducted September 30 through October 2 and had a margin of error of +/- 4.9 percentage points. Both candidates are gaining name awareness, with over 50 percent of likely voters saying they knew both of them, according to the poll. Herrell led among that group 51 percent to 44 percent.

Herrell was ahead 48 to 41 in the Sept 7-13 ABQ Journal poll. The Tarrance survey comes after the national Dems have pounded Herrell for weeks over an ethics charge. She has not responded to that ad and this survey may tell us why--it does not seem to be doing much damage.

Torres Small came with a clever ad last week that earned national attention. It showed her out shooting as she positions herself toward the center in the conservative district, but the Herrell camp has some fun with that ad by using the video of Xochitl with her gun against her. In this spot titled "Don't Give Her A Shot," they fire away:

Torress Small has our freedom in her sights. . . bankrolled by liberal extremists. . .Torres Small has gone hunting for Nancy Pelosi's support and they'll shoot down our values together. . .

Herrell is the NRA endorsed candidate and isn't about to let Torres Small poach on her territory. Her ad also notes that Herrell has been endorsed by GOP Congressman Pearce who is expected to run strong in the Guv race in his home district.

The Tarrance firm also polls for Pearce. That they have not released their latest polling on the Guv race tells you what you already know--Lujan Grisham continues to lead.

THE BOTTOM LINES

In a first draft of the Thursday blog we had appointed GOP NM Supreme Court Justice Gary Clingman voting not to allow the Secretary of State to reinstate straight ticket party voting. Actually, Clingman recused himself from the case because he is running for election this year. Straight ticket voting was unanimously rejected by the other high court justices. Clingman faces NM Court of Appeals Judge Michael Vigil in the November election.

This is the home of New Mexico politics.

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

Interested in reaching New Mexico's most informed audience? Advertise here.

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