Thursday, November 05, 2020

Three Election Takeaways And A Dip Into The Reader Mailbag 

Here's some election takeaway the day after the day after.

--The results make it more difficult for MLG to impose restrictions because of the coronavirus. The strong Trump vote will encourage those who have all along been skeptical of and/or defied the public health orders. The state needs to do a better job with contact tracing, identifying the "hot spots" and if necessary do targeted shutdowns. The days of closing the entire state down without widespread protest and defiance ended Election Night. The onus is on the state to step up its game.

--The challenge of redistricting the southern congressional district to make it more Dem has suddenly grown more challenging with GOP Congresswoman-elect Yvette Herrell taking the seat. Resistance to do a gerrymander will be much more vocal and public. Not that the Dems won't make a play to turn it blue but some of their own members may not have the stomach for the fight that would surely ensue. 

--Progressives will have the muscle at the next session of the Legislature but they don't have the money. The state is scraping buy awaiting federal relief, But with the US Senate staying in the hands of the R's any coronavirus relief package could be modest. The progressive agenda that doesn't cost direct tax dollars (legalized marijuna, abortion and tapping the $20 billion Land Grant Permanent Fund for early childhood education) will have the best chances. 


Richard Flores writes:

In one of your pre-election blogs there was some speculation that Republican Mark Ronchetti's run for the US Senate was a precursor to a future run for Albuquerque mayor. If in fact that was the thinking, his resounding loss in Albuquerque puts that idea to rest! With regard to Rep. Xochitl Torres Small, it has been and will continue to be extremely difficult for any Democrat to win that district given the vast disparity between registered Republicans and Registered Democrats in southeastern New Mexico. 

Ronchetti lost to Lujan 57 to 41% in Bernalillo County, just shy of 50,000 votes. He finished six points behind Lujan statewide--52-46. That's a one point improvement from Election Night for Lujan as late returns are tallied. President Trump lost Bernalillo County to VP Biden 61-37% and 76,000 votes.

Reacer Carl Stevens writes:

The Dems in Albuquerque and northern New Mexico have so little understanding of the dynamics of southern New Mexico. I had hopes that the congressional race would at least be closer and a fantasy that Torres Small might be able to pull it out, but most Democrats down here did not have that optimistic feeling. As a Dem from Southeast New Mexico, who lived and worked in Albuquerque and Santa Fe, I can tell you that they are truly different worlds. There was really nothing to pin hopes of ballot splitting on other than an assumption that the Yvette Herrell-Claire Chase Republican primary fight would spill into the general. 

And a Senior Alligator writes: 

I hope the progressives in Santa Fe and Albuquerque are pleased that they tanked Xochitl with their absolute negligence of her race (where were the all hands on deck for Xochitl??). I bet they are real happy to let the Republicans back into the delegation and to have slimmer margins in the US House. Where was MLG for Xochitl in Cruces? And Joe Biden may win, but he’s winning ugly. 

The long knives do tend to come out after an election, don't they?

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Wednesday, November 04, 2020

Election 2020 Results: A Blue Wave Meets A Red Ripple: Everyone Has Something to Celebrate In Split Results; Dem Landslide in Cities And Red Rural Muscle 

The Blue Wave met the Red Ripple in New Mexico Tuesday night giving everyone something to celebrate. The wave swept down La Bajada from Santa Fe and into the ABQ metro, knocking off three GOP Bernalillo County state Senators and leaving only one R standing in the metro. 

BernCo results here. Statewide results here

The wave also knocked the wind out of President Trump handing him a 61 to 37 defeat in BernCo but the blow was softened by the rural Red Ripple and he ended up losing the state and its five electoral votes 54 to 44 percent. 

If only Dem US Senate candidate Ben Ray Lujan could have had that margin against Republican newcomer Mark Ronchetti who was trounced in BernCo by Lujan by 50,000 votes or 57 to 41% but the red rural voters helped him pick up some of the slack and Ronchetti outpaced Trump and he ended the night by keeping Lujan to a somewhat modest 51 to 46 margin with the Libertarian candidate taking 3 percent. 

The surprise of the night was the overall weakness of Rep. Xochitl Torres Small. The race was expected to be a squeaker but Republican Yvette Herrell prevailed by a  healthy 54 to 46 margin. Trump's dominant performance in the southern congressional district, combined with resistance to state Covid restrictions, were pointed out as reasons for the early end of Torres Small's congressional career. There was also this from longtime analyst Greg Payne:

She tried to be all things to all people and ended up nothing to everyone.

That meant she barely threw a bone to the progressive Dems in the district, gambling on R's splitting their tickets. They didn't and the progressives were unenthused with her conservative pivot and it showed in her lack of muscle in Dona Ana County. 

House Speaker Brian Egolf was among many Dems who said that while Torres Small lost her rematch with Herrell she remains a Dem bright light and will be seen again. Meanwhile, Herrell now is the de facto leader of the  forlorn and shrunken NM Republican Party. Can she help rebuild it or will she be a one term wonder, falling to victim to Democratic redistricting in 2021?


As promoted, Election 2020 was a turnout record-breaker At 1:30 a.m. today the SOS had recorded about 912,000 votes, eclipsing the previous turnout record of 833,000 of 2012.The turnout was 67.5 percent of registered voters. That fell short of the record of 70.4 percent set in 2008.


The Blue Wave was ten feet tall in the northern congressional district and gave Dem Teresa Leger Fernandez an easy 58 to 42 win for the seat being left vacant by Rep. Lujan. In the ABQ district Rep. Deb Haaland had no trouble handling R Michelle Garcia Holmes, winning her second term with the same margin TLF scored--58 to 42 percent. Because of Leger's win the state's five member congressional delegation will for the first time be all women.

While the Dems flipped three BernCo Senate seats, Neomi Martinez Parra could not keep the seat of Deming Senator John Arthur Smith in their corner. She knocked off Smith in the primary but R Crystal Diamond prevailed over her last night in the most expensive state Senate race in the state. 

The race between Dem Pam Cordova and R Josh Sanchez for the Valencia/Cibola county Senate seat that was held by Clemente Sanchez but who was ousted by Cordova in the primary, appeared to go to Sanchez. The contest was a surprise.

With the Diamond win and apparent Sanchez win, the R's made up two of the seats flipped by the Dems in BernCo giving them a net gain of one. Still, the state Senate was charting a more liberal course as a result of the primary when conservative-leaning Dems were knocked off. Nothing last night changes that. The Senate started the night 26 to 16 Dem. 

The ABQ Dem Senate victors were Dem Harold Pope, Jr. over R Sen. Sander Rue; Katy Duhigg over GOP Sen. Candace Gould and Dr. Martin Hickey who beat R John Morton to flip the seat of retiring Senator Bill Payne in the ABQ NE Heights. 


The state House started the night 46 to 24 Democrat and will end up close to that when everything is counted. Speaker Brian Egolf says the Dems could end up losing one or pick up a couple when the races are fully accounted for. Again it won't make much difference. The Dems and their commanding majority will remain on a liberal course. 

That constitutional amendment that would abolish the five member Public Regulation Commission (PRC) and replace it with a three member panel appointed by the Governor won 55 to 45 approval.

All the state supreme court and court of appeals races were swept by the Dems, although the red ripple helped curb the margin of victory in the traditionally blue judge seats. 

The Bernalillo County Commission wilL continue to have one GOP member. George Benson chased away a close Dem pursuer to take the NE Heights seat 52 to 48.


Lt. Governor Howie Morales told our KANW 89.1 FM radio audience that the election results show the polarization between New Mexico's cities and its rural areas has hardened. A former Silver City state Senator he pledge himself to trying to somehow bridge the divide that comes down to values and Trump. The unresolved presidential race put on the back burner rumors that Gov. MLG could get a spot in a Biden cabinet, making Morales Governor.

Analyst Payne said that the strong red showing in rural New Mexico reminded him of when the GOP used to be competitive statewide but he said they did that by also being competitive in the ABQ area. "Until they crack that nut and figure out how to diminish these landslide totals in ABQ and cease the intraparty infighting, they will remain in the wilderness," he opined. 

Thanks to all who tuned in to our radio broadcast and to our exceptionally well-informed panel. 

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Tuesday, November 03, 2020

The Finale: Election Day 2020 Arrives With Vast Majority Of Votes Already Cast; Record Turnout A Near Certainty; Our Election Night Coverage Starts At 6:30 P.M. On KANW 89.1 FM And KANW.COM  

Our Election Night coverage begins at 6:30 p.m. on KANW 89.1 FM ABQ/Santa Fe and KANW.COM.

An explosion in early voting will propel turnout for the 2020 election to previously unimagined heights with over 70 percent of the state's 1.350 million voters expected to cast ballots. A record turnout is a near certainty easily eclipsing the 2008 record of 833,000. 

The US Elections Project, relying on data from the SOS, reports 782,047 early votes were cast. And there are still 71,500 absentee ballots in the hands of voters with today the last day to get them in. 

The great majority of those absentees are expected to be counted. Combine that with today's Election Day voting and turnout should easily surf past 900,000 with the possibility of 950,000 and beyond still on the table. In terms of percentage of registered voters casting a ballot, we may reach the record from 2008 election when 70.4 percent of registered cast ballots. To do that we would have to get to 951,674.

48.6 percent of the early vote came from Dems who have 45.2% of the state's registered voters. Republicans made up 34.9 percent. Their state registration is 31.3%. Independents cast 15.4% of the early vote. They make up 21.5% of state registration. 467,675 people voted early in-person and 385,884 requested absentee ballots. Republicans and independents are expected to favor Election Day voting today more than the Dems. 

The lesson? If voting is made easy, voters vote, especially in a controversial presidential election. Because of the pandemic absentee ballot applications were sent to all registered voters and they responded in droves. As we've blogged, this election is bound to redefine how New Mexico votes in the future with mail and early voting an even larger part of the equation. Voters simply want the convenience and their elected representatives will respond. 

The large turnout is benefitting Democrats, according to the polls. President Trump lags far behind Joe Biden and if Democrats pad their majorities in the state Senate and House they can largely thank the historic turnout.


Monday we took a look at the prospects for the Senate. Today a look at  some of the key House races to be decided tonight. The central question: Can R's rebound from the 2018 blue wave that had the House go from a 38 to 32 Dem-controlled chamber to 46-24?

If a rebound is going to happen we can first look to the far ABQ NE Heights seat of appointed Dem State Rep. Marian Matthews who faces R Bob Godshall. The district is affluent and Republican. The Dems took it in the '18 blue wave with Bill Pratt as their nominee. He passed away and attorney Matthews was appointed to fill the seat.  Both sides see this as the R's #1 pick-up opportunity.

R's are trying to knock off another freshman blue wave victor---ABQ area Dem Rep. Karen Bash--who took the NW seat from R Rep. Moncia Youngblood whose drunk driving arrest sunk her. But with Biden poised for a metro landslide, Dems are confident this seat will be a hold for them, even though the district can correctly be called lean R. 

Outside of the ABQ area R's are spinning hopes for a pick-up of the Las Cruces area seat of Dem Rep. Willie Madrid. Former Republican Rep. Rick Little carries those hopes. This is the third election in a row this duo have faced each other. They each have won it once. This is the tiebreaker. 

That's just a taste of the top House races and we'll cover them all tonight. Dem insiders say a good night for them would be to hold all their incumbents and pick up a seat or two. A good night for the R's would be similar--a pick up of at least two. But with the Dem majority already so lopsided, it will be any internecine warfare between Dems that observers will be watching for at the next legislation session, rather than clashes between D's and the badly outnumbered R's.


It's always a good idea to keep an eye on Valencia County on a presidential Election Night. The Politico is among those watching:

Valencia County has the longest streak of picking presidents of any county in the United States. It started in 1952, when Dwight D. Eisenhower ended the Democratic Party’s two-decade-long occupation of the White House. In every election since, the candidate who has carried Valencia County has also won the presidency.

Valencia is 41% Dem, 36% R and 20% independent. Dems are thinking it could go their way after voting Trump in '16 because of the President's weakness among suburban women nationwide. Tonight we get the answer. 


It's a cast of thousands. Well, not quite but we will will have a crowd of experts on hand at KANW 89.1 FM and KANW.COM for in-depth election coverage tonight, our 32nd year of broadcasting New Mexico elections on public radio. 

Dem State Reps. Moe Maestas and Tara Lujan will maintain the legislative desk along with Marianna Anaya, president of Emerge NM. GOP consultants Bob Cornelius and Doug Antoon will cover all things Trump and also eagle eye that hot southern congress race. Dem consultant and political lifer Sisto Abeyta will dig deep for trends in all the major races. He'll team with fellow vet Steve Cabiedes. And we'll coax some pearls of wisdom from two other experts of La Politica--ABQ attorney David Buchholtz and Santa Fe attorney Cliff Rees. Then there's our army of Alligators who will blow up our phone if we should stray from our mission.  Should be fun. See you tonight. 

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Monday, November 02, 2020

On Election Eve Suspense Looms Over Outcome of State Senate Races And Southern Congressional Battle; Other US House Races Set For Dem Blowouts 

Election Eve arrives with little doubt about the outcome of most major state races. They have been devoid of suspense for weeks but there are exceptions. 

Chief among them is what the current 26-16 Democratic state Senate majority will look like at the end of tomorrow night. Most politics watchers expect the Dems to add to that majority but the chances that the night ends with no change can't be dismissed. 

Then there's the southern congressional race. It's tighter than a hangman's knot and no telling who is going to be on the wrong end of it.  Off we go for a final trip around the 2020 campaign trail. . .

Progressive Democrats got their job half done when they ousted prominent conservative leaning Dem senators in the June primary, but now the state waits to if those primary winners prevail and if their numbers will be boosted more by the defeat of GOP senators struggling for their political lives as a sea of blue floods over big Bernalillo County.

There is uncertainty over how far the Senate will veer from the center-right when it gets back to work in January. What's at stake Tuesday is fundamental policy regarding education funding, marijuana, abortion, energy regulation and more. Will the progressives unlock more Election Night treasure or see their growth spurt slowed?

Heading into the final hours, La Politica is hovering over the ABQ westside district of GOP Senator Sander Rue--like vultures waiting for the inevitable. Rue has been on the ropes since the start and the death watch only intensified with each passing day. The often moderate and well-liked Rue could survive but Dem Harold Pope Jr. Seems poised to take the seat and become the state's first Black state Senator. How "progressive" would he be? The business lobbyists will go to work on him in record time. 

Two other GOP seats at risk in BernCo--Candace Gould in the North Valley and Rio Rancho and the NE Heights seat being vacated by Republican Sen Bill Payne--are also teetering in the face of what is expected to be a landslide for Biden in the ABQ metro. In the final ABQ Journal poll Biden was pounding Trump 62-34 here and beating him 54-39 statewide.

The Corrales area seat of conservative leaning Dem Sen. John Sapien, who retired, is now expected to be placed in more liberal Dem hands, those of Brenda McKenna--although that district has a history of very close races. The Grants area seat of Senator Clemente Sanchez, who was ousted in the Dem primary, is expected to go to Pam Cordova over R Josh Sanchez.  

Not much has been heard about the Valencia County "Battle of the Bacas." But Dems are putting Paul Baca on their radar in the final hours, hoping for a possible upset of freshman GOP Senator Greg Baca. They anticipate Valencia going blue in the presidential contest and it could pull Paul into the winner's circle, along with him outspending Greg.

Senator John Arthur Smith, perhaps still smarting from his June primary defeat by giant killer Neomi Martinez Parra, has gone public and predicted that the Republican will take his seat and that Neomi will lose to GOP bright light Crystal Diamond. Dems admit this one could go either way. But the progressives have already won--Smith is not going back to the Roundhouse and is headed to the rocking chair circuit. The huge conservative power he accumulated will go with him--with or without Diamond.

Our Senate watchers will be out in force on KANW 89.1 FM and kanw.com starting at 6:30 Election Night. Rarely is there no surprises in the legislative contests. We'll check in on the late state House action tomorrow.


The southern congressional race is so tight that when you look at it your fingernails sweat. The final Journal poll had it 48% to 46%, with Republican Yvette Herrell holding the tiny lead in a survey with an anything can happen margin of error of nearly 5 per cent. We've been here before. In their 2018 match-up Herrell led by one point in the final Journal poll but Xochitl Torres Small eeked out a win of 3,722 votes. 

Can it get any closer? Well, yes. 

The 538 forecasting site gives Torres small a very small edge of winning, putting her chances at 56 out of 100. The forecast popular vote is a deja vu of '18---50.6 to 49.4. Turnout is expected to come in around 225,000 to 250,000 If that popular vote forecast were to become reality Torres Small would defeat Herrell by the slim margin of 2,700. 


The southern Congress race is now the most expensive of any in New Mexico history, topping an astounding $30 million when all outside money is tallied along with the cash the candidates have raised. It's so overwhelming that neither candidate has a financial advantage. So many people have already cast early ballots that the late TV ads to reach the few potential voters left are monumentally expensive. 

President Trump is running strong in the south, unlike his lagging performance in the ABQ and northern congressional districts and that is supremely important for Herrell. He was only 4 points ahead in the early September Journal. But pollster Brian Sanderoff predicts that Trump's margin of victory there will now exceed the ten points he won it by in 2016. Statewide Biden was beating Trump 54-42 in the Journal poll.

Also, while Republicans had held their fire in early voting and are expected to show up with more force on Election Day in ABQ and the north,  in the south the R's rushed to the polls early, outperforming the Dems by about 8,000 votes as of Friday night. Torres Small has to step on the gas tomorrow and get more Dems and Independents to the polls, especially in vote-laden Dona Ana County. 

It's all about enthusiasm and energy and the southern R's (particularly the SE R's) have had it and put on an impressive show. Now the stage is set for a finish of high drama. It's like watching the roulette ball swirl around the wheel as your heart pounds in anticipation. . . Enough already. Our fingernails are sweating again. 


Ben Ray Lujan appears to have sealed the deal over Mark Ronchetti with the final Journal poll giving the northern congressman an eight point lead of 52-44. Libertarian Bob Walsh was pulling 3 percent. That's solid for Lujan but not a few Dems are expressing disappointment that the 10 year House veteran is not beating the former TV meteorologist by double digits. Lujan was not exceptionally well-known statewide at the start of the campaign and Ronchetti kept his foot on his neck with constant negative ads. But it appears Lujan will have six years to figure it all out--the length of a term in the United States Senate. 

The ABQ and northern congressional contests are, as expected, set to be blow-outs for the Dems. 


ABQ Dem state Senator Jerry Ortiz y Pino, 78, has this cautionary note for those planning to vote tomorrow, especially those like him who are in the high risk group for coronavirus consequences: 

Friends who've voted early tell me that voters showing up without masks have to be allowed to vote. When a friend complained about precinct officials allowing voters without masks to come into the polling locations, they were told "Federal law doesn't permit us to send them out--it would be considered "impeding a voters." Matt Runnels in Silver City complained about this and the menace it represents, but even the Secretary of State and the Governor's office told him there was nothing they could do about it. So it's nice that they are assuring people how safe it is to vote in person, but for those who show up at the same time as one of those maskless voters making a statement about their rugged individuality and unhinged freedom, tough luck. Just wear double masks and stay as far away from those who are bare-faced.


Thanks to radio personalities T. J. Trout of KKOB, Eddy Aragon of ABQ's Rock of Talk and Richard Eeds of KTRC radio in Santa Fe for making us part of their election coverage this cycle. We've enjoyed it. Here's our recent interview with Eeds.

A reminder: Our Election Night coverage on public radio KANW 89.1 FM and KANW.COM kicks off at 6:30 Election Night. 

E-mail your news and comments. (newsguy@yahoo.com)

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


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