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Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Odds Still Seem Against Legal Pot In NM And Why BernCo Sheriff Scared Away Dem Votes  

Legalizing recreational marijuana is on the minds of a lot of Dems in the wake of last week’s Democratic sweep but we're reading the tea leaves and still not seeing an easy path for such legalization in the state Senate. A leading marijuana advocate seems to be getting the same vibe. He talked about the stance of Gov-elect Lujan Grisham:

"Her views on cannabis use mirror our organizations," said New Mexico Cannabis Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Vincent Galbiati. He believes Lujan Grisham's win will help strengthen the industry. "We really believe in the expansion and improvement in the medical side of cannabis, and we also look at that as a stepping stone to responsible adult use," said Galbiati.

Not exactly a battle cry there for legal pot but rather a prioritizing of medical weed.

MLG has said she favors legal recreational pot "under specific circumstances, including that any law passed protects existing medical cannabis programs; addresses workplace intoxication; public safety; restricts underage use; and regulates the production of edible cannabis products."

That's a mouthful of circumstances and likely enough for the conservatives in the Senate to grab onto and put puffing legal pot in the DOA pile but not until it flies through the state House.

MAKING A DC DEAL

Let the deal making begin. From DC:

Illinois Rep. Cheri Bustos announced that she was dropping out of the race for the next Assistant Democratic leader and would instead seek to chair the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. . . Bustos acknowledged that DCCC Chairman Ben Ray Luján’s decision to enter the assistant leader race influenced her decision to exit it. . . ."I believe Chairman Luján deserves a higher-level seat at the leadership table,” she said. The New Mexico Democrat is coming off a strong midterm election that saw the party pick up at least 30 seats so far. . .

Rep. David Cicilline, a progressive Dem from Rhode Island, is also vying for Assistant Democratic Leader, a top position in the House leadership.

MANNY'S DEM TROUBLE


Sheriff Gonzales
Democratic BernCo Sheriff Manny Gonzales won another four year term last week but not by an overwhelming margin. He defeated Republican Lou Golson 55-45. Golson raised hardly any money and had a near zero presence in the campaign.

The Dem candidates for statewide office all scored well over 60 percent in big BernCo. So what happened to Manny? One problem was his insistence that his deputies not be equipped with lapel cameras. So says Democratic reader Jeffrey Paul:

I voted for Republican Golson. There was one factor that made this an easy decision; Sheriff Gonzales’s refusal to allow his deputies to wear body cameras. Albuquerque and Bernalillo County have not been immune to the national trend of police excessive use of force allegations. As body cameras have become the norm in law enforcement, the “he said-she said” defense is no longer acceptable. Body camera usage can, and has been, a deterrent to excessive use of force as well as valuable evidence in the investigation of these allegations. I asked on Facebook if any of my fellow Democrats could explain to me why I should vote for the Democratic Sheriff who refuses to allow body cameras? Not one person replied. Am I to assume that most Democrats were more concerned with protecting the Blue Wave than protecting the civil rights of those mostly affected by alleged excessive force? It pains me to think that.”

HERRELL’S LAWSUIT

By all means impound the 8,000 Doña Ana County absentee ballots as unsuccessful southern Republican congressional candidate Yvette Herrell is asking a District Court to do. If there is massive fraud that would overturn the 3,500 plus lead of Democrat Xochitl Torres Small we certainly need to know about it. 

While there was gross incompetence in counting the votes which led to news agencies erroneously reporting that Herrell was the winner it’s highly unlikely that the election, as Herrell implies, was stolen. 

Maybe if Yvette had shown the same moxy when it came to debating Torres Small, which she refused to do, and when she refused to refute a campaign commercial that alleged she had misused her position as a state representative to obtain contracts for her family’s business, she might be in the driver’s seat. 

 If national Dems were stupid enough to run a crooked absentee vote campaign they deserve everything the courts can give them. But if Herrell is trying to destroy the election process because she is personally bitter she will deserve the opprobrium that is sure to follow if she fails to prove her case. 

THE BOTTOM LINES

We blogged last week that after the election there are not "any" Republicans in statewide offices. We should have said statewide "executive offices" such as Treasurer, Auditor, Governor etc.

ABQ attorney Ray Vargas III points out that there are still two Republicans serving who were elected statewide before this year's election. They are NM Supreme Court Judge Judy Nakamura and Court of Appeals Judge Miles Hanisee.

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Tuesday, November 13, 2018

With Many New Faces The House Democrats Meet Amid Many Questions In The Air, Plus: Dona Ana Congress Vote Finalized 

House Dems Meet
"We had to move to a larger room" joked one Democratic lawmaker. And that neatly summed up the new world order in Santa Fe. Over the weekend many of the Dems who will make up the New Mexico House of Representatives in 2019 (up to 46 pending recounts) caucused to elect their leadership.

As a result of the November 6 election it is the largest Dem House membership since the 90's. Their GOP opposition has been diminished to 24 in the 70 member chamber.

The representatives met Saturday on the third floor of the Roundhouse in that "larger room." The highlight was an appearance by their fellow Dem and Governor-elect Michelle Lujan Grisham. We're told by an attendee:

She was with us for 90 minutes. Some of the questions to her went deep in the weeds, like particular regulations at the Children Youth and Families Department (CYFD). She wowed the caucus with her knowledge of that agency and all of state government. It was such a drastic change from the current Governor."

Lujan Grisham, a three term congresswoman from ABQ, is herself a veteran of state government, having served as a cabinet secretary under three Governors. Her in-depth knowledge of the bureaucracy is expected to be of great assistance to her as she fills vacancies and begins the long job of making that bureaucracy more responsive, particularly the departments that preside over child welfare and public education.

QUESTION MOST ASKED

Sen. Smith
The question most on the lips of political observers and the politicians at the Capitol is: "What is John Arthur Smith thinking?"

The Deming state senator, chairman of the powerful Senate Finance Committee and a well-known budget hawk, was often a thorn in the side of Bill Richardson, the last Democratic Governor. It's feared by some Dems that he and his handful of conservative Dem allies in the Senate could roadblock major legislation approved by the more liberal House and supported by MLG.

A senior lawmaker tells us:

Joe, there have been meetings about funding public education by an additional $1 billion dollars over several years in order to comply with a district court order that said the  underfunded schools are in violation of the state Constitution. Smith has not blinked.

That's an optimistic sign for those hoping that the conservative coalition in the Senate--all the Republicans plus Dems Smith, Munoz, Sapien, Clemente Sanchez and Mary Kay Papen--are ready to bend, especially in light of the Democratic wave that swept away so many House Republicans.

Then there is the unspoken threat of 2020 Democratic primary opposition for the conservative Senators who do not compromise and resist putting to work a budget surplus that could total upwards of $2 billion when lawmakers meet in January.

As for the proposed constitutional amendment that if approved by voters would tap the state's $18 billion Land Grant Permanent Fund and use a portion of it to fund early childhood programs, Smith has not said anything publicly about it since the election of Lujan Grisham. She touted the amendment during her campaign. How that proposal is handled will reveal much about the relationship between the Senate and MLG and the willingness of both sides to make a deal.

SAME TEAM

The caucus made no change in their House leadership. Santa Fe's Brian Egolf again was recommended as House Speaker. The full House will vote on the nomination in January and Egolf will win because the Dems have an overwhelming majority. ABQ's Sheryl Williams Stapleton was again named House Majority Leader and Doreen Gallegos of Las Cruces was chosen as Majority Whip. Rep. D. Wonda Johnson of Gallup was again selected as House Majority Caucus Chair.

DONE IN DONA ANA 

Yvette Herrell dashed before the Fox News cameras over the weekend looking for a sympathetic voice to hear her plea that something was amiss--she wasn't quite sure what--with the election results in her southern congressional district race whose unofficial winner is Dem Xochitl Torres Small.

Fox's Judge Jeanine dutifully went along with the ambiguous declarations of the Alamogordo state representative. But it didn't change anything. The Secretary of State reports that all Dona Ana County ballots--including provisionals--have now been counted. The latest numbers:

Torres Small has a district wide lead of 3,539 votes. It's 100,570 for her and 97,031 for Herrell. That's 50.90% to 49.10%. That's close but not razor thin.

In Dem Dona Ana, Torres Small claimed 39,190 to Herrell's 21,462. That's 64.61% to 35.39%. And there's nothing suspicious about the results. Dem Guv candidate Lujan Grisham received 61 percent in the county so the absentee vote drive on behalf of Torres Small gave her an added boost. That in turn helped her win the district which usually goes R.

The Dona Ana results will be made official by that county's canvassing board today and the state canvassing board will do the same for all the results November 27. Torres Small will carry the title Congresswoman-elect until taking the oath of office in January.

The only question left is whether Republican Steve Pearce will even wait for Torres Small to be sworn in before announcing he will try to get the seat back in 2020.

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Monday, November 12, 2018

Veterans Day 2018 Observed Today 

 Veterans Day:

"Lord, bid war's trumpet cease; Fold the whole earth in peace." Oliver Wendell Holmes

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Thursday, November 08, 2018

Flip Flop: Xochitl Takes It Back From Yvette; Plus: R's Running On Empty; Blame Game Underway, The Many Women Of The House, Ben Ray's Climb, Transition Time And Dona Ana Clerk Chaos  

What's the bigger story? That Xochitl Torres Small ended up winning the southern congressional seat for the D's or the utter undoing of the New Mexico Republican Party? We'll take a stab at both. . .

Torres Small, left for politically dead Election Night when the race was called for Republican Yvette Herrell, was taken off life support in Dona Ana County last night as 8,000 absentee ballots were added to the final total. She blew Herrell away in those ballots in the Dem leaning county. That outcome not only eliminated a small lead Herrell had been nursing, but delivered a 50%-49 win to the 33 year old water rights attorney.

Herrell refused to concede, saying there are 1,000 provisional ballots still outstanding, But she is down by 2,700 votes and most of those provisionals won't be counted. Time to make the call, Yvette. Xochitl doesn't seem the vindictive type and neither do you.

Torres Small will have her challenges in the US House. She suppressed a liberal streak to appeal to the large swath of the district that is conservative. But she should do fine. The Dem leadership will give her legislation that will boost her bona fides and protect her from the progressive agenda that could expose here to a strong GOP challenge in 2020. Also, she an experienced former congressional aide and smart.

Not to slight Harry Teague, the last Dem to hold the district but only for two years, but Torres Small seems like a congresswoman with staying power. Maybe Steve Pearce who will be 73 in 2020 harbors hopes of coming back in two years and running for the seat he abandoned to run an ill-fated campaign for Governor. But when you suffer a massive US Senate loss (2008) and another whipping in a race for Governor, the electorate tends to notice the tire tracks on your back.

R'S ON EMPTY

Right now there is not much power of any kind in the Republican Party. In fact, there are barely any signs of life. There is no longer any R in the state's congressional delegation or holding statewide elective office (excluding two members of the judiciary), a very rare occurrence.

The Torres Small victory completes the silencing of the conservative voice in this state's government. That was witnessed in the Democratic sweep of all statewide offices and the pick up of up to 8 seats in the state House--all of them by progressive oriented candidates.

Consultant Leanne Leith, a  key player on Speaker Egolf's election team, says when all the recounting is done Dems should have 46 members to the R's 24. That's up from a 38 to 32 split and would be the highest Dem total this century.

There will still be two functioning ideologies--liberal Democrats and more conservative Dems. That's how it was when I started here in the early 1970's. It remained that way for years for the downtrodden R's.

The blame game is underway in earnest in the GOP over who and what caused this wreckage. The Gov. Martinez/Jay McCleskey faction blames current GOP chairman Ryan Cangiolosi and his mentor former GOP chair Harvey Yates for their incompetence..

Martinez and McCleskey get the blame from them for running a failed government, accompanied by vindictiveness against their own and ending it by sabotaging Herrell who was the last chance for the GOP to salvage something.

Martinez never did endorse Herrell and even dissed her by saying she questioned whether she was qualified.

AN ELE?

We called the near demise of the GOP on Election Night an existential event, but it's more than calling the identity of the party into question. With the Herrell loss it's now more like an extinction level event--ELE. Attracting young and vibrant leadership to a sinking ship is just one of the problems; never mind the party's stubborn resistance to moderating itself to appeal to a wider range of voters in this now firmly majority-minority state.

WOMEN OF THE HOUSE

Women, mostly Dems, will now hold 31 of the 70 NM House seats. That's 44 percent How did that happen? Well, it's been slowly happening for a number of years. But do you think the social conditions crisis of neglected and murdered children, last or near last in the education and child well-being standings, constant violence, drug addiction and dysfunctional families may have something to do with it? Not that these are "women's issues." They are of concern to all, but it is women who are on the front lines of this crisis that has led to so much trauma. It will be women who will have to lead the turnaround. They now have the leadership to do that. Let's see what happens.

BEN RAY'S CLIMB

We broke this on the blog Wednesday. Now confirmed:

Congressman Ben Ray Luján announced his bid for Assistant Democratic Leader. In a letter to his colleagues Congressman Luján outlined his vision for the next Congress.

“To succeed, we must welcome ideas from all corners of our Caucus. To protect our majority and hold the Trump administration and Congressional Republicans accountable, we must bring our vision directly to the American people, listen to their concerns, and show them how we are working for them.”

Lujan, chairman of the DCCC who was easily re-elected to his northern Dem district Tuesday night, ran the successful effort to win back control of the US House. He made his leadership announcement the day after the victory. But he has competition for the slot. Rep. Cherri Bustos of Illinois announced earlier as did Rep. David Cicilline, a progressive Dem from Rhode Island.

TRANSITION TIME

Former Dem US Senator Jeff Bingaman will chair the transition of MLG to the governorship and her campaign Manager, Dominic Gabello will be the director, she announced Wednesday. Video here.

The Bingaman appointment will be reassuring to government watchers. It also fades the heat that Lujan Grisham endured over ethics from Steve Pearce. More important to all you Alligators is the jobs. Gobs of jobs. And a website to apply for them. Happy hunting.

CLOSE CALL

One vote can make a big difference. Take, for example, the retention election of BernCo Metro Court Judge Linda Rodgers. She and other judges standing for retention for four year terms are required to win 57 percent approval from those voting, Well, Rodgers did that by getting 57.02 percent or just 38 votes over the required amount. Judge Michelle Castillo Dowler had a similar nail biter. She received 57.15%, just barely enough to keep her job.

Judges Ed Benavidez and Kenny Montyoa weren't so lucky. Each received only 55 percent and will be booted off the bench.

MORE LIBERAL?

Suddenly the Public Regulation Commission (PRC) gets a lot more liberal:

Democrat Stephen Fischmann is the unofficial winner in the Public Regulation Commission’s southwest District 5.

With fellow Dems Cynthia Hall and Valerie Espinoza, Fischmann gives the five member PRC a much more progressive bent, perhaps giving utilities the group regulates some headaches while pursuing more renewable energy for  the state.

CLERK CHAOS 

The healthy margin of victory for Torres Small was especially important as the R's were gearing up to come down on the Dona Ana County Clerk for incompetence and maybe worse. The office is recovering from this year's scandal in which the former clerk was having an affair with another employee and misspending money. The new clerk was only recently appointed by the county commission.

That new clerk mishandled the absentee count by not hiring enough workers to count and failing to make clear to the state on Election Night the number of absentees that remained to be counted. Then she sent the workers home to get rest and had them come back in the morning. That sounds familiar to those of us who dealt with the very same issues years ago in Bernalillo County.

Apparently the Secretary of State is not the final arbiter of when a county clerk should stop the count. That needs to be looked at because perception of election integrity is as important as its implementation. And why were only a handful of volunteers counting thousands of absentee ballots? That's another issue Secretary of State Toulouse Oliver could look at to improve state elections. The state has gone through repeated counting disasters, including the scandalous one in Dona Ana County in 2000. We dodged a bullet this year in bringing back the bad old days but why continue to leave it to chance?

FIRST MANNY

As far as we can tell Michelle Lujan Grisham will be the first single Governor but her fiancé is Manuel Cordova so you get this:

Lujan Grisham said her long-time fiance Manuel Cordova would be the “first Manny.”

But does he make a good baloney sandwich?

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Wednesday, November 07, 2018

BernCo Tsunami Felt Statewide As Dems Sweep; Herrell Lone Bright Spot For R's (Maybe!); Dem State House Pick Ups Could Reach 7; GOP Icons Fall; Anti-Trump Sentiment Sends Turnout Soaring; Possible MLG Staff Chief Floats; Udall Announces 2020 Re-elect; Ben Ray To Leadership?  

Lujan Grisham (Rosales; Journal)
A blue tsunami washed over Bernalillo County Tuesday night, flattening the Republican Party and making possible a Democratic sweep of every major statewide office. The damage was so thorough that it appeared Bernalillo County might have only one Republican state representative in Santa Fe at the next legislative session in January.

Swept away was Republican gubernatorial nominee Steve Pearce who lost BernCo 62 to 38 to Michelle Lujan Grisham and lost the state 57-43.

The two opponents of Senator Martin Heinrich never showed. He won a second term with 53 percent. Dem Deb Haaland managed 59 percent in a three way race to take the ABQ congressional seat.

All statewide results here. BernCo results here.

GOP state land commissioner candidate Pat Lyons was defeated by Dem Stephanie Garcia Richard 50 to 44 with 6 for a Libertarian candidate. She beat him in BernCo by over 35,000. It was the first ever defeat for Lyons, yet another sign of the Dem wave.

Republican foes of Attorney General Hector Balderas, State Auditor candidate Brian Colon and State Treasurer Tim Eichenberg were all overwhelmed as were the GOP opponents of four Democratic women seeking seats on the NM Court of Appeals. The ten member court will now have its most women members in history.

The only bright light for the GOP was an apparent close win--50-49 (as of 2 A.M. today) by southern GOP congressional candidate Yvette Herrell who closed out Democrat Xochitl Torres Small to emerge in a race that drew national interest and money.

Torres Small was not conceding as Herrell led by about 2,000 votes because:

Dona Aña County had about 4,000 absentee ballots still to be counted. The absentee precinct board was to reconvene at 10 a.m. to continue the tabulation. In addition, there are another 4,000 votes that haven’t been added to the published results yet, for a total of 8,000 votes outstanding, officials said.

Looks like a wild finish. Just like the campaign. If Torres Small were to get 62.5 percent of this outstanding ballots she would take the lead in the race. The clerk's office there has been plagued with scandal. Their decision to stop the count is going to raise suspicions among the R's. Stay tuned. (The counting resumed at 10 Wednesday morning)

AN EXISTENTIAL EVENT

Speaker Egolf
The rout, which will see the Democrats gain as many as 7 seats in the state House, raised fundamental questions about the future of the NM GOP.  Former ABQ GOP State Senator Diane Snyder, appearing on our KANW 89.1 FM election coverage, spoke for Republicans statewide as she declared;

We must simply find a way to figure out Bernalillo County.

The D landslide in BernCo was matched by ones in blue Santa and Taos counties. In Taos Lujan Grisham received a stunning 81 percent of the vote; in Santa Fe it was 79%.

It was this county troika that was deadly to the R's and threatens to undermine them for years to come. The three counties are hardening into Democratic citadels akin to what we have seen in California and Oregon. And Dona Ana is not far behind.

Turnout soared, especially in BernCo where 57 percent of the registered voters came out--over 240,000. That is a shout away from what you get in presidential election years. The anti-Trump vote was galvanized, noted NM House Speaker Brian Egolf, as he surveyed the GOP carnage from his war room at the Hotel ABQ.

Several House seats appeared headed to recounts but the existential threat the R's face in ABQ (and thus NM) was nowhere more evident than in the ABQ NE Heights seat of the late Republican Larry Larranaga. An 82 year old physician, Bill Pratt, was given little chance of winning but is now on his way to the Roundhouse, an affirmation that the blue creep in big BernCo is now overtaking territory once considered unassailable by Democratic assaults.

YOUNGBLOOD FALLS

ABQ GOP State Rep. Monica Youngblood thought she had a chance. She sent out a letter to her constituents apologizing for her aggravated DWI conviction. But the tsunami showed no mercy and she was drowned in a landslide by Dem foe Karen Bash, a 72 year old retired minister.

UNHEEDED CRIES

Cries for help were heard in other once conservative bastions but they went unheeded. Rep. James Dines fell along with longtime GOP icons Brad Winter and Jimmie Hall.

All were defeated by women who may now hold 31 of the 70 state House seats, a watershed moment in state politics. And the first Muslim ever elected to the state House engineer Abbas Akhil, who unexpectedly defeated Dines, will sit with them.

When all is said and done and in some cases recounted , the state House goes from a 38 to 32 majority to 45-25. That matches the high the Dems have had this century. And it may not get better for a long, long time. The new Democratic Governor will be in her chair when legislative redistricting takes place in 2021.

Michael Lujan Grisham

The Governor-elect's first order of business was to chastise her staff on statewide TV for not having her acceptance speech placed in the teleprompter. She yelled out for assistance but none was forthcoming so she told the crowd she would "speak from her heart." She could have read from the telephone book and pleased the crowd, so delirious they were over her smashing victory.

She leaned on familiar themes--universal pre-K, renewable energy and teacher pay--to fill the time. The undelivered speech released to the media was actually quite similar to her ad libbed remarks. No news was made.

But the Alligators have news. They always do. So hold on.

LAWRENCE RAEL

A Senior Alligator reports to us the mystery over who will hold the powerful post of chief of staff to soon-to-be Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham may have an answer. That answer could be Lawrence Rael, a bureaucrat's bureaucrat who has served as Chief Administrative Officer to several ABQ mayors and who is currently Chief Operating Officer for ABQ Mayor Mayor Tim Keller.

Rael is a native New Mexican who ran for the Dem Guv primary in 2014. The chief of staff position would put him directly in the orbit of the office that he has long thirsted for. He also has the administrative experience to run the day to day affairs of state government, a skill set not readily available on the Democratic bench.

Insiders say the transition of the new administration is still being fleshed out. The Governor-elect could begin by nominating cabinet appointees who could then lead the transition for their departments, but that's just one scenario. A transition announcement is set for 2 p.m. today.

STEVE PEARCE 

Pearce, 71, said in defeat that he is not ready for retirement. Well, he can always watch over his business interests, but as an elected official he is done. However, he will have a say on the future of the GOP because of Herrell's election to the congressional sea.t Both are foes of the Gov. Martinez/Jay McCleskey wing of the party and will try to rebuild it in their image--not theirs.

For her part, Herrell, who is now the most prominent elected GOP official in the state had this to say:

It's a good thing for the district that I like to talk. Because I am going to be talking about New Mexico shared values for the next two years.

"Shared values" seemed to be a call for unity by the pro-Trump Herrell. Will she moderate a tad in an attempt to lead the state GOP and in preparation for 2020? After all Xochitl appears ready to try again.

BEN RAY LUJAN

The Democrats reclaimed the US House Election Night and that means the star of NM Dem US Rep Ben Ray Lujan, chair of the Dem Congressional Campaign Committee, is shining brightly. Is a House leadership position in his future? Could be. Sources on the Hill say that the job of Assistant Democratic Leader could be vacated by Rep. Jim Clyburn. Rep. Lujan sent out a letter Monday afternoon confirming that he is seeking the position of Assistant Dem Leader.

SENATOR TOM UDALL

Udall stamped out the "not running" in 2020 rumors once and for all in an interview with me on KANW. He referenced our Monday blog in which we quoted insiders who said he was ready to run after months of rumors that he would not. Udall, 70, said those insiders have it right. He is off and running. The Dems lost power in the US Senate last night, but NM turned even deeper blue, making another Udall run an easier task. Truly a mixed night for him.

RADIO GANG

The radio gang
Thanks to the radio team for the great work Election Night. It was as good as it gets.

Reporting from Albuquerque, I'm Joe Monahan.

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Tuesday, November 06, 2018

It's Election Day 2018; Our Radio Coverage Begins At 6:30; Close Races Create Excitement As Does Mystery Over Turnout  

Our Election Night coverage on KANW 89.1 FM ABQ/Santa Fe and on kanw.com begins at 6:30 p.m. Catch the stream here.

ELECTION DAY UPDATE: Color it blue but not a blue wave. Dems voting 51% to 34% over R's so far with 527,000 total votes cast as of 1:30 PM, says SOS. Quality polling models assumed that. Means we should still have close races in southern congress contest and land commissioner contest. And what kind of turnout among independents will we see in the end? And did they go blue?Total turnout should surpass 608,000 cast in 2010 midterm. Headed toward 625 area? That's higher but not overwhelmingly so. Election Night coverage at 6:30 on KANW-FM 89.1 and kanw.com. 

Turnout. Turnout. Turnout. That's the word being repeated over and over today like a Buddhist mantra by nervous political operatives. Only unlike the religious practitioners they are finding little peace of mind. Instead the word evokes both fear and hope in La Politica on this Election Day '18.

Usually there is a pretty good idea about how many voters will cast ballots--critical to forecasting the fortunes of the hottest political races and planning campaign strategy. Not today. Not in the age of Trump. That odd happenstance has grizzled veterans of campaigns past commiserating with fresh-faced political newbies. Everyone is equalized when uncertainty prevails.

Turnout for a midterm election such as this should be in the vicinity of 625,000 to perhaps 650,000 on the high side. But the massive early voting--430,000--has left everyone wondering how many New Mexicans will show up today. A turnout of 200,000 and the polling and turnout models are fine. You start heading toward a total turnout of over 670,000 and the polls and playbooks will look as useful as yesterday's newspaper.

ABQ Dem State Rep. Moe Maestas says if turnout blows the doors off and goes over 700,000--and he doesn't expect that--you could have a towering blue wave washing over this enchanted land, pushing both strong and weak Dems into office.

GOP Chairman Ryan Cangiolosi says he isn't freaking out about turnout, declaring that the GOP will turn out voters today and keep pace with the Dems even if turnout rockets. He says there is "enthusiasm on both sides."

If forced to make a guess at the risk of being denied their green chile for a year, most of the political pros will say we will not see an extraordinary number tonight. But who really knows? Nobody.

LAST STOPS

Dem Guv hopeful Michelle Lujan Grisham will make campaign stops around ABQ for most of the day today, including at the Barelas Coffee House. D ABQ congressional contender Deb Haaland will accompany her. Both candidates have established big polling leads with women voters.

Republican Steve Pearce is also in ABQ today. He will be making radio appearances in the morning and be shaking hands at the Daskalos polling station on Menaul at noon.

PREDICTIONS!

Diane Snyder
You have to have them on Election Day or, well, it wouldn't be Election Day. Here's a couple that grabbed our attention, some of which were made on our Election Eve Special Monday:

--Former ABQ GOP State Senator Diane Snyder says it's no problem for GOP State Rep. Jimmie Hall. She says his "solid reputation" will thwart a big money attempt by the Dems and candidate Melanie Stansbury to take him out this year in the far ABQ NE Heights district. Rep. Maestas predicts Stansbury will prevail because of her superior ground game that includes dozens of volunteers.

--Firefighters union leader Diego Arnecon, an ardent Lujan Gisham backer, comes with the highest margin for a win by her that we've seen--57-43--over Republican Steve Pearce. He also says his turnout prediction of over 675,000 will have to come through for her to reach that percentage. The GOP's Cangiolosi is downplaying the polls and predicts a much closer race.

--ABQ attorney and longtime politico Greg Payne is now a Dem but he predicts the southern congressional race will be a surprise when the race isn't especially close, predicting that R Yvette Herrell will beat Dem Xochitl Torres Small 52-48. R Snyder isn't so sure. She says the race may not be settled until all votes are counted and she's not certain who will win that down-to-the-wire battle.

HERRELL HERITAGE

The late news that GOP congressional hopeful Yvette Herrell is an enrolled member of the Cherokee Nation was a bolt from the blue. We asked her campaign for more details:

Although the degree of blood relation is minimal Ms. Herrell was certified by the Eastern Oklahoma Regional office as being a member of the Cherokee Nation. While she has not ran on this platform she is proud to be enrolled as a member of the Cherokee nation.

Herrell will be in Alamogordo tonight at the Elks Club to watch the returns come in with fellow Otero County R's. Xochitl Torres Small will gather with Dems at the Las Cruces Convention Center.

Dem State Auditor candidate Brian Colón is taking a pass when it comes to the Democratic celebration tonight at the ABQ Hotel where Michelle Lujan Grisham and other candidates will party. Colón is having a chicharrones party at his ABQ home. Will he save some for Michelle?

Steve Pearce and the Republicans will have their party tonight at the ABQ Crowne Plaza hotel.

SORRY, HECTOR

Udall and Monahan
The on again off again speculation about whether Dem US Senator Tom Udall will seek re-election in 2020 is on again now that this election is ready be put to bed and the political class boots up for the next one.

Udall, according to those who claim to know, is no longer weighing the matter and is back on the running again bandwagon. That might make the heart of Attorney General Hector Balderas sink as he’s seen as a possible leading Dem Senate nominee should Udall decide to forego a run.

Udall will be 72 in 2020, not old at all by Senate standards. Just think, if he runs and wins in 2020 he will probably earn the coveted nickname of "Senator Pine Box," meaning the only way he leaves the Senate is in a pine box.

ELECTION NIGHT COVERAGE

Results from the record-setting early vote are going to hit early, shortly after 7 p.m. Don't miss it! 

We look forward to having you with us tonight on KANW 89.1 FM and kanw.com for our 30th year of Election Night coverage. We had a great panel for our Election Eve Special and they'll all be back tonight at 6:30 for the big night. We'll also welcome back Catherine Trujillo, a business consultant and VP of the Taylor Ranch Neighborhood Association as well as Republican Barry Bitzer who has been around state politics for decades.

This is going to be a night of many close races when expert guidance will be essential and we'll have it for you on your radio dial and Internet stream. See you tonight and back here Wednesday with all the results and, of course, the inevitable surprises.

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Monday, November 05, 2018

Election Eve '18 Arrives With Cliffhangers In Abundance; Our Election Eve Special On KANW FM Today at 5 PM., Plus: Early Vote Soars; What Does That Mean For Tomorrow? Complete Coverage Right Here 

And here we are. Finally. A too long and way too expensive Campaign '18 is about to be put to bed by the voters and make its way into the history books. We'll have our final take on it today on our Election Eve Special at 5 p.m. on KANW 89.1 FM and kanw.com. More on that below, but now it's time to head out to the trail one last time before polls open tomorrow for Election Day voting.

By golly, Mr. and Mrs New Mexico, you sure like to vote early these days. The final early turnout hit a whopping 430,796, reports the SOS.

Dems - 223,122 (51.8%) Republicans - 146,637 (34.0%) Libertarians - 2,392 (0.6%) Declined to state (independent) - 56,306 (13.1%) Other - 2,339 (0.5%)

And we still have the actual Election Day to go. So does this mean we are going to have some crazy high turnout number when all is said and done? Maybe not, but it could be higher than most expected. If 65 percent of the voters have voted early--as occurred in the 2016 presidential election--total turnout would be around 660,000. That fits with the forecasts. However, if we get a voter surge tomorrow and that early vote is a much lower percentage of the total vote, turnout will be extra high and could be a boost for the Democratic candidates.

Early voting continues to grow in popularity each cycle. In the 2014 midterm 52 percent voted early. We will land higher tomorrow but noone is certain how much.

SANDEROFF SAYS

Pollster Brian Sanderoff told us this Sunday night about the early vote:

Democrats came out of the early voting gate with tremendous enthusiasm and large numbers. As the days and weeks passed, Republicans’ rate of early voting caught up to the Democrats. In the end, 38.6% of Democrats voted early and 38.3% registered Republicans voted early. But, since there are a lot more registered Democrats than registered Republicans in the state, we ended up with a lot more Democrats voting early than Republicans.

In 2014, 48.5% of the early voters were Democrats compared to 40.1% who were Republican. In 2018, it was 51.8% to 34.0%, which is a big difference and is significant since so many people voted early.


OFF TO THE RACES

XOCHITL TORRES SMALL--If she wins the southern congressional race tomorrow she's here to stay and if she loses she's still here to stay, report our Dem insiders. The investment in her is a four year plan. If she can't take the prize tomorrow night, she will immediately begin campaigning for the seat in the  presidential election year of 2020. That was the idea behind the Rocky Lara candidacy in 2012 but she suffered a landslide defeat at the hands of Rep. Pearce--64-36--and her political career was over.

If Torres Small should falter in the final stretch it appears it won't be my much. That makes another try in two years more of sure thing. It could be easier, too.  A presidential election year has higher turnout.

YVETTE HERRELL--There's much more riding on this election for Herrell than for Torres Small. Lose and she's done politically but more important, a Herrell loss would be devastating to the New Mexico Republican Party. It would mean an all Democratic congressional delegation (assuming Dem victories in the ABQ and northern districts) and no apparent leader to begin rebuilding the state GOP.

The race is tight--46-45--in the final ABQ Journal poll which we covered on a special Sunday blog you can find below, We have it Lean Republican. After reporting that all the national pundits have it a toss up, we did find the Politico rating that now also has it Lean R. (On Monday in its final ranking the Politico shifted the race back to Toss Up.)

Dona Ana County and its increasing Democratic hue is the big story for this congressional district. It could begin to dominate the voting in the years ahead and dilute the conservative Eastside. That's similar to what has happened with Bernalillo County on the state level. BernCo votes so blue that it overwhelms many of the votes in rural New Mexico.

The state's cities are hardening for the Democrats--Las Cruces, ABQ and Santa Fe. The GOP must learn to somehow pick that lock or they could be in for a long spell of hibernation similar to what they endured in the 60's and 70's.

CHEROKEE NATION

Deb Haaland makes the claim that she would be the first Native American woman elected to the US House, but what about Yvette Herrell? It turns out she's an enrolled member of the Cherokee Nation based in Oklahoma. The late news about her lineage just trickled out because Herrell hasn't made a fuss about it nor has she outlined her family tree to show her heritage.

Then there is Sharice Davids, a native American woman who is running for the US House in Kansas. What if all three get elected tomorrow? Who gets the bragging rights as the first? Guess they can draw straws.

NEW GUV SOON

MICHELLE LUJAN GRISHAM--Is it all over but the counting in the gubernatorial race? Lujan Grisham sports a ten point lead in the Journal poll (53-43) over Republican Steve Pearce. She had a 5 point lead in the Oct. 29 Carroll Strategies survey. That's an average lead of 7.5.

Given the backdrop of the state MLG might be yearning for a landslide but that does not appear in the making. A big win, however, does seem only hours away.

The MLG camp has quietly started the transition process. One possible problem? Finding high quality cabinet secretaries. The Dem bench is not jammed with talent. That's something ABQ Mayor Keller found out when he took office and ended up hiring many old hands from years past.

STEVE PEARCE--His deep conservative stripes are not something you can wash away like a temporary tattoo. They are part of his skin. That is why Pearce appears to be in for an Election Night let down. He tried to be moderate but voters--especially Democrats--did not buy what was an excellent marketing pitch. The Pearce brand was built up over decades. That's hard to change in a couple of months. The Journal poll reveals that Lujan Grisham has the support of 19% of self-reported conservatives, whereas Steve Pearce has the support of only 6% of the liberals.

If Herrell wins Pearce's wing of the party will be around to play. If not, it will be anyone's game.

Pearce has one public event on his schedule today. It's at 12:00 PM--a final Albuquerque GOTV event at his campaign headquarters at 4700 Montgomery NE.

MLG also has one public appearance scheduled. At 6 p.m. she rallies in ABQ with Senator Heinrich and most of the Dem ticket at the Alamosa Community Center at 6900 Gonzales Road SW.

The final rally geography is fitting. Pearce needs a strong showing with Republicans in the far NE Heights. MLG wants more Hispanic Valley Dems to show up at the polls.

SENATE SNOOZE

We didn't carry the final US Senate poll from the Journal on our special Sunday blog. How could we forget? Well, pretty easily. This has been a snoozer. The news--if you an call that--is that Republican Mick Rich is very likely going to finish in second place, sparing the GOP a major embarrassment. Former Gov. Gary Johnson, the Libertarian nominee, is polling third. The poll results are Sen. Martin Heinrich 51, Rich 31 and Johnson 12.

WHO WILL LAND SOFTLY?

The race for state land commissioner is one of the more intriguing contests. Dem Stephanie Garcia Richard would be the first woman to hold the office in history and if Republican Pat Lyons were to win it would be for the third time after serving two terms earlier this century.

The race has gone Lean Republican here because of the recent polling showing Lyons ahead and holding on in big BernCo but Dem analyst Greg Payne sees it ultimately falling to Garcia Richard:

It will be close, but remember how women came to her side in the June primary when she upset the field. I see that happening again. 

Expect this one to be a nail biter. You'll hear all the action tomorrow night on KANW when we call that race and all the others.

THE STATE HOUSE


MONICA YOUNGBLOOD---The race appears surprisingly tight, according to both D and R sources. The ABQ NW GOP state legislator had a nightmarish DWI arrest in May and even served a day or so in jail. Her political career is teetering but some of the Dems think the attacks on the issue may have been too cute, leaving the door open for her against Dem challenger Karen Bash. Another fun one to watch tomorrow.

If Youngblood hangs on it would be a blow to the Dems who are working to expand their 38 to 32 majority in the lower chamber. Analysts are getting more conservative as Election Day looms.

Some of them now see Republican Brad Winter hanging on in his bid to replace fellow R Sarah Maestas Barnes in an ABQ NE Heights seat. He has decades of name ID and the hits on him from the Dem Day Hochman-Vigil camp don't seem to have been particularly special.

Also, Republican Rep. Jimmie Hall is seen as still having at least a fighting chance despite a deluge of Dem money and mail that hit his far NE Heights district. (An example is posted. Click to enlarge).

The issue is will older Democrats crossover to keep him because they are unsure of newcomer Melanie Stansbury, a high quality candidate but who does not have as deep of ties to the district as Hall. If Hall manages to pull it out, R insiders expect it will be his last term and that he will not seek re-election to the rapidly changing district in 2020.

Anyway, that's what we hear on these very difficult to call House races. For sure there will be surprises tomorrow might.

ELECTION EVE SPECIAL 

Join us for our traditional Election Eve Special today at 5 p.m. on KANW 89.1 FM in ABQ/Santa Fe and at kanw.com. This marks our 30th year of bringing you election coverage on public radio and there will be pretty of thrills and spills again this year.

My guest experts for the rundown of the campaigns and some fun predictions today are: former ABQ GOP State Senator Diane Snyder, ABQ attorney and longtime consultant Greg Payne; Dem consultant Sisto Abeyta; ABQ Dem State Rep. Moe Maestas and a real, live journalist, Dan Boyd, capitol bureau chief of the ABQ Journal. He'll keep that bunch honest.

OUT AND ABOUT

We'll finish our Election Eve broadcast tonight and get ready for Election Night coverage tomorrow night starting at 6:30. We'll stay on the air for as long as the major races are undecided and if election officials are still counting votes.

On Wednesday we'll have a complete wrap of the results along with expert analysis right here at NM Politics with Joe Monahan.

On Thursday we'll do an election post-mortem for the ABQ area League of Women Voters at their luncheon at the Embassy Suites Hotel.

On Sunday Nov. 11 at 11 a.m. we'll be back at it, running down results and fielding questions before Journey Santa Fe at Collective Works Bookstore and Coffeehouse.

A tip of the hat to the media outlets that had us dissecting the political scene this campaign season. They include the New York Times; Energy News TodayBaffler.comKUNM-FM in ABQ; KSFR-FM and KVSF-FM Santa Fe; ABQ's KKOB 770 AM and KIVA-AM-FM and KWES-FM in Ruidoso.

Now it's on to the Grand Finale.

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

Sunday, November 04, 2018

Lujan Grisham with Double Digit Lead Over Pearce In The Final Journal Survey; Herrell And Torres Small Neck And Neck; Details And Analysis Up Next  

It will be that southern congressional race that will provide the excitement Election Night not the race for Governor, if the final ABQ Journal survey is in the ballpark.

The poll released Sunday reinforces what you've known for weeks.

The race between Republican Yvette Herrell and Xochitl Torres Small is tight--now 46-45--with Herrell leading in the Journal survey. And the race for Governor presents special challenges to Republican Steve Pearce who trails Dem Michelle Lujan Grisham 53-43.

The good news for Herrell is that Torres Small has been behind in both the Journal survey and the Carroll Strategies poll that showed Herrell ahead by five points. The bad news is that she has not been able to close the deal in the conservative southern district as the Dems pump millions in there.

Herrell's leads big on the conservative Eastside of the sprawling district and Torres Small has a large lead in the more moderate Las Cruces area. 

There is a bit of a caveat. Pollster Brian Sanderoff changed his methodology in his final poll. In his first survey he measured the support of only "proven, likely voters" from 2014 and 2016. In this survey he has included newly registered respondents who did not vote in 2014 and 2016 but described themselves as "very likely" to vote in the election. That stands to improve the standing of Torres Small as well as MLG. Will they end up voting is the question.

Still the GOP faces national headwinds. And Torres Small is positioned to take advantage if they continue to blow through Election Day. Her problem is that turn out in the  Las Cruces area appears to be faltering after an initial burst. 

The southern congressional race is rated Lean Republican. 

The ten point lead by MLG over Pearce is substantial. She gets 55 percent in the ABQ metro and carries women with 59 percent. We don't expect her to prevail by quite that 10 point margin on Election Night and see the late breaking vote being dominated by the R's and going to Pearce. And while the Carroll survey was overweighted towards the R's this one may be a bit overweighted toward the Dems.

But that's inside baseball. Both surveys have MLG ahead--one by five the other by ten. She couldn't be happier and Pearce could not be more disappointed.

The race for governor rating changes. It goes from lean Democrat to Likely Democrat. 

In the ABQ congressional race Dem Deb Haaland garners 50 percent in the survey to 38 percent for Republican Janice Arnold-Jones and 5 percent for Libertarian Lloyd Princeton. The district long ago went blue so the numbers are in line with expectations.

ON THE TRAIL

Sen. Heinrich and MLG continue their final days tour of the state today, along with others on the Dem ticket. They will start the day in Gallup and then head to stops in Farmington, Taos, Española and Los Alamos. They will end the day with a 6 p.m rally in Las Vegas.

Steve Pearce continues his Jobs Tour in the ABQ metro today. He'll be inCedar Crest at 2 p.m., head to Moriarty for a meet and greet at 3:30 and finish up 5:30 with another meet and greet in Rio Rancho.

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Saturday, November 03, 2018

Republican Lyons Takes Land Office Lead In Latest Poll; Dem Candidates Lead In Other State Races; Plus: BernCo GOP Chair Says "Union Thug" Will Lead Education Dept If MLG Wins And Some Brutal Hits On the Campaign Trail 

State and national environmentalists, feverishly working to elect Democrat Stephanie Garcia Richard as the next land commissioner, appear on the verge of defeat as Republican hopeful Pat Lyons, a former two term commissioner, is positioned to reclaim the office, despite a year in which Dem candidates have had the wind at their backs

The ABQ Journal's final poll released Saturday gives Lyons a three point edge. He beats Garcia Richard 45 to 42, with Libertarian Michael Lucero getting 6 percent. The survey follows one by ABQ PR firm Carrol strategies conducted October 29 that showed a similar result, with Lyons beating his Dem foe 49 to 45.

The only saving grace for Garcia Richard and the enviros is that she wins among those who have already cast their ballots. If GOP turnout, which is now accelerating, should falter in the final days she could still win. On the other hand, the two polls showing Lyons ahead could energize R's hungry for a win in a year that has been dominated by predictions of a big Dem night.

Already the long knives are out for Garcia Richard and her campaign management. Her TV commercials are routinely described by observers on the left and right as terrible and worse. Her June primary win is being dismissed as a freakish event prodded on by women voters but disconnected from the reality of the office she is seeking.

Lyons is holding Garcia Richard to a tie in the big ABQ metro. That means thousands of Dems are crossing over for him. Pat Lyons has seized the lead in two late polls in the race for land commissioner and it now goes from toss up to Lean Republican.

OTHER RACES

The Dems appear headed for easy wins in all the other down ballot statewide races. They are all above the critical 50 percent mark in the newspaper poll. Attorney General Hector Balderas has a commanding lead, Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver is polling at 51 percent; Dem State Auditor candidate Brian Colón is handily beating Republican Wayne Johnson and Dem State Treasurer Tim Eichenberg is well ahead of his GOP opponent

In the state Supreme Court contest, there is no surprise. Democrat Michael Vigil is outpacing Republican Gary Clingman 53-37.

The poll was conducted Oct. 26-Nov.1 and has margin of error of plus or minus 4.7 percent.

A BIT BRUTAL

It's getting a bit brutal out there in the final hours. For example, Bernalillo County GOP Chairman Robert Aragon is claiming that if Michelle Lujan Grisham is elected Governor she has made a deal to hire Ellen Bernstein, president of the ABQ Teachers Federation as the next Secretary of Education. Aragon made the charge in an interview with ABQ radio station KIVA 95.9 FM:

That's what you can expect. Ellen Bernstein is a union thug and she will be Secretary of Education if Lujan Grisham is elected Tuesday.

Aragon is working hard to gin up the Republican base and doing some old fashioned union bashing is one way to appeal to the hearts of the GOP. MLG has not made public any possible names for her cabinet and neither has Steve Pearce.

Then there's this eyebrow raiser from ABQ GOP congressional candidate Janice Arnold-Jones. In a radio ad she calls Deb Haaland, her Democratic opponent, "DUI Deb."

That's a reference to two DWI convictions Haaland had 35 years ago. She has said the incidents put her on the path of sobriety and she no longer imbibes.

It's a sensitive subject since Haaland would be the first Native American woman elected to the US House and alcohol has historically caused considerable problems for NM Indians. But that isn't stopping Arnold-Jones from bearing down as she hopes for an upset in the contest which heavily favors Haaland.

While Janice is calling Haaland "DUI Deb," Haaland may start calling her opponent "Jittery Janice."

The two candidates were recently the subject of a ten minute video from the Guardian newspaper of London. About three minutes into the video Arnold-Jones melts down when asked for comment about a controversial quote she made. The former state representative, nicknamed "Lady Sunlight" for her record on government transparency, recoils from the questioning and denies the quote cited to her from the ABQ newspaper. She then demands that the Guardian video camera be shut down. The reporter reminded the candidate the decision to videotape is his not hers. Maybe Janice hadn't had her coffee?

The third candidate in the race is Libertarian Lloyd Princeton. He doesn't have a nickname yet. Don't worry, Lloyd. The way this thing is going you're bound to get one.

CRUCES HEAT 

Unexpectedly, it's getting heated in the Las Cruces State House race featuring House Majority Whip Doreen Gallegos and retired GOP businessman David Cheek. Gallegos has spent about $37,000 so far and Cheek $27,000. From a Gallegos mailer:

Candidate David Cheek and his political cronies are spreading false statements for political gain. Problem is the untruths hurt abused and neglected children in foster care. Have you no shame Mr. Cheek?

For 13 years Gallegos has been the Executive Director of Mesilla Valley CASA, a local nonprofit that advocates for abused and neglected children. She says the mailer was prompted in part by Cheek misrepresenting her salary. The race is not considered to be in play by either party.

ON THE ROAD 

This last Saturday of Campaign '18 will find the Guv candidates busy on the trail. MLG  is making stops with Senator Heinrich, including a matanza with Congressman Ben Ray Lujan on the Plaza at Socorro at 11:30 a.m. Steve Pearce continues his "Jobs Now Tour" and his hunt for Democratic votes with a stop in the ABQ South Valley. At 3:30 p.m. he'll be at Bernalillo Motors and Towing on Coors Blvd.

This is the home of New Mexico politics.

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Friday, November 02, 2018

Headlines: Money Mania In Final Month, Who Won Guv Race In October? Final Stretch Ads Pull At Heartstrings, Johnson Trying To Rally And Ben Ray's Days  

A Friday blog?! Hey kids, we're here to serve.

Well, I do feel the ghostly breath of Bruce King, Dave Cargo and Ernie Mills on my neck so blog I must on these final days of the campaign. Let's go. . .

The labor PAC Patriot Majority spent nearly $1 million on ads of all sorts for the Dem legislative candidates and others in the past month, according to the latest money reports filed with the state Thursday. If they can't take out ABQ GOP Rep. Monica Youngblood with that kind of money--convicted and jailed for aggravated DWI--Dems might start calling them Patriot Minority.

By the way, guess who's handling the media for Monica? That's easy. Jay McCleskey, Gov. Martinez's political manager. Hey, maybe Susana will publicly endorse Monica? Uh. Probably not. But she hasn't said a word about her BFF's legal problems.

Meanwhile, Dem Michelle Lujan Grisham has raised $9.3 million for her Guv run since starting out nearly two years ago. She reports spending close to $2 million this past month and raising more than $1.5 million. She had $373,000 in cash on October 30.

Republican Guv candidate Steve Pearce spent $1.56 million over the last month and raised $431,000. He had $123,000 on hand for the final hours.

Both candidates can do us favor: Please don't buy any more TV ads with the dough you have left. We think you've got it covered.

CRAZY MONEY

Friends, it's a no limit poker game. We're talking crazy money, people. From Oxford at the New Mex:

Wow. New Mexico Strong, a super PAC funded by the oil industry, spent nearly $1.9M over the last month, most of it to support Republican Pat Lyons for land commissioner. It's also helping a few GOP state House members.

CVNM Verde Voters reports spending more than $847K over the last month. It's been backing Democrat Stephanie Garcia Richard in the race for land commissioner.

Is this a political campaign or the World Series of Poker?

WHO WON OCTOBER?

If you're a regular around here you know we have been scoring each campaign month in the Governor's race for either Dem Michelle Lujan Grisham or Republican Steve Pearce. We had MLG winning June, Pearce taking July and August and MLG taking September. So who won October? Drum roll, please. . . .

Neither campaign collapsed in October and the race was still not closed out as the trick or treaters devoured their candy. The debates were draws, both received newspaper endorsements they could brag about and neither succumbed to their opponent's TV corruption ads. But October goes to Lujan Grisham because she made it through the month continuing to nurse a polling lead and with having a broader path to victory.

That narrower path for a Pearce win forces him to look for a big boost from rural voters. Possible but not easy. In October, MLG's easier path to victory remain unblocked--take BernCo by a big margin, combine it with landslides in Taos and Santa Fe Counties and a healthy score in Dona Ana. The most recent poll shows Pearce with a chance of getting it closer than she wants in BernCo so we will watch that closely Election Night.

There is still one month to rate--or at least part of a month. November will decide the matter. The clock is about to run out on Election '18.

FINAL STRETCH ADS

The Guv candidates are putting up final spots as early voting ends Saturday and Election Day is set for Tuesday. Both candidates are tugging at the heartstrings of voters in their last pitches.

In this 60 second ad Pearce features ABQ mother Mary Candelaria whose teenage son Adrian was murdered in 2016. She asserts that MLG supports automatic parole after thirty years for convicted murderers and that she needs to "put families first, not criminals." The MLG camp disputes that parole position.

For her part, Lujan Grisham aims one of her last efforts at women--who support her in large numbers. Her campaign says:

"Zander"is  a thirty-second web ad that tells the story of baby Zander Gurulé. Michelle this year worked tirelessly to ensure that Zander was able to get the lifesaving surgery he needed. Zander’s mother Krystal testifies: “He’s alive because of Michelle. Imagine what she could do as governor.”

THEN THERE WERE NONE

Every national media outlet that assigns ratings to congressional races now has the southern NM congressional district contest between Republican Yvette Herrell and Democrat Xochitl Torres Small rated a toss up. Nathan Gonzales of Inside Elections had the race ranked "tilt Republican" but now has joined the toss up column. We asked him why:

Republicans I’ve talked to are increasingly less confident. Even though it’s close, they don’t like the trend nor the dynamic of having the non-Hispanic candidate in the race. 

We are keeping our rating of Lean Republican, the last of the Mohicans so to speak. That's because of the first ABQ Journal September poll showing Torres Small trailing by 7, this Monday's Carroll Strategies landline poll showing Herrell ahead by 5 (although that poll leaned a bit R), the historic trend of the district to vote for the conservative candidate regardless of the political environment and the fact that the Dems are not releasing their internal polling to tout the race as a true toss up.

We're not predicting. Lean R doesn't mean we think Torres Small will lose. Far from it. But unlike the DC pundits we don't see the race as an even money bet.

A day after it released its poll showing a 5 point lead for Herrell KOB-TV took to the campaign trail to interview the candidates, pointing out how tight the race is but never mentioning its own poll showing Herrell opening up a lead. In fact, they had their anchor quote another poll saying the race was only separated by one point. But what about their own survey that showed it at five? The Alligators are watching, newsroom. . .

ON THE TRAIL

Here's some Kellyanne Conway coverage from her Halloween visit to Ruidoso to support southern congressional Hopeful Yvette Herrell. Guv candidate Steve Pearce was also on hand for the event. . . No one should accuse Dem Torres Small of laying back. She is all across the huge congressional district in the final days, from Artesia to Belen and points in between. If you need a restaurant tip for a local town, she is sure to have one.

COMING FROM BEHIND

Johnson and Colón
Appointed State Auditor Wayne Johnson is trying to make something happen in the final hours. He's grasped on to that Carroll Strategies poll released by KOB-TV Wednesday that shows him trailing Dem Brian Colón 50 to 45, not an insurmountable margin but still a tough climb. His campaign says:

Since the first poll in June by Carroll Strategies, Johnson has gone from 38.5% to 45.3%--growth of nearly 7%. In contrast, his opponent achieved no growth despite starting television ads nine days earlier than Johnson . . Colón’s growth is non-existent. He went from 49.7% in June to 50.1% in late October. . . Johnson is fighting waste, fraud, and abuse. . . His opponent, however, has a record of failure and incompetence and he can’t shake his ties to Bill Richardson’s shadowy dark money scheme. Wayne Johnson is the far superior choice to be our state’s watchdog.

Johnson is a former BernCo commissioner who ran for ABQ mayor last year. He has high name ID in the metro that's keeping him hanging around but no R has been elected auditor since the 60's.

It could be too little too late but Johnson comes with some TV to close out his campaign against Colón. He takes a bite out of the former NM Dem Party Chairman by essentially labeling him a political hack. But in the same 30 second spot the former BernCo Commissioner touts his service as auditor. It's a tight squeeze which is what you get in a low-budget, down ballot race. The Auditor's race is rated Likely Democrat.

BEN RAY'S DAYS

After Dan Sena, a top aide to NM Dem Rep. Ben Ray Lujan who is chair of the Dem Congressional Campaign Committee, predicted that the Dems might take back control of the US House by only two votes, we wondered if that would be good enough for Ben Ray to avoid getting dunked in the Potomac. After all, that narrow of a majority could cause problems in getting legislation passed, Steve Fitzer, another top aide to Lujan, comes with the response:

I saw your comments on what Dan Sena said about winning back the House and if Democrats do it by a seat or two would that be a win for Ben Ray. To do that it would be a net of 25 seats, winning in several districts that have long been held by Republicans. As a note, the last time Democrats took control of the House we won 30 seats. 

Also, I will point out that Democrats have the largest battlefield in history with 111 seats and have raised record amounts at both the DCCC and by the candidates. Ben Ray has helped put New Mexico back on the map again at the national level in politics, where we have not been for the last 8 years. And have no doubt no matter how slim the margin, Democrats will be very happy to be back in control of the House.

If the Dems do take back the House it will  be interesting to see how much credit Ben Ray gets. Remember, as JFK once said: "Victory has a thousand fathers but defeat is an orphan."

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