Friday, February 06, 2004

Big Bucks Fight For NM Supreme Court? Something Is In The Wind, And: Join Me Tonight On KNME-TV At 8:30 P.M. For A NM Prez Recap 

Races for the State Supreme Court are usually low-key affairs with the contenders touting their judicial resumes, but a top NM legal source tells "New Mexico Politics With Joe Monahan" there could be some mud thrown on those black robes this year. This week the state Republican Party sent out an urgent email asking for volunteers to get petition signatures for Paul Barber for the state Court of Appeals and Ned Fuller for State Supreme Court, but other sources tell me until now both lawyers were seeking support for District Court judgeships. Why the switch? That's the big question.

Our legal beagle says rumors are swirling that the U.S. Chamber of Commerce is promising to pump big bucks into the Supreme Court race in an effort to dump Supreme Ed Chavez, who was appointed last year by Big Bill to fill a vacancy on the five member panel. According to our reliable source: "The rumor about the Supreme Court candidate is that the U.S. Chamber of Commerce promised a big chunk of change to take on Chavez, but the candidate has to toe the Chamber line. If the rumor is true you could be looking at our first $1 million NM Supreme Court race."

Our legal beagle says that's what happened in Ohio where millions was spent on negative TV ads by anonymous 'independent' groups to support favored high-court candidates. The Ohio Legislature is now looking at changing state law to force full disclosure. As far as I know, there is no law here against independent groups coming into NM and doing the same.
Justice Chavez, an ENMU graduate, was an ABQ trial lawyer before getting the call from Big Bill. Under our system an appointed judge must face one competitive election. If elected, the judge then simply stands for 'retention' where voters say yes or no on the judge. A judge must receive a 57% "yes" vote to be retained. Our legal source says the Court of Appeals seat that Barber is going after is not on the Chamber's rumored hit list, but it's a good bet that Barber, a former GOP state rep., was promised financial support by the GOP to switch races in mid-stream. Fuller is a political unknown and no Republican has been elected to the Supreme Court since the 1980's. But all bets could be off if really big money comes into a Supreme Court contest for the first time in history. Stay tuned.


Want some more insight on what happened during Tuesday's NM Prez caucus? Join me on KNME-TV Channel 5 Friday at 8:30 p.m. and again Sunday at 9:00 a.m. as Kate Nelson hosts a roundtable to discuss the 2004 NM campaign.


In a report this week I said Marc Racicot is chairman of the Republican National Committe. Of course, he is not, but is chair of the President's reelection campaign. Ed Gillespie remains at the helm of the RNC.

Make our site one of your 'favorites.' Bookmark it now and send a link to interested friends. And remember, I welcome your email comments and inside news on NM politics. So use the email link at the top of this page and keep me posted.

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Thursday, February 05, 2004

Back to Those Lovable R's; My Meeting With The Prez's Right-Hand Man; Guv King Hospitalized, And: Join Me On KNME-TV Friday at 8:30 P.M. 

Did you miss them? They've been off the radar for a month due to the Dems Prez caucus, but now that the candidates have all left town the GOP is back with us for a visit, and as is customary these days, the conversation continues to center on just who is running what in the Bush campaign here.

While visiting Channel 13 this week to discuss the caucus, I ran into Bush Reelect Chairman Marc Racioct, Bush campaign honcho John Sanchez and the just named executive director of the Bush-Cheney NM campaign, Scott Jennings of Kentucky. I wasn't much on the social graces with the GOP boss and former Montana governor. I just asked straight out if there is "peace" in the Republican party here? "There will be peace," he responded mildly. OK. If that's the case, who will be the executive director of the "Victory" campaign for Bush--the one that has been causing all the trouble between current State Chair Ramsay Gorham and supporters of her rival, former Chair John Dendahl?

"We'll have a press release on that in a couple of weeks," said Sanchez, the GOP Governor nominee in 02', who also told me he is NOT running for ABQ Mayor in 05'. But wasn't there just an announcement saying that the Bush Victory campaign will be run under the authority of Bernalillo County GOP Chair and Ramsay supporter Ken Zangara? Chairman Racicot diplomatically demurred, but the fact remains that who is executive director of "Victory' is an essential ingredient to any peace pact. All this is a bit confusing because to comply with finance laws there are two Bush re-elect campaigns here, "Bush-Cheney" and "Victory," which is the one that runs the grassroots campaign and the get-out-the vote-effort. It passes out contracts to operatives to get those chores done. Lots of folks want those contracts, including supporters of Dendahl and Gorham.

So while the "Bush-Cheney" campaign is settling in with a new director, Victory's leadership, said to have been settled under the previously announced Zangara peace pact, remains up-in-the-air. That says to me that there is still a behind-the-scenes power struggle being played out. A high-level GOP source told me the RNC remains livid at Gorham for "sticking her finger in the eye of the president" when she demanded a prominent role in the Victory committee. This same high-level source called me "misinformed" about what was going on; that it was Gorham's attitude that got her into trouble and "it had nothing to do with the Dendahlites" and their purported desire to dethrone Gorham. Please. Both sides in the GOP mess have been stubborn and unyielding. If I am misinformed, how come the reports on this web site sparked news stories across the state and nation regarding the infighting? That's a lot of "misinformation."

It does seem tentative steps are being taken to heal the wounds in time for Bush's Fall effort. Racicot was here in part to make a final peace between the warring factions, and an upcoming visit by VP Cheney to ABQ is being sponsored by both Dendahl and Gorham, at least their names are together on the official invitation. And all parties realize it is getting late in the game. But Gorham played hardball with the RNC, and these are not guys who take anything lying down.

The bottom line: Racicot's RNC is run by veteran operatives who have a hint of arrogance and the State GOP run by Gorham has a hint of paranoia induced by the Dendahlites. Both will have to stand down a bit to get the job done for the Prez, who needs all the help he can get these days.

Who will be the Victory executive director, and whether the choice is acceptable to both sides, remains the litmus test. New Mexico Republicans await the decision, as do the Democrats. The RNC has the stroke to deal Ramsay out and move forward. Will they? Meanwhile, nice to see you Mr. Chairman, and welcome to New Mexico director Jennings. Peace be with you.


Former Governor King is in an ABQ hospital, but I am told his condition is not life-threatening. Here is an AP Report

(Albuquerque-AP) -- Former Governor Bruce King is a patient at the Heart Hospital of New Mexico in Albuquerque. A hospital spokeswoman says King’s family has asked that no information be given about his condition. The 80-year-old King had a heart attack in 1997. The damage caused a hole to open in the wall that separates the left and right chambers of the heart. That hole was repaired at the time, and King recovered. King lives on a ranch in Stanley with his wife, Alice. He served three terms a governor.


Want some more insight on what happened during Tuesday's NM Prez caucus? Join me on KNME-TV Channel 5 Friday at 8:30 p.m. and again Sunday at 9:00 a.m. as Kate Nelson hosts me and other guests to discuss the 2004 NM campaign.

Make our site one of your 'favorites.' Bookmark it now and send a link to interested friends.

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Wednesday, February 04, 2004

Kerry: Game, Set & Match! NM Big Turnout Landslide Shocks The Field; Donkey Kicks Clark and Dean; Dems Crow, GOP Yawns; Total Analysis Right Here! 

Somebody get me the thesaurus. I'm thinking blowout, landslide, wipe-out...well, you get the picture. Senator John Kerry ran the table on a crowded field in the first-ever New Mexico presidential caucus last night, and there wasn't even a a consolation prize. It was complete and total dominance by Kerry and helped make the 2004 Democratic Presidential nomination his to lose. It all brings to mind that old x-rated political axiom: "Only a dead girl or a live boy in his bed can stop him now."

The evening started with the Massachusetts senator narrowly carrying the 24,000 early mail-in ballots over Dean and Clark. The major networks did not catch on that this was a major coup for Kerry. Dean was expected to win the absentees because most of that vote was cast before the Kerry momentum from the New Hampshire primary. That early vote did capture some of the Iowa momentum. We called the race right away for Kerry as did pollster Brian Sanderoff on Channel 7, whose Journal poll this week nailed this one to the cross as it showed Kerry winning by a two to one margin. That's just what happened. Here are the numbers, and if you can find life in any of those below Kerry, please call 911 and report it immediately, because I sure don't. Following the numbers my expert roundtable does the political autopsy. Don't miss it.

KERRY--40347--39%, CLARK--19632--19%, DEAN--15660--15%, EDWARDS--10815--10%, KUCINICH--5166--5%, LIEBERMAN--2488--2%, GEPHARDT--671--1%, PENNA--74--0%


"Turnout is always the big mystery in polling, and turnout for this one was higher than most anticipated. The large turnout helped Kerry win the in-person voting because it brought to the polls more people who were swayed by the media reports of him winning everywhere. 'A more causal voter,' is how Brian put it. What about that vaunted Dean ground operation? "Everyone talks about organization, but it's clear that momentum can overtake any field operation. Also helping turnout was the passion by many Democrats to defeat Bush. It got them to the polls. Electability is the driving issue in this race and Kerry is seen as the most electable." Brian said it appeared Kerry would "get about half" of the 26 delegates at stake last night. But Dean is in danger. "If he falls below 15% in any of the congressional districts, he will get no delegates." Early this morning Dean was clinging to a statewide 15% total, but had dropped below that threshold in the southern district.

Is there anyway Kerry can lose this thing? "Only if the media do a number on him like they did on Dean, and there may not even be enough time for that." Good polling work, Brian


Pollster Harry Pavlides called me in the middle of Election Day and told me to expect a turnout of over 100,000 based on calculations he did at two precincts! I thought he was joking, but he wasn't and he nailed it. Early this morning turnout was near 105,000. Ok Harry, you've earned your credentials, but what have you done for me lately?

"These numbers are preliminary, but it appears Kerry won a full 50% of the vote that was cast Election Day. (He only won 27% in the early vote.) Clark got about 17% of the in-person vote, Dean 13% and Edward's 12%." Now, that's definitely good political junkie stuff, Mr. Pollster. What else? "Forty per cent of the vote came out of Bernalillo County; higher than for an normal election. That's where all the candidate organizing kicked in." The low turnout in the south was par for the course, Pavlides said, but he agreed with Sanderoff that it showed none of the candidates excited the conservative east side Dems. "The big suprise to me was Kerry's strength. I expected him to hit 38%, but he went over 40, because these Democrats are as mad as hell and want to take Bush out." What about the future? "Dean is the big loser. His candidacy is over. Edward's is now running for vice-president. It's Kerry's to lose. He has to make a big mistake." We get the message, Harry. Good stuff.


"Field campaigns are highly-targeted and highly-effective in lower turnout races. This was a relatively high-turnout and was much more like a general election campaign." said veteran field organizer and Green Party operative Steve Cabiedes in a late-night gabfest. "Kerry's media momentum clobbered Dean's field. I was suprised Kerry won the south. It's because more of the voters there were not contacted by the field operatives. They voted off of the media and it showed." What about Dean, Steve? "One has to wonder if there is a glass ceiling at 20% of the vote for him. That's where he seems to be stuck everywhere."

What else? "The Democrats are energized right now, but as Kerry becomes inevitable that enthusiasm will diminish and they will have to build it all over again for November." Kucinich came in with 5% of the vote, his best anywhere so far and Steve attributed it to Green party operatives. "He got the cream of the crop and they helped him organize some Dems." As for second place Clark: "He didn't embarrass himself." And, finally Steve, is it over? "One last round this weekend, and then it's over," he offered as he went back to his numbers crunching.


Being 2,000 miles away in Washington D.C. didn't stop veteran NM Republican Party player Bruce Donisthorpe from throwing some long-distance cold water on the Dems party at the La Posada in downtown ABQ. "The turnout was very, very low in the south. That means the conservative Democrats did not come out and they plan to vote for Bush. I know the Dems are all happy about what they consider a big turnout, but I don't think it was a big deal. If they had turned out 30% of the vote we would be worried, but the 20% turnout means it was the same liberal activists coming out." Dr. Dean was mortally wounded, said Bruce. "A damaging night for the doctor." While happy with the low turnout in the conservative areas, Bruce did not have blinders on. "The Dems have us beat 1.7 to one in party registration so the race will be close." Any advice for the President's operatives? "Hit the library and look under Kerry, fellas. He's got a 21 year liberal record." And how about a GOP message for the big winner? "Sure, see you in November, Senator," declared The Bruce as he retired into the early morning East coast hours.


Some thought I jumped the gun a week ago when I said the race for the Dem nomination was effectively over (see below). Last night served to cement my views. But I do agree with the observation that while the caucus was a success for the Democratic Party, no new voting patterns emerged that directly threaten Bush anew.

One of the big winners was Big Bill. The Guv scored a TV trifecta for the first time in his governorship last night, appearing live simultaneously on all three ABQ network affiliates to announce the absentee vote. And he also was on every imaginable cable outfit. True, it was good PR for him, but in this case it was also good PR for our state.

Thanks to my expert roundtable for their help over these past few weeks in keeping me on top of things Presidential. And thanks to all of you for giving us a record number of "hits" to this web site. To all of my new readers I want to say welcome. Stay with us, there's more fun to come.

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Tuesday, February 03, 2004

Intrigue At The Roundhouse And NM Election Eve; It's A Race For Second, And: Early Exit Polls Are Out 

The rumor mill is swirling in Santa Fe over that crowded race to replace Jerome Block on the Public Regulation Commission (PRC) with the latest scuttlebutt saying Block could resign the seat and that Ben Ray Lujan, son of State House Speaker Ben Lujan, could be appointed as his replacement by Big Bill! Sources at the Roundhouse are buzzing about the purported deal that puts state insurance regulator Eric Serna in the middle of the action. The scenario has Speaker Lujan helping out Serna with legislation he wants passed and Serna in turn persuading Jerome to resign, paving the way for Ben Ray's appointment. Also figuring in this picture is State Rep. Max Coll who Serna supposedly fears might oppose his favored legislation. Apparently Speaker Lujan's influence could be brought to bear on Max. But what does Max get in return? Well, he probably could come up with something.

If such hallway intrigue actually becomes reality there is sure to be a squawk from the many candidates already lined up to replace Block in the June 1st Democratic primary. But Block has no where to go and perhaps an early exit could win him some support down the road for a run at the Land Commission or another office. Just speculation, of course. But speculation is the fuel of La Politica now in full swing at our cheery Capitol.


Meanwhile, there is also speculation by insiders wandering those circular hallways regarding that veto by Governor Bill and the unanimous House vote to override the Big Fella. Late word is the state senate cut a deal with the Fourth floor and will not be joining the House in the override. But how did things get so out of hand for Big Bill on this relatively unimportant legislation? Or did they? There are two schools of thought, one of them truly Machiavellian.

One insider pus it this way: "It's hard to believe that Bill did not know his veto, (of a measure to fund the Legislative Finance Committee) would not meet with a veto override. How can one of the nation's top diplomats not know it?" Wondered our perplexed insider?" How indeed?

Is it out of the realm of possibility that the Big Fella is throwing the Legislature a bone so they can flex their muscle before New Mexico and show that they can "stand up" to the Guv. The legislation in question is very low stakes to the electorate, and the lawmakers have been bristling that they have been plowed under by the fast moving Guv. The reality of the situation is hard to believe; that the Governor had NO idea that he would be overidden unanimously. Is he that isolated? Is his political ear really that deaf? Or is he just sticking his finger in the eye of the Legislature for kicks? As I said, it's very hard to believe. So maybe he is thinking "go ahead, give me a little tweak, it'll make you feel good and won't do me any harm." After all, I did call it the year of the Legislature." Ok, that's too far out for you. Try this one....

On the other hand, sources close to the action last night told me that the Guv's lobbyists worked the senate very hard to successfully avoid the override. "It had nothing to do with Bill trying to placate the Legislature. He grabbed for too much again and this time the Legislature rebelled. It may be hard to believe but he was overstepping," our deep insider explained. If he's right the Guv's legislative team needs a refresher course in Legislative Relations 101. It was the kind of error you make in high school student government. If you are going to take a risk do it over something big. An insider measure that the public doesn't give a hoot about would seem to be the last place to play a game of 'who blinks first' and unnecessarily risk hard-earned political capital. But, as Dennis Miller says, I could be wrong.

And so goes the never ending Roundhouse intrigue. Don't bother with a Ph.D in political science. Only veteran practicioners of the ancient art of La Politica can fully comprehend it all. Your humble blogger continues his studies.


The Dean Machine fights on and the candidate himself was here again Monday trying to turn it around or at least finish a good second. Dean can be expected to surge some in tonight's results. I look for Edwards to also come on a bit tonight, but perhaps not as much from Clark who has spent a lot of money and not moved his numbers. Bad weather is forecast for parts of the state but because the caucus attracts mainly Democratic activists turnout will not be hurt as much by bad weather as it would be in a normal election. I expect no bounce for the second place finishers here if they fail to come within half a dozen points of my expected winner, Sen. Kerry who is now battling high expectations in New Mexico and the other primary states. A single digit win may be greeted with yawns, but as I have written here (see below)Kerry is poised to seal the deal for the Dem nomination.

We'll have continuing coverage of the caucus tonight on this web site and a complete wrap-up Wednesday with my panel of experts who have been with me on this since New Hampshire. So stay tuned.

Early exit polls are out from the primary states (none from NM)> Here they are, but take them with a grain of salt. they could change as the day wears on
AZ Kerry 46, Clark 24, Dean 13.
MO Kerry 52, Edwards 23, Dean 10
SC Edwards 44, Kerry 30, Sharpton 10
OK Edwards 31, Kerry 29, Clark 28
DE Kerry 47, Dean 14, Lieberman 11, Edwards 11

Larry Ahrens and I shared an interview with Dem. Prez front-runner John Kerry on KKOB-AM Monday morning who was fresh from a rally at UNM and speaking to us on the go and on a cellphone. I asked him about the R's already calling him a "Massachusetts liberal." Kerry was quick to respond: "That's one label they can't pin on me" and he cited his support of deficit curbing measures in the 80's as well as welfare reform legislation. Kerry goes into today's Prez caucus here with a better than two to one lead in the latest poll. The race should tighten tonight, but it appears Kerry will finish with at least a third of the NM vote and capture the lion's share of the 26 delegates at stake. (By the way, Larry told me he is NOT seeking to get back in politics anytime soon, although he did not rule it out in the future. The top-rated Ahrens has been with KKOB nearly 25 years).


Denver Post national reporter Karen Crummy breaks the news that Governor Bill will push for a Western Regional Primary for the next go around. Read about that as well as my analysis of the race and its impact on the western U.S. Denver Post

The Trib's Iliana Limón has the final take on today's caucus
Abq Trib

And a final note. I'll have analysis of the caucus on KOB-TV with Neil Simon on tonight's early news. So join us then.

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Monday, February 02, 2004

WOW! It's Kerry; 2 to 1 Lead in Poll; Blow-Out Brews; Memo To New Mexico And America: It's Over. My Analysis Here, In The Denver Post & KRQE-TV Monday 

The fat lady is about to sing loud and clear; Massachusetts Senator John Kerry is about to become the 2004 Democratic Presidential nominee, and New Mexico will play a big part in closing the door on the rest of the field. According to the final ABQ Journal Poll for the Feb 3 NM Prez caucus, Kerry has an astounding 2 to 1 lead over his closest rival. Here are the stunning numbers that may make a President: Kerry--31%, Dean--15, Clark--14, Edwards--7, Lieberman--3, Kucinich--2, Gephardt--1, Undecided--27. The poll was conducted Wednesday and Thursday and has a margin of error of 4.5 percent. The high undecided is normal for an expected low-turnout election. With his mammoth lead, Kerry leads everywhere in the state. If no other candidate gets 15 percent of the vote in one of the three congressional districts, Kerry will sweep all 26 delegates up for grabs. With his poll numbers, it's possible. I am told that even the early absentee vote that Dean was counting on will apparently go to Kerry by a narrow margin. Now, on to the big picture.........


This is no time for fudging. If Kerry of New England trounces the field Tuesday in this key swing state heavy with Hispanics and conservative and liberal activists by a margin anywhere close to that in the poll, this race is over and the Democratic Party has a nominee to show America and the world. Edwards can win South Carolina, Clark can take Oklahoma but to be completely uncompetitive in a state with such important constituencies and demographics will not and can not stand with a Democratic Party hungry to oust President Bush. Only a miracle, or a Kerry error of immense proportion, can now stop the inevitable. Political junkies and a press corps hungry for a story may try to keep the race alive, but here we are all the way out on the limb: put on Roy Orbison and have him sing "It's Over." Because it is.

Kerry has risen from the lonely single digits (8%) in the first Journal survey to today's dominance on the classic "Big Mo" generated by near-routs over the field in Iowa and New Hampshire. His lead in delegate rich Missouri and neighboring Arizona is also solid. Tuesday night he will cap a comeback that will secure the nomination and begin an arduous journey to conquer Bush.

Hunger, if not desperation for a winner, is the key to his NM and national numbers. This is not the great unwashed masses voting in these primaries and caucuses. It's the core base of the Democratic party. Electability is THE issue. Their animosity to this president can only be compared to their disdain for Richard Nixon. And Kerry's comeback can only be compared to Ronald Reagan's in 1980.

Like Reagan, Kerry faced an early crisis of confidence in his campaign, and took decisive action by reshuffling the deck and coming back swinging. Forget the consultants, speechwriters and the TV ads, it's all about character friends. A man can look in the mirror and not like what he sees. He can blame it on the mirror, or he can go deep down and get the truth. Kerry looked deep down, found the truth about himself and had the courage to change. Isn't that how all the big ones in life and politics are won?


This is not a spin room for Kerry. Sure, he had help when Dean imploded. But why not Clark or Edwards or Gephardt? A man who has found his voice, as Reagan did when he grabbed that microphone away from Bush in New Hampshire back in the 80', and as Kerry did when he saw his campaign ship slowly sinking, separates himself from the pack with the boldness that comes with confidence. That's what a woman wants from a man. That's what a man wants from a woman. And that's what a voter wants from a president. Yes, Oprah is right. It's all about relationships.

Some may say that Kerry still has to go through a 'real' trial by fire; that he has not been truly tested. Not true. His test came in those cornfields of Iowa when he gave life to an inner voice that had been stifled by his own doubts and displayed in a bizarre Rolling Stone interview and a whimpering frustration on the campaign trail. For my money, Kerry's self-resurrection gives him the right to lead his party.

For us politics watchers this nomination fight has been an exhilarating ride. But the roller coaster is about to stop. The next few months passengers will only get a few dips as the Kerry challengers sputter to a final rest. But oh, what a ride it's been. I don't know about you, but I'm getting back in line for another one this Fall that I hope is as good as the first.

Denver Post national reporter Karen Crummy breaks the news today that Governor Bill will push for a Western Regional Primary for the next go around. Read about that as well as my analysis of the race and its impact on the western U.S. Denver Post

And on today's 4 p.m. news on KRQE-TV, Channel 13, veteran anchorman Dick Knipfing and I will analyze the NM caucus on this Election Eve. Be sure to join us.

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