Monday, March 20, 2006

Campaign 06': King Stunned; Schwartz Shunned; Baca Bombed; Stephanie Slips; Exclusive Analysis From The Top Insiders Is Next 

Geno Zamora
The roaring spring winds weren't the only ones blasting across the state Saturday. Democrats and Republicans, gathered for their preprimary conventions, saw the political winds rage and crack open the Dem race for attorney general as well as reduce visibility for those hoping to easily predict the winners in other June 6 primary contests.

The stunner was the third place finish of Gary King in the Dem race for attorney general. Touted as the frontrunner by his polls and party insiders, King managed to garner only 31 percent of the delegate votes, with Santa Fe's Geno Zamora, former chief legal counsel to Big Bill, taking first with 36 percent and Sandoval county prosecutor Lem Martinez close behind with 33 percent.

"It was a big blow to Gary. It shakes up the race and signifies that he has more work to do than he perhaps thought." Said one of my Dem Alligator-delegates attending the weekend confab.

But Gary, e-mailing in to the blog spin room, saw it differently: "We did not take any steps to exclude the other candidates and I felt that the best overall result for me would be to have the convention split along even lines...now all voters can make this crucial decision, not just the party bosses," spun King the day after the Saturday drama.

Even a speech by Gary's dad, legendary ex-Guv Bruce King, was not enough to move him into first as new life was breathed into Zamora and Martinez, both of whom were at risk of being knocked out by a strong King finish.

"The results could free up more campaign money and endorsements for them. Joe, a lot of us didn't know Zamora or Martinez. But they are both first-tier candidates and this proves it," analyzed a Dem Gator with no dog in the fight.

Lem Martinez
There was a glimmer of a silver lining for Gary. If Geno and Lem remain strong, the odds of them splitting the Hispanic vote in June grows. King is the only Anglo on the ballot and has solid name ID. But what looked liked an easy romp for the former state rep has been turned into a marathon. While on paper the race may still tilt in his favor, it is no longer his to lose. Yes, there is now a chance that either Geno or Lem could break away and beat the conventional wisdom that two Hispanic candidates hand the race to the Anglo. Money for TV and field operations will be key. Zamora has some. Martinez needs some. King's got it. Now he needs to spend it.


Over at the ABQ Marriott some 400 plus state Republican party power players were gathered and ex-Big Bill crime adviser Bob Schwartz felt their muscle. He was left reeling and his political fortunes in tatters when he failed to get the needed 20 percent of the delegates' votes to make the June ballot. Newcomer Jim Bibb, touted as a rising star by GOP insiders, lived up to his billing and landslided the outspoken Schwartz by taking in a whopping 86% of the vote. Schwartz can still get on the ballot by filing extra petition signatures, but is it worth it?

"His chances of winning the nomination now are slim. There was a clear message sent and it is going to echo in Republican wards across the state. Bob's ties to the Democrats came back to haunt him. It is simple as that. These are party regulars and the first order of business for them is loyalty," analyzed one of our GOP Alligators direct from the scene of the carnage.

But while attorney Bibb, son-in-law of former Dem Guv Toney Anaya, may be basking in the victory, he won't be for long. Not when he remembers that only one GOP contender has been elected attorney general in the past 70 years or so.


And how about that pounding administered to Jim Baca by Ray Powell in the Dem land commissioner race? Was it personality? That's what several of my Dem experts offered in the wake of Baca getting only about 26 percent of the vote to Powell's overwhelming 74 percent.

"Jim has never been well-liked within the party. His personality can be liking touching a cactus. While this does not knock him out of the race, it does even the playing field with Ray, especially for money," said a junior Alligator who was at the Highland High School convention.

Both of the old pros headed to the blog spin room in the aftermath with Ray calling his win a "watershed" event that provides his campaign "an enormous amount of positive energy." Powell served as land commissioner for ten years. But Baca, a former ABQ mayor, told Ray not to get too excited. "Ray called in a lot of chips with the old party line folks. 24 years ago the same machine ground me up at the convention and I won the primary and then the general election," spun the veteran of 35 years under the hot lights of our beloved La Politica.

Watching it all was current land commissioner Pat Lyons. His insiders are hoping Baca wins the nomination because they think he is easier to attack. Despite his convention clubbing by Powell, that could still happen. He has an edge as the only Hispanic in the two way race, but Powell delivered a home run and altered expectations. This battle goes forward.


Mary Herrera
Maybe there's a little familiarity fatigue setting in. Bob Schwartz, Gary King, Jim Baca and Joe Carraro. All are longtime fixtures and all took hits this weekend. And add the name of ex-secretary of state Stephanie Gonzales to the hit list. Bernalillo county clerk Mary Herrera pulled off a mild upset with the 1400 plus delegates by coming in first with 34 percent of the vote, inching past Stephanie's 33 percent. Another ex-secretary of state, Shirley Hooper, made the ballot with 21 percent. Santa Fe's Letitia Montoya was knocked off, getting only 11 of the required 20 percent, Her campaign says she filed enough petition signatures to stay on and they say she will.

Herrera has taken big hits from the party's left wing for opposing Big Bill's all paper ballot voting plans. But her base in vote heavy Bernalillo county held and keeps her campaign alive. Gonzales had a chance to put this one to bed, but Mary's win steals her momentum. Gonzales, with statewide name ID, is still the favorite, but this is another race we now have to watch. And don't forget Shirley. If Mary and Stephanie start splitting the Hispanic vote in a big way, Hooper could make a move. Was that why Gonzales indirectly slammed Shirley in her convention speech?


The chance to take on Dem Senator Jeff Bingaman is not what one would call a once in a lifetime opportunity. The senate vet is heavily favored for another re-elect, but Farmington doc Allen McCulloch took a major step toward the sacrificial lamb gate when he bested ex-Santa Fe councilor David Pfeffer and ABQ state senator Joe Carraro. The news here was the third place finish of Joe. The money changers are going to look skeptically at his chances now as McCulloch took 40 percent of the vote to Pfeffer's 32 and Carraro's' 28. Also the doc has a couple hundred grand in the bank. It will be up to Carraro and Pfeffer to raise a like amount to make this one competitive June 6th.


Granted, the conventions were a gathering of politicians, but the upsets and mild upsets raises the question of whether we are seeing the first anti-incumbent rumblings. Familiar faces took most of the beating this weekend. Maybe they took things for granted and did not work it hard enough as some of my experts offered. Still, we are in an unsettled political climate nationally and perhaps that is being felt on the local level. New faces, or ones seen as such, might have a better shot in that environment.


Who won the most delegate votes at the Dem convention? Big Bill? Senator Jeff? Nope. It was unopposed state Treasurer candidate James B. Lewis. The Dems, fearing a voter backlash over the Treasurer scandal and others starting to percolate on the front pages, gave Lewis more votes than even the popular Bingaman who garnered the second biggest total....

And, yes, that was GOP Congresswoman Heather Wilson blasting her Dem rival, Patricia Madrid, over the Treasurer scandal at the annual Lincoln Day Dinner Saturday night following the convention action. Wilson accused the attorney general of not doing anything to stop the scandal. Patsy, of course, can point to all kinds of GOP ethics mishaps on Capitol Hill. And you can bet she will...

And was that the Hispanic Roundtable protesting the Big Bill administration at the Dem convention? Sure was. They claim not enough of the Guv's top hires have been Hispanic. Early noise that ex-State Rep. Benjie Regensberg would challenge the Big Guy fizzled months ago, removing a potential protest vote in the June balloting. But the open protest was a sign that Big Bill's opponents are more willing to go public.

Thanks to my many contributors for today's in-depth blog. They make possible the fair, balanced and exclusive inside coverage you expect when visiting here. See ya' later, Gators.

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