Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Geno's Guns Blaze As He Chases Gary; Can He Catch Him? Plus: Big Papers Weigh In On Key Races, And: Death Visits La Politica's Jerry McKinney 

Zamora & Big Bill
Geno Zamora is going out with all guns blazing. The Santa Fe attorney and former chief legal counsel to Big Bill launched a pre-holiday attack against both of his rivals for the Dem attorney general nomination, hoping to close the gap between him and frontrunner Gary King and to hold down prosecutor Lemuel Martinez.

In a tough, well-produced TV spot, Zamora accuses Gary of voting against "victim's rights" and "tougher penalties for DWI offenders." And he adds fuel to the fire by charging Sandoval county District Attorney Martinez with angering "victim's families with plea bargains that let criminals go free...including a child molester."

King's camp was stirred, if not shaken. Friday night they unleashed their own TV attack implying that Zamora is anti-environment because as a private lawyer he had as a client giant copper producer Phelps Dodge which has a large presence in Silver City. But the fact that the King camp decided a response was in order told insiders all they needed to know: the race remains in play.

For his part, Martinez, 49, scored Zamora, 36, in a news release for being "a young, inexperienced attorney who has never submitted a case to a jury. He does not understand the criminal justice process. Indeed, in this case, he has not even bothered to look at the evidence. The people of New Mexico do not need that kind of inexperience." And in the continued battle for the Spanish North, Martinez put up this radio spot as well as a closing TV ad.

Zamora's campaign feels Lem could split enough of the Hispanic vote with Zamora to deny their man a late surge and a possible victory against Gary.


"Zamora has momentum, but he has got to stop Gary and Lem from growing much, thus the negative TV," offered one of my Alligators, who said he has King getting 35 to 40% of the vote if the election were held today. "There's still enough undecided for Geno to catch Gary, but time is running out," he added. Another Gator said, "Geno can't afford for Lemuel to go above 20%. If he does, it will mean too much of a split in the Hispanic vote," leaving the victory to King.

Zamora could have laid down his arms and gone out positive and let the chips fall where they might, but with the numbers looking somewhat tantalizing he decided to go all in. His hit piece, however, renewed criticism from his foes that he would take orders as attorney general from Governor Big Bill, nullifying the constitutional independence of the AG. They also claim his campaign reports reveal large corporate contributions that make his pledge to be "tough on ethics" questionable.

Watching all this from the sidelines is unopposed GOP AG candidate Jim Bibb who will face the Dem winner In November. But who that winner will be remains an open question.


Meanwhile, on the newspaper endorsement front, Gary King answered Zamora's nod from the Las Cruces Sun-News with one of his own from the state's largest newspaper, the ABQ Journal. The Journal(Sunday circulation: 149,000) subtly referenced Geno's ties to the Guv as they praised King's "independence and integrity."

The Santa Fe New Mexican (Sunday circulation, 27,000) came through for Lem, also referencing his independence and the state Treasurer's scandal, calling the D.A. the "most likely candidate to to regain New Mexicans’ trust."

In other races, the Journal gave the nod to Ray Powell for state land commissioner and Tom Buckner for state auditor. The New Mexican endorsed Dem land commissioner contender Jim Baca and D secretary of state hopeful Shirley Hooper as well as Tom Buckner for auditor.

If newspapers could vote, Buckner would be an easy pick as his rival, Dem Jeff Armijo, has so far been shut out in the endorsements, mainly because he has been friends to indicted ex-Treasurer Vigil. But newspapers don't vote and my experts still call Armijo the frontrunner.


Our Friday exclusive noting President Bush's upcoming June ABQ visit to campaign for ABQ GOP Congresswoman Heather Wilson was picked up by a wide range of media, including KSFR 90.7 FM radio in Santa Fe where we gave news director Bill Dupuy some more analysis behind the big story....Also from the City Different, I spoke with the Santa Fe Reporter as they put together this piece on how it can be good, very good, to be a friend of Big Bill's.


Jerry McKinney was a pleasure to be around, especially if you were a political junkie. His wry sense of humor, understanding of human foibles and his lifelong interest in the strange behavior of politicians made him a first rate rate reporter for the ABQ Tribune in the 70's, a trusted and reliable aide to the state's longest ever serving congressman, Joe Skeen, and a respected and
well-traveled journalist as a correspondent for the Voice of America in Washington, D.C.

Jerry, 68, lost his life in a a rafting accident on the Animas River near Farmington Friday. (Mass on Wednesday, May 31st, 10:00 AM, San Felipe de Neri Catholic Church, Old Town, ABQ.)

He retired to ABQ from D.C. a couple of years ago with wife Kay, also a former Trib reporter, but was soon called back into service to handle a mini media frenzy when Skeen was hospitalized and about to pass. As always, Jerry handled his duties with dignity and class.

I laughed and joked with Jerry when we were both reporters in the 70's as we worked the political beat. And we laughed again when I recently met up with Jerry and Kay at the local Starbucks. Jerry never did take too seriously the political antics, but he took quite seriously the trust placed in him throughout his long and fruitful career.

Jerry McKinney earned his pages in the never-ending book of his beloved La Politica. He did so humbly and with a twinkle in his eye. Thanks, Jerry.

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