Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Good News For Beleaguered R's? They Could Pick Up Some Roundhouse Strength, Plus: Dateline Otero County; Guv Goes For Kill In Little Texas 

The Roundhouse
Even though all 70 State House seats are up for election this year it's pretty easy to follow the action because the political pros tell me only a handful are in play. And there could be a glimmer of good news for the R's whose top of the ticket team is being overwhelmed by the Dems. These insiders say the GOP could actually pick up a House seat or two, despite the expected landslide for the D's in the U.S. Senate and Guv's race. Here's the Legislative tip sheet.

The most likely R pick up is in Eddy and Otero counties where Dem Joe Stell is retiring. The candidates are Dem Christy Bourgeois of Carlsbad and R William Gray of Artesia.

"This district is really Republican. Joe held it because of his personal popularity, but with him leaving this is a very likely R pick up," explained one of several legislative experts we consulted.

In Las Cruces, there is concern among Dems about State Rep. Andy Nunez, but they expect him to hang on. Also in Cruces is the battle to replace R Ed Boykin. Dem Jeff Steinborn is trying to put the seat in the D column against R Scott Witt. Lt. Guv Denish recently held an ABQ fundraiser for Steinborn, but the seat is seen as lean R, but one to keep your eye on.

The most action is in Valencia county where two incumbent Dem legislators--Kandy Cordova and Fred Luna--are retiring. Both are possible R plays.

R Jackie Farnsworth is running for the third time for the Luna seat, but with no incumbent to battle, insiders are saying this is a true toss-up. The Dem is Elias Barela of Belen.

In the Cordova seat, it is Andrew Barreras of Tome battling Republican David Young. This is a swing district that the R's will have to fight hard to pick up. Dem House Speaker Ben Lujan can be expected to go to work, and so can GOP state reps who will be seeking leadership spots in the next session and will try to pick up allies for that future power struggle.

Another key race is in ABQ where R Teresa Zanetti is being challenged by Traci Jo Cadigan, wife of ABQ City Councilor Michael Cadigan. This is a lean R district, but the race watchers say Cadigan is working it hard in the mainly ABQ North Valley/NE Heights area which Zanetti has won twice.


Overall, the legislative wall-leaners are conservative in their projections with the consensus leaning towards a pickup of perhaps one seat for the R's. But if the top of the ticket punishment they expect for the GOP isn't as bad as expected and R's come out in better numbers than currently expected, they could do a bit better.

A hole card for the D's is Big Bill and his big war chest. He has never shied away from involving himself in these contests and one suspects if he sees things slipping too much, the Dem candidates will get a little extra help.

If the GOP picks up a couple of seats, the Dems would still retain power with a comfortable majority. (They currently lead 42-28.) However, one insider pointed out that the number of R's on the legislative committees would increase and that could make things interesting. That might give them a bit more bargaining power, especially with conservative D's who often share their views."


While the R's may have hope for some good legislative news, the depth of their overall problems could not be illustrated better when looking at how their R Guv candidate, John Dendahl, is running against Big Bill in the heart of Republican country--the East and southeast side of the state., The latest ABQ Journal poll has the Guv garnering 47% of the vote in that region to Dendahl's 36%. This in the most conservative section of the state. I asked retired Dem congressional staffer Larry Morgan in Alamogordo if it was possible that Richardson could actually carry Otero county.

Gary King for Attorney General"Dendahl has appeared here several times, but has not drawn large audiences. I wouldn't be surprised if he did not carry Otero which is a Republican stronghold.

"The Governor recognizes he didn't have much popular support here previously. However, he has reached out over the past two years. He has made several trips to Alamogordo during the past year and is personally given credit for two major projects which have resulted in increased employment opportunities.

The Governor is, however, getting negative comments about all his out of state travel, as well as his refusal to have a TV debate with Dendahl."

Thanks Larry. Big Bill lost Otero in 2002 to John Sanchez 54% to 42% with the Green candidate getting 3%. If he is going to go over 60% statewide, he will have to improve as Larry indicates he will. It will be one of the stories we will be watching closely when we anchor Election Night Coverage Nov. 7 on KANW 89.1 FM in ABQ/Santa Fe.


It didn't take long for the national Dems to put up a TV ad on the Foley scandal. I saw one on MSNBC last night for a D House challenger. Could one be coming soon in the Heather-Patsy congressional race? Expect sooner, not later.

Meanwhile, the Madrid campaign kept their heel on Heather's neck Tuesday, despite protests that they were going "over the top" to say that Wilson, who sat on the House committee overseeing the pages from 2001 to 2005, should be held responsible for Foley running amok with teenaged pages. But the Dems are going to cash in on all they can. They are chewing up news cycle after news cycle and reminding everyone that Heather belongs to the party in power. The next couple of days will be important. The R's need to stop the bleeding, and now.


For the record, Dem pollster Harry Pavlides' late September poll has Patricia Madrid running one point ahead of Heather Wilson in the hotly contested ABQ congressional race, not one point behind as was posted here for a time this week. It's Madrid 46.6% to Wilson's 45.6%. The ABQ Journal has it a dead heat at 44 to 44, with both pollsters saying the race has been trending Madrid...We expect another Journal poll around Oct. 22...I believe that at this moment Madrid is very narrowly ahead, but don't get vexed Heather fans, today is not Election Day...

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