Monday, October 16, 2006

Hector To Get Hectic In Late Starting Auditor's Race; Is Armijo Forgotten? Plus: Demesia's Mess, And: Pete Coming For Heather 

Hector Balderas is the last candidate out of the gate for Campaign 06', but he plans a final hectic three weeks to ensure the job of auditing over 500 state agencies stays in Democratic hands. It's not a no-brainer, not after the late summer controversy that saw the Dems original candidate, Jeff Armijo, finally get off the ticket after reports surfaced that he faced allegations of sexual misconduct from two young women.

Balderas, a freshman state rep from Wagon Mound, has no baggage like that, but he has never run statewide before and faces an opponent, R Lorenzo Garcia, who has done it twice, is a CPA with extensive government experience and has appeal across party lines because of his demonstrated independent streak.

But Balderas, 33, an attorney, will pile on heavy in the coming days. (He just put up his Web site.) His campaign says it will buy up to $150,000 in TV time and throw additional money at radio ads in an effort to get the unknown known quickly. Big Bill can be counted on to up the money count and already has. The campaign says it has $100,000 on hand with more to come.

Garcia, of ABQ's North Valley, has only $18,000 on hand. The Dems are breathing a sigh of relief that the R's have more or less ignored the race, despite the epic scandal in the Treasurer's office, making ethics more of a concern and who is State Auditor more than a trivia question. In 2002 Domingo Martinez won re-election as Auditor, but only narrowly, eking out a 52% to 48% win over gadfly and Republican Tom Benavides. Insider polling has Balderas and Garcia running close in vote-heavy Bernalillo county.

If Benavides, without the scandal, could do so well, think what Garcia could do if he had has much funding as Balderas. I did notice a billboard for Garcia and R Treasurer candidate Demesia Padilla on I-25. It pictures the two hopefuls together as a clean-up team for the state financial offices, something the R's have been advised to do by politicos for months now. If they could take that concept to TV, they could deliver a major scare and maybe even get lucky.

Balderas appears positioned to get known quickly and separate himself from any negative lingering feelings the public has over the Armijo affair. Still, with that 2002 contest in mind, with Garcia making his third outing and with Hector getting a late start, the race could turn out to be a bit closer than most might expect.


State GOP Treasurer candidate Demesia Padilla stepped in the pit of racial politics when she sent out a controversial flyer (pictured here from the ABQ Journal) featuring her Dem opponent James B. Lewis. The flyer was dubbed borderline racist (Registration required) by Big Bill's campaign. NM GOP executive director Marta Kramer argued that "accusing a Hispanic woman of racism is ridiculous," But others disagreed saying racism can come from anyone, regardless of their ethnic identity.

Former NM Governor Dave Cargo, a longtime friend of Padilla's and a Republican with one of the state's strongest civil rights records, told me he was disappointed with the flyer and called it "a big mistake." He blamed it on "consultants who do not understand" the state and said he warned Demesia, an ABQ CPA, that it would backfire.

Cargo was emphatic that Padilla did not act from any racial motives. He was joined in that assessment by NM's first black state legislator, Lenton Malry, a friend of Lewis's. "I have met her several times. She is a nice lady and she is not a racist, but she was out of line on this one," Malry told me.

Republican Barry Bitzer, now chief of staff to Dem ABQ Mayor Mary Chavez, blasted Kramer and company for the flyer, saying it is a sign that change is needed in the direction of the state GOP.

"The strings in the Padilla piece don't offend me...it's the caricature. I may not be able to totally define the legacy of Jim Crow, but I know it when I see it. Padilla strikes me as a decent and qualified candidate. I am left to conclude that the urge to slime opponents continues to come from (GOP headquarters). It's a tragedy for the party." Blasted Bitzer.

Demesia's mess had the Dems pointing out that she was not the first R to bump up against the racism charge this campaign. Guv nominee Dendahl was widely roasted for saying in a radio interview that Hispanic lawmakers are not all that keen on solving the state's DWI problems because, he asserted, most DWI offenders are Hispanic.

An an on-line poll by the Journal on the controversy found that 53% thought it was offensive; 47% did not.


His re-election, according to the political intelligentsia, is in the bag, but Big Bill is working it like it is his first time. Take a look at some of his schedule--just for today.

Event: Tourism Welcoming Speech 9:00 a.m. Ruidoso
Event: Fire Truck Funding Announcement 11:00 a.m. Ruidoso Downs
Event: Ribbon Cutting, School Based Health Center 2:30 p.m. Lovington
Event: Joe Stell Highway Dedication 4:00 p.m. White City
Event: WIPP Permit Signing Ceremony 5:00 p.m. Carlsbad
Event: Speech to 10th Anniversary of Character Counts 5:45 p.m. Carlsbad

You have often heard us opine that "who wants it the most" is a major factor in political success. Big Bill wants the re-election bad, and he wants a historic landslide even more.


At first, the Madrid campaign told me they were not planning on putting up TV ads tying Heather Wilson to disgraced Florida Congressman Mark Foley. Well, that didn't last long. Over the weekend they put up a spot pointing out that Wilson was one of the biggest recipients of Foley PAC money, taking in $8,000 and claiming that as a member of the U.S. House Page Board Heather did nothing "while Foley preyed on children." Wilson has since donated the Foley money to charity. Apparently Madrid feels she needs all the firepower she can get as she will probably be outspent by the R's in the final weeks and Mark Foley is high-power ammo.


Meanwhile, D.C. Alligators report that NM Senator Pete Domenici will be out with a TV ad for fellow R Wilson in the coming days. Domenici also plans joint appearances with the congresswoman who he personally blessed for the seat when Rep. Steve Schiff passed away from skin cancer in 1998. Of course, a Domenici ad is no guarantee of moving big numbers. Oldtimers will remember he came with TV for then GOP U.S. Senator Jack Schmitt in 1982. Schmitt lost to Jeff Bingaman.

Some have speculated that Pete might back away from Heather if he thought she was going to go down, but don't expect it. He will raise the banner as he always does. Maybe the intensity will not be as high if things look like they are going south, but the old warrior will not "cut and run."

Here's the latest national take on Madrid-Wilson from the New York Times. (Registration required.) Also, CQ.com (Congressional Quarterly) is now ranking the race as "no clear favorite," dropping its earlier assessment that the seat "leans Republican."


Newspaper endorsements are highly sought, but whether they do much to sway voters is still hotly debated. The ink-stained wretches at the state's largest paper, the ABQ Journal, (Sunday circulation 149,000) came with its first round of picks for the statewide offices Sunday. Gary King received the nod for attorney general. Fellow Dem Mary Herrera was chosen over R Vickie Perea for secretary of state and incumbent GOP Land Commissioner Pat Lyons was the editorial board's choice over Dem Jim Baca.


Jim Bibb is getting a taste of the negative medicine after unloading TV accusing his Dem rival for the attorney general nomination, Gary King, of missing "one out of four" votes during his career as a state legislator. In his new 30 second spots, King counters that Bibb has received "hundreds of thousands" of dollars from "East coast interests" to smear him. The two will also continue to do battle away from the TV screens when they meet up at the UNM School of Law Oct 18th from 12-1pm in room 2401 to do a town hall discussion with the students.

And if you are a student of La Politica who likes a lot of homework, here is the complete KANW-89.1 FM debate between Bibb and King.

Thanks for stopping by. Let's do it again tomorrow. Meantime, help cover the final stretch by sending your new via email from the top of the page.

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