Saturday, June 03, 2006

Never Mind Voter ID Cards, How About Some Voters?, Plus: Sources: Prez To Artesia, And: More Trail Dust On A Special Saturday Blog 

It's not voter fraud New Mexico has to fret about, it's voter participation. The brouhaha over the mailing of new state voter ID cards, some containing erroneous info, but not required to vote, is overshadowing the real problem in this primary election---getting people out to vote. Never mind reviving paranoia that somehow, someone, somewhere will steal the election. Heck, you couldn't give this one away, and the candidates know it. They're scrambling for every single vote as they crisscross the state in this final weekend before Tuesday's primary election.

The two leading candidates for the most watched race this year, or at least the two who have spent the most money, Gary King and Geno Zamora, headed to areas that may prove pivotal when we count the votes Tuesday night on KANW 89.1 FM. King is preparing to head for the East side Monday to court conservative Dems and Zamora was in Navajo country--the Four Corners and McKinley County to persuade Native Americans.

One Alligator says maybe Geno read Governor Richardson's biography in which he talked about how the Navajo vote proved key to his 1982 congressional primary win which featured three Hispanic candidates and Tom Udall. Interesting. Perhaps Zamora, who fears splitting the Hispanic North with Lemuel Martinez, the third candidate in the race, could make up any deficit with a big win in Indian country.

The latest and final King poll shows him at 36%, says a campaign insider. Geno's polls shows him doubling his support in the last month, but still chasing the frontrunner. Martinez is in third. His last play is for Catholic Hispanics. He put up a TV spot quoting the Bible on how his first name, "Lemuel," originated. He does this while sitting on a log in a pond. It's either very weird or wonderful, depending your taste.


Since we broke the story on President Bush's NM Primary Day visit we have been working to fill in the details. Several reliable sources Friday reported the Prez will make his NM visit at the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center at Artesia, in SE NM. The center trains border security personnel The U.S. Mexico border and how to secure it will be the subject of his talk there. The president will fly into Roswell Tuesday. Sen. Domenici will accompany him. On June 16th Bush will campaign in ABQ for GOP Congresswoman Heather Wilson.


Jeff Armijo
Dem state auditor candidate Jeff Armijo is continuing to come under fire from the "progressive" wing of his party. At a forum Thursday night, a member of Armijo's family, say several who were there, more or less defended indicted ex-Treasurer Robert Vigil saying most of the things he allegedly did were motivated by the need to raise campaign cash. Armijo reports a $50 contribution from Vigil and was mentioned on FBI tapes as a Vigil political favorite.

But Armijo may lead the Dem ticket in the opposed races, say the experts. "He is tied to Vigil, but not tainted," explained one Jeff supporter. "He is also known as a standup guy with a lot of charm. He's very likeable. They say he's not a CPA , but wasn't (ex-Treasurer Michael) Montoya a CPA? Maybe voters don't feel that's too important after all," argued Jeff's admirer.

Tom Buckner of Rio Rancho, praised by the newspapers for his extensive bank auditing experience, has an MBA, but not an CPA. He is a relative NM newcomer and his campaign has not spent the kind of money to turn the tide and he has chosen not to aggressively attack Armijo. The Dem primary winner will be heavily favored in November.


You are not going to want to miss our KANW 89.1 FM Election Eve Special. We'll have the stuff you can't get anywhere else with Dem State Senator James Taylor and R Senator John Ryan, plus Billy Sparks, who has seen and done it all in La Politica. Top NM Lobbyist Scott Scanland rounds out the panel. These guys even promise to throw in an "upset special" or two, so tune in Monday at 5 p.m for a full hour of primary analysis. Tuesday night on KANW we'll have continuous Election Night coverage starting at 6:30 p.m.

Thanks to Ladera Golf, Enterprise rent-a-car and the Bill Campbell Agency, Real Estate, for sponsoring this year's festivities.

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Friday, June 02, 2006

Sen. Adair Arrested In Roswell As State House Battle There Rages, Plus: On The Trail With The U.S. Senate Hopefuls; It's Your Non-Stop Primary Blog 

Sen. Adair
Talk about bad timing. Roswell GOP State Senator "Lightning" Rod Adair was arrested in Roswell Thursday, just days before voters there decide one of the most hotly contested GOP state House primaries and one in which Adair is playing a major role. Here's how the Adair arrest was reported Thursday night by KRQE-TV's Dick Knipfing:

"Roswell police arrested GOP Sen. Rod Adair today for failing to appear in court for a traffic citation. Adair was stopped for speeding 85-miles per hour in a 55-mph zone in Santa Rosa March 17th. He was supposed to appear in court March 31st. When he didn't show up for two months, a warrant was issued. Roswell police picked him up, but before he was booked, Adair called the magistrate in Guadalupe county and had the fine paid."

An unanswered speeding ticket would normally be no big deal, but this incident comes in the midst of a very personal and heated campaign in which Adair has been front and center. It's the battle between Nora Espinoza and Mike Kakuska for the Roswell area House seat being vacated by the GOP's Avon Wilson. Rod has tangled with the local newspaper, The Roswell Record, which will endorse Kakuska Sunday, voiced automatic phone calls for Espinoza and plotted her campaign strategy. His arrest gives the Kakuska camp another round of ammo in what is expected to be a close contest.

Oilman Mark Murphy has donated heavily to Kakuska as he battles the breakaway R faction that in 2004 put up several legislative candidates against fellow Republicans around the state. Murphy has said he is considering seeking the chairmanship of the NM GOP next year, making the Roswell race one with statewide implications.

The contest has been the most expensive legislative battle of Primary 06', with Kakuska spending over $60,000. Despite his arrest, don't count on Adair slowing down his campaign pace. This race is turning into a must win for him as the Murphyites could mark him for a challenge in 2008 if they beat his candidate this time.

Sen. Carraro
It's been a good week for NM GOP U.S. Senate hopeful Joe Carraro. But can it make up for the not so good weeks that preceded it? The good week consisted of endorsements from Carraro's hometown newspapers, the ABQ Journal and Tribune and money enough for radio spots. And in a first for the three way race for the right to take on Dem Senator Jeff Bingaman in November, there is GOP TV. Carraro made a last-minute $3,700 buy at KOB-TV, according to station records. Carraro would not say what other stations the ad would run on, but it was expected by other sources to include cable.

The bad weeks have been those where Carraro has been running on a shoestring budget and amid persistent chatter that Farmington M.D. Allen McCulloch is the frontrunner because he has raised the most money (about $350,000 says his campaign) and handily won the R's March pre-primary nominating convention.

The veteran ABQ West Side state senator raised only about $22,000 through the end of March. But he told me Thursday some money "has been trickling in" from a fundraising letter sent by former GOP vice-presidential candidate Jack Kemp, allowing Carraro on TV for a couple of days. It will be the only tube action in the contest which also features former Santa Fe city councilor David Pfeffer.

Carraro's best hope is a big showing in Bernalillo county where he is well-known and where about a third of the GOP will be cast in Tuesday's primary.


As for McCulloch, his campaign said the decision not to go to the tube was mainly financial. "This is going to be a very low turnout election. We have sent out a total of 11 mailings and we think we have done a good job in targeting those most likely to vote," offered McCulloch manager Mario Sanchez speaking from the campaign trail in Carlsbad, NM.

McCulloch is all mail, all the time. No radio, Internet or other ads. He hopes to cruise to a victory in his home county of San Juan in the Four Corners and also garner big vote totals in rural NM before heading into vote-heavy Bernalillo County where Carraro will make his stand.

As for Senator Jeff, his campaign reports that he is going to take a novel approach to his current $250,000 TV campaign. The commercials will run for at least several days after the primary, giving him the political airwaves entirely to himself, unless someone decides to copy his idea.


The latest campaign finance reports from the state candidates were due Thursday and many of them were turned in, but the secretary of state's Web site, as of late Thursday, was still unable to post most of them. Big Bill's was up and revealed he raised over $550,000 in May, giving him well over $5 million in the bank. The AP's Barry Massey has more on that and what else was available as your blog went to press.


We will blog here through the weekend and appear on KOB-TV's "Eye On New Mexico" at 6:30 a.m. Sunday morning to analyze the races with Dennis Domrazalski. (Set your Tivo's or VCR's for that one.) Monday at 5 p.m. we will have a one hour Election Eve Special for you on KANW 89.1 FM in ABQ. Our wall-to-wall Election Night Coverage with exclusive, early results will begin at 6:30 p.m. on KANW. Hope you can join us.

Don't forget to e-mail me your late-breaking campaign news as we take this one down to the wire.

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Thursday, June 01, 2006

On The Primary Campaign Trail; The Latest Action With Only Days Left, Plus: We're Bloggin' Every Day Thru Tuesday; Why? Because We're Just Like You! 

First, let's thank the pollsters for laying off of Primary 06.' Heck, all the races could be blowouts Election Night, but at least we won't know it until then. Ironically, what will likely be the lowest primary voter turnout in NM history is generating frenzied speculation among the insiders because no one really knows with any degree of certainty where key races will end up. So it was as we took to the airwaves of 50,000 watt 770 KKOB-AM in ABQ Wednesday to update our Enchanted Land on the final adrenaline filled days. Joining the political party were top NM lobbyist Scott Scanland, veteran talk show host and politico Mike Santullo and an audience of callers.

Topic A was the Dem race for attorney general, with Scott breaking the news that Gary King has pumped $100,000 from his personal checkbook into his coffers as he fights to resurrect his political career. The young and aggressive Geno Zamora out raised Gary in the last finance reports (The latest numbers will be released today.) and was already heavily armed for battle.

All three of us stated the obvious; that King is the frontrunner, but all agreed the race is still open. Compared to his rivals, Lem Martinez is underfunded, but the tough D.A. will not abandon ship and was given a boost in Geno country as the Santa Fe Reporter joined the New Mexican and endorsed the Martinez candidacy. Lem is also hitting the radio airwaves heavy to try to keep up with the massive TV buys Gary and Geno have up.

Soon the candidates will turn to the all important get-out-the-vote effort, and with forecasts for a turnout of 20% or less of registered D's and R's, that could make the difference.


We were at ground zero for the radio ad wars Wednesday. During the commercial breaks we heard many last minute pitches. R Light Guv contender Sue Wilson-Beffort, unopposed for her party's nomination, was on and trying to generate some interest in the R Guv ticket, soon to feature J.R. Damron. GOP senate contender and ABQ State Senator Joe Carraro, hit with a script that had him using the time-honored phrase "Vote for me!" Carraro will also go up with a last minute TV ad to complement his endorsements from the ABQ Journal and Tribune. Allen McCulloch established himself as the early GOP senate leader by raising the most money and winning the R pre-primary convention. Insiders say he has sent out at least four mailers. David Pfeffer is also on the trail.

Earlier in the day, Carraro and McCulloch attended the ABQ funeral of Jerry McKinney, former press aide to the late Congressman Joe Skeen, where they shared campaign news with attendees. Jerry would be glad to know that La Politica was part of his final goodbye. Joe's wife, Mary Skeen, made the trip from Roswell to pay her final respects.

Back in the downtown ABQ radio studios, we heard Dem land commissioner hopeful Ray Powell, in a duel with ex-land boss Jim Baca, take to the airwaves to woo conservative Dems. And Pat Lyons, the incumbent GOP land commissioner, unopposed for the R nomination, but knowing history doees not favor his re-election, is wasting no time and was also up with a radio spot he voiced in his down home eastern New Mexico drawl.


It was that four way D shoot out for the ABQ West Side State House seat being vacated by Harriet Ruiz that had the KKOB phone lines humming with supporters in this who-knows-who-the-heck-is-going-to-win race. Moe Maestas, Dominic Aragon, Pat Baca, Jr. and Dan Serrano are the duelists and if anyone can predict the winner and the percentage within three points, I'm buying them lunch. Even legislative expert Scanland, in the game for 25 years and whose livelihood is the Legislature, said a call on this one is like picking lotto numbers. You might get it right, but you wouldn't know why.


The best response from a candidate NOT getting a newspaper's endorsement comes from ABQ Public Regulation Commission hopeful Andrew Leo Lopez. In response to the ABQ Tribune endorsement of Derith Watchman-Moore, Lopez said, "Both Trib readers in my district already voted early for me!"....

The Primary Day NM visit of President Bush to tout his immigration plan, news of which we broke here yesterday, "will be in Roswell, or some place down south," reports a Republican congressional staffer. I was a bit surprised to hear that as the south is probably least supportive of the Bush plan, but he did carry the region big in 04'. You have to give the Prez credit for tackling an issue that is not scoring him many political points....

The best response to the "expert" analysis on the blog yesterday in the Dem race for secretary of state comes from Letitia Montoya's campaign manager. "There will be shock and awe when the VOTERS (not the "experts") of New Mexico select Letitia Montoya as the Democratic nominee for Secretary of State."

He won't get an argument for me. Every day is a shock covering New Mexico politics.

We're bloggin' straight through Primary Election Day, every day, with the exclusive insider news and analysis you can find only here. That means you Alligators and wannabes are working overtime too. E-mail me your stuff.

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Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Late Breaking: Two Bush Visits? Top Source Says Prez Here On Primary Election Day, Plus: Insiders: Sec. Of State Race In Play; Come On In, Let's Blog! 

Bush & Pete
Two Presidential visits in just 10 days? It looks that way as a Senior Alligator passes word that President Bush will visit NM on primary election day, June 6th, to discuss "comprehensive immigration reform." The Prez, as first reported here, will make a campaign stop in downtown ABQ June 16th for GOP Congresswoman Heather Wilson at which she hopes to persuade folks to line up and pay $5,000 for a pic with the Prez.

Some politicos might say Mr. Bush will be raining on New Mexico's primary parade, but with few key contests and a record low voter turnout predicted, they probably needn't worry much. Rather, it would seem the President would pick an area of NM to visit, like ABQ, where his immigration plan will get a sympathetic hearing. Conservatives are up in arms over what they consider to be an amnesty provision for illegals in the Bush favored bill.

Still, the timing seems odd. Maybe the White House felt it was unseemly to just drop in on the 16th and swoop up dollars for Heather, so they are adding another visit to "meet the people." Or, more likely, NM would be part of a White House road show on behalf of the immigration measure. The fact that our congressional delegation largely supports him on this one is an added factor.

The visit has yet to be confirmed, but our Senior Gator is a guy in the know, and we would be surprised if he didn't have this one nailed. But, if necessary, I can eat my share of crow with the best of them.


The Democratic race for the secretary of state nod started out with Stephanie Gonzales as the clear frontrunner. Now, it has turned into a barnburner, according to top political analysts checking in here. Bernalillo County Clerk Mary Herrera says she has been throwing significant resources at the contest and even Gonzales insiders are acknowledging that the race is in play.

One of those analysts, Dem pollster and consultant Harry Pavlides, (in the game since 68') says Stephanie's campaign has not been very visible and that Herrera could win the contest if "she blows out Bernalillo county," a scenario he sees as possible. Herrera is on statewide cable TV and radio, is mailing 80,000 Democratic households and will soon hit with a series of newspaper ads. Her second cousin is a printer and has made in-kind contributions for the direct mail.

Gonzales is mailing twice to 35,000 key Dem households. She is a former two term secretary of state with high name ID, but Herrera is well-known in the vote laden Rio Grande Valley and can make inroads in the the important Spanish North. The other two contenders, Santa Fe's Letitia Montoya and former secretary of state Shirley Hooper, are seen as lagging by Pavlides and my other experts.

The political pros, still very cautious on picking a winner in the unpredictable, record low-turnout primary atmosphere, wonder if Stephanie has spent enough money to get her over the top. ABQ Mayor Martin Chavez Tuesday was raising additional funds for Herrera at a downtown lunch. Campaign finance reports will tell more of the tale this week. Meanwhile, Herrera has to wonder if anyone is paying attention out there. If they are, she has a shot, so if you took it off, add this one back on your must-watch list.


Lem Martinez for NM Attorney GeneralAn anticipated primary battle between ABQ NE Heights GOP State Rep. Justine Fox-Young and former State Rep. Bob White failed to get off the ground. And with good reason. White, who lost the seat to Justine in 04', has been in and out of the hospital since early May. The print shop owner told me as he recovered at home that he had gall bladder surgery and has been sidelined. Fox-Young has put together a sizable campaign kitty and the race tips in her favor. The Dem candidate in the heavy R district is John McWaters. White, still in the fighting spirit, says he will vote for McWaters in November if he loses to Young on Tuesday.

Another contested R primary is in the ABQ Far NE Heights District 20, including Four Hills. It also features a candidate by the name of White, but no relation to Bob. State Rep and House Minority Leader Ted Hobbs is retiring and hopes to pass the torch to Jim White, a former state GOP treasurer and Air Force retiree. Politicos from the area say Hobbs may get his wish, but White will have to work it as two other hopefuls, Kevin Dixon and Richard Berry, are also out knocking doors. The R nomination is tantamount to election in the Republican dominated area.


It's getting a bit crazy around here, but we wouldn't have it any other way. And we want you along for the ride in this final week of Primary 06'. Join top NM lobbyist Scott Scanland and me today at 4 p.m. on 50,000 watt talk radio 770 KKOB-AM for a rundown of the key primary races. Then, on Monday, June 5th at 5 p.m., join Scott and me again, along with ABQ South Valley Dem State Senator James Taylor, ABQ R State Senator John Ryan and former Big Bill spokesman Billy Sparks as we present a one hour Election Eve special on KANW 89.1 FM.

On Election Night, June 6, we'll bring the gang together to count the votes beginning at 6:30 p.m on KANW-FM, continuing a tradition that dates back to 1988.

As for your blog, look for special reports and breaking news every day between now and the election. You can take part by e-mailing your latest news and comments from the link at the top of the page.

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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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