Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Spaceport Cliffhanger; Tax Hike Has Slim Edge, Plus: Big Bill: Cracking Colorado is Challenge, And: Ex-NM U.S. Senate Candidate Sought By The Law 

They didn't pull away like a launched rocket, but supporters of a quarter cent gross receipts tax increase in Dona Ana county to help finance a Spaceport think they will end up putting the proposal into orbit. Unofficial results have them winning the tax election by a slim and preliminary margin of 204 votes or just 1.2%, or 50.6% for the tax and 49.4% against. Politicos on the ground told me there are still 541 provisional ballots to be counted, but based on past experience I expect many of those to be disqualified. Even if none were, making up the 204 vote margin would require the provisionals to vote 69% against the tax. Still, this being NM where odd post-election events often arise, it is best to wait for each and every vote to be counted before declaring a winner. In other words, Big Bill will have to hold his breath until Thursday when the provisionals that are accepted are counted.

State Economic Development Secretary Rick Homans, who was the Guv's point man on the election, was emailing the Governor regular updates from Las Cruces. A consultant with the Victory Group of Santa Fe, running the campaign for the tax, described himself as "more optimistic than cautiously optimistic" that they have pulled out the victory. Why so close? "It's never easy to get voters to approve any tax," He replied.

The Governor's office gave us this late night spin at 11:20 p.m. "We knew this would be a close election and that’s proven true, as tonight the vote is simply to close to call. What is clear is that the voters of Dona Ana are both cautious with public investment, and hopeful in seeking to create a high-tech, high-wage economy, and improve math and science education for southern New Mexico. It's also clear is that the election was run transparently and effectively."

Turnout was more than the 10,000 to 15,000 anticipated. 17, 358 votes were cast, (excluding the provisionals), a turnout of about 18% of registered voters. The early vote, usually consisting of older and more conservative ballots, gave the Spaceport proponents a scare early in the evening as 59% of 3,819 early ballots went against the measure.

The in-person voting on Tuesday was more broad-based and one presumes more Democratic, although prominent GOP leaders had also supported the tax increase. Voters in Sierra and Otero counties are also going to be asked to approve a Spaceport tax. Tuesday's Dona Ana vote shows approval there can't be taken for granted.


The stiff challenge awaiting Big Bill to break through as a major Democratic Prexy hopeful is revealed today from the state he says is his best hope--our neighbor to the north-- Colorado. In an ARG survey just completed, Bill garners a dreadful 2 percent among likely primary voters there, compared to Hillary's 34% and Obama's 23%.

Now, some pundits may argue that the poll is meaningless at this stage, and they would be wrong. Colorado has been targeted for visits by Richardson, his first significant staff was hired there and he believes the state's growing Hispanic population--19% in 2004-- gives him a natural constituency. All of this, he believes, will lay the groundwork for a strong showing in the Centennial State that will help break him out of the second-tier of Prez hopefuls and give him a serious shot at the nomination. Thus far, the polling does not justify those expectations or even anticipate them.

Two percent is especially disappointing because southern Colorado is in the NM television market. You would think that would bounce him a point or two, but no. (The CNN New Hampshire Dem Prez poll released Tuesday shows Big Bill at 4 percent, up from one percent in February.)

The poll doesn't say Richardson can't do it, but it does say, somewhat surprisingly for a Western state Governor, that he starts from scratch and will need to spend a long, long time in Colorado's kitchen to whip up a winning recipe.


Jeff Bingaman picked up plenty of praise in the oil and gas counties of NM when he sought re-election in '06 and defended the big tax subsides for the oil companies put in the GOP crafted energy bill signed by President Bush in ABQ in '05. But with gas prices on the rise again and oil company profits at record levels, Senator Bingaman, the new chairman of Senate Energy in the Dem controlled Congress, has a slightly different spin on those tax breaks for big and small oil.

"The tax provisions were included to encourage more [domestic] energy production. "It's not clear they've accomplished that objective and we need to bring in some experts to make that determination."

Need experts, Jeff? Just pull into any gas station and ask a New Mexican ponying up nearly three bucks a gallon on a ten buck an hour salary. They'll have plenty of "expertise."

While Jeff could find his new responsibilities burdensome at times, he remains better off than the man who tried to unseat him last year. This from the AP:

"BERNALILLO--A bench warrant has been issued for a former Republican U.S. Senate candidate after he failed to appear for trial on a careless driving citation stemming from a traffic crash three weeks before the 2006 general election.

Allen McCulloch was "driving too fast for the conditions of the roadway" and was talking on his cell phone just before the Oct. 15 crash on U.S. 550 north of Cuba, the Sandoval County Sheriff's Department said.

The bench warrant was issued Monday after McCulloch did not show up for his trial in Bernalillo...The Associated Press left messages Tuesday for McCulloch, a Farmington urologist, at his office and home."

McCulloch didn't show up for his senate race either, managing a mere 29.3 percent of the vote.

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