Monday, May 21, 2007

Big Bill In New Mexico: More Popular Than Ever & Pretty Good In Iowa Too, Plus: Updating Pete's Position, And: The Latest On The Mayor Marty Front 

Running for President hasn't made the home fires burn less for Big Bill. In fact, the New Mexico Governor is more popular than ever, winning a lopsided approval rating of 74 per cent and garnering majority support in every subgroup sampled in the mid-May poll by Survey USA. 84 percent of his fellow Dems approve of the Guv's job performance and even 59% of Republicans give their stamp of approval. (MOE +-3.6%)

The Governor has not been home much, but he still tends to state business while on the road and nothing has blown up because of his campaign absences. Also, the prestige factor of having a Governor from the state seriously contend for the Dem Prez nod is likely giving him a boost as is his name being in the news more than ever.

An approval rating of 74% for a Governor in a diverse and often divided state like ours is a major political achievement. We've never seen it before, and are unlikely to see it again.


And how about that Des Moines Register poll released Sunday showing Big Bill cracking double digits and getting 10% support among Iowa Dems? Pretty good. He did the same in the recent Zogby New Hampshire poll, also registering 10% support. He still trails the leaders significantly, but let's say things are a lot more interesting as Bill's TV spots and handshaking tours show some payoff.


While Bill has taken over the premier slot in state politics, the man who used to have it, GOP U.S. Senator Pete Domenici, has taken a back seat. His approval in the Survey USA has slipped to 54%, the result of his becoming mired in the US Attorney scandal. Also, persistent chatter that he could decide not to seek re-election in 2008 has further eroded the lawmaker's standing. For example, the Washington Post's handicapper insists on keeping Pete's seat on his top ten of those to watch for turnover in '08.

Any source worth his salt will tell you Pete is running for an unprecedented seventh term, but the top insiders also acknowledge that the health of the 75 year old senator will be a determining factor, and that is not predictable.

Could Governor Richardson turn his political dominance against Domenici and actually run against Pete if his Presidential campaign fizzles? We have previously floated this possibility because the Guv could use leftover Prez money for a senate race; he would have time to meet the petition deadline requirement and a senate run, if necessary, is a viable option to keep his political career going. And with these latest polls, Richardson would now appear to be the favorite in a head-to-head showdown with Domenici. Call it far-out or unlikely, but any complete analysis of what could come must include this factor.


Some Dems are grumbling that the above scenario could be discouraging top-tier challengers to go against Domenici, even as names continue to float about. There has also been talk that Richardson is seeking a "place holder," a candidate who would get in the race, but be willing to get out in favor of Bill if Domenici were to resign the seat or Bill wanted to make the run against Pete. State Dems have long had a genetic fear of Pete, and while the US Attorney scandal may have altered the landscape, they have been unable to find a serious challenger since Toney Anaya in '78. Domenici's best bet to keep them fearful is by getting his approval rating back to 60%.

ABQ Mayor Marty Chavez could conceivably seek a third consecutive term as mayor, but he better not listen to us before he decides. Our initial blog Thursday said there were no term limits on the mayor, but we were reminded by vigilant readers that there are indeed such limits. If the Mayor wanted to seek another term in '09 he, or someone else, would have to go to court to get the limits struck down. That was done with city councilor term limits. Our legal beagles suspect the term limits for mayor would not hold either.

Meantime, the city council meets today and appears to have the votes to delay the mayor's proposed eighth of a cent tax cut from January until July of 2008 and use the savings to fund the county jail an additional $9 million. Chavez is ardently opposed to the jail deal. The councilors also propose to kill some pork projects of the mayor and fund their own priorities, or at least those of six of the nine councilors constituting a veto-proof majority.


The mayor still has command and control, as signaled by the councilors acceptance of his tax cut, although delayed, but they expect more give from the 11th floor. Prior to the recent Legislative session, Governor Richardson ensured smooth sailing by signing off on many of the legislators pet projects. Chavez could have done the same, but may have thought his tax cut would not be tampered with, especially by Councilors Winter and Harris who represent conservative districts. Councilor Heinrich, seeking the ABQ congressional seat and needing to boost his conservative credentials, may be taking a risk by voting against the tax cut. Chavez, seeking the Dem nod for Governor, needs to show he is familiar with the art of compromise. Perhaps their mutual self-interest could lead to a deal and avoid a veto spat between the councilors and mayor both of whom seem to be driven as much by ego as public policy.


We wondered last week if political opponents would start to line up against incumbent Dem Bernalillo County Commissioner Teresa Cordova for the June '08 primary. We didn't have to wait long for an answer. Retired sheriff's deputy Cris Sanchez, who came in third in the eight way '04 Dem primary contest with Cordova, is telling friends he will seek the post again. Also, Andrew Leo Lopez, who placed eighth in '04 says he will also go. Cordova has become drenched in controversy over her intervention to get her son's report card adjusted so he could graduate from Rio Grande High. She is now out with this defense in which she calls herself "a great commissioner." Self-esteem is obviously not a shortcoming of Teresa's, but does she come up short with her explanation of the grade-fixing fiasco? Stay tuned.

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