Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Second Tier Congress Candidates Start Second Chance Campaigns, Plus: We Check In On The Northern Race, And: Insider Baseball With Big Bill & The Blog 

Sen. McSorley
Second-tier congressional candidates will get a second bite out of the apple today when they get to file additional petition signatures with the Secretary of State to win a place on the June 3rd primary ballot. All of those who failed to get 20% of the delegates support at their party's pre-primary conventions are expected to file the needed signatures. But if you were unable to get a measly 20% at the convention, your chances of raising money and creating excitement among the broader electorate in your party are pretty slim. Candidates hate to hear it, but the conventions are part of the winnowing process and only the strong survive.

For example, in the north, it's pretty clear that the Democratic nomination is going to go to either Ben Ray Lujan, who received 40% at the Dem pre-primary, or Santa Fe home builder Don Wiviott who received about 30%. And based on the latest developments, early favorite Lujan is not losing any ground.

Most of the myriad of endorsements that usher forth in these campaigns are headed toward the newsroom circular file, but Lujan has now picked up two that are potentially race-shaping. We've told you about the League of Conservation Voters giving Lujan their backing. Now we see that ABQ State Senator Cisco McSorley who, like the League, has heavy appeal to Anglo liberal voters, also recently threw his endorsement to the son of the NM House Speaker.

"Ben Ray has been a lifesaver for consumer rights at the Public Regulation Commission. He has worked closely with me on a number of consumer issues, and in the face of tremendous special-interest pressure, he stood strong as a champion for consumer rights. That’s why I support Ben’s campaign to stand up for New Mexicans in Congress, and that’s why I’m asking you to do the same."

McSorley, 57, is a native of ABQ who represents the UNM and SE Heights areas, but he is respected statewide among liberals who form Wiviott's core support. Also important is McSorley's long standing advocate as an ethics reformer. It is on ethics that campaign scuttlebutt has Wiviott hitting Lujan on in an effort to overtake him. But with McSorley in his corner, the 35 year old Lujan is going to have some pretty credible rebuttal if Wiviott does hit.

Campaign watchers say Lujan is not invincible. They question the professionalism of his team; they say he could falter in TV debates. They wonder if he will raise enough money as Wiviott spends huge personal sums. But with a key endorsement from the environmental community plus McSorley's, it's clear that Wiviott is gong to have to force a Lujan error.


Another issue being raised in this northern race here and in DC is the presence, or lack thereof, of a notable Hispanic candidate on the NM ballot. Tom Udall will be the Dem US senate nominee. The frontrunners for the Dem nod for two of the three US House seats are also Anglos--Harry Teague in the south and Martin Heinrich in ABQ. If Ben Ray were knocked off in favor of Wiviott, there could be no major Hispanic candidate on the Dem ballot to help boost turnout for Udall in the heavy Dem north. That is also a factor in the presidential race. NM and it's five electoral votes will again be key. The thinking goes that the more Hispanics that turn out for that contest, the better off it will be for the Dem candidate.

There's also the issue of Hispanic representation in New Mexico's five member congressional delegation. There is none, and hasn't been any since 1997 when Bill Richardson left the northern seat. The election of Lujan would change that. Santa Fe County Commissioner Harry Montoya and attorney Rudy Martin are the other Hispanic candidates. However, by his own admission, Montoya has been hamstrung by his lack of funds and Martin is a fringe candidate. In a state with a 42% Hispanic population, the lack of a Hispanic in Washington remains a sore point and could play into Lujan's hands.


Yet another angle on the McSorley and League endorsements. They may serve to
quiet support for any third party candidacy that develops for the fall election. Carol Miller, a onetime member of the Green Party, says she will run for the Northern seat in the general election as an independent. Her candidacy could provide a haven for liberal Dems dissatisfied with a nominated Lujan. That is akin to what happened in '97 when Miller ran as a Green and made possible the election of a Republican. She took many thousands of votes from ethically challenged Democrat Eric Serna. But a lot of air has been taken out of Miller's balloon by McSorley and the League. They are just the type of voters who would be targeted to desert Lujan for an independent candidacy. But they're not deserting; they are helping to build Lujan's fort. Right now, it appears it's going to take a lot of cannon power to take it down.


Just as they were calling him a clone of ABQ Mayor Chavez, City Councilor Ken Sanchez proposes that some of the dreaded red light cameras actually be taken down. Someone is thinking about running for mayor.


And ABQ Mayor Marty wonders why he gets screwed in Santa Fe. Monday Clinton supporter Marty said the Guv had "no loyalty" because he supported Obama. But wasn't it Democrat Marty who said he would never run against Republican Pete Domenici and that the Dems could not beat him? Just asking.


Now the nationals are talking about it. More info than you ever wanted about Big Bill's beard. Enjoy it while it lasts. The Guv told the New Mexican he plans to shave the beard in the next month or two. ""I like it," he said, "but my wife still doesn't like it. That's the main factor."


Here's some deep insider baseball regarding our first post early Friday morning of Big Bill's endorsement of Obama. In that post, we speculated that the news may have been released in the wee morning hours--around 1 a.m. our time--to perhaps downplay its impact by missing the print edition deadlines for the big East Coast newspapers like the Washington Post and New York Times. The thinking being that Big Bill, who has been given two cabinet posts by the Clintons, might be trying to take the sting out of the endorsement by letting it first play out on the morning media shows.

The speculation hit a nerve with a Guv media operative who checked in with this:

"This was absolutely not an intentional downplay. Ask the Obama campaign if they felt the Governor in any way downplayed his endorsement."

He added that Bill had to talk with Hillary Thursday night before going public for Obama. The deadline for the East Coast papers is around midnight, or 10 p.m. our time. The Guv's office said:

"The conversation (with Hillary) ended close to Midnight, Eastern Time. Way too late for the NYT or WP. No discussions were held with any reporter until after that conversation. By the way, the Obama campaign coordinated the release time."


At midday Friday we deleted our initial take on the media timing, replacing it with news of Bill's Oregon appearance with Obama. The Guv's aide asked why we took down the original report. It is not uncommon for us to do that with a continually breaking news story. Rather than repost the photos and links in a new post, we rewrite the lead, omitting earlier information that we see as dated. We were not trying to deny the speculation. In fact, we discussed it on statewide television with KRQE-TV's Dick Knipfing at 4 p.m. Friday. In thinking about it further, perhaps we did feel the original speculation was nebulous and that made deleting it easier, sparing us from looking dumb. But it was up until noon.

Richardson's announcement received heavy coverage over the holiday weekend as other political news ground to a halt. If there was any intent to downplay the news, it did not work. By the end of the weekend, the story was still going strong and Bill was being called a "Judas" by Clinton operative James Carville. (Monday Carville refused to apologize for the remark.) That may have hurt him personally, but it didn't hurt him with the man that counts--Barack Obama.

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