Monday, May 19, 2008

The Heat Is On: US House Campaigns Burst With News, Plus: Senate Battle Updated, And: Knife Fight In Roswell; Newspaper Vs. Foley 

The NM congressional campaigns are feeling the heat of the approaching June 3 primary. That means some things that weren't supposed to happen are happening. For example, retired banker and Southern GOP congressional hopeful Aubrey Dunn on Friday loaned his campaign another $150,000, becoming the third NM US House hopeful to go over $350,000 in personal money and put in play the "Millionaires' Amendment." It allows his foes to increase the amount they can solicit from donors. Dunn's campaign had earlier said the $300,000 he initially loaned himself would be all the personal cash he would put in the pot, but with the five way race for the nomination still wide open, Dunn, 52, opened his wallet for the final stretch.

Restaurant chain owner Ed Tinsley's campaign had said the southern race could cost up to a million bucks to win. Dunn's move could force Tinsley, 51, to go to his personal checkbook which he has so far tapped for $150,000. The two ranchers are seen as tied in this battle, with former Hobbs Mayor Monty Newman in third. Dunn has launched a negative campaign on TV and in the mail as he tries to fend off Tinsley's surge. Second tier contender Earl Greer needs cash. His consolation is an endorsement from the Las Cruces Sun-News. Tinsley won the ABQ Journal's nod.


It was Tinsley's residency that may have cost him the 2002 GOP nomination fight. He had a home on Rio Grande Blvd in ABQ, outside of the southern district. Now Dunn is hammering that theme. (You can see the charge up close by clicking on the posted image.) Dunn cites Tinsley's second home in the tony Santa Fe gated community of Las Campanas and notes that Tinsley says he spends about "60% of his time" at his ranch in Capitan, implying the other 40% is spent living outside the district. Ed already slashed Aubrey in the mail for opposing the Patriot Act, but the carpetbagger attack on Ed may have a more emotional connection with the voters.

Oh my, is this a fight to the finish, or what?


No sooner had we put the finishing touches on Friday's blog titled, "Wondering about Wiviott," than we had to wonder no more. The wealthy Santa Fe real estate developer hit the TV airwaves Saturday night with a negative attack on Ben Ray Lujan, the frontrunner for the Dem congressional nomination for the seat currently held by Tom Udall.

There had been scuttlebutt that Wiviott would come with an attack on Lujan's ethics, trying to make him a miniature Eric Serna, but in his first hit we get a rather mild rejoinder over Ben Ray having been a blackjack dealer and not showing up for some meetings at an obscure state health commission he serves on.

"Most New Mexicans work hard to make it on their own. Lujan was a blackjack dealer in Las Vegas before his famous father got him a state job. Now Lujan makes $90,000 a year, but he didn't even show up to 13 of the 14 meetings of he the healthcare commission." Says the Wiviott ad.

That famous father, of course, is NM House Speaker Ben Lujan. The spot is not exactly grounds for an indictment, but Wiviott is this campaign's million dollar man, having donated gobs of his personal fortune to the cause. Airing the spot ad nauseam might knick the frontrunner. If Ben Ray decides to hit back--and you know he will--he has some ammo about Wiviott's business practices before he moved to Santa Fe in the mid-90's. By the way, Lujan, 35, says he was a blackjack dealer in NM, not Vegas.

The gut check here says Don is going to have to administer tougher punches to change the direction of this contest. That direction remains firmly in favor of the blackjack dealing, meeting-missing and ABQ Journal endorsed Ben Ray.


It's as rough as it gets in the state's premier legislative primary battle taking place in Roswell. GOP State Rep. Dan Foley was knifed and gutted by a foot-long editorial in the Roswell Daily Record Sunday. (Read it by clicking on the image posted here. The piece was not posted Sunday on the paper's Web site.) The controversial Foley had every sin he ever committed listed by the paper which says it has had enough of the House Minority Whip.

"Enough is enough. Bullies have no place in our state Legislature. It's time for a change." blasted the Record as it endorsed Foley foe Dennis Kintigh, a retired FBI agent.

This is now wide-open Old West warfare between the newspaper, Kintigh and Foley. Foley's GOP legislative ally, Roswell State Senator "Lightning" Rod Adair, refuses to be quoted in the Record. He is trying to fend off a stiff primary challenge from Rory McMinn. Foley's district also includes parts of Lincoln and Otero counties. You may have heard of the Lincoln County War of the 1870's. Welcome to the 21st century version. Someone pass the popcorn. This is getting wild.


The GOP US Senate candidates were at it again over the weekend, battling to what appeared to be a standstill Saturday night at a debate in Roswell. Both Steve Pearce and Heather Wilson are getting scrappier and tougher with early voting underway and primary election day just under two weeks away. (Video here.)Wilson stopped the debate in a dispute about the rules. That figured prominently in the AP dispatch. It was a rare misfire for Wilson. Was she feeling the pressure? Pearce was more aggressive than he was when the hopefuls last debated at Los Alamos, answering Wilson's charges with many of his own.

There was no news from the session that changed the complexion of the contest which polling shows Pearce is leading. But the debate did start to show how hungry both candidates are for the job. That's to the benefit of the state if the eventual R nominee should pull off an upset over Dem Tom Udall in November. It is one bright spot in a negative campaign that most NM Republicans would rather pass up.


The man who helped hasten the departure of GOP Senator Domenici which in turn led to the Pearce-Wilson contest is making the rounds touting his new book "In Justice" which is billed as "An Insiders Account on Law and Truth in the Executive Branch." Former NM US Attorney David Iglesias sent Domenici's approval rating plunging last year when he revealed that the Senator and Congresswoman Wilson had pressured him to speed up indictments in the Manny Aragon ABQ Metro Court corruption case. The scandal also involved the firings of other US Attorneys and became a national political event. Iglesias did a half-hour on KOB-TV Sunday. No groundbreaking news, but the appearance was a reminder of Wilson's role in the scandal and no help to her Senate effort.


Only 74 voters made it to the early voting site at Del Norte Shopping Center in the ABQ NE Heights for the first day of early in-person voting Saturday. My experts say don't expect a record breaking turnout for the primary election, and this seems to confirm that opinion. They see about 35% to 40% of registered R's making it to the polls. That would make for a turnout of about 125,000.


We get inquires each election cycle asking where the candidates stand on the issues. The ABQ Journal has a voting section devoted to such matters and more. The TV stations special Web sections, including those of KOB-TV and KRQE-TV are also good resources, as well as KOAT-TV...

All six Dem candidates for the Northern US House seat are expected to duke it out tonight at the Farmington Civic Center at 7 p.m. The public is invited...

E-mail your news and comments and help us cover the final stretch of Primary '08.

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