Tuesday, July 01, 2008

The June Review: How Major Campaigns Stacked Up, Plus: An Argument For The Dems You Probably Won't Hear, And: We Really Are The Land Of Make-Believe 

"If it was a boxing match, I would score June 10 to 9 for Udall." So said a Steve Pearce sympathizer of the first month of the first fight for an open New Mexico US Senate seat since 1972. He's probably got it about right. Dem nominee Tom Udall scored points for pulling a mild surprise and staying up on television following the June 3 primary. He is not expected to come down before Election Day. The ads have been generally well-received, Some addressed Udall's weaknesses with conservative southern and east side voters. However, Pearce scores points because Udall stepped in it when he refused to talk to the press about his latest vote on funding Los Alamos Labs. Pearce also scored when the general public, outraged by rocketing gas prices, began to be more supportive of oil drilling on lands enviros want off limits.

Now we are in July and the question is how long will Pearce let Udall have the TV airwaves to himself? Will the GOP contender launch ads or wait for a more traditional start in August? Will the conservative congressman try to move a bit to the political center? And whatever he decides, how long can he afford to wait?


In the battle for the open ABQ congressional seat featuring Dem Martin Heinrich and Republican Darren White, there was hardly a fight to score in June. Both sides were busy raising money. White had a fundraiser featuring President Bush that took in about $300,000 and another one Sunday sponsored by outgoing Rep. Heather Wilson. Heinrich has been doing the same, with an emphasis on raising funds via the Net.

The onus is on Heinrich to make the first move because White's name ID is so high. The faster he can raise the funds, the faster he will start his paid media, but don't expect either Heinrich or White to repeat Heather Wilson's '06 campaign when she started TV ads in mid-July.

When they do get started, White and Heinrich will each have a now familiar problem to address. For Martin, it is the perception that he is too liberal for the district. For White, it's his attempt to position himself in the middle when his past and, perhaps his gut, place him on the right.


Down south, there was some preliminary skirmishing in the first general election campaign month, with Dem Harry Teague and Republican Ed Tinsley each firing volleys shortly after the primary, but then quieting their guns. Teague hammered Tinsley over having a second home in Santa Fe and implying that he was a carpetbagger. Tinsley fired an early shot at Teague "that he can't change his spots like a leopard" and try to become an overnight conservative.

Because Teague did not have an overpowering primary victory, he still has much work to to do to change longstanding voting patterns that favor the Republican. He will have to take the fight to Tinsley, but he has to brush up on the skills necessary to do so. Tinsley has to connect better in the district. While he has a ranch there, he remains vulnerable to the carpetbagger attack that derailed him in the GOP primary in 2002.


It is probably not an issue Martin Heinrich or Harry Teague can get a lot of mileage with because it is peripheral to voters' main concerns, but if either is elected they will be in the majority in the US House. That could mean NM might not suffer as much from the power we are losing with the retirement of Senator Domenici and the three House seats going to freshmen.

Dems took over the House in 2006 and are expected to add to their majority this year. If history is a guide, it could be many years before the R's are back in the majority. This is probably a side issue for most voters, but if White and Tinsley are elected, it could mean a lot of hours doing crossword puzzles. Being in the minority in the House is much worse than in the Senate where the rules let the minority in on the action.


Jerome Block Sr., chiming in on our Monday blog about the past legal troubles of his son Jerome, the Dem nominee for the northern Public Regulation Commission seat, thinks we went over the line with one of our lines. We wrote: "Block's dad, Jerome Sr., is himself a former PRC member who has had his share of public controversy. Is it time for a father-son talk on how to come clean and move forward? Jerome Sr. responded:

"Joe: Please tell me what public controversy you are talking about, or are you another one who titillates through innuendo?"

We didn't quite phrase this right, and Jerome Sr. has a point. He had plenty of "public controversy" dealing with the complex issues before the PRC and handling the press, but he did not have the personal legal issues as Jerome Jr. does. Our main point stands. Jerome Jr. needs to be more forthcoming before he embarks on a career in public service or his past is going to shadow him.

Gov. Bill
An electric car company that said it would open a manufacturing plant employing 400 on ABQ's west side ditched New Mexico Monday in favor of California. That was a blow to Big Bill who often cited Tesla Motors as one of his economic success stories. But now the bragging rights belong to California Guv Schwarzenegger who keeps Tesla in his state. No hard feelings, Bill.

The Guv did get to announce in June the opening of a Rio Rancho call center for Hewlett Packard, but the loss of Tesla is an example of the competitive and choppy economic waters we are in and the dangers posed to any politician wading into them.

If the current gloom and doom is just too much, why not go to the movies and forget about it all? If you do, there's a good chance the flick you take in will have a New Mexico connection. Hollywood's Variety recently devoted exhaustive coverage to our state's largely successful efforts to attract the film industry. It seems we truly are the land of make-believe, but if you follow politics around here you already knew that.

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