Monday, July 21, 2008

No Early Senate Clash After All; Debate Dropped, Plus: Latest Campaign Chatter, And: Roswell Paper's Political Coverage Triumphs; Wins Award 

This is disappointing. What appeared to be a joint appearance between NM US Senate candidates Tom Udall and Steve Pearce and which we blogged about turns out to be nothing of the kind. Republican Steve Pearce and Democrat Tom Udall will appear at the July 26th NM Farm and Livestock Bureau’s conference at the Inn of the Mountain Gods near Ruidoso, but they will not appear together. Udall will talk for thirty minutes and do some Q and A. Then he leaves the room and Pearce does the same. That’s far from the debate that we and others thought the group was putting on when their release said: “Candidates for U.S. Senate and Congress will kick-off the campaign season...Both Senate candidates have confirmed their appearance...”

It turns out that the Udall camp, way ahead in the polls, vetoed the idea of a joint appearance in which the two hopefuls would be able to ask each other questions. That deprives underdog Pearce the chance to make some points, but also denies the voters the chance to get an early heads-up on the state's premier political contest. Udall's camp does say it expects to participate in debates in the fall. Southern US House candidates Teague and Tinsley will, however, appear before the group at the same time.

Udall's camp won’t turn down the TV debates. But how many joint appearances will we get at non-televised events? If Udall keeps his big polling lead, the answer may be not many. How about if the groups inviting the candidates insist that they appear together? Some could, but others won't because they're trying to curry favor with the eventual winner. Meanwhile, the Farm Bureau shouldn't worry about the media overcrowding their senate session. This one is officially a bust.


Pearce earlier complained that he asked Udall for a debate on energy policy and was stiffed, and now the Farm Bureau rebuff. But what should he expect? He is putting no pressure on the northern NM congressman. While Udall has TV ads going and is canvassing neighborhoods in conjunction with the state Dems, Pearce waits. Udall may take criticism for refusing joint appearances, but he is more than happy to take those hits rather than give Pearce the chance to trip him into a mistake and allow him into the race.

Pearce can't be discounted. The old saw we grew up with says: "low-budget; hard message." That means when you have a small campaign treasury like Pearce you hit hard because a negative message is better remembered and not as expensive to communicate as a positive one.

If it works, Pearce can make big strides in a short time, but if not, he will look back on the Summer of '08 as the time when the chance he had for the upset slipped away.


Even the national R's seem to be laying back on the NM Senate race. Their Senate campaign committee came up with a clever title for a web site--"Udall Against Us All" a take-off on Tom's slogan--"Udall for Us All." Trouble is the R's haven't posted any new material since June 10.


Summer Senate debates are not that unusual as the election cycle has expanded in recent years. In fact, even though he is ranked by various pundits as the Dem most likely to win a Senate seat this year, Virginia's Mark Warner has already debated GOP rival Jim Gilmore. The big issue in their face-off? The same one that Pearce wants to debate Udall on--energy and off-shore drilling.


Neri Holguin, the ABQ political consultant, who helped engineer three Dem primary state Senate wins, has now signed up to help southern Dem congressional candidate Harry Teague. She is consulting the campaign on field operations. Holguin will also continue to consult Dem ABQ state Senate contender Tim Eichenberg who defeated John Blair for the nomination for the ABQ NE Heights Senate seat held by Republican Diane Snyder. And that leads back to Blair. Insiders say he's been hired by the NM Obama for president campaign as its political director.

Meanwhile, Snyder is on the fundraising trail to ensure a third four year term. She will hold a $1,000 a pop she calls "Take Me Out To the Ball Game" on July 25th at Isotopes Park. Donors will take in the ball game, have food and drink and enjoy a fireworks display. She's also having a $250 per person fund-raiser August 5 at the Chama River Brewing Company in ABQ. That one is being hosted by a group of GOP state lawmakers, including senate leaders Lee Rawson and Stuart Ingle.


This one caught our eye. Benny Shendo, who was defeated in his bid for the Dem nomination for the northern congressional seat, reports to the FEC that he ended the campaign with $58,000 in cash. We didn't see any debt. Under federal rules, Shendo can't use the leftover money for personal use, but can give it to charity, a political party or refund it to donors. He could also donate to other political campaigns. Wonder if he'll give any of that leftover dough to Ben Ray Lujan who beat him for the Dem nod?

Oh, and one other thing. We haven't see any reports on line or in the press telling us how much GOP US Senate candidate Heather Wilson has left in her campaign account after losing to Steve Pearce. We'll keep looking.


The GOP contender for the northern US House seat is Rio Rancho contractor Dan East, and it's a contract with a political consultant that is causing the political newcomer his first headache. Seems you meet all kinds of folks at the airport.


Congrats to the Roswell Daily Record. Its coverage of the arrest of State Rep. and House minority whip Dan Foley has won the newspaper special recognition from its peers.

West Texas Newspaper Association's "2008 Better Newspaper Contest" saw Record reporter Richard Jacques garner second place for the newspaper in the Special Coverage Award for his reporting on the June 25, 2007 arrest of Foley, R-Roswell, after an altercation during the Gus Macker basketball tournament which was being staged in the back parking lot of the Roswell Mall.

The charges against Foley, including disorderly conduct and obstructing an officer, were eventually dismissed by a special prosecutor, but GOP voters tossed him from office in the June primary, nominating Dennis Kintigh for the seat. Foley has repeatedly blasted the paper, charging bias. But the paper stood its ground and was rewarded for its efforts. The lesson perhaps being that attempts to intimidate the press or blogs like this one are not going to get you very far, but they could get you a one way ticket out of La Politica.

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