Monday, August 04, 2008

Monday Monster Blog: July Winners & Losers, Nonprofits Sued By Lawmakers, More Foley Trouble And Bill's Beard 

The election clock is ticking louder as the candidates now have less than 100 days to make their cases. Who is best positioned after the second full month of campaigning? Who made the plays that could make the difference come Election Day? Without further ado and with the expert assistance of our insiders, here's the political scorecard for the sizzlin'' month of July.


Chalk up another monthly victory for Dem Tom Udall. (Our insiders agree he took June by a nose.) He maintained a steady paid TV presence throughout the month, made no major mistakes and continues to dominate the polling numbers and fund-raising. What's not to like? Republican Steve Pearce, still raising the big money needed for the final stretch, again ceded the airwaves to Udall, the main reason he loses July. But the scrappy southern NM congressman did score when Udall backed out of a NM Farm Bureau debate. Pearce also picked up some steam by pushing for offshore drilling to bring down gas prices.

Udall has finished what will be his two easiest months of Campaign '08. He remains the prohibitive favorite, but the hardcore pros want to see how he takes a punch before they judge this one over. In August, Pearce and the GOP machine will start delivering those punches more earnestly.


Republican Darren White's campaign did itself in with an ill-advised fund-raising event and handed the July win to Democrat Martin Heinrich. The controversy over White using University of New Mexico basketball coach Steve Alford as a fund-raising draw blew up into the first major headline grabber in the race for the ABQ congressional seat. It was all to the benefit of underdog Heinrich. Also, the Alligators questioned the release of a poll by Republican White that showed him beating Heinrich, but had him below the magic 50% number. They said the widely held perception in the political community here and in Washington was that White was at 50% and that he may have burst his own bubble some by releasing numbers that showed him at 47% and Heinrich at 41%.

But Heinrich did not run away with the month. He seemed to flip-flop with KOB-TV on the issue of offshore drilling, and that is sure to surface in the TV debates. (This weekend Obama shifted on offshore drilling.) And some say the Dem candidate failed to fully capitalize on the Alford Controversy. "Martin could have kept the pain going for White. Maybe he doesn't stick his nose in the Alford mess, but why not come with another hit on White to keep the bad press coming," analyzed one of our insiders.

Heinrich and White have not come anywhere near fulfilling expectations for this open congressional seat. Neither have raised the kind of money needed for early TV, and they both seem to be struggling to get this race before the press and public. Maybe the third month will be the charm.


Harry Teague
As with the ABQ race, in the south we have two candidates relatively new to this level of the political power game. Their campaigns have yet to lift off, with neither Democrat Harry Teague or Republican Ed Tinsley making much noise. Teague wins July because of internal machinations, not for anything voters at large would notice. The Hobbs oilman hired two seasoned political operatives, one to to help him with the field, the other a onetime Big Bill operative to be campaign manager. Tinsley also shook up his campaign team, but it has less experience. If underdog Teague can get this race in play that could make a difference when pressurized decisions have to be made in October.

Tinsley continued in July to harp on the debate issue, asking Teague to debate him in each of the district's 18 counties. But Tinsley earned no press for his efforts, and the pros say he missed an opportunity to begin defining Teague as too far to the left for the largely conservative south.

The big picture stays the same: Tinsley is the favorite in the Republican oriented district, but the Dems have their best chance in nearly 30 years to pull the upset.


So, if each of the three major ABQ network affiliates offers to host a debate between US Senate candidates Steve Pearce and Tom Udall which one is Udall going to stiff? That's the position the Democratic Senate nominee has potentially put himself in by insisting that a NM Senate debate to be hosted by "Meet the Press" counts toward his promise of participating in three statewide TV debates. But the Sunday morning talk show is hosted out-of-state and not comprised of NM panelists. Also, it airs at 9 a.m. on a Sunday morning, hardly prime-time. (No date has been set for the national Udall-Pearce face-off.)

It's not known if all three affiliates will indeed offer debate time, but they should. If they do and Udall sticks to counting MTP as a full-fledged debate, one station is going to be left out in the cold. Politics watchers understand why the frontrunner tries to limit debates, but it's getting tedious. This is the first open NM senate seat in 35 years. We deserve as many debates as possible. Tom's cousin, Mark Udall, seems to be debating up a storm as he seeks a Colorado US Senate seat. Don't we deserve the same?


Sen. Robinson
It's highly doubtful that the courts are going to overturn primary election results in which three incumbent Bernalillo County Dem legislators were ousted by "progressives" and in which the role of nonprofit groups turned into a raging controversy. But the lawsuit filed by ABQ State Senators Shannon Robinson and James Taylor and ABQ State Rep. Dan Silva asking that the election be overturned is going to keep the heat on the role of these non profits.

The nonprofits, coordinated by political operative Eli Lee, unleashed hit pieces on their three targets and played a major role in their defeat, all the while asserting that they were not violating federal tax laws or state campaign laws that limit nonprofit political activity.

KRQE reported the lawsuit: (The legislators) chief claim alleges $180,000 from two nonprofit organizations was transferred to six other organizations to pay for attack ads. Shuffling the money that way was done to let the winning candidates avoid reporting the source of contributions to the secretary of state, the suit claimed.

Eric Griego, who beat Taylor, says the suit is sour grapes. Maybe. But the larger issue of who is funding the nonprofits remains. And so does the irony. The nonprofits in question claim to be working to improve NM ethics, but won't voluntarily release a detailed list of their political contributions and who is making them. IRS rules mandate only general information.

Attorney General Gary King has been poking around. He said one of the nonprofits in question needs to report their activity to the NM secretary of state just as a political candidate would. That would mean fuller disclosure, but the nonprofit says King has it wrong and the secretary of state has not responded to the AG's request. While the lawsuit from the upset trio of lawmakers is not going to nullify an election, it could help build public support for the AG to get more actively involved. Here's AP coverage.

Rep. Foley
Foes of defeated Roswell GOP State Rep, and House minority whip Dan Foley are keeping their boots on his neck. The ABQ Journal Sunday hit with a front-pager on Foley's business dealings with the state. He is an Allstate insurance agent. A Chaves county commissioner is asking the attorney general to investigate a state insurance contract awarded to Allstate and which Foley benefits from. Foley, ousted by the voters in the GOP June primary, calls it a "political ploy."

Foley appears to be preparing to make a move to Rio Rancho, say Roswell politics watchers, but no confirmation yet. Political chatter even has Foley perhaps trying to stage a comeback by seeking another state House seat. But that would seem a long way off. Those boot marks on Foley's neck are still fresh and deep.


When Big Bill grew his beard after dropping out of the Dem prez race, the wall-leaners offered a variety of reasons for the suddenly hirsute chief executive, But rather than existential angst over his place in the political world, Bill recently told the Wall Street Journal, the beard has its roots in a simpler reason.

It's very difficult to eat well when you're constantly on the road, attending dinners, lunches, barbecues," says New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson. He says he grew a beard when he withdrew his bid for the Democratic presidential nomination in January "to hide one of my chins."


Louis Montano was born in Roswell, one of eleven children of a state prison guard. In '82, he was elected mayor of Santa Fe. Montano had a cheery disposition that made him a City Different favorite. He died last week at the age of 80...A reader spots this funny: From the Raton Range on the one new Racino to be awarded: "State Sen. Clint Harden, who was at the Raton meeting July 10 in support of the Raton project, also was at the Tucumcari meeting Thursday in support of that project." No flip flopper here for sure." Well, Clint has covered his bets...

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