Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Mayors In The News; First Polling Shows ABQ's Chavez Strong; SE Mayor Battles Press; Espanola Mayor Praised & Damned, Plus: Martin's Money 

ABQ Mayor Marty Chavez appears to hold a commanding lead, Republican RJ Berry is attracting most of his support from Republicans and Democrat Richard Romero might want to look at attracting new voters to the polls. Those are some of the conclusions we took away after a glimpse of the first round of insider polling for the ABQ race for mayor. The polling was conducted a week ago on ABQ's West side and is the first indication of where the race stands since the trio of Chavez, Berry and Romero qualified for public financing under the city's new campaign law. They are also expected to be the only three to submit the required petitions to make the ballot. The race for mayor was included on this insider poll--not conducted by any of the mayor candidates--and surveyed over 500 registered voters.

Chavez was polling over 40 percent. Berry and Romero were essentially tied and lagged significantly. Undecided voters were about a quarter of the electorate in this early stage. Chavez's performance is not surprising since the area has always been a stronghold for the three term mayor. He began his political career as a state senator from the area. Still, it is of note that he is comfortably ahead in a must-win sector. The election is in October and if Chavez goes over 40 percent and holds his competitors below that level, he will secure a fourth four year term without facing a run-off election.

In this poll, Chavez was splitting the R's with ABQ GOP State Rep. RJ Berry, confirming analyst opinion that Berry's candidacy is so far Republican centered. Berry scored very low with Dems. Chavez was strong among Dems, easily surpassing Romero in that category as well as being the overwhelming choice of independent voters. We did not get percentages.

Romero, a two time congressional candidate and a former state senator, appears to have a lot of work to do. He is relatively well-known and has a stronger base around the university, North Valley and Downtown areas. He did not do all that well in the area polled when he ran for Congress. Still, the West side numbers buttress the notion that Romero's best bet to pull off the upset may be to try to do what Obama did--attract new voters to the polls.

With Chavez on target and on the march to breach the 40 percent mark citywide, Berry and Romero can be expected in the months ahead to launch negative campaigns, arguing it's time for a change after so many years of Chavez. Actually, we won't have to wait months. On Monday City Councilor Michael Cadigan, who was forced to drop his mayoral bid because of a lack of public interest, was carrying water for Romero. He was trying to prompt a probe of this story from February. But back-seat surrogates and former players for power can only do so much. It will be up to Romero and Berry to make the case against Chavez. If this first round of polling has it right, they ought to call their travel agents--their summer vacations are over before they begin.


Mayor Brockett
From Albuquerque to Alamogordo where Mayor Steve Brockett is tangling with the local press. We recently noted the deteriorating financial condition of his city and cited the headline in the Alamogordo Daily News that deemed the city "broke." That got Brockett boxing:

Joe, The City of Alamogordo was never broke despite the local newspaper's headlines in March. We addressed its shortfall Tuesday evening. The Alamogordo Daily News didn't even have the decency to offer up this headline after the meeting: "ALAMOGORDO BREAKS EVEN"

To overcome a shortfall of nearly $650,000, the paper now reports the city will freeze some additional vacant positions; reduce hours at the library and recreation center; reduce the general fund subsidy to the airport; and cut funding for a road project. Brockett will avoid laying off city workers---at least for the time being.

The matter made its way here because of money Alamogordo pledged to PreCheck--a call center company that has a facility there. In 2006, the city gave PreCheck $100,000 and promised a total of $650,000 so the company would locate there. Brockett did not comment on that expenditure.

Mayor Maestas
From Alamogordo we travel north to Espanola where Joe Maestas sports the title of His Honor. His name was floated here last week as a possible replacement for indicted Public Regulation Commissioner Jerome Block Jr. if Block were to step down and Big Bill were to appoint someone to fill out his term. That praise of Maestas drew this counterpoint:

Turned around Espanola? Please. There's a story every week in the Rio Grande Sun about the same old same old in this municipal banana republic and Joe Maestas' inability to make any difference. Maestas has failed to turn the city around...

In the 2008 PRC Dem primary, Maestas not only came in fourth in a field of six (not five), he came in third in Rio Arriba County--Espanola is 60%--in Rio Arriba County.

Do you get the feeling that politics in Espanola is as wild as ever? Besides the PRC, Maestas has been mentioned a as a possible candidate for the Dem nod for Lt. Governor in 2010.

Heinrich & Bingaman
ABQ Dem Congressman Martin Heinrich is off to a quick start in the 2010 money chase. According to FEC records just posted, Heinrich raised nearly $250,000 in the first three months of this year and reports cash on hand as of March 31 of $201,000. Insiders say that is a strong pace, equaling the past fund-raising for the same period as GOP US Rep. Heather Wilson who Heinrich replaced. The new congressman's camp hopes it keeps at bay any serious opposition. So far, he has none.

The early money chase began back in January. Only days after being sworn in Heinrich and northern US Rep. Ben Ray Lujan were already announcing fund-raising events. It seems around-the-year cash chasing is here unless the rules change someday.

My experts see Heinrich as perhaps more vulnerable than he ever will be in 2010, when it will be his first stab at re-election and one where the success rate dips some, but not much.

Back in 1970, Santa Fe's Fabian Chavez mounted a stiff, but unsuccessful challenge to then first-term ABQ and northern Congressman Manuel Lujan. In 1998, Republican Heather Wilson, who won a special election to take the ABQ seat in June of that year, was put to the test in November for a second time by businessman Phil Maloof. He spent over $5 million, but still lost. After those initial tests, Manuel and Heather were both off to the races with no serious challenges for years to come.

The only NM congressman to lose re-election since 1972 was freshman northern GOP Rep. Bill Redmond who, in 1998, fell to Democrat and now US Senator Tom Udall. But historians generally agree Redmond's election in the first place in the heavy Dem area was a political fluke.

Heinrich's report says he picked up about $14,000 in the first quarter from ActBlue, a Democratic Web site that solicits individual contributions for candidates; he took in $2,000 from NM Senator Jeff Bingaman's campaign committee; he received $4,800 from Edgar Lopez who is involved in Las Cruces real estate (in Rep. Teague's district); the American Bankers Association PAC gave Heinrich $6,000; the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers union is listed as giving $10,000 and a campaign fund of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi kicked in $4,000; ABQ attorney Phil Gaddy gave $2,400 and ABQ defense attorney Randi McGinn came with $2,300.

On the spending side, it appears Heinrich handed out some handsome bonuses to campaign staff who helped bring home his win. To the victor go to the spoils. That never changes, even in a "change" election.


It's a NM mom and daughter duo doing duty in the Obama administration.

Santa Fe native Elizabeth Montoya is serving as chief of staff at the Office of Personnel Management. OPM runs the federal Civil Service. She previously served as Associate Director of White House Personnel. Her daughter, Elisa Montoya, is the White House Liaison at the US Peace Corps. During the campaign, she was a campaign advisor for President Obama's national Hispanic outreach. Elisa is a St. Mike's High grad and took her law degree at USC...

The NM GOP puts on its annual Lincoln Day Dinner Saturday. Guest speaker will be Solomon Yue Jr., a co-founder of the Republican National Conservative Caucus. Tickets for the event are $150 each and available at 505-298-3662 or tkardeen@gopnm.org.

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