Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Marty's Survival Kit: Negative Mail, Positive TV And A Howard Dean Robo Call; Embattled Mayor Mounts Final Push, Plus: Latest From The Two Richards 

ABQ Mayor Marty Chavez, fighting for his political life in a race that suddenly morphed from lackluster to compelling, is coming with a blend of negative and positive messages in the final hours as he works to slow opponents Richard Romero and RJ Berry and avoid the ignominious end that has been the fate of so many other ABQ mayors.

And Chavez showed an ace in this high-stakes political poker game Tuesday night. Former national Democratic Party Chairman Howard Dean, a darling of Dem progressives, many of whom are backing Romero, was enlisted by Chavez to record a robo call in support of the mayor that was piped into Dem households across the Duke City. For Chavez, it could not have come at a better time.

Dean, who was the mayor's first choice for the 2004 Dem presidential nomination, has been front and center in the media debate over the public option for health care, the issue that tops the charts for progressives. Dean's call could help halt any Dem momentum for Romero. There is real fear among liberals that Republican Berry could be elected mayor because of the Dem split between Chavez and Romero. The Dean phone call did not attack Romero, but it didn't have to. Just having the former Vermont governor pick up the phone for Chavez said it all.


The political intelligentsia is now signing on to the theory that the most likely outcome next week will be a Berry-Chavez runoff, but that was the same crowd that lulled the mayor into believing the race was his to lose. Chavez is now a reformed Pollyanna and is taking a surgical and measured approach during these, the most critical days of his career.

As you see from the pic posted at the top, Chavez is in the mailboxes with a heavy hit piece against fellow Dem Richard Romero. The former state senator was performing at 24 percent to Chavez's 26 percent and Berry's 31 percent in last week's ABQ Journal poll. Like the Dean phone call, this is a Chavez play to get Dems to move away from Romero, but it's much more direct, ripping Richard for having once been a registered Republican.

"Richard Romero was an R who switched parties to gain a personal advantage," the hit piece declares. Romero was indeed a Republican years ago, but has always sought elective office as a Democrat.

Romero's lobbying is also slammed:

As a special interest lobbyist, former Republican Richard Romero gained special favors for this big money clients, while ignoring working class Democrats.

Romero was a top lobbyist for the University of New Mexico and Isleta Pueblo, among others. But they don't seem to be groups that would be offensive to "working class" Dems.

Chavez is also up on radio with an attack against Berry for not releasing his tax return and for failing to register a business he owns. And there's this Chavez TV spot playing that promotes Chavez's work putting a tough sex offender law on the books. Berry is hitting hard on the crime issue in a TV ad that began Monday.


Romero did not take the mayor's attacks in stride. He scratched back at His Honor in an e-mail to supporters:

Let's not forget, Mr. Chavez is the man who claimed Sen. Tom Udall is "so far to the left, I'd rather not have him in the race," for U.S. Senate. From my perspective, I'm proud to have Tom Udall representing me in Washington...

And Berry backers stayed busy preaching the conservative mantra they hope that next Tuesday will advance their man to at least a runoff, if not the mayoralty. In an e-mail circulating that could have impact on Catholic Hispanic Dems, Berry was lauded for his stance on abortion and marriage. The e-mail said Berry is "the only pro life mayoral candidate; the only pro traditional marriage candidate. It also calls Berry "pro small business--RJ and wife Maria Medina run family owned construction business..."

We haven't seen any Spanish language media by Chavez or Romero. In years past there has been some. In past city campaigns we've also seen negative campaign lit placed on the windshield wipers of cars parked at church services on the Sunday before the Tuesday election.


Chavez is also taking another bite out of Berry via the US mail. That piece, like the radio ad, smacks the NE Heights representative for not releasing his tax return while Chavez and Romero have agreed to. A pic of the lit is posted here. In his final TV, in which he will address the most voters, Chavez's campaign says he will take a positive tack.

Chavez already has high negatives and going negative on TV wouldn't help matters. One analyst said the mayor is walking a fine line in hitting back at Romero and Berry, but not appearing desperate. That's especially true since the stuff Chavez is slamming Berry and Romero with is not high-octane enough to move big numbers, but plays best in the mail and radio for cherry picking votes. Chavez is likely to add negative robo calls to the mix and God knows what all the campaigns will hit with this weekend when no one is watching and there is no time to respond before Tuesday.


But it's not all negative in the mail. Chavez played nice when he went after independent voters with this piece. Many indys have peeled off Chavez this time, but many are still in the undecided column. As for the outright undecided, many won't vote, but all the campaigns are working to get those that will. We talked with KRQE-TV about that angle.

Team Chavez says the hits on Romero are necessary after weeks of unanswered Richard attacks on Marty. They seem to have a well thought out blend, if voters are still listening.


The get-out-the-vote drive is really where Chavez needs a big payoff. He's done it more than the other guys, and with all these organizations endorsing him he has plenty of shoe leather at the ready. One question that may gnaw at him is whether the rank and file membership of all the groups that are endorsing him will follow the recommendation of their leaders, or split apart. But then this is a mayor who has much to worry about in the wee hours of the morning when he is not out battling for his future.


Tuesday was another day of what appears to most analysts as all or maybe nothing at all campaigning by Republican Berry. He trotted out GOP Bernalillo County Sheriff Darren White to hit Chavez over the "sanctuary city" wedge issue. White cut radio to boost Berry, in part because he is mad at Marty for saying during a TV debate that White's sanctuary policy on immigrants has done nothing to lower crime in the unincorporated areas of Bernalillo County. White's endorsement of Berry is wrapped into Berry's sanctuary city spot. Marty and Darren have long been friends, but tribal loyalties are calling loudly now as the fight for control of the state's largest city gets up close and personal.

Berry knows that winning a runoff against Chavez or Romero in a Dem leaning city may be about as likely as Paul Krebs getting the UNM Athletic Department straightened out. So he is betting big on rallying the conservatives in hopes of reaching the magic 40 percent and avoiding a second round when the wrath of the state and national Democratic establishments comes down on him.


If none of the mayor candidates reaches 40 percent next Tuesday,
the Alligators think the most unlikely runoff combination is the two Dems--Chavez and Romero. Most see Berry securing a spot in any run-off because of the strength of his base Republican vote. But what if Berry falls short and Romero and Chavez are the top two vote-getters but stuck below 40? What could we expect in the Nov. 24 run-off?

Well, the last time two Hispanic Democrats faced off for the mayor's chair was in the 1989 mayoral runoff when educator Louis Saavedra handily defeated City Councilor Pat Baca. Saavedra picked up the Republican vote in the NE Heights and combined it with conservative Dems to take the title. Would a Chavez-Romero race have a similar outcome? Without Berry, Chavez would likely take the R vote as Saavedra did, combine it with his Westside support and perhaps take the win. Romero, however, would not be out of it. If Chavez is forced into a runoff it could be seen as a major upset and give Romero momentum.


If you live in the ABQ area you've seen the enthusiastic brigades waving Mayor Marty and Richard Romero signs from bridge overpasses and street corners (Maybe a couple of RJ ones, too). It's a time honored tradition and one that we trace to Big Bill and his 1980 ABQ campaign for the US House against GOP US Rep. Manuel Lujan.

Back then youngsters popped up all over the place on Election Day happily waving their Richardson signs in the hopes of influencing voters as they made their way to the polls. Now the kids are out days ahead of the main event as early voting has become a mainstay. The downside is that it can be a bit distracting for motorists. But for many of those waving the signs, it is their first introduction to politics. A little infectious enthusiasm can't be all bad.


So the negative hit pieces are mud in your eye and on your computer screen? Go ahead and click here for a free wash job. It's our election gift just for you.

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