Thursday, October 01, 2009

Our Continuing Wall-To-Wall Coverage of ABQ Election '09; We've Got All The Action, Plus: A New Guv Candidate? And: State Budget Chaos Escalates 

The hits keep coming in the 2009 race for ABQ mayor, but an old enemy of all politicians--the clock--has begun to tick louder, signaling that this battle is peaking and soon we'll be writing election history, not election news. But the trio of hopefuls are in the bubble for a few more days and they're furiously making the rounds at senior centers, factory gates, the radio airwaves and just about anywhere else where there isn't a "No Solicitor" or "No Politician" sign posted.

Judging from the latest hit piece posted here from Republican RJ Berry, Mayor Marty Chavez is conducting his final hours of campaigning from a trolley car, but there is no trolley, only the imaginary dollars discussed for one and RJ's imagination to make conservative voters fear four more years of Chavez steering city government. Berry seems to have nailed down a good deal of that conservative vote--if he can get them to the polls. That's one reason one R insider said RJ showed up on TV news Wednesday casting his vote early.

RJ voted early to drive the turnout message home to Republicans. His lead in the Journal poll will evaporate if Republicans get trounced in turnout...

The ABQ Journal duo of Dan McKay and Sean Olson tells us the early vote so far totals 12,000. That's way ahead of 2005, but not necessarily a sign of more interest or a higher turnout. We talked up Journal pollster Brian Sanderoff on the topic and we both agreed that early voting has become so popular in the last few years that many of those voting early in this election are not new voters, but ones who in the past would have cast their votes on Election Day. Sanderoff does not have a specific forecast for turnout, but does not expect it to be high.

Sen. Feldman
If anything is gong to induce sleepless nights and an overindulgence in comfort food for an ABQ liberal, it is the thought of Republican RJ Berry becoming the city's first GOP mayor since Harry Kinney ended his final term in 1985. But Chavez is keeping the buzz going that a vote for fellow Democrat Richard Romero is a vote that could get RJ closer to the 11th floor of city hall.

That Howard Dean robo call on behalf of Marty by his old friend, a noted progressive and ex-chairman of the national Dem Party, sent the fur flying. Some of the Flying Star crowd is now split over whether to go with Chavez, who does not have a progressive record on such issues as urban growth. But they want to ensure that Berry does not get to 40 percent next Tuesday night and capture the prize without a runoff election. The hair-pulling and sleep deprivation among our progressive friends will continue right up until Election Day.

But you've got to give points to Romero. Unlike his two runs for Congress, he seems to be finding his voice in the final hours of this campaign. The Dean call sent him hustling and he trotted out a long list of prominent progressives who are not going to follow Dean. One of them was ABQ State Senator Dede Feldman who recorded an automatic phone call Wednesday night and said of her former state Senate colleague:

"He's' a good Democrat...he's the only Democrat in this race who can win and change this city's future."

Other prominent city progressives who remain in Romero's corner were listed in his e-mail:

City Councilor Debbie O'Malley, City Councilor Rey Garduñdo, City Councilor Michael Cadigan, State Rep. Mimi Stewart, State Rep. Danice Picraux, State Rep. Eleanor Chavez, State Sen. Dede Feldman, State Sen. Eric Griego, State Sen. Cisco McSorley, State Sen. Jerry Ortiz y Pino, State Sen. Tim Keller and Judy Espinoza, former NM Environment Secretary.

Romero, 62, has big ups and downs in his lengthy political career. He is showing no signs of backing down, insisting everywhere he goes that Chavez is finished, that there just isn't blood in the water, but a full-fledged carcass floating around. The mayor delivered a sharp upper cut with that Dean phone call, but Romero came with a partial block. This game is on and going the distance.


No endorsement in the ABQ mayor's race from V.B Price, one of the state's most respected liberal voices. The writer and poet has covered every ABQ mayoral race since we started the modern form of government in 1974, and he is not finding this one to his liking:

The October 6 mayoral election will result, I’m pretty sure, in a ho-hum run off. No one will get the 40 percent of the vote needed to win. But who wins and loses won’t matter very much as far as the city’s future is concerned. Their campaigns are as relevant to the environmental and economic realities of the moment as phony non-partisan elections are relevant to the party warfare of post-Bush, Obama America.

Still, the sometimes pessimistic Price calls ABQ "a great city" and credits citizen volunteers and professionals, not the politicians, for successes like preserving open space and the bosque, nurturing the "magnificent" museums, the zoo, library system and for having adequate services for the homeless and medically indigent.


As all hell broke out within its ranks, they were playing it as cool as a cucumber at the NM Democratic Party. They are not getting anywhere near that liberal squabble over Romero and Chavez. Instead, the party issued a statement urging the election of a Dem mayor--either Richard or Marty--even as they acknowledge that the race is officially nonpartisan. But the R's have already come with help for RJ, so there's not much point of hiding their interest. New Dem Party Chairman Javier Gonzales is getting his first look at what he faces as he works to unite the party for 2010. He could get an early workout if Berry gets into a runoff with Chavez or Romero. Fired up Dems are going to expect him to hold the Dem fort in New Mexico's major metro.


With the mayor's race breaking out into a free-for-all, the two city council races that feature some action have been virtually ignored. City Council President Ike Benton is being challenged by former city councilor and current Bernalillo County Commissioner Alan Armijo. Analysts have been talking about how this is a heavy Hispanic district that Benton won four years ago in a race that featured no Hispanic Dem. They wonder if Dem Armijo can pull the upset based on ethnic voting and his long record of public service. But as you see in the mail pieces we posted, Benton, an architect, is fighting for another four years. He is out with a negative as well as a positive piece. We'd post Armijo mail, but haven't seen any yet. The district includes the downtown and Barelas neighborhoods as well as areas around UNM


This is the other council race drawing attention as political newcomer and R Dan Lewis continues a stiff challenge to two term incumbent and Democrat Michael Cadigan. Lewis has flooded the Westside district with a lot of negative mail on Cadigan who has widespread name ID. An independent group calling itself "abqcc5" has cut radio ads attacking Cadigan. SunCal, the land development company, has also weighed in against the councilor. He has opposed their pursuit of a TIDD, a tax break vehicle. You can see the gist of what Lewis is coming with by clicking on the mailer we posted here.

The district can lean conservative. Cadigan found that out after he was first elected and a recall effort was launched against him, but failed. Cadigan, an attorney, did win the endorsement of the ABQ Journal, despite some controversy over zoning cases Cadigan was embroiled in. Lewis has just picked up the nod of the Animal Protection Voters who say Cadigan hasn't been supportive of the Animal Welfare Department. R's like Lewis and think that, win or lose, he has a future in elective politics.


Today is the first day candidates for statewide office can begin circulating their nominating petitions for the 2010 election. That makes this election cycle officially underway. Candidates will have until February to gather those signatures.


An independent candidate for Governor? We haven't been able to confirm, but our reliable Alligators say former Public Regulation Commission Tony Schaefer, who just last week told us he would not seek the PRC seat being vacated by Sandy Jones who is running for land commissioner, is calling friends telling them he is looking at an indy run. Schaefer, is now a Dem, but started off s an R. He is from Las Cruces. It would take thousands of petition signatures for him to qualify for next year's ballot, but the prospect of an indy candidacy adds to the list of fun things to watch.


The ABQ Journal poll in mid-September had Big Bill just over the crucial 50% approval level--he was at 51%--but SurveyUSA, in a poll just completed for KOB-TV, has the Guv a shade lower, but still on the rebound. The survey said Bill scores a 48% approval rating and 47% disapprove with 5% not sure. MOE is + or - 4.1%. Richardson bottomed out in SurveyUSA earlier this year at 42%.


Rep. Rodefer
Maybe the state Senate is amenable to cutting public education against the wishes of Big Bill, but let's not forget the House. The cuts would have to win approval there as well. From an e-mail sent to state school superintendents by Dem ABQ Westside state Rep. Ben Rodefer:

I already have a substantial number of votes in the House against any budget agreement that includes cuts to public school funding. I want to further promise you personally that I will fight with every political breath I have to kill in the House of Representatives any public school cuts whatsoever, whether they be statewide or specific to your district.

Well, maybe Ben does have the votes, but he will want to double check with that other Ben--House Speaker Ben Lujan. Rodefer is a first-term lawmaker who took the seat from R Eric Youngberg. Now the R's are talking about trying to take it back next year.


We're almost as shocked over the continued increase in the projections for the state budget shortfall as we were over that ABQ Journal mayoral poll showing Marty Chavez in second place. Estimates for the shortfall for the current budget year are simply exploding as the state struggles with the worst recession since the Depression. The AP's Barrey Massey has a piece for all us budget watchers and the latest gloomy outlook. Big Bill will call a special session of the 112 legislators for later this month where they will grapple with the state's money woes.

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