Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Chavez Era Ends As ABQ Picks A Berry; GOP Candidate Coasts To Mayoral Win; Low Dem Turnout & R Unity Key To Win; City Council Goes R; Cadigan Ousted 

ABQ Mayor-elect Richard "RJ" Berry
He came to Albuquerque from Nebraska in the early 80's to run track at the University of New Mexico and Tuesday night he showed the state he also knows how to run around the political oval. Republican State Representative Richard "RJ" Berry, 46, captured the mayor's office by several lengths, collecting 43.82 percent of the vote in a three way race and easily eclipsing the 40 percent mark necessary to avoid a runoff election. He will be the first GOP mayor of the state's largest city since Harry Kinney left office in 1985 and he will govern with a new Republican majority--five to four--on the nine member city council.

(Complete election results here. ABQ Journal here. NMI here. TV here and here. Pollster Sanderoff analysis here.)

The affable construction company executive sent a message early in the evening by immediately going over 40 percent when over 10,000 early votes were released just after the polls closed at 7 p.m. He hardly looked back, dipping briefly below the magic number a time or two as downtown and Valley Democratic precincts posted results, but he went quickly back above 40 percent and stayed there. It was a firm rejection of three term incumbent Martin Chavez, 57, who pushed the envelope when he went to court and won the right to seek a third term in a row, but nevertheless will henceforth be regarded as one of the city's major historical figures.

But it was Berry making all the history Election Night, taking advantage of a bitter split in the city's majority Democratic party and coasting to a win built on rock-solid wins in ABQ's heavy GOP NE Heights precincts, surpassing Chavez in his political birthplace on the city's Westside and even raiding Democratic strongholds in the city's center where turned off Dems stayed home in droves or even voted for Berry.


Unofficial results put turnout at about 83,000 or 25 percent of the registered voters, below the nearly 87,000 who cast ballots in 2005. That gave Berry a boost as reliable R voters made up a larger percentage of the total vote than normal.

Chavez could only manage 35.02 percent for his swan song performance. Fellow Dem Richard Romero sank to 20.98 percent. Between them they had a majority of the vote, but the Dems were left out in the cold. They were denied a runoff between Republican Berry and one of their own who they were certain could carry the day in a one-on-one race.

The race turned on characteristics unique to ABQ, said my veteran political analysts on our KANW 89.1 FM Election Night broadcast. The key one being "Chavez fatigue." Republican State Rep. Larry Larranaga said the Berry win carried no significance for the party beyond the state, but he and former Bernalillo County GOP executive director Bob Cornelius pointed out that Berry will be the highest ranking Republican in the state and one with access to its major media market. Democrat Lenton Malry analyzed that Berry, if he moves to the center, could expand the R's narrow base similar to the way Pete Domenici did back in the day.

But for Berry, it is first things first. Former ABQ Mayor Jim Baca told our radio audience that Berry will tread cautiously in forming a new government, saying RJ will be bombarded with resumes and decisions about his transition team in the weeks ahead. Berry will be inaugurated into office December 1. No immediate names surfaced as to who might be his chief administrative officer--his most important appointment.


The mayor-elect was terse in his victory speech, not given until nearly 11 p.m. as he awaited late returns (Complete video here). He seemed conscious that while nearly 44 percent of the vote is a strong showing in a three way race, it still falls well short of a majority. He told the crowd at the Sheraton Uptown Hotel:

I look forward to being a mayor of all of Albuquerque. I look for the opportunity to work with each and every council person and move all of our nine council districts forward.

Berry, who ran on a tough on crime platform and who used the emotional "sanctuary city" wedge issue to unite his conservative base, did not venture further into policy or put out any singular message. He appeared pleased, but not exuberant in his first appearance as mayor-elect. He is not yet familiar with the inner workings of city government and will use the next two months to get up to speed.


Mayor Chavez went out with grace, offering a smooth transition to Berry and saying he will have lunch today with the mayor-to-be. He did not offer any speculation on why he was defeated in his quest for an unprecedented fourth term. (He served his first from '93 to '97). A top aide to Chavez said he told the mayor on Monday, that based on tracking polls, it appeared there would be no run-off and that he would lose outright to Berry. The aide said Chavez did not buy into the prediction, continuing to believe that he would come in second, but keep Berry below 40 percent.

Chavez, an attorney, told a media gaggle (video here) and our radio audience he will now look to improve his personal finances and spend more time with his two children.

Mayor Marty, as he had come to be known, appeared to be on his way to yet another victory for most of the year, but it turned out he had a glass jaw and succumbed to attacks on the right from Berry and on the left from Romero. The late September ABQ Journal poll showing him at 26 percent and lagging Berry by five points turned out to be the beginning of the end, even though he fought valiantly to finish nine points above that low-water mark, mounting a counteroffensive that proved too little too late.


Former NM Dem Party Chairman John Wertheim told the radio audience the city's new public financing law had the unintended consequence of helping Berry. He said a lack of campaign ads and overall buzz hurt Democratic turnout. Republican voters are more reliable when it comes to voting and easier to turn out. Dems need to be prodded and you need money to prod them, he analyzed.

The three candidates all accepted public financing and spending was capped at $328,000 each. Dem Richard Romero opted not to air TV ads and instead used his money mainly for attack mail. Berry, however, made a noticeable TV buy and continuously hammered home one crime spot in the final week. Chavez came with two ads, but he could not heal the initial wounds caused by the negative drumbeat initiated weeks earlier.


Berry will resign his legislative seat before he takes office Dec. 1. The mayor's job is a full-time post and you can't hold both. His replacement would be named by the Bernalillo County Commission, not the Governor, because his district lies all within one county. The appointed term will run through 2010. There is a special session of the Legislature Oct. 17. Berry might be expected to attend that session, but official word is awaited. Who will replace him? And will there be competition among R's to get the nod?


Chavez wasn't the only incumbent to bite the dust Tuesday. In District 5 on the city's Westside, two term Democratic City Councilor Michael Cadigan fell to businessman and pastor Dan Lewis.

Republican Lewis ran a heavy negative mail campaign against the incumbent, backed up by intensive door-to-door campaigning. He also had help from the city and state GOP organizations. His 56 percent victory means there will now be a majority of five Republicans on the nine member council. We'll have to check the record books to see when that last happened.

That's significant because Berry will have a veto-proof council. It takes six votes to override a mayoral veto, and even though ex-Mayor Baca pointed out the tool is only occasionally used, it is still a valuable one for any chief executive.

Another longtime ABQ politico saw his political career ended Tuesday night. Bernalillo County Commissioner Alan Armijo, term-limited on the commission and hoping to get back on the city council on which he once served, fell to incumbent Democratic City Councilor Ike Benton. Benton dispatched Armijo and earned a second four year term by garnering 59 percent of the vote. The district is heavy Hispanic, but Benton won it four years ago, made his bones with the voters and Tuesday they judged him on the job he had done, not ethnicity.

GOP City Councilor Dan Harris had token opposition and was handily re-elected as he defended his far NE Heights seat. He will be a key swing vote on the council, Financial planner Mike Cook takes the council seat held by fellow R Sally Mayer who decided not to seek-re-election.


Wouldn't you know it, we swore off predicting races with candidates, but stuck our neck out Monday on our pre-game radio show and said that a proposal to get city councilors a pay raise would get defeated. After all, such proposals always are rejected. Turns out almost always. The measure to form an independent salary commission which is likely to lead to a pay raise for the councilors who currently make 10 percent of the mayor's salary, made it through with 53 percent of the vote. The Journal poll said it was doomed. Go figure. The other nine amendments to the city charter were also approved by voters.

As expected, the proposal to renew a quarter cent tax for transit won handily (58 percent) and all the bond issues also passed. There may have been an anti-incumbent sentiment Tuesday, but not an anti-tax sentiment.


Mayor-elect Berry wins high praise from those who have worked with him. They say he is keen on financial issues and has a laid-back personality which should serve him well in the often contentious pond that is city politics. He comes to the office at a time of severe economic restrictions. In many ways, he and the council will be caretakers of what we have, not what we will build. His business sense should be helpful in making the cuts to government here that seem inevitable.

A Mayor Berry will need to resist pressure from conservatives to wade into social matters like school prayer, abortion and gay marriage and, yes, the sanctuary city issue over illegal immigrants. That is a red flag for many in the Hispanic community. Berry's wife, Maria, (Medina) is a native Hispanic who was on stage with her husband last night. The couple represent the diversity the city prizes and that was on full display among ABQ residents who went to the polls Tuesday.

RJ Berry won with 44 percent of the vote, but 100 percent of ABQ can agree with him that this is a "wonderful city" and wish him well in keeping it that way.


We don't call it "New Mexico's Best Political Broadcast" for nothing. Outstanding work from my panel of experts on KANW nailed the mayor's race and the key trends early. Our early vote reporters--coordinated by Steve Cabiedes and pollster Harry Pavlides kept the city informed and were spot on. Thanks to all who made our public radio broadcast possible--too many of you to mention here, but be assured we are deeply appreciative to you all. A final tip of the hat to our generous sponsors--DW Turner Public Relations, Coca-Cola, Dan Serrano and Sons and Ladera Golf and Banquet.

We finished up on the air after midnight and I am writing to you at 3:30 a.m. so we may be light around here for the next day or so.

This is the home of New Mexico politics.

Reporting from Albuquerque, I'm Joe Monahan.

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Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Election 2009 Is Today; Final Predictions For Exciting Mayor Race; Election Night Coverage Tonight at 6:30 p.m., Plus: Bill Sets Special Session 

  • 12:30 pm Update---"Steady stream" of voters reported by TV news in ABQ city election. No major problems; some optical scanners break, says city clerk
  • Wall-to-wall radio coverage starts today at 6:30 pm on KANW 89.1 FM and streamed at www.kanw.com
The guessing game comes to an end tonight, but what a game its been. With three candidates seeking the ABQ mayor's office and 40 percent of the vote required to avoid a run off election, the combinations of who will end up where have provided ceaseless entertainment. And before we get to the serious business of counting the votes tonight at 6:30 p.m. on KANW 89.1 FM, we give you a final round of guesstimating with a trio of top political analysts.

John Wertheim, former NM Dem Party chair and a backer of Mayor Marty Chavez, says no one will get to 40 percent tonight and the Nov. 24 runoff will be between Chavez and Republican RJ Berry. He said Chavez and Berry will each score between 35 and 39 percent tonight and that Democrat Richard Romero will come in third with 25 percent.

State Senator Eric Griego, the second place finisher in the 2005 mayoral derby, told our KANW Election Eve special audience, it will be three for the thirties--predicting all three candidates will go over 30 percent. Griego, a Romero supporter, would not commit to supporting Chavez if he were to get into a runoff. That set off a spirited debate with Wertheim and signaled the deep divisions between the centrist Dems represented by Wertheim and the liberals represented by Griego.

GOP State Rep. Larry Larranaga set everyone back on their heels when he came with this set of numbers: Berry--40.5%, Chavez--30.5% and Romero--29%. Larranaga, a supporter of Berry, but a veteran observer of ABQ politics, contends that Chavez getting only 26% in the ABQ Journal poll conducted Sept. 22 to 24, signals that the incumbent is done. It wasn'tLarry's prediction, but the spread between the contenders that prompted guffaws.

Of course, no one is calling for this finish either--how about if two of the candidates get 40% of the vote and the third gets 20%? As we said the combinations are endless and the mayoral election of 2009, initially thought to be a snoozer, will go down as one of the more exciting ever--no matter the outcome.


Here's one last round of analysis of the ABQ election. We appeared on KOB-TV's "Eye on New Mexico" Sunday with former Mayor Jim Baca. It's a half hour hosted by KOB anchor Nicole Brady and political reporter Stuart Dyson. And a final look at our candidates on the campaign trail.


If you aren't in the listening area, you can hear Election Night coverage live tonight from the KANW site beginning at 6:30 p.m.

Thanks to our sponsors--Coca Cola, DW Turner Public Relations, Ladera Golf and Banquet Facilities and Serrano and Sons, Constructors for making possible Election Night coverage. We'll be on the air continuously and stay on until all the votes are counted. We'll have attorney Wertheim with us for the duration, Griego for an hour and former Mayor Jim Baca will also provide analysis. Rep. Larranaga will be joined by former Bernalillo County GOP executive director Bob Cornelius who will be stationed at Government Center for the official vote count. Former Bernalillo County Commissioner Lenton Malry will be back for his 21st year of giving us early and exclusive results from select voting precincts. And Steve Cabiedes and Harry Pavlides will coordinate even more early results. And, of course, we'll hear from all the candidates. This one is going to be exciting, so be sure to tune in.


Here's the League of Women Voters election guide for today's election. Info on where to vote is here. Polls are open from 7 a.m. until 7 p.m. The city clerk's number is 768-3030.


Big Bill will call them back October 17, but there is still no deal cut on how to resolve the state's now gargantuan budget deficit. The special legislative session will confront red ink totaling as much as $650 million for the current budget year, says Senator Tim Jennings. The Guv insists that public schools take no cut, but is agreeable to an across the board three percent reduction for other state agencies.

Some lawmakers think they are being played, that Richardson will set them up as the bad guys, continuing to hammer them over trying to cut public education, but in the end sign a law that does just that.

But a train wreck now seems possible. We've had several special legislative sessions where conservative senators simply quit working and adjourned, leaving Big Bill looking smaller. Now that he's a lame duck, the Senate's recalcitrance may grow.

There is still time for a deal before Oct. 17, but with Dem special interest groups are clamoring for tax increases and fighting spending reductions. Richardson and Light Guv Denish are feeling the heat from them.

The New Mexican government is in need of restructuring for the long-term, not just big spending cuts to solve the immediate budget crisis. What should we be paying state employees? Can we reduce the administrative structure of the public schools? How many political appointees can we shed? What about the oversized salaries at the University of New Mexico? What of the many state boards and commissions with highly paid executive directors--how many of them are necessary in a new lean and mean economic era? What of the Medicaid program for the state's poor? Can it be made more efficient and responsive? What of our tax structure? Can the wealthiest among us continue to be taxed like the middle class?

The list of questions goes on, but legislators for now will cut across the board and let each agency decide where the axe will fall. But the time for a reorganization of state government has come. It will take creativity and study, not just a strong arm on the budget axe.


Tony Schaefer has more time than he thought. The former Public Regulation Commissioner from Las Cruces who told us he will attempt to run for governor as an independent, said he had until early February to collect nearly 17,000 signatures to qualify for the ballot. Actually, a check of state rules shows he has until June 2nd. He can also get signatures from members of any political party. He will likely need that extra time as petition pros say Schaefer will have to come with well over 20,000 signatures to get the 17,000 valid ones required. Schaefer was elected to the PRC in the 90's as a Republican. He is now a Democrat.


Remember her?

The Justice Department is investigating whether former Interior Secretary Gale A. Norton illegally used her position to benefit Royal Dutch Shell PLC, the company that later hired her, according to officials in federal law enforcement and the Interior Department.

Alright, I am off to radio land. Join me there tonight and back here on the home of New Mexico politics on Wednesday for a wrap on the outcome of the 2009 mayor's race.

E-mail your news and comments.

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Monday, October 05, 2009

Final Hours: We're On The Trail; Election Pre-Game Show At 5 On 89.1 FM, Plus: Schaefer Go For Indy Guv Run, And: Fierro's Fall; Our Observations 

With Republicans hanging onto newfound hope RJ Berry like a coat rack, ABQ Mayor Marty Chavez continues his two front battle to stop Berry from removing him from power by capturing 40 percent of the vote Tuesday night and avoiding a runoff election. Meanwhile, Democrat Richard Romero, who has been preaching that fellow Dem Chavez was collapsing and he is the alternative, had to deal with a double dose of heavy hitter robo calls on behalf of the mayor.

Former President Bill Clinton, who got to know Chavez when he was serving his first mayoral term in the early 90's, was piped into households across the city, giving a final hours jolt of energy to this unpredictable race. The ex-Prez's call came on the heels of a robo call from Los Angles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa Saturday that also urged Duke City residents to give Chavez a fourth term.

(Clinton's 60 second call is here. Mayor Villaraigosa's call here. Clinton's written message to Chavez campaign supporters is here. Sunday TV trail coverage here. ABQ Journal coverage here.)

In a written message to Chavez's e-mail list, the former President opened up a theme you will be hearing a lot more if we have a runoff between Chavez and Berry as the insider betting indicates. Said Clinton:

Albuquerque can not afford a far right wing Mayor. The Republican Party is more determined than ever to stymie the progressive agenda in Albuquerque and across the nation.

That Sunday night appeal is meant to shake progressive voters from Romero. Clinton has intrinsic appeal to Hispanic and working class Dems and independent voters. But are enough voters listening this late in the game? R’s immediately claimed the Clinton call was not a life preserver for Chavez but a sign of a sinking ship.

But the party of the elephant was not predicting a trouncing of the mayor nor a big Berry win. A GOP insider close to the action framed the race this way:

Marty had a huge lead in early and absentee vote in 2005...Republicans should feel good about Berry's current position...Early voting looks like a draw and the absentee vote should tilt a hair Republican...It's going to be close.

Sounds like the R's are also expecting a runoff.


The Clinton phone call, and one earlier for Chavez by former Democratic national chairman Howard Dean, are the first indications that a mayoral runoff featuring Berry and either Democrats Chavez or Romero will become nationalized. Clinton's reference to the progressive agenda "across the nation" was a shot across the bow, one we have no doubt the national Republicans will be glad to answer if Berry enters the second round. And you thought the new public financing law was going to put a lid on things?


That was the first front for Chavez--the Democrats. The second one was the R's and indys that have previously rewarded the moderate to conservative mayor a healthy chunk of their votes. He campaigned door-to-door in the far NE heights--home of the GOP--working to keep down what will be big Berry totals. If Chavez completely loses sight of Berry with R's, the two term state representative could threaten to pull away and score the 40 percent.

Berry has had front runner status ever since that Sept. 22-24 ABQ Journal poll showed him leading the mayor 31 percent to 26 percent with Romero at 24. Chavez has mounted an aggressive comeback since, and most of the Alligators and pundits think he has avoided a collapse. They see Berry touching the mid-30's and Chavez keeping him company there. They see Romero lagging.


The turnout model is key. Our consensus number is about 85,000, about two thousand less than 2005. But remember our consensus number on Chavez's re-elect was over 42 percent and that was swept away in one poll. Still, no one is expecting a big turnout spike. City Clerk Autio expects "about the same" as 2005. Public financing has limited voter outreach, but more important, turnout for city elections has been trending down.


There is still danger for the Dems with that turnout number. It means Berry would need about 34,000 votes to put it away. The pollsters say his GOP and independent vote is around 32,000. And Berry has it easy. It's like he is running in an unopposed GOP primary. All he has to do is get his vote out, not fight for it. The downside for him is his name ID. Not many Republicans know much about him and he does not have the political pedigree that comes with years of public service and TV appearances.


Berry also campaigned in the far Heights this weekend, and he made a trip across the river to Taylor Ranch on the Westside, home to many independent voters, a group that was breaking his way in that Journal poll. Romero did his door-to-door in the South Valley and Westgate Heights, heavy Hispanic areas, but ones with low voter turnout.

Berry and Chavez have been up with heavy TV the past week. Romero has had none. For those getting their info from the tube, this looks like a two way race. Romero's handlers say not to worry. They are sticking to their story that Chavez is sunk and that Romero will rise to the second position when it's all over late Tuesday.


Make sure to join us on the radio today for all the latest city election action, analysis and predictions. We kick off at at 5 p.m. on KANW 89.1 FM. Appearing on the live broadcast will be former NM Dem Party Chairman John Wertheim and ABQ State Senator Eric Griego who ran for mayor in '05. ABQ Republican State Rep. Larry Larranaga, a longtime fixture on our KANW broadcasts, is back for 2009. For those out of the listening area, you an catch the program at www.kanw.com where it and our Election Night coverage will be streamed live.


Thanks to our sponsors--Coca Cola, DW Turner, Ladera Golf and Banquet Facilities and Serrano and Sons for making possible the pre-game show and our KANW Election Night coverage which begins at 6: 30 p.m. Tuesday and continues until all the votes are counted. We'll have attorney Wertheim with us for the duration, Griego for an hour and former Mayor Jim Baca will be on hand. Rep. Larranaga will be joined by former Bernalillo County GOP executive director Bob Cornelius who will be stationed at Government Center for the official vote count. Former Bernalillo County Commissioner Lenton Malry will be back for his 21st year of giving us early and exclusive results from select voting precincts. And Steve Cabiedes will again be with us to coordinate even more early results. And, of course, we'll hear from all the candidates.


Let's do a round of analysis of the final TV spot to go up on the air in this campaign. It's from Mayor Chavez and emphasizes themes aimed at the middle of the electorate, but it does rely on an Hispanic woman business owner to drive his point home.

The mayor opens the spot touting his endorsements from the ABQ Journal and the police and fire unions. Then comes Tina Cordova, president of Queston Construction. (Which is where we pause and wonder: Isn't RJ Berry's wife, Maria (Medina) Berry, also a Hispanic woman who owns a construction company--Cumbre Construction? Geez, Joe, I think you're getting pretty good at this.) Anyway, Tina says Marty works hard for "small businesses like mine."

Mayor for Life Marty, who has seemed curiously out of step with the economic realities facing the city in this, his fourth mayoral bid, closes the 30 second ad:

"We've made great progress, but there's still work to do. I'll keep fighting for high paying jobs and better schools. With your vote we'll keep ABQ moving in the right direction.

And what more can he say? The electorate, in the middle of a severe economic downturn, is looking to preserve the good things we have, not start writing a wish list for the next four years.

Like one of those medical ads on TV, we have a question we want to whisper: Can we talk about incumbent fatigue and its many symptoms?

Chavez is seeking his third term in a row and his fourth overall. And while New Mexicans like to keep their congressmen and senators around year after year, they have not always been prone to extend the same courtesy to officials who work more closely with them--officials like mayors and governors. It's like that elsewhere, too. In Seattle recently, the mayor was denied a third consecutive term. He said voters "decided it was time for a new generation." In Chicago, where they do like to keep their mayors around a long time, veteran Richard Daly is plunging in popularity.

Chavez broke the mold on ABQ mayoral re-elections. He can win again because he is a politician of exceptional skill, works diligently and knows how to handle executive power. If a voter were interviewing the three candidates for mayor solely on their job skills, Chavez would win. But it's the variable factors--his length of service, personality issues and the many enemies incumbents make when they make decisions. It's also about the very American issue of too much power for too long.

Does it strike you that if Chavez were seeking one final term that was for two years, not four, there would not be as much ambivalence about him? The electorate may want a little more of Marty, but perhaps not four years more. If Chavez does not make the 40 percent and is forced into a runoff, it will be his opportunity to show that he not only can dazzle with intellectual and governing skills, but that he can eat his share of humble pie and finish his tenure with amity not acrimony and, ultimately, prepare the city for his successor.


Don't know where to vote in the ABQ election? Find out here.


He says he's in. Former Public Regulation Commissioner Tony Schaefer confirms to me that he will launch an independent run for governor. Schaefer, an R turned D, will need about 17,000 petition signatures to qualify for the ballot and will have until June 2 to collect them. He says to get 17,000 valid signatures, he will aim to collect around 20,000. That's no small order, but, Schaefer says, if need be he will use personal resources to finance the effort.

"Santa Fe is in a do nothing mode. Jobs and education are both suffering and nothing is being done. I am worried about the future of the state,' He said in a recent phone call.

Schaefer also cited ethics as an issue, saying the front runner for the Democratic Guv nod, Lt. Governor Diane Denish, "has sat on her hands" as an array of ethical infractions occurred in the Big Bill administration.

The 61 year old served one term on the PRC in the 90's from a southern district. He said the time is ripe for an independent run, citing discontent with state government across the board. No independent has qualified for the ballot in recent memory. That petition requirement is steep and Schaefer may need even more than 20,000 signatures considering how many may be rejected as invalid.

If he did make the ballot, would that help the R's or the D's? Probably the Dems. Schaefer is from the south and will be mining the same anti-government vote as the R's.

Tony's wife, Annette, is distantly related to former House Speaker Raymond Sanchez. Annette's mother is Raymond's cousin. Raymond is the brother of State Senate Majority Leader Michael Sanchez. Michael has toyed with a run for Guv, but is not expected to go. The connections of La Politica run deep, as we're sure the Denish camp notices.


What could have been. That's the sad political epitaph for the talented lawyer- lobbyist Carlos Fierro, found guilty Friday in Santa Fe for driving his car into William Tenorio and killing him outside of a capital city bar. This poignant photograph from the New Mexican's Luis Sanchez-Saturno tells the sorry tale.

Both Tenorio and Fierro were drunk as skunks that fateful night. Hours after the incident Carlos registered a .21 blood level, nearly three times the legal limit.

So why didn't Fierro just stand up and take his medicine, admit his error and plead guilty to vehicular homicide and perhaps get the DA to drop the additional charge of leaving the scene of an accident? He probably could have counted on doing less than the maximum six years a vehicular homicide charge carries and spared himself, his family and that of Tenorio's the needless legal parrying over what happened.

Fierro's lawyers are the class of their field and no one can argue with their vigorous and expensive defense of their client--they're doing their jobs. But this trial diminished Fierro, cast as he was in the press as a privileged member of the Santa Fe upper crust using everything in his power to escape responsibility.

Carlos was responsible. He was drunk. He killed a man. Simple truths. But there seem to be no simple verities in this modern era of legal and political spin rooms. It's all about "not taking the hit."

Fierro still has a shot at personal and public redemption. He could drop his request for a new trial and immediately present himself for sentencing. He could apologize for his actions. He could tell his nine year old daughter that this is what it means to be a man.

Carlos never got to pursue that political career he dreamed of, but with this one action he could accomplish more than anything he could have hoped to in a lifetime of public service.

This is the home of New Mexico politics. E-mail your news, comments and photos

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Friday, October 02, 2009

An Up In The Air Weekend For Final Week Of Election '09; Mayor's Race Captivates, Plus: Action On The Trail 

As we headed toward the final weekend of Campaign 2009 opinion was all over the place as to where we'll end up Tuesday night when the votes for mayor of ABQ are finally tallied. Democrats grew increasingly worried--or were trying to make fellow Dems worried--that somehow Republican RJ Berry will be able to break through and manage to get to 40 percent of the vote and take the top leadership position of the state's largest city without a runoff election. That probability may seem slim, given that Berry was polling at 31 percent Sept. 22-24, but the increasingly nasty battle between Democrats Richard Romero and Mayor Marty Chavez had Dems concerned that both of their candidates could be held back just enough to let Berry slip in. In addition, the R's are excited because they finally have a chance to win something after having had the door slammed in their faces the past two election cycles.

But R's had plenty to worry about as well. Berry is a newcomer who only caught fire late in the game and then mainly with R's. Can the R's turn out the vote to get him to that magic 40 percent? If R ardor is not passionate enough they fear their man won't move a whole lot above where he was in that ABQ Journal poll. They do not look forward to a runoff election in a Dem leaning city.


Romero continued to slam Chavez in the mail, releasing a piece that pinned a "for sale" sign on a photo of Marty and cited a seven year old reprimand the mayor received from the city board of ethics in the ABQPAC scandal. And Chavez continued to hit both Romero and Berry. He reminded Dems again of Romero's contributions to Republicans when Romero was a lobbyist. (Flyer posted here). And he hit Berry in a new radio ad that says Berry's claim that he was the victim of "random" crime is not quite on the mark. The ad also rehashes Berry's refusal to release his tax return and for failing to register his consulting biz with the city.

Democratic State Treasurer James Lewis, who ran for ABQ mayor in 2001, and Dem Secretary of State Mary Herrera, a former Bernalillo County Clerk, both cut automatic phone calls for the mayor, but some of his supporters were hoping for bigger things---like a call going out from someone like ex-President Clinton who Chavez chummed with during his first mayoral term in the mid-90's.

Chavez did get former national Dem chairman Howard Dean to hit the phone lines this week, but Romero's camp seemed to stop any bleeding that Dean caused among Romero's progressive supporters. Eric Griego, who ran for mayor as a progressive Dem in 2005, garnered 25 percent of the vote. It's hard to see Romero falling below that Election Night. How much he grows is, of course, among the big questions du jour.

Berry and the R's were working the turn out beat, with reports of GOP get-out-the-vote robo calls circulating. To further pump up his base, he announced the endorsement of his candidacy by Republican city councilors Brad Winter, Trudy Jones and Sally Mayer. R Councilor Don Harris was not on the list.


The mail bombs continue to fall in the Cadigan-Lewis contest. Yesterday we posted a Lewis hit piece. Here's one (click to enlarge) from Cadigan in which he strikes at Lewis for wanting to "waive impact fees so taxpayers bear the cost of new roads and parks." He also jabs Lewis for his voting record saying the Republican "did not bother to vote in the city bond election when Paseo and Unser were funded and has not voted in a city election since 2001."

Cadigan has been getting hammered by a committee backed by land developer SunCal and Wal-Mart. SunCal put up $10,000 to take out Cadigan who has opposed the company's TIDD plan.

Cadigan started the year running for mayor but was unable to get the required petitions and donations to qualify for the race. He is seeking a third term on the council. Lewis is making his first run for elective office.


We asked readers for some Alan Armijo mail after posting some from his opponent Ike Benton. Armijo, a Bernalillo County Commissioner who is term-limited, is trying to reclaim a seat on the council on which he once served for several terms. Benton, an architect and current council president, is seeking a second four year term. District Three includes downtown, Barelas and areas around the University of New Mexico.


Big Bill continues to up his national (and international) profile. Here he is writing for CNN about US Middle East policy. The Guv has been more noticeable on the foreign policy front since the feds decided not to indict him or his top aides in a pay-to-play probe.
We know the Guv is counting his lucky stars, but it seems he also needs to be counting closely the money coming in to state coffers--or not coming in. The projected shortfall for the current budget year could rise to an astounding $700 million, according to Senate leader Jennings. Just incredible. We will hit that big story harder as soon as we finish up with electing a new mayor.


Join me Sunday at 10:30 a.m. on KOB-TV when I sit down with veteran political reporter Stuart Dyson and Eyewitness News anchor Nicole Brady to cover all the angles of the 2009 mayoral election.

On Monday at 5 p.m. join me on KANW 89.1 FM for our traditional pre-game show. We'll run down the mayor and council races, as well as the charter amendments. Helping us do that will be John Wertheim, former chairman of the NM Democratic Party, GOP State Rep. Larry Larranaga, ABQ State Senator and 2005 mayoral candidate Eric Griego and maybe a straggler or two.

Then on Tuesday, Oct. 6 be sure to tune in for our wall-to-wall Election Night coverage beginning at 6:30 p.m. on 89.1 FM and at www.kanw.com We'll have exclusive early results to give you an early indication of where the mayor and key council races are headed, plus candidate interviews and expert analysis. That's 6: 30 Election Night. Thanks to Coca-Cola, DW Turner, Ladera Golf and Serrano and Sons, Constructors for making the KANW program possible.

And thanks to you for being with us this week. Check back here over the weekend as we track any major, late-breaking developments in ABQ Election '09.

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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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