Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Di Still Wears Money Crown; Weh Comes With Huge Personal Cash In GOP Scramble; Analysis And Context On Money Reports From Alligators & Insiders 

She's loaded up with Big Bill baggage, no woman has ever been elected governor of New Mexico and no lieutenant governor in the modern era has manged to get elected governor. But Diane Denish sent a message Monday that in spite of all that she remains the favorite in the 2010 race for Governor, announcing her cash hoard has now grown to $2.6 million.

Denish raised $1.1 million in the October to April 5 fund-raising period, reporting to the Secretary of State that during that time she spent $700,000 of her campaign kitty. Her cash balance grew by $400,000 from last year's report. (The AP wrap on the campaign reports is here.)

Surveying all the required reports revealed that the recession-busted economy is taking its toll on candidate fund-raising, but Denish continues to plod along and, unlike several of her would-be GOP challengers, not relying on any of her considerable personal fortune.

There was big money flowing Di's way. The Alligators, splashing like newborns in a muddy Rio Grande, played through the night with the new campaign database at the Secretary of State's Web site (it works!) and came with this:

Denish had 312 donations of $1,000 or more, totaling $863,000. Seventy-seven per cent of all her contributions came from 12 percent of the donors. She had a total of 2,498 contributors.

Her largest contributors included Emily's List with $55,000; Mesa del Sol land developer with $20,000; George Maloof of the Vegas gaming family came with $15,000.

Well, so much for campaign contribution limits, but they do take effect 2011 when the maximum donation allowed shrinks to below $5,000. But it's the here and now that's in play. Denish's prodigious fund-raising in relation to her Republican rivals and her ability to manage her millions effectively keeps the gubernatorial front runner crown firmly on her head.


So who will get the chance to knock that crown off of Di? Based on the Monday money reports, former GOP chairman Allen Weh, at a minimum, is a major prospect for the R Guv nomination; Susana Martinez is a credible contender and Pete Domenici Jr. remains the X factor. Doug Turner can step up to the top tier, if he is willing to ante up, but Janice Arnold-Jones is going to have a hard time staying in the game.

But it's Weh who is shaking this race up, coming with a monster $500,000 personal loan, on top of $250,000 of personal cash he put up earlier. He had $544,000 in cash as of April 5, more than enough for a saturation TV and mail buy. Weh has been on TV since about March 19. Can he buy the nomination? It's not like this thing is not for sale. GOP Guv hopeful Gary Johnson, in 1994, came with his own cash and carried the day. Another factor helping Weh: No one is attacking him yet because they've been too busy trying to raise cash. As for his TV, it's good.

Dona Ana County District Attorney Susana Martinez is now looking down the barrel, with Weh poised to pull the trigger. But she's showing moxie and even some brazenness as she tries to stop the Weh express and also move Pete Jr. aside. She reported raising $428,000 for the six month reporting period and has $363,000 in cash for the final stretch. She went up with $50,000 in TV earlier this month. Among the five candidates, only she and Weh are on the tube. Also, her campaign claims the fund-raising momentum since she sent her rivals home crying from the GOP preprimary convention where she blew the doors off among party activists.

As for the brazenness, Martinez collected a massive $100,000 contribution from Mack Energy Corporation out of Artesia, one of the largest single contributions in state history. (The company made another contribution of $17,000 as well). She'll deal with the downside of that if she gets to the general election, but R's voting June 1st aren't known for moaning about candidates being bought and paid for by the oil boys in Little Texas.

Meantime, he of the famous last name is in danger of fading fast, reporting a cash balance of only $130,000 after loaning himself $70,000. Domenici has raised a total of $372,000 since entering the race in mid-January. However, the son of retired US Senator Pete Domenici has spent heavily on staff and did one mailer that cost him $40,000. Will Pete Jr. have the money for the all-critical May TV buy? And does that famous name still mean he can get away with spending less than his rivals? The answers are very likely no and no.

Doug Turner is a darn good businessman, but how much of a gambler is he? Like Allen Weh, Turner is self-financing just about all his effort. He loaned himself nearly $200,000 in the last six months, and now has $260,000 in cash. But with Weh threatening to write even more checks, is that enough for Doug to stay competitive, or should he lay down his arms and fight another day?

ABQ state Rep. Janice Arnold-Jones has struggled from the start to keep up with the big dogs. She is still only nipping at their heels, reporting she picked up $110,000 over six months, $54,000 of it in personal loans. She has only $18,000 in the bank, enough to run a good race for a state House seat. You know, the one she decided to bail from to run for Governor.

Former NM Democratic Party chairman Brian Colon retains the pole position in the five way race for the Dem nod for lieutenant governor, but Lawrence Rael kept himself alive by loaning himself $105,000 of the $183,000 he raised in the October to April fund-raising period. He reports $126,000 cash on hand. State Rep. Joe Campos has $109,000 in cash. He also lives, but Colon, despite spending more than he raised in the period, keeps the advantage by reporting $205,000 in cash. He raised $156,000 for the period without any personal loans. So far, he has raised over $430,000. Reports for state Senators Lopez and Ortiz y Pino were not immediately available, but insiders report their cash totals are minimal.

Analysis at the Alligator round table at the UNM area Flying Star late last night was favorable to Colon, but the Gators were surprised that he did not save up his cash and come with over $300,000 and basically send a message that the race is over. By coming with the lower cash on hand total--he spent a ton on payroll--Colon retains the lead, but keeps some hope alive for his foes. Will Rael throw the dice and loan himself even more? He'll need a lot.

Colon is getting a broad base of contributions, not just a few large ones and he won the preprimary convention, garnering over 30 percent of the delegate support. The other campaigns were unsuccessful in reining in him and now will suffer the consequences.

John Sanchez has it and he apparently will spend it, putting him in the driver's seat when it comes to the three way battle for the GOP lieutenant governor nomination. The 2002 GOP Guv nominee reports loaning himself $274,000 of the $279,000 he raised for the reporting period. He had $256,000 in cash as of April 5, giving him more than enough to wage an intense TV and mail effort.

Clayton's Brian Moore, as we previously blogged, loaned himself $100,000 for the run. He has $129,000 in cash. Not bad, but Sanchez is already well-known and is from the ABQ metro area, making him the front runner with the caveat that he spends the money he has loaned himself. ABQ State Senator Kent Cravens reports only $23,000 in cash, not enough to take the fight to to the tube and the mailboxes.

Alligator analysis Monday night centered on how anemic the fund-raising was for the trio of light guv contenders, other than personal money. Obviously, what Republican cash is being put out is going in to the all-important guv race and that isn't exactly gangbusters, either.


Some of our top analysts are campaign operatives past and present. They came with the email on the big money night. First, this on the liberal spending going on in that Dem lt. governor race:

I am astonished by the amount of spending. Had Brian Colon or Lawrence Rael showed a little self restraint they would have had a lot more to show for in the media buy. Lawrence spent $42,000 for TV production?! How many consultants and staff is Colon paying for?? Ridiculous. The high-priced consultants and staff are feeding off Colon like leeches and he's picking up the tab at every hack hangout from Thoreau to Tucumcari. How much money did they spend to raise their money??

I think Brian and Lawrence may put up similar TV buys at about $150,000--especially since Colon hasn't paid for production yet. Someone has to control their spending. Where are the penny pinchers to control these budgets while the candidates crow about the public living in "difficult times"?

Where indeed?

And from a GOP operative:

Those “loans” from Doug Turner don’t appear to be true loans. If you look at his report, he has “loans” from his company and then “expenditures” back to his company for “consulting” on the very same days in the same amounts. The most obvious are the $54k loan on 3/31 and the $30k loan on 2/28. Both were repaid on the same days for “consulting.” Not sure what that’s all about, but it grossly distorts his fundraising totals. If you took out all of those loans, he really only raised $200k for the entire period, not the $400k that appears on the cover sheet of his report...

And from a Dem operative:

Martinez’s rate of spending--and budgeting--has to be a concern. She reported $363K on hand, but she’s been spending 50K a week on TV--so in reality, that number is probably now closer to 275-300K. At her current rate of monthly spending (previous amount of spending per month + rate of current weekly TV buy), she’s on pace to spend $420,000 (35K per month in operating/staff/travel, etc + 50K in weekly television.) So, at just the current level of spending, she’s on pace to spend nearly 120K more than she probably has in the bank. Not to mention, she'd certainly want to increase her ad buy, put mail out and have a GOTV effort in Dona Ana. Without a huge infusion of cash, it’s hard to see how these numbers add up.

Thanks to all who helped with this report--my posse, our Senior Alligators and the operatives.

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