Thursday, August 12, 2010

Heat Rises On Trail As Susana Trots Out "L" Word On Di; Pair Spat Over Vouchers, Plus: More Campaign Developments, Media News And The Bottom Lines 

Harsher rhetoric on the campaign trail as the days of August rapidly melt away, setting the stage for a full-fledged confrontation for the New Mexican governorship in the fall. GOP Guv nominee Susana Martinez, feeling Dem nominee Diane Denish breathing down her neck, let loose with the "L" word Wednesday, accusing the lieutenant governor of "lying" about Martinez's position on public school vouchers. Here's the transcript from the news conference where Susana unveiled her education reform plan and where she got as hot as Hatch green chile:

Reporter: Your opponent, Denish, is saying that you support these tax vouchers, taking money out of public schools and putting them into wealthy private schools, she’s repeatedly saying that , what do you say?

Martinez: Let me be very clear. She is lying to the public. I would not take any money from the schools. I would not take any tax dollars from the schools to place it into private schools.

But the Dems opened fire with both barrels when they heard that and they came with this video of Martinez on the campaign trail clearly supporting the controversial vouchers. Such vouchers would allow parents to use their tax dollars to send their kids to private schools. Here's the transcript of that video the Dems spread:

We find that school choice is very important...parents having a say so in whether or not they are going to have their child attend the local elementary school that may be failing their child--or if they get to receive a tax credit, voucher--whatever it is you want to call it that that child should have in order to select a charter school (or) a Christian school, a Baptist...whatever kind of school that parent decides their child should go to. The dollars that are set aside for that child should follow that child and the parent knows best as to where that child should go to school.

Clearly, Martinez has changed her position on school vouchers from earlier in the campaign. Why not admit the switch or paper it over and move on? You are not going to win a fight with a video that uses your own words against you. And save the L word for when it really counts.

Newspaper coverage of the voucher clash is here.


It's not only Susana making statements that can be shot down by an eight year old with a BB gun. A new Denish radio ad claims:

"Susana Martinez would cut public school funding (and) that means larger classes and less one-on-one attention for students."

But Martinez has told the press she will not call for any cuts in the public school budget. We pointed that out when we blogged August 3 on how she has moved to the middle on that issue as well as the school vouchers, a favorite of conservatives.

The Di camp says Martinez's original position for school vouchers would mean budget cuts. Well, technically. Vouchers could cause less money to go to the public schools, but those schools also would have fewer students.

In other words, this ad claim is a stretch.

We started out this campaign in June with both sides giving us sloppy ads and assertions. On Wednesday we were back to where we started.


The AP has a wrap on Martinez's education plan.


More on the sweetheart contract that has given Martinez an August headache. The New Mexican comes with some new info after the ABQ Journal broke the original story:

A former deputy to Susana Martinez who made more than $60,000 selling office supplies to the Doña Ana County district attorney's office headed by Martinez also received nearly $24,000 in extra pay from Martinez, now the Republican candidate for governor.

Janetta Hicks, now district attorney in Chaves, Lea and Eddy counties, received two lump-sum "out-of-cycle salary increases" totaling $23,745 in the 2006 and 2007 fiscal years, according to documents obtained by The New Mexican.

We feel fairly certain you will see paid media---radio, mailings, TV etc. on this stuff come October.

It takes us back to a central question of the campaign. Can the anti-corruption and anti-incumbent mood put Martinez over the top or does she have to have a more comprehensive candidacy?

With the papers now sawing away at the corruption leg of her campaign stool, Martinez may cool it a bit on her meme that "Richardson-Denish" stole the state and move on to more fertile ground.


Denish sympathizers think the recent pain Susana has taken from the press has staying power. Here's their spin:

In a four-day swoop, Martinez took a major credibility hit on the issues that she’s made central to her campaign: securing the border, ethics and government spending.

Now, every time she mentions securing the border, someone will point out how she gave away hundreds of thousands of border security dollars so that her top staffers could get big bonuses. Every time she mentions the government over spending, someone will point out that she gave away nearly three-times as much in bonuses as any of the other District Attorneys...And every time Martinez talks about government ethics, someone will point out the $60,000 no-bid deal she funneled to her chief deputy and political ally...

Maybe, but when voters are searching for something new they can give a candidate a lot of rope to play with. The anti-incumbent mood--nearly vitriolic among some voting blocks--is playing into Susana's hands. If the election were held today, there could be a lot of Democratic blood on the floor.


We see Martinez's camp coming with meatier issue papers (i.e the education plan) since they took hits for being skimpy in the ideas department. That's a good sign for her supporters.


Where is the new Martinez press aide? Her first one was fired after being busted for DWI and no replacement has been named. They might want to beef up that department as the stories on her days as district attorney are not over with yet.


Is Martinez off topic with the Baby Brianna spot she has in heavy rotation? The pros say it has particular appeal to female voters, but crime and punishment is not exactly at the top of voters' concerns right now. Still, it keeps her from going to topics that might be more divisive and it does tell us something about what Martinez has done in the past.

But there is more to that past and the Martinez media team hasn't even touched it. New Mexican Hispanics in particular want to hear more about her family, her days growing up etc. Many of them want more than a last name to get them to go Republican. They need a story to identify with. Will we hear it before the campaign is over? Or is Martinez counting on blind ethnic voting to hold her fort?


The Guv played savior to the public schools Wednesday, announcing he is holding off on a 3.2 percent budget cut for them because of that funding bill approved this week in Congress that sends $26 billion down to the states, including our enchanting land. Other state agencies, however, will feel the axe as the Federal funding measure is aimed at saving teacher jobs and the like.

Richardson's postponement of the cuts mean layoffs at ABQ schools should be avoided--at least for the coming school year.

Rod Green
Longtime ABQ TV newsman Rod Green has retired from KOAT-TV, say our media watchers. Rod began his NM run back in the 70's when he came here from the midwest to become the main news anchor for KOB-TV. After that ended, he left ABQ TV but returned to KOAT in 1989.

Meanwhile, KRQE-TV won the 10 p.m. July news ratings. One of our media Alligators reports:

KRQE continues to be very strong as we obviously see in the nightly ratings. However, KOAT has caused the ratings giant to have a few minor heart palpitations with KOAT winning the 10 pm news on a few recent occasions. KRQE continues to enjoy their umpteenth in a row sweeps win.

The stations' news ratings are watched closely by the political campaigns as they get ready to unload major money for commercial buys for the November election.


A lack of caffeine led to a weird error in the first draft of our Wednesday blog and a lot of readers pointed it out. We said Senator Bingaman was up for election in 2010 and Senator Udall in 2016. Bingaman is up in 2012 and Udall in 2014. We also spelled Congressman Ben Ray Lujan's name incorrectly, although Congressman Lunan has a certain ring to it....

Speaking of Lujan, his press aide, Mark Nicastre, is moving to PA to work for the Dem Party in that state in the upcoming election. Linda Serrano of California takes over the slot....

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