Wednesday, September 01, 2010

State Of The State House: Key Races To Watch, Plus: Susana's New Tube: Soft Enough? Also: Jeff's Bucks & Harry's Nice Hit 

Let's kick it off today with the outlook for the state House in Campaign '10. Currently there are 45 Dems and 25 R's in the 70 member House. Based on reports from Alligators, Insiders, Wall-Leaners, Wanna-Be's and other political creatures, it appears the R's could shrink that margin this year, if only a bit.

The no-brainer prediction this cycle is the ABQ mid-NE Heights seat of freshman Dem Rep. Karen Giannini. She won election in 2008 when the Obama wave seeped into this normally GOP district. If Republican attorney and former Senator Domenici aide Nate Gentry doesn't take this one, the predictors will have to eat the broken glass from their crystal balls.

Another freshman--Dem Rep. Ben Rodefer of ABQ's West Side and Sandoval County is #2 on the most endangered species list. R's are solidly behind contractor David Doyle who hopes to reclaim this seat for the GOP which Rodefer won in the Obama wave. Rodefer loves being in the Roundhouse and will fight to the last breath, giving him a chance to hang on to what is a very weak limb.

How about an endangered Republican? We've got one for you. Roswell rancher Candy Spence-Ezzel is facing a spirited challenge from Dem Chaves County Commissioner Michael Trujillo. He is the third-generation owner of El Charro, a tortilla factory and Mexican food store. Candy was first elected in 2004, but this is a swing district.

Julian Luna ousted incumbent Dem State Rep. Elias Barela in the June primary in Valencia County, but now Luna faces a tough campaign to keep the seat in the Dem column. Republican Alonzo Baldonado, a Los Lunas realtor, is the GOP's hope for this one. Definitely on the watch list.

Back in ABQ, both parties are geared up for a battle for the seat of Dem State Rep. Bill O'Neill. He is another member of the D freshman class of 2008. He works for the Juvenile Parole Board, loves politics and is walking the district. Newcomer and Republican Justin Horowitz is an attorney with the Rodey firm who has thrown a bunch of his own cash at the contest. This one is ranked a toss-up.

Putting it all together, a conservative estimate is that the R's pick up two House seats when we're done cleaning up the confetti November 3. A more aggressive estimate would give them four or five. That would still not put them anywhere close to taking power, but it's a whole lot better than falling back.


On the Guv front, several of our campaign watchers were somewhat surprised to see GOP Guv nominee Susana Martinez come with a hard-hitting spot, the tone of which reminded them of some of the stuff she ran in the GOP primary which is dominated by conservative voters.

In this latest piece Susana defends herself from TV charges that she should not have used federal border security funds for staff bonuses at her Dona Ana County district attorney's office. She then smacks Di for not pledging to revoke driver's licenses given to illegal immigrants. Denish has said she will not continue the policy.

All this is delivered with ominous sound effects and an accusatory and stern narration. Well-produced for what it is, but what happened to the softer Susana, the one posing with kiddies in the classroom? At the end of this spot she brings back former Bernalillo County Sheriff and current ABQ Public Safety Director Darren White. He is joined by three other tough-looking lawmen types who walk behind Susana in slow motion. It looked menacing the first time and looks even more like the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse the second time around. (Actually, it is a total of five lawmen parading in slow-motion, but we took poetic license.)

In recent weeks Martinez seemed to have begun talking past her GOP base--to the swing and Dem voters she needs to win. This spot takes her back to what got her in the main event, but it may not be the tone or approach that is going to close the deal.

Denish also came with new TV, defending herself from Martinez's charges that she overused her riding privileges on the state jet. Denish then goes on to zing Martinez on now familiar ground. She says the GOP nominee would "give public school dollars to wealthy private schools."

The Di camp has been hammering Susana for weeks over her switch on school vouchers--or what they say is a switch. The Denish camp received important support on this when the Associated Press pointed out differing statements Martinez has made on the matter.

The more soothing tone in the Denish ad stands in marked contrast to the latest Martinez effort. Susana and her conservative consultants need to not only get comfortable with going to the middle of the political spectrum, they must embrace it emotionally and intellectually. That's not easy when the state GOP has been as far right as it has been the past decade.


Times may be tough for a lot of New Mexicans, but Senator Bingaman has escaped the ravages of the worst recession in decades. The Hill newspaper says Jeff's net worth is around $6.7 million, making him the 42nd wealthiest member of Congress in 2009. From the article which ranked the 50 wealthiest members:

Bingaman played the stock market well in 2009 and saw his minimum net worth rise by almost $2 million...

(He) has investment funds at Goldman Sachs worth at least $1 million and $250,000. His wife, Anne, chips in with an investment fund at Eaton Vance worth at least $1 million...

Bingaman also has property in Santa Fe that is worth at least $250,000 and a 50 percent state in more than 58 acres of land in Alamogordo, NM

And what of southern NM Congressman Harry Teague who made the Hill's list of the wealthiest members of Congress last year. Well, his net worth has plunged to around $5 million. That's just below the amount the 50th member on the list is worth.

Teague's oil based businesses have suffered from the bear market, a boycott by Republican businessmen in the area and the change in management to his son. Still, Harry is not in the poor house, but is net worth has plunged, according to Politico, from $40 million to $5 million.


One member who won't make the list is ABQ Dem US Congressman Martin Heinrich.The freshman lawmaker enjoys a salary of around $174,000 a year and his wife Julie helps the household budget with a salary from a local government job. But still the Congressman sleeps in his DC office in order to save money.

Jeff, do you think you can spare a loan for Martin so he can get out of that sleeping bag? That is, if he is back there with you after November...


Is the worst over for the Dems? The new Rasmussen survey is being closely eyed by operatives for NM Dem US Reps Heinrich and Teague. It says:

A new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey finds that 45% of Likely Voters would vote for their district's Republican congressional candidate, while 39% would opt for his or her Democratic opponent. The survey data was collected on the seven days ending August 29...

The Republicans have been consistently ahead in the Generic Ballot every week for over a year, but this is the smallest advantage the party has held since mid-July...

But hold your horses. Gallup disagrees with Rasmussen and comes with this:

Republicans lead by 51% to 41% among registered voters in Gallup weekly tracking of 2010 congressional voting preferences. The 10-percentage-point lead is the GOP's largest so far this year and is its largest in Gallup's history of tracking the midterm generic ballot for Congress.

So what's a Dem to do? Well, running like your life depended in it is usually sound advice for a political campaign.


We haven't held back in blogging of the travails of Harry Teague, pointing out time and again (with the help of Politico) his many vulnerabilities. But a score is a score, and Tuesday, when President Obama disembarked Air Force One at the El Paso airport for a brief visit to Fort Bliss, embattled Harry scored.

Even though he does not represent El Paso, Teague was there with a big smile to greet the President who stopped at Ft. Bliss to pay respect to the troops. Teague is a member of the Veterans' Affairs Committee. Obama lingered with Teague and two other congressmen and it was carried live at around noontime on El Paso TV. Photos of the meet and greet were sent out on the national and local wires. (The one we have posted is from the El Paso Times which is heavily read in the Las Cruces area).

This is important because Dona Ana County, the largest county in the second congressional district and home to many Dems, get their news from El Paso TV, not ABQ. It was nice advance work by the White House and Teague's team to take effective advantage of such a brief stop over.

Insiders close to Teague tell us he is more energized about the race. He is pleased with his polling and that of the ABQ Journal which shows him three points ahead of Republican challenger Steve Pearce. He told one of our Alligators recently, "We're going to surprise, Steve."

Of course, Harry needs all the optimism and spunk he can get in his tough battle, but if Obama's visit was the start of his fall offensive in Dona Ana County, it was a good one.


We've been telling you about First Community Bank being on life support in the aftermath of a slew of commercial real estate loans gone bad in the ABQ area and how it is time to pull the plug and end the suffering. Executives at the bank have been pushing back, but now the Feds have given them a 60 day deadline to either raise $150 million to restore the bank's health or sell yourself to another bank.

The stock of the parent company of First Community is down to almost a dime a share. Can't the executives and board of directors sell this thing so we can get on with getting over this real estate depression? It's not like this is the only bank having problems. (The bank now says it has found $150 million from new investors).


We haven't received a definitive answer yet, but we've been told that the Secretary of State and the Secretary of Defense are not permitted to take part in fund-raising for political candidates. The issue came up when we mentioned suggestions that Diane Denish have Sec. of Stare Hillary Clinton campaign for her. Can Hillary campaign, but not raise money? E-mail us if you have a certain answer.


Not surprisingly, we received quite a bit of email on our Tuesday blog questioning comments from Dr. Estevan Rael-Galvez of the National Hispanic Cultural Center. He said there is a "Spanish heritage fantasy" in the state. So far, most of the mail disagreed with our criticism of Rael-Galvez. It makes for interesting reading and we'll post some on the Friday blog.

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