Monday, October 25, 2010

Final Frenzied Week: Can Di Close Gap? Plus: Ink-Stained & Endorsing; What The Papers Think, And: We Opine On Bonds And Amendments 

The final frenzied week of Campaign 2010 begins with Democrats hopeful that they can drive up turnout enough to give Diane Denish a chance to pull ahead of Republican Susana Martinez by a nose. Denish seems to be closing the gap in this final stretch, but still trailing the Dona Ana County DA.

The sense of the race is that the negatives on Denish are done working. Democrats are coming home, but Denish may have let Martinez get too far ahead. Her campaign says the race is still within reach. The final Journal poll will be out Sunday. Denish could use some public polling in the next day or two that shows her closing. It would be a motivator for Dems who are seeing the race written off.

The chief weakness in the Martinez campaign has been their reluctance to tell the public more about her. They know she is a prosecutor and little else. The campaign rejected biographical spots in favor of attack ads. That could make some Dems and independents who don't live in the south more reluctant to cross over to the Republican as they take one last look before casting their ballots.

The chief Denish weakness has been messaging. She has too often sounded like an echo chamber for Martinez and the R's. Her campaign argued in an email missive that "the pundits" who believe this have their own agenda. They don't. They are just talking about why a Dem Guv nominee has been running so far behind in the public opinion polls.

In-person early voting numbers for Bernalillo County show Dems and R's pulling the same numbers in--about 14,000 each so far. That shows the higher enthusiasm for the GOP. They make up only 32 percent of the registered voters here and statewide.

Optimistic Dems are forecasting a loss of two or three state House seats. They now hold sway over the R's by 45 to 25. Optimistic R's are predicting a pick-up of five to seven House seats.

This reader e-mail passes for what is the conventional wisdom on the New Mexico Guv race:

Republican candidates for Governor don't win by double digits in NM unless a lot more is happening than I can see today. 1994 was also a bad year for Dems. They were badly divided and had a third party to its left to contend with, and Gary Johnson still won by (barely) less than 10%. Today the Dems are united, albeit tepidly, and the Green Party is no longer with us. Martinez will win, but the margin will be no more than eight points. Put me in the pool for 53.8%.

Johnson won in 1994, defeating Dem Bruce king 50 to 40 and Green Party candidate Roberto Mondragon garnering 10 percent of the vote.


It's night and day when it comes to the points of view of Dem Rep. Ben Ray Lujan and Republican Tom Mullins. They debated the points on KOAT Sunday afternoon.

Lujan started his TV late. Mullins came with negative TV. Lujan is now responding to those attacks. The race is too close for Democratic comfort, with Lujan expected to take it in the end. But Mullins has snuck up on Lujan despite early missteps like calling for land mines to be placed around the border. The Lujan negative is meant to put Mullins in his place---in the very low 40's.

Lujan wants to get this thing to at least 55% in the heavy Dem north come Election Night. If he doesn't, progressives who have never been his biggest fans could plot a primary run against him in 2012 which could prove to be a nuisance or a real threat. And maybe we would even see the 40 year old Mullins again.


We're still closely watching this battle for the ABQ congressional seat as is the AP.


The ABQ Journal, as expected, came with its endorsement of Martinez Sunday. The Santa Fe New Mexican, also as expected, gave its nod to Denish.

The Journal's main concern is what they see as a culture of corruption. The New Mexican is more concerned with the state's budget crisis and human service needs.

The Journal also endorsed all three Republican candidates for the US House over the weekend. However, in giving the nod to Republican Jon Barela the paper failed to make an important distinction:

Campaign attacks insinuating (Barela) favors privatizing Social Security...are baloney.

But the Journal's own Washington correspondent, Michael Coleman, broke this news on Barela's Social Security position:

Asked if he would favor allowing Americans to invest even a portion of Social Security in the market, Barela said he would not, at least not "at this point."

That means Barela is open to changing his mind and voting for privatizing Social Security. His Democratic opponent, Rep. Martin Heinrich, has closed the door to privatization. That is a significant and factual distinction between the two hopefuls for the ABQ House seat.


The paper tried to prepare its readership for its hard swing to the right by putting up a foreword to its editorials:

...Single-party grip on power has led to a major expansion of government and an explosion in spending...(The election is) about whether you want a government to take care of you, or one that gives you the opportunity to take care of yourself and prosper through your own hard work.

Democrats who have been critical of the paper the last several years, claiming their conservative editorial views have seeped into their news articles, are unlikely to be assuaged.

Speaking of which, the Diane Denish campaign pretty much busted the Journal for a front-pager they ran Saturday. From the campaign manager:

The Albuquerque Journal has caught Diane Denish red-handed fighting for New Mexico’s children. Firmly plant your tongue in cheek and read the story where an investigative report by the Journal exposes Diane Denish’s devious “political mission”: more funding for early childhood education. If Denish and her cronies get their way, more New Mexico children would benefit from Pre-K education (the horror, the horror). Yes, this column did actually run on the front page of Saturday's paper.

This scores points. The "Denish is a crook" meme has now been taken to ludicrous heights in the Journal and in the Martinez campaign commercials. Because the public and the Republican-leaning paper is so tired of the incumbent administration, the bar is lowered on damning Di. If the ABQ Tribune were still around there would be more checks and balances in the city's media market, but alas...


If Barela loses next week--and Heinrich's internal polling is pointing to that probability--could he end up working for Susana Martinez if she is elected Governor? Republicans are already talking about their light bench when it comes to filling out the cabinet and other top positions. Barela has government experience and the personality to make a deal--something that is going to be critical for the R's as they deal with the Democratic majorities in the Legislature.

Of course, we don't know if Martinez cares to make deals. She could end up being a Gary Johnson in skirts. But that wouldn't do her or the state much good, would it?

Joe Monahan
We don't endorse political candidates--and we don't think many folks would pay much attention to us if we did. But in the matter of how the state's bonding capacity should be used and amendments to our state Constitution, we do have a citizen opinion. And here it is...

There are four bond issues on the statewide ballot totaling $175 million, but we'll be voting against all but one of them. Passage of each bond would mean slight increase on the property tax rate on homeowners in the coming years. That and the need for the state to pause and reflect on its overall fiscal situation going forward gives us pause in automatically giving our approval as usual.

Bond A totals nearly $8 million for improvements at various senior citizen centers. A break of a couple of years is not gong to harm the elderly. A no vote is in order,

Bond B provides $7 million for buying library books and equipment statewide. This is another item that is frequently before voters and you might think enough is enough for a while. However, we'll be voting yes because of the increased use of public libraries by the many unemployed, underemployed and newly low-income New Mexicans. The library is where many of them get free Internet access. Joblessness is a long-term problem now. The libraries are also especially vital in rural New Mexico for children who need a broader exposure to their world.

Bond C would authorize $5 million in bonds to build pre-kindergarten classrooms and provide instructional materials, among other things. We don't think $5 million is make or break for the pre-k system. Let's revisit this in two years. Meanwhile, a no vote is reasonable,

Bond D is the biggie. It totals $155 million for construction projects at the state's far-flung universities. We like the idea of the construction jobs this would provide, but we have been on a capital improvement bender in this state for the past decade. A no vote is needed so we can spend a couple of years assessing our needs for the tighter times ahead.


There are five Constitutional Amendments on this year's ballot. Four of them are nonsense and deserve rejection without thought.

Amendment #1 is getting broad support from newspaper editorial writers. It would "create a new exception to the "anti-donation clause" to allow the state to establish a veterans' college scholarship program for military war veterans of conflicts that began after August 1, 1990." Currently only Vietnam Vets can get these scholarships.

We understand the motivation but the federal government has established very generous educational benefits for our newer veterans. We think those are sufficient. Also, we agree with opponents who say we don't need to add another unfunded program that would increase tuition for other students.


From the Politico:

Mississippi Gov. and RGA Chairman Haley Barbour is poised to embark on a whirlwind trip through gubernatorial battlegrounds with a group of top GOP governors, showcasing Republican leadership in the states on what the RGA's billing the "Remember November Tour." Barbour will hit up 13 states in five days - starting on Tuesday with New Mexico...

Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal will accompany Barbour in NM Tuesday.


ABQ City Hall is a pretty quiet place these days with a Republican mayor who believes in limited government and an empty city treasury preventing much government expansion even if it was wanted. But noise is being made over the outbreak of police involved shootings. APD has shot 12 persons this year and that led to a protest downtown that attracted about 75, many of whom were relatives of those who lost their lives or were wounded.

APD Chief Schultz says he can't explain the outbreak. The shootings, he says, appear justified. The administration is asking an outside police group to take a look.

Schultz has been a community-oriented chief. The protests should not chase him into a bunker, but this number of shootings also deserve an internal study by the department and a report to the City Council. That way what the chief calls unexplainable will be explained.

This is the home of New Mexico politics.

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