Monday, October 04, 2010

Saving Diane Denish: An Alligator Manifesto For Her As Time Starts To Run Out, Plus: The Poisoned Chalice; Deficit New Guv Will Get Keeps Growing 

Susana, hang loose. You've got a healthy lead and a friendly trend. Let Diane D take the game to you. Just don't drop the ball. And if you can get away to North Korea or some secluded place for a couple of weeks, go ahead. The less that you say, the better. As for you, Di. Ears up. The Alligators, as is their habit, are circling around the campaign where the flesh wounds are clearly visible and waiting for the blood to hit water. But they think you have one last chance to avoid that grisly outcome, so without further ado we present the Alligator Manifesto for your final hours resurrection as the Dem Guv hopeful:

--Denish has said no tax hikes in her first year, but she can amend that to say any tax increases needed in the future will fall on those making $200,000 or more a year. That is the Obama plan that was not taken up by the Democratic congress, but it puts Denish squarely on the side of the working classes who have been allergic to her.

--Denish is backed in a corner. She isn't even carrying the women's vote. No Democrat can win without that vote. She needs to give full and public endorsement to a woman's right to choose and present Martinez as a threat to that right. That may sound high-risk but Denish needs a big jackpot and can only get it by playing longer odds.

--The Denish jobs message doesn't resonate. What the heck is micro-lending and small business incentives to a guy out of work? Propose a real jobs program to repair New Mexico's road and bridges. Divert unused capital outlay funds to do it and float a "Jobs Bond" using revenue from the state's permanent funds to back it up.

--Don't be defensive. Play into the national GOP weakness and say: "Giving the keys to the treasury back to the Republicans is tantamount to giving the keys to your car to a drunk driver."

--Denish is rich. So was Dem Guv Bruce King who served three terms. Yet, Martinez is making it sound like Di and Herb have to steal to make a living. Why is her personal wealth story being buried? It can help.

--If hubbie Herb Denish is fair game, what about Martinez's husband, Dona Ana Undersheriff Chuck Franco? Where has the Dem opposition team been? Wake up, boys.

--Yes, Richardson is unpopular statewide, but he has important pockets of supports in the north. He knows how to rally a crowd. Use him, campaign with him, Di. Besides, what's the downside at this point?

--Denish has to start defending territory that is defensible. The SE and Little Texas are gone--long gone. She must grab the headlines and create Democratic energy by revisiting her reticence on such things as the environmental PIT rule. If she can't beat up on the oil companies, who can she beat up on?

She must win Albuquerque, home of the state's Democratic base. The Manifesto stems from that premise.


--Denish doesn't have to worry about firing up conservatives by moving to a populist stance. They are already hotter than a Tucumcari parking lot in July. They are voting. Di's hope is to motivate those who are on the sidelines--thousands of them--and that means apathetic Democrats who can't see any direct stake for them in this election or in Diane Denish.

--Denish got no bump from the low-key Obama ABQ visit which took place while the Journal was polling. She needs to bring him back for a public rally to get blue-collar Democrats and Anglo liberals off their seats. Hispanics, too.

--Denish says Martinez is a threat, but voters aren't getting that feeling. She must draw a contrast by taking the firm populist positions outlined here and forcing Martinez and the Republicans to go apoplectic. Only then can the debate and a real campaign begin.

The middle-of-the-road-take-no-chances DC handlers have had their shot. Denish is now on her own. She must now exercise leadership and retool her campaign. Nothing else may work and nothing less is expected of one who would be Governor.

And there you have a consensus of Alligator opinion--right or wrong--but certainly entertaining. For more analysis of the Journal poll see our special Sunday blog below.


Directly from a Senior Alligator via email:

Joe, You are right on target when you note that the Denish campaign lacks a clear message. Diane was an early adopter of the DLC ( Democratic Leadership Council) "new" Democrat strategy and philosophy which many feel is GOP "light." Now, she finds it difficult to distinguish herself from Martinez because she is mirroring so many of her policy positions. It certainly hasn't helped her in conservative counties. People want the authentic Democrat and politician, not some focus group trained automaton.


Martin Heinrich continues to look good for re-election in the ABQ congressional district. The Dem US Rep. leads Jon Barela 48 to 41 in the latest Journal poll conducted Sept. 27-30. That's one point better for Heinrich than the Journal's first poll on the race in late August. Barela's heavily consulted DC campaign has yet to come with an out-of-the-box message to woo the independent district. Until he does, this one is lean Dem and about to go into the "likely Dem" category.

In the south, the toss-up continues, but Republican Steve Pearce is on the move. He leads Dem US Rep. Harry Teague 45 to 44. He was behind by three in the paper's late August poll. The race remains a toss-up, but Harry is still the underdog in New Mexico's most conservative region.

Sen. Jennings
The next Governor of New Mexico will sip from a poisoned chalice. Look at these latest estimates of the state's projected budget hole from Senate President Pro Tem Tim Jennings:

We will again be faced with a $350 to $400 million budget shortfall in January (as we address the budget year that starts next July). In the history of the state we have never faced fiscal problems of this magnitude. Since both gubernatorial candidates have pledged not to raise taxes, the legislature will be challenged to reduce spending possibly as much as $400 million...Jennings adds that for the current budget year that started July 1 of this year, the Legislature will have to trim another $100 million to get it into balance. That's on top of the 3.2 percent across the board cuts we had in September as well as the budget cuts and tax increases approved at the last session.

hat's a grand total of $500 million in budget-cutting that will have to be done in the 60 day session of the Legislature slated for January.

Someone correct us if we're wrong, but Senator Tim doesn't appear to be including in his projection a freshly announced $361 million shortfall in the state Medicaid program. That would appear to put the shortfall for this year and the next approaching an astounding $900 million. But what's a couple of hundred million between friends?

Is that doable when tax increases of any kind are being ruled out by the next Guv? And on top of it, no cuts to Medicaid or the public schools which comprise 60 percent of the budget?

Denish has proposed about $90 million a year in savings. Martinez has not specified where she would get the money and came with a nearly ludicrous explanation that Richardson and Denish are fudging the numbers so we don't really know the situation. No, Susana, we know the situation. What we don't now is what kind of leadership you will exercise to resolve the crisis. As for the numbers, just ask Senator Jennings. We're sure he'll be glad to forward them.

Both of these potential Governors need to be put on the hot seat and held accountable for not having a plan. The October TV debates offer that opportunity if someone will ask the questions.


If the next Governor swears they will veto any tax increase then options are limited on plugging this huge hole. Ending tax incentives and closing tax loopholes will be high on the list because that would not be a direct increase. We think the Martinez-Denish pledge of no cuts to the public schools and Medicaid will be in jeopardy no matter who wins. And we've written already that getting at royalty money before it heads to the Permanent Funds is going to be seriously discussed.

It is going to be a legislative session where real human needs in one of the poorest state's in the nation bumps against an implacable fiscal reality.

Martinez and the Republicans (and the press) have made government corruption and transparency major issues, but apparently not major enough. Martinez is following in the footsteps of her GOP primary rival Allen Weh and running the payroll for her campaign through a payroll company, rather than letting us know each individual who is working on the campaign and how much they are getting paid.

For example, how much is campaign manager Ryan Cangiolosi being paid? His name isn't on Martinez's latest finance report. He was working at a company owned by GOP Chairman Harvey Yates before he went with the campaign. We'd ask Ryan to voluntarily disclose his income, but he does not return e-mail. We can't ask a press secretary because the first one the campaign had was fired for drunk driving and was never replaced.

At first, Denish was also running her campaign payroll through a payroll company, but long ago began releasing the name of each employee and their salary. Can't Susana do the same as she is the "transparency candidate?" Who are all the folks running her campaign, many of whom will likely end up in the government? The taxpayers want to judge their performance as well.

If this seems picayune, remember, how they run the campaign is how they run the government. Don't say we didn't tell you.


If newspapers could vote, Harry Teague would be doing pretty well. The southern Dem US Rep won the nod of the Alamogordo Daily News over GOP challenger Steve Pearce and he now adds the editorial endorsement of the Las Cruces Sun-News:

Since both Teague and Pearce have served in Congress recently, this race gives voters a unique opportunity to compare and contrast their performances. We believe Teague better understands the district because he has made more of an effort to meet the people and hear from them what their hopes and concerns are. We suspect that is why he appears to be faring well in what is, by all accounts, a very difficult year for Democrats and incumbents.


Another of our Alligators reports movement out of the Guv's office:

Another one of Big Bill's communications staff has landed safely. Caitlin Keller is now public information officer for the New Mexico National Guard. She escaped and found a classified job. Not sure what it pays, but she'll have a job come January. That leaves Alarie Ray-Garcia working for Deputy Chief of Staff Gilbert Gallegos who heads the communications department. Where will they both land?

Or where will they crash land? We wish them luck in this economy.


We short changed former Governor Dave Cargo a year when we blogged some of his campaign thoughts Friday. Dave had a birthday in January and is now 81.

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