Monday, January 30, 2012

Heinrich Says He Has Commanding 52%-22% Lead Over Balderas, Plus: Wilson Vs. Sanchez News; More On City Lawsuits And: Susana Shows Her Frustration 

Seeking to create an air of inevitably, the campaign of Dem US Senate candidate Martin Heinrich has released a poll that shows him pounding rival Hector Balderas 52%-22% among likely voters in the June primary. Among Anglos he leads 57%-15% and among Hispanics his lead is 46%-30%. (Complete poll here.)

This campaign poll and Heinrich's earlier disclosure that at the end of last year he had $1.4 million in the bank (Hector had $475,000 at the end of September) are like a vise tightening on Balderas. He will report his fourth quarter fund-raising this week and if it is not an impressive number, he could start to feel pressure from the Dem establishment to get out of the contest.

Lest his poll be dismissed as simply a case of him having better name ID than Hector, Heinrich's pollsters also said he held a hefty 51% to 28% lead among voters who could identify both Heinrich and Balderas.

If Heinrich's poll has it right and he is indeed over the crucial 50% mark, only harsh negative campaigning by Balderas is likely to get the race in play. Balderas, a former one term state representative elected state auditor in 2010, could also rip open the contest with an unexpectedly strong showing at the March Democratic Party pre-primary convention where delegates vote to place candidates on the June ballot. But these polling numbers and Heinrich's strength in his hometown base of ABQ would seem to make a big convention move by Hector unlikely.

More from the poll which Heinrich's campaign says surveyed 600 likely primary voters, has a margin of error of 4 percent and was conducted with live interviewers, not by robocalls:

58 percent of voters give Heinrich a favorable rating, while just 12 percent view him unfavorably. Moreover, 66 percent of voters approve of the job Heinrich is doing as Congressman. Heinrich’s standing is equally good among Hispanics and Anglos. Balderas has good standing (37 -12 percent favorable-unfavorable, 46 percent job approval), but nowhere near as good as Heinrich’s.


If you're a Hector fan, the problem with Heinrich is the mistake-free campaign he has run in the early stages. He has aggressively raised money, captured endorsements, toured the state without putting his foot in his mouth and all the while continuing to serve in the US House without incident.

But longtime observers of state politics offer encouragement to Balderas, saying a one-on-one contest between an Anglo and an Hispanic in a statewide Democratic primary can deliver a positive surprise for the Hispanic. As many as 60% of those voting in the June primary will be Hispanic and Heinrich is below the 50% mark with them, although not by much.

As it is, Balderas must soon take the game to Heinrich and force him to drop the ball, but if Hector does that and loses, he makes a major enemy of Heinrich who could be a sitting US Senator. That could thwart any 2014 ambitions Balderas could have for attorney general or Governor.

The Heinrich-Balderas decision has been a painful one for many Dems who like both candidates, but with Rep. Heinrich's commanding lead in money and apparently the polls, the decision is becoming easier. Balderas must do something to keep it difficult.


GOP Senate candidate Heather Wilson and Heinrich have something in common. Both appear to be headed toward wining their respective June primary nominations. She now reports having $1.1 million in the bank after raising about $375,000 in the last quarter of the year. Her rival, Lt. Governor John Sanchez, will report numbers this week. He has loaned himself several hundred thousand and at the end of September had $249,000 in the bank.

The Sanchez campaign is enigmatic to longtime observers who see him as an attractive candidate but question whether he has put heart and soul into the effort in the early months. Heather has and it shows. Sanchez still has a shot, despite reports that his campaign team has been disrupted. If he attacks Heather and she proves to have a glass jaw, she could shatter. But she is making herself more and more shatter-proof in the same manner as Heinrich--conducting herself professionally with solid fund-raising, touring the state mistake free, getting major endorsements and leaving no room for doubters that that she isn't fully engaged in the battle.


Here's the latest take from the National Journal in DC on the NM US Senate contest to fill the seat of retiring Dem Senator Jeff Bingaman:

Both Democrat Martin Heinrich and Republican Heather Wilson appear to be solidifying their leads over challengers in their respective primaries. A Heinrich-Wilson matchup would focus on the Albuquerque-based district they both represented in Congress. While Democrats are confident in Heinrich's chances, Republicans are starting to view the race as a potential sleeper that could break their way, especially if President Obama's campaign falters.

We have the US Senate race for November ranked "lean Democrat" in the early going. Wilson, the likely GOP nominee, has high negatives, Obama is poised to carry the state and a recent horse-race poll from Dem polling group PPP shows Heinrich would beat Heather by seven points


The Guv is getting frustrated, and who can blame her? Her move to repeal the law permitting driver's license for undocumented immigrants has taken its first step towards the legislative graveyard. In addition, her tax cut proposals are on life support because lawmakers fear the rosy economic projection giving the state a $250 million surplus for the next budget year could disappear in the wake of crashing natural gas prices. Says Susana:

“Politicians who are not economists are starting to second-guess (the forecast) without any real understanding..."

That's kind of funny because state economists have been anything but accurate in their projections the past several years, consistently overstating what the state would take in.

And natural gas prices were crashing again last week. They will hit bottom at some point, but the state takes a significant royalty hit when they dive. That's the problem with being so dependent on oil and gas revenues.

Meanwhile, there's a lot of sympathy for Martinez's proposal to do away with the gross receipts tax for businesses taking in less than $50,000 a year. The problem is it is not revenue neutral. She does not make up for the lost revenue among the top tier of taxpayers or find some other place to replace the cash that would be lost from the tax break.

The administration says there are about 56,000 businesses on the books with annual receipts of less than $50,000, but an unknown number of those are dormant and have no sales. The previous number was about 40,000 for businesses with less than $50,000 in yearly sales. The cost of the tax exemption is now estimated at $24 million annually for the state and $16 million a year for local governments.


Martinez and Department of Finance Secretary Clifford might be able to get their tax cut if, for example, they were willing to craft a compromise that did away with some of the unneeded tax credits for the oil and gas industry. But compromise is a word the Fourth Floor uses in year end newspaper interviews but not too much when it comes to the legislative process.

It is the all or nothing attitude that is keeping the Martinez legislative ship from sailing. How about taking a partial win on the driver's license issue and warn lawmakers you are coming back for the full repeal? How about you get the gross receipts tax cut but nick the well-off to finance it? And so much more...

Martinez is now saying she has the votes in the House and Senate to pass the driver's license bill. That's true enough in the House, but the Senate? Huh? Maybe Susana is relying on those economists she trusts so much to also count her votes.

All or nothing appeals to the Guv's GOP base, but they are not going to abandon her if she starts to move a tad to the center. This remains a gubernatorial administration with great potential, but until the Governor learns to outflank the legislature by taking a few of their ideas and melding them into her own, this Guv's ship is going to stay grounded.

CAO Perry
The Alligator who wondered here last week whether ABQ Chief Administrative Officer Rob Perry had a conflict of interest because of his relationship with prominent GOP attorney Paul Kennedy was not saying that Perry has acted unethically or pushed settlements in police misconduct cases that benefited Kennedy's law firms to the tune of over $2.5 million. The Gator was questioning appearances and urging that the issue be looked at.

Before he worked for the city Perry shared office space with Kennedy, a longtime Perry friend and political associate. Both at one time sought the GOP nomination for attorney general. With the city paying out over $8 million in recent months in settlement money the appearance question would seem more than germane, but former Dem ABQ City Councilor and attorney Michael Cadigan doesn't see it that way. He emails:

Joe, Your post left the impression of illegal, unethical collusion. It left the impression that Rob was associated with Kennedy as a partner/associate lawyer, which he was not. He just rented space. I read it very carefully (both posts) and I don’t think it is fair. I’m not the world’s biggest fan of Mayor Berry, but this attack is unfounded and unfair. The process by which the City decides to settle lawsuits is complicated and involves many people. Rob cannot decide to settle a case on his own.

Thanks for the thoughts, Michael, but Perry is associated with Kennedy! As we said, they shared office space together. They are both longtime Republican lawyers and personal and political friends. And as CAO, Perry (and the mayor) have ultimate sign-off authority on suits.

There is a personal relationship here and it needs to be covered as the city has paid out over $8 million in taxpayer money in two years. It may seem like nitpicking but after the down and dirty Downs deal it seems very timely.

Let's hear Mr. Perry's description of this relationship and how and why it has not influenced the city's decision to settle misconduct cases rather than go to trial. This is not an "attack" but a line of questioning. Not that Mr. Perry has a propensity to answer any of our questions. But if segments of the local media care to shake the impression that it is in the bag for the city administration, it might want to pose these queries. Or better yet let's have the United States Department of Justice ask the many questions that are going unanswered.


One of our Legal Beagles comes with this explanation on why attorney Kennedy figures so prominently in the settlement of police misconduct cases:

If you look at Kennedy and the record of ( his late partner Mary Han) in civil rights litigation all over New Mexico, you'll see a great degree of success, and a lot of justified payouts. There ain't a soul who can take away from the effort that their practice put out for their clients. It's why they get to cherry-pick the good cases and have the reputation they do (did). Paul just doesn't take on cases that aren't winners anymore because he doesn't have to.


In our ongoing culling of the top five NM sports stories since statehood a century ago Gil Armijo comes with a political take that we appreciate:

The #1 sports story was the 1974 gubernatorial election between Democrat Jerry Apodaca--a running back--versus Joe Skeen--a tight end. The running back won. Nuff' said...

A couple of corrections. Statewide candidates or federal office or for the office of U.S. Representative must turn in petition signatures on Feb. 14. All other legislative and judicial candidates must turn in petitions on March 20. More info here....We speculated that House Speaker Ben Lujan could give his son, northern Dem US Rep. Ben Ray Lujan, some of his nearly $100,000 in campaign funds that he will no longer need now that he is retiring. But readers pointed out that federal law prohibits a federal candidate from receiving money from a state campaign account.

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