Thursday, May 31, 2012

Riding The Final Stretch From The Home Of New Mexico Politics: A Blast From The Past, The To Hot To Handle Congress Race & In Praise Of Hector (And That's Just For Starters) 

Edward Lujan & Roberto Mondragon
Rodney King famously and poignantly asked if "we can't all get along?" Clearly, when it comes to the final stretch of a political campaign we have a darn hard time doing it. Just witness the outbreak of negative campaigning among the Dems for the ABQ congressional seat--and they're all in the same party.

But we're coming to the rescue of all of you who ache for the days of old when things were a wee bit softer on the battlefield of La Politica. We have pictured here in fine bipartisan shape former NM GOP Chairman Edward Lujan with ex-Democratic Lieutenant Governor Roberto Mondragon.

Roberto was attending a reception and program last week honoring Lujan's immense contribution of time, patience and resources in getting the National Hispanic Cultural Center built. He was one of many Dems on hand to honor Republican Lujan, 79, brother of former US Rep. Manuel Lujan.

Sure, it's easier for the likes of Roberto and Edward to get along now that their political wars are misty memories, but both of them always showed respect for their foes. Lookign at the two of them today, it's hard to believe that back in '74 Roberto ran against Edward's congressman brother. And it was a heated race.

Now it's on to the action and campaign trail of today...Oops. First, thanks to photog Mark Bralley for cleaning up our camera phone pic...Okay, now it's on to the action and there's plenty....


They're in their bunkers now with pizza boxes piling up as the missiles fly above. The two leading contenders for the ABQ congressional nomination have unleashed withering attacks upon one another, guaranteeing a nasty and emotional finish to a campaign that for months has played out mostly placidly.

As expected, in the aftermath of Lujan Grisham's TV hit on Griego's driving record, Griego came with a hard-hitting TV attack on Michelle Lujan's Grisham's oversight of a problem plagued nursing home in southern New Mexico, suggesting that eight deaths there could be laid at her doorstep when she served as state health secretary. Lujan Grisham's team says that ups the ante and there's going to be more missiles launched Eric's way (Michelle's defense of her tenure as health secretary is here.)

Our analysts think the outbreak of negative campaigning could drive down an already expected low voter turnout and might benefit the campaigns of Griego and Marty Chavez, mostly because they are thought to have the best get out the vote efforts. But Michelle seems to be dominating the mailboxes, with a lot of help from the DC based women's group EMILY'S List. She also has a TV buy up that appears to outrank her two rivals. That could fill some of the holes left by a weaker ground game.

Marty has a healthy TV buy, but he may need some fresh stuff to take advantage of the unexpected combat between Eric and Michelle. The polls say he has more than 10 points to cover. And it's not as if Marty hasn't joined the fray. He put out a hit mail piece on both Eric and Michelle. That a boy, Marty. Did you learn that move from Johnny Tapia?

It appears either Lujan Grisham or Griego can take this prize, with Marty still a long shot. And how many votes will it take to enter the winner's circle? Insiders say the magic number should fall in the area of 15,000 to 18,000.

Speaking of turnout, we sat down at Starbucks with KRQE-TV reporter Nancy Laflin to talk about the subject. Nancy returned to the reporting fold after a stint as executive director of the NM Music Commission in the Big Bill administration. As we began the interview, she noted that the music was piped out on the patio and the nice folks at Starbucks turned it down for us. Is that what they mean by irony, Gators?


The attacks by the two candidates are both over the top. Griego's traffic problems hardly disqualify him from office (an old mug shot of his DWI arrest from the 80's is now circulating on the Net) and Lujan Grisham can't be said to be the blame for the deaths of eight elderly persons. But that is the nature of these contests anymore.

It isn't as if the voters were engaged before the toxic wave rolled ashore. Early voting is very low and overall turnout next Tuesday looks to be tepid. There's a number of reasons for that.

The Heinrich-Balderas Dem US Senate match fizzled early, with Heinrich taking a big lead and not looking back. That race would normally drive turnout. And one operative says many, many people are played out on politics. Just tired of it all. Of course, that can't include us. After all, what would a circus do without a ringmaster or a whorehouse without a piano player?

Some might say that the outbreak of negativity may help the GOP in the Fall, but my analysts say this district has turned so blue that it would take a felony for the Dems to get in serious trouble against Janice Arnold-Jones who will take the GOP nomination June 5. We'll see.


On the Heinrich-Balderas race, we've been getting our share of grief that we haven't given Hector a fair shake. Well, it may seem that way when we report the big polling lead Heinrich has and the lack of punch that the Balderas campaign has shown. Those are facts not fiction. But we understand that the first time under the hot glare of La Politica can burn, and having fellas like us around ready to point out every flaw is not ordinary day-to-day living.

But then this is a fight for the US Senate and the future economic and political leadership of a state hugely dependent on the feds. We're working for two million people--not two candidates--so some political toes are going to be stepped on. But if we started making with a brown nose in our coverage, you would look forward to reading us about as much as you would like drinking a bucket of spit.

Not that we are insensitive to the plight of underdogs. Heck, when Hector's sister gave us a mild berating over our coverage at Barelas Coffee House the other day, we almost headed off to an early voter site to cast a ballot for him. Then we remembered we've been a registered independent since 1974 and can't vote in a primary.

But we know many of you Alligators out there think we need an occasional lashing with the wet noodle. So be it. Here's one from Hector fan Jake McCook:

Dear Joe, I’m disappointed, but not surprised, to see coverage of the Senate primary campaign be so imbalanced in favor of Martin Heinrich. I lost count months ago the number of times your blog has portrayed the race as "Heinrich versus Wilson" when Mr. & Mrs. New Mexico hadn't even gotten an opportunity to meet all the candidates. With all the disenchantment of government and politics, and with such an important election, why would we allow the incumbency factor to dictate our nominee? Why pick a another establishment candidate who leads the pack with money, polling and political endorsements? It holds us back, when campaigns should be about the future.

No one represents New Mexico or its future better than Hector Balderas. A product of our educational institutions, Hector will be a fierce advocate for our high schools, vocational centers, junior colleges and universities to prepare our state for the future – a future that has too often been neglected by those who know not the challenges and potentials of New Mexico’s youth.

Thanks for that, Jake. Even Hector's sister is going to like that one....

And one more thing, Jake. You Hectorites are going to want to stay tuned to the blog for this next one...

Judy Espinosa
One item drawing some loud chatter in Democratic salons is the ABQ congressman's position on placing high-level nuclear waste at WIPP--the low level nuclear waste disposal site at Carlsbad. Former state environment secretary and attorney Judy Espinosa comes with criticism of Rep. Heinrich on the matter and then his camp responds. First Espinosa: 

Many of my enviro colleagues and liberal Democrats are bemused by Martin Heinrich's blatant moves to the right to position himself for the general election. He assumes a primary win, as noted by his vote for the Republican Defense Bil...But that is not his only move toward Republicans. 

Heinrich was the first Congressman to cosponsor Steve Pearce’s HR 2367 in June 2011 which allows high level nuclear waste and commercial spent nuclear fuel into WIPP--a policy that Senator Jeff Bingaman has fought against for many decades and Senator Tom Udall continues to fight against. 21 community groups and 62 individuals have signed onto a letter requesting Martin Heinrich withdraw his support. (attached letter).

We asked Heinrich's camp to respond to Judy:

Congressman Heinrich has never supported storing high-level nuclear waste at WIPP, nor would he in the future. The waste that is stored at WIPP is government-owned, low-level radioactive waste, also known as transuranic waste. Over the course of our nuclear history, our government has made some mistakes that have been detrimental to our environment. We cannot erase those mistakes, but we can work to fix them.Where government owned transuranic waste is concerned, WIPP is part of that fix.

Congressman Heinrich supports a comprehensive approach to waste storage so long as the approach is science-based and not politically motivated. Because when it comes to conserving our natural resources and protecting our environment, Rep. Heinrich makes his decisions based on science – not politics – every time.

Hey, is that Steve Pearce we see smiling in the corner? Back to work, Steve. The fight's over. 


We haven't heard much from her this campaign, but Jennifer Romero, challenging Bernalilo County District Attorney Kari Brandenburg in next Tuesday's primary makes a final week appearance. Here she is in a TV spot she posted, saying Kari is partly to blame for overcrowded jail conditions.

This contest for Kari has not been anything like the one she had with Republican Lisa Torraco in the 2008 general election. That one had us jumping around in our blogging pajamas. This time, there is no GOP candidate for DA so if Kari wins, she gets another four year term. That would be 16 years as DA.

And did we tell you that outgoing Roswell GOP State Senator "Lightning Rod" Adair has signed up Lisa as one of his political consulting clients this cycle? She has and is said to be the favorite to take the GOP nomination for the state Senate seat being vacated by ABQ's Mark Boitano.

Welcome to Albuquerque, Rod. Let's have lunch. I'll eat what you throw at me....


You can't be the favorite political news source in New Mexico without covering the econ beat. Just can't be done. So here we are at your little 'ol home of New Mexico politics going deep in the weeds on the devleopment of that "ghost town" in far away Hobbs. (Hello there, Harry Teague). That's the one being financed by a company called Pegasus and being touted by the Guv big time. We posted this quote Wednesday from the Santa Fe Reporter:

As the projected costs for a mysterious “ghost town” skyrocket,  questions about the company’s financials, size and seemingly vague,  unrealistic business plans pile up. Pegasus Global Holdings  picked a site in Lea County earlier this month for its Center for  Innovation, Testing and Evaluation (CITE), an uninhabited town it plans to  build for testing emergent technologies. At the same time, the project  originally priced at $200 million suddenly became a $1 billion deal. But  Pegasus still hasn’t disclosed a single investor or potential client  who would use the site....

And now comes the retort from the PR mavens for Pegasus, led by Toni Balzano:

I wanted to clear up some misinformation that was made public in the Santa Fe Reporter article.

First of all the company has always said that the first phase of the development will cost  between $200-$400 million, that has been consistent and widely published. Overall when the project is complete they expect it to reach one billion dollars in investment into CITE. A large majority of that money will come from companies that will do testing at CITE, through the infrastructure they add to complete testing. The company has no intention of fundraising the full one billion dollars.

While Pegasus Global Holdings is a small family owned company, they have certainly proven themselves by raising more than $1.2 billion in investment money for their last project. I don't know many companies that can say that. With that said, there is strong global interest in CITE and many well known companies are actively pursuing Pegasus to become strategic partners and potential customers.  Please don't encourage the nay-sayers in this state who don't believe that large projects can happen without the Government handing out cash...

Thanks for that, Toni. We wouldn't call those who question the project "naysayers." It's just when they see that billion dollar number thrown around it raises eyebrows--and questions.

With Udall in DC
Looking ahead to 2014 (you know you are) this item caught our eye about Dem US Senator Tom Udall:

Tom Udall (has) spent relatively little time raising money during his first term.  At the end of March, Udall reported $205,000 (in his campaign account).

What? Only $205,000 for a Senate race that will cost millions?

We remember when Dem Senator Bingaman came with a report that showed little campaign cash and wondered if he would seek re-election in 2012. He said he would, but it turned out otherwise. Udall's office says there is an explanation for his sparse bank account:

 After the 2008 campaign, Tom...took a break from the constant fundraising. However, since he raised over $7 million in less than a year for the 2008 election, we're confident he'll have the resources needed to run a successful campaign. Lately he's been focusing his political activities on assisting colleagues who are running for re-election, and has contributed nearly $500,000 during the past two election cycles from his campaign and Leadership PAC, the Southwest Leadership Fund, to help elect other Democrats. Tom intends to continue doing everything he can between now and November to keep a Democratic majority in the Senate.

Udall, 64, will be going for a second six year term in 2014. No R is yet sending definitive signals that they will run.

Among those on our watch list is GOP US Rep. Steve Pearce who lost to Udall in 2008, state economic development secretary Jon Barela, who ran and lost the ABQ congressional seat in 2010, Lt. Governor John Sanchez, who dropped a short-lived bud this year for the GOP US Senate nomination, ABQ Mayor Richard Berry who will seek re-election in 2013, Clovis area District Attorney Matt Chandler and ABQ GOP State Rep. Nate Gentry, both youngish Republicans who fit the profile.


This also caught our eye. From Politico:

Sen.  Jeff Bingaman (D-N.M.) is the go-to guy on high  gas prices, but the  chairman of the Energy and Natural Resources  Committee hasn’t spoken to  the president much since the previous  Congress. “I think the reality  is the current Congress is not constituted in a way that makes it likely  that we can do very much,” Bingaman   said, “and that’s reflected in what we wind up doing on the floor and   understandably the president is not as engaged — at least with me.”

Couldn't they at least have a poker game together?

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