Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Candidates Hangin' On To Hope & Each Other As Voters Prepare Verdict, Plus: Susana Backs Off; Her TV Ad Hitting Senate Leaders Is Recut, Also: Steve & Heather Together Again, And: Big Bill's Spaceport Play, The Jobs Crunch; Is Cutting Taxes Really The Answer? 

McGraw & Mary Jane (Stephen Jones photo)
It's all about hangin' on in these final hours of Campaign '12 and maybe hangin' on to someone who can do you some good.

Today we have Dona Ana Dem State Senator Mary Jane Garcia in the embrace of famous film actress and Santa Fe resident Ali McGraw, 73. Then there's Republicans Steve Pearce and Heather Wilson--political enemies if there ever were any--sharing smiles and enthusiasm in the waning hours. And embattled Senate Majority Leader Michael Sanchez asking and getting political love hugs from popular Democrats Senator Jeff Bingaman and Rep. Martin Heinrich.

About Senate Majority Whip Garcia. The 75 year old had an ethics mishap this cycle and was fined by the Secretary of State, but she remains heavily favored to beat Republican Lee Cotter and return to Santa Fe. Her love story with actress McGraw is rooted in their mutual concern for animal rights which Garcia has championed.


It is anything but a love story between Steve Pearce and Heather Wilson, but what the heck.

It's the final hours of what is likely Wilson's last political campaign and there's no point of going out on a sour note. Here the duo is soaked in sunshine and smiles at GOP headquarters in Carlsbad Monday.

Back in '08 Pearce narrowly beat Heather for the US Senate nomination and the fight turned nasty. This time Steve gets to watch Heather struggle as the GOP Senate nominee against Dem Martin Heinrich.

One thing that is hard to figure--would Pearce like working on the Hill more with Dem Heinrich than rival Wilson? Well, whatever the case they won't be able to accuse Steve of trying to sabotage Heather. Besides appearing with her in Carlsbad, he also cut a video criticizing Heinrich.


There's just no quit in Wilson, even if it resulted this week in her releasing a suspect internal poll that showed her ahead--contrary to all available evidence and other polls. But maybe the survey that was widely dismissed in the state's political community is helping her raise some money. Karl Rove's American CrossRoads Super PAC announces it is coming with a final days TV buy for Wilson of over $500,000.

The problem? What is Crossroads going to say that hasn't already been said? The size of the slice of the electorate that is undecided wouldn't  satisfy the appetite of a Calvin Klein model.

Still, Wilson battles on because...well...she's Wilson. If she loses, Governor Martinez might harness some of that fight to lobby Republicans in congress for the state's federal military and energy funding. Just a thought...


King, Heinrich, Sanchez & Bingaman
And in the "law of unintended consequences category" we present the Michael Sanchez-David Chavez case.

By vociferously attacking Senate Majority Leader Sanchez the Reform NM PAC led by Guv political adviser Jay McCleskey is doing what few men walking the planet can do--he's unifying the state Democratic Party.

Here's Michael with pals Rep. Martin Heinrich, Senator Bingaman and Attorney General King. They all attended a rally in support of Michael in Belen Monday, united in their opposition to GOP State Rep. David Chavez who is trying to topple the powerful lawmaker.

Will it just be the political heavyweights who get united behind Sanchez in his hour of need or will the goodwill filter down to the grassroots Dem voters Sanchez needs to retain his seat?


From where we sit the best TV ad of this cycle is the one Sanchez came with in response to a vicious hit by Reform NM. It features the leader and his wife Lynn seated on a sofa, looking comfortable and dismissing the attacks as the handiwork of big oil money from Texas and Oklahoma.

It's the calm demeanor of Sanchez that is striking, and the determined, yet friendly defense by his wife Lynn that has them talking. And boy, are they talking.

The Reform NM ad that featured Governor Martinez accusing Sanchez and Jennings of being soft on prison terms for child killers is gone. So why is the Governor no longer featured in the Sanchez-Jennings hit piece? Well, how about this--it wasn't working and it was putting Martinez's political popularity in jeopardy. Now Jay and the gang come with a new spot that continues to accuse the two Senators of being soft on child killers, but also throws in that old favorite--repeal of driver's licenses for undocumented immigrants.

Sanchez's DC produced TV ad appears to have changed the game, and not only by increasing the chances that he will survive this challenge, but maybe setting him up for another. We speak of the contest for the 2014 Dem Guv nomination and the fight to take on Governor Susana.


Sanchez has often toyed with the notion of running for Governor, but political pundits (That's not us, is it?) were not enthused about his prospects, pointing to his somewhat crotchety personality and the baggage of all his votes in the Senate.

But things can change in a hurry. If he wins next Tuesday, he will be the giant killer--taking on the Governor and all she could throw at him--and winning.

Hey, no wonder she doesn't want to be seen talking about Baby Brianna and challenging Sanchez anymore.

Attorney General King, pictured today with Sanchez, is already officially in the Guv's race. Trial attorney Sam Bregman is considering. And add a new name to your list of possibles--former US Ambassador Joe Wilson of Santa Fe has his antenna out (Well, you still have to have a Wilson running around here, don't you?).

A final note on the Sanchez-Chavez face-off.  Chavez was seen hanging out for a couple of hours at one of the local TV stations, giving rise to speculation that he is about to come with a nice-guy TV spot to try to match Michael's. He basically has let Reform NM and McCleskey run his campaign. We've heard a lot about Sanchez, but not much about Chavez.


The news that former Governor Big Bill is going to lobby for California's Spaceport sent the eyebrows arching and the armchair pundits pondering. After all, the New Mexico Spaceport, where a runway bears his name, is his baby. It is one of his legacy projects. For him to throw in with California was a head-shaker.
Former Gov. Richardson, who championed development of New Mexico's spaceport, is going to work for California's spaceport. The Albuquerque Journal reports Richardson will sign a contract to lobby for Mojave Air and Space Port. Officials told the paper he is being hired to help them get so-called informed consent legislation passed. New Mexico has been trying for two years to get the same law passed, but has been blocked by trial lawyers in the Legislature. The law would exempt space craft parts suppliers from most civil lawsuits.

The reasons for Bill's switch may not be that mystifying. First, there is the money he will make. No doubt he will get a lot of it for lobbying to get so-called informed consent legislation for the California Spaceport. Second, and on a more Machiavellian level, maybe by going to work for California he also signals Governor Susana that she better step up her efforts regarding the Spaceport near T or C or she could lose it.

If Richardson is setting out bait for Martinez to get her to be more forceful about the Spaceport, she may or may not take it. Her administration, which took several years to begin embracing the project, now seems intent on blaming any lack of progress on the Legislature's failure to pass an informed consent bill which is opposed by the trial lawyers--a prominent Dem interest group.

That liability measure is sorely needed, but the Spaceport needs aggressive administration support in marketing and infrastructure. In other words, they need to play for success, not just have a handy excuse for failure.

It's discouraging to think that the byzantine politics of this state would kill one of the more promising economic development projects of a lifetime. Let's hope Big Bill is setting a trap for Susana to step it up and that she takes the step.


The Martinez administration has come up with a novel approach to the loss of federal funding and federal jobs in the state--Don't worry about it. That's right. The jobs are going away and there's nothing we can do nor should we. This after the modern state economy was constructed around federal funding.

Where's the fight in Martinez and Economic Development Secretary Barela?  Do they save it all for those nasty campaign ads? Their job (you too, Mayor Berry) is to go to Washington or wherever they have to and argue for the merits of New Mexico's funding and protect their constituents from the downside--not just give up.

And the suggestion that lowering the corporate tax rate here is going to create jobs is naive. Governor Richardson made the same claim when he pushed through a massive personal income tax cut for the wealthy, taking the top rate down from over 8 percent to 4.9. Remember how he said that would bring jobs as corporate executives relocated their companies here? It didn't happen.

Taxes are only one small piece of the jobs equation. The administration needs to market New Mexico's quality of life while improving it. You can lower taxes to near zero and if the schools are lousy, drug and alcohol addiction is rampant and crime is a constant worry you are not going to get very far.

These problems are going to take time to solve. That's why the administration decision to surrender instead of fighting funding cuts is so worrisome. They are not going to be able to replace those jobs right away, but we know from experience that political savvy in DC can mean a lot of federal dollars--and jobs for our people.

It is the Tea Party's disdain for government jobs of any kind that seems to have infected the thinking at the top levels of the Martinez administration. The irony is that Martinez is a career government worker.

Secretary Barela says federal funding cutbacks are inevitable. And he may be right. But those cuts won't be fair or proportional. That's politics. And you need to play some politics to protect your share.

Maybe he's saving up something to say if he runs for the 2014 Republican Senate nomination. (Hey, how did we know that?)


Diane Dimond
There were some important matters left unsaid in the trio of presidential debates this year, says syndicated columnist, veteran TV reporter and ABQ native Diane Dimond:

 There have been no debate questions about topics parents worry about every day their children walk out the door: Drugs, gang violence, teen suicides or pregnancy, or schools and recreational activities haunted by pedophiles. 

Nothing was said about the scourge of mortgage or credit card fraud, identity theft, elder abuse or cyber-stalking....Sometimes I wonder about the tunnel vision of journalists who cover national politics. Did they all grow up in pristine neighborhoods where there was no crime? Has their status covering presidential candidates blinded them from seeing what regular folks have to grapple with? Why do they mostly lob policy-wonk questions?...

We hear you, Di. In New Mexico we are #1 in drug addiction deaths and near the top in teen suicide and pregnancy.


There's been confusion over who the Navajo Nation Council is endorsing in the US Senate race. That confusion ends with this report from the Farmington Daily Times:

The Navajo Nation Council threw its support behind two New Mexico Democrats for Congress on Monday--Martin Heinrich and Ben Ray Luján. Luján is running for reelection as the representative for the 3rd Congressional District, which includes San Juan County and parts of the Navajo Nation. The tribe's speaker sent letters to both Democrats expressing the Navajo Nation's support for their campaigns.


We posted that controversial Dem Party flier Tuesday attacking Dem State Rep. Ray Begaye's opponent for not being Navajo enough. And that drew this retort from Jared King, who says he knows Ray's foe and objects:

Your recent mailer stating that candidate Sharon Clahchischilliage is “not Navajo enough” is appalling. It is shocking that a state party would knowingly try to divide the Navajo people in their vote and impugn the integrity of a fine patriotic woman...For the Democratic Party of New Mexico to attempt to divide the Navajo people in a cynical and blatantly racist manner is unprecedented.

As a life-long Democrat and citizen of the Navajo Nation, I find this late-stage political smear campaign disturbing. I know first hand Sharon’s impeccable strength of character, poise and integrity. She is a patriot, a proud Navajo and a strong leader. I worked under Sharon’s leadership at the Navajo Nation Washington Office for several years and I know her well. Sharon fought to ensure the Navajo Nation had a seat at the table when it came to policy and program decision-making at the highest levels of government. Sharon directed her staff to always think of the Navajo people forefront in all of their dealings with both sides of the aisle, without regard to political affiliation. 

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