Monday, October 29, 2012

Final Stretch Coverage: Sanchez Uses Soft Touch TV To Deflect Susana; Jennings Hanging In, Plus: Call Him Senator Woods, The Nuking Of Nunez, Heather's Last Ditch Effort, And: The Latest Polls And Endorsements  

Hunting Sanchez
Deflecting Susana
The action is going manic as the time left in Campaign '12 turns from days to only hours. Lagging candidates are starting to swing for the fences and Domino's Pizza and four hours of sleep are the final days routine.

Some of the action will be down and dirty and pop up in the mail at the last minute, giving opponents no time to respond. But much of it will be in plain sight, and that leads us out to to the jam-packed campaign trail....

Forget president and congress--well, don't forget them--but don't look for any suspense there--the Dems have a lock on almost all of the federal races around here. No, the premier races are further down the ballot and further south of ABQ. Like in Valencia County. Like in the backyard of the State Senate Majority Leader Michael Sanchez. He has a tortilla-sized target on his back that the R's are shooting at with multiple weapons.

Sanchez--ahead 48-46 over GOP foe Rep. David Chavez in the exclusive Oct. 23 Manzano Strategies poll conducted for New Mexico Politics with Joe Monahan--is out with his highly anticipated response to the most sensational TV hit of the season--a spot produced by Guv political adviser Jay McCleskey. (The ad is not available on the web). It accuses Sanchez of not supporting life prison terms for those convicted of killing a child. Sound over the top? Sanchez also seems think so. Here's his ad and here's more about it:

The Sanchez retort ad does not get in the weeds with Jay, but places the powerful Senator on the sofa with Lynn, his wife of 42 years, and they calmly explain what they think is happening:

Sanchez: Recently you may have seen some pretty nasty TV ads about me.

Lynn: I've seen one too many

Sanchez: They are paid for by the big oil and gas companies out of Texas and Oklahoma

Lynn--They don't care about New Mexico. They have their own agenda

Sanchez--I'm Michael Sanchez and I'd ask you to find the facts and I'd really appreciate your vote on November 6

Lynn--Next time you see one of those ads do what we do (She is then shown aiming the remote at the TV screen which turns to snow)

A number of Democratic and GOP political consultants we asked said this spot strikes the right note--not harsh and negative--but a humanizing of Sanchez.

Should he have directly responded to the Baby Brianna hit from Governor Martinez that is in the Jay spot and paid for by the super PAC Reform NM Now?

No, said most of our analysts. They said the Sanchez TV ad asks voters to suspect the motives and funding of the Reform ad and that's enough. They see Sanchez as more likable by appearing with his wife and believe he is in a get-out-the-vote race that will attract 20,000 voters. If Dems are brought home by Sanchez's reassuring spot, he should take the win. (Sanchez did respond to the specific attack in the Brianna spot in this web posting.)

On the GOTV front, the Patriot Majority PAC--funded by out-of-state union money--is flooding the district with radio and canvassers, as are a number of in-state unions and other Dem interest groups. Chavez also has a ground game put together mainly by Reform NOW, but the Dems have the edge.

Senator Bingaman and Rep. Martin Heinrich will rally with Sanchez in Belen Tuesday. Folks, the Dems are going to use every trick in the book to take this one. You don't give up generations of party power without a an all-out fight. The elephant has kicked and the donkey is up and dancing.


And then there's Senate President Pro Tem Tim Jennings who also has a Guv-painted target on his back. But insides say Jennings' contest appears to be moving his way---although everyone is being very cautious in making any predictions. That scorching letter from former GOP Chairman Harvey Yates, Jr. in which he unloads on consultants McCleskey and outgoing State Senator "Lightning" Rod Adair and endorses Jennings was run as a full page ad Sunday in the Roswell Daily Record.

Locals continue to say the Republican division over Jennings increases the longtime lawmaker's odds of hanging on for another four year term.


Susana's not only firing at Dems and R's. The lone indy in the state House--Dona Ana Rep. Andy Nunez,--was shell-shocked when Jay and the gang put out a hit mailer on him that we reported to the state last week. And the shock waves are still reverberating. Newsman Steve Terrell has more on the Fourth Floor diss of Nunez and how not to make friends and influence people:

...Hardly anything in politics truly surprises me anymore. But last week’s news that a political action committee associated with  Gov. Martinez was going after Rep. Andy Nuñez, the independent  from Hatch, was not only surprising but eye-popping, even for a cynical old news dog. OK, Martinez is a Republican and there is a Republican candidate in  District 36, Mike Tellez. So it’s not that shocking that she would back  her own guy, even back him over a fairly conservative declined-to-state.  But Nuñez isn’t just any fairly conservative declined-to-state. He’s  probably is best known in other parts of the state as the sponsor of one  of Martinez’s pet bills--the one that would repeal the law that allows the state to issue driver’s licenses to illegal immigrants.

Felipe Archuleta is the Dem candidate for the Nunez seat and maybe he takes it after Andy got nuked from both the Guv's political team as well as a super PAC supporting Dems.

Who will win? It's another big race in the battle for control of the state House that we'll be tracking for you Election Night on KANW 89.1 FM and streamed live at KANW.com


The Guv has got to know she is burning a lot of her political capital with her efforts to take out all these legislators. We sure see it in the email. Here's a sample from a Dem Gator::

...If she doesn't win some of these seats (which seems entirely possible), what does it mean for advancement of public policy at a time when we've became the poorest state in the nation and are hobbling through the recovery?

She not only made new enemies during this campaign, but completely took a flame thrower to those who were already against her.  This is her nuclear strategy--just blow the whole place up and hope she can make something out of the debris. She had a chance to work with the Legislature and she blew it, now we all have to suffer.

The other unintended consequence of her actions has been to awaken a bunch of Democrats and make them run better, more sophisticated races. Also, she inspired the growth of new Democratic outside interest group money. She could have snuck up and taken out State Rep. Ray Begaye, State Senator Mary Jane Garcia or Senator Jennings but she has no subtlety. She overplayed her hand and again went for the nuclear option. Even if she picks up something, was it worth it?

Also, by absolutely screwing Rep. Andy Nunez, she sent a clear message to everyone in Santa Fe that she can never be trusted and that she's loyal to no one.  That also will contribute to the demise of her legislative agenda.

You don't have to be a Dem to know that his Governor has taken a huge roll of the dice and  her crapping out at Legislative Session '13 seems as predictable as a January snow in Chama.


Asked about the unprecedented attacks on legislative Dems by her top political adviser and the super PAC he runs, Martinez tried out this explanation:

This isn't personal. This is clearly about policy.

But it clearly is personal, made more so by hundreds of thousands of dollars of Super PAC vitriol that has changed the very fabric of these legislative races and will make the political atmosphere in Santa Fe so toxic that it could be deemed a Superfund site.


Sen. Pat Woods
It was a GOP state Senate primary over in Clovis in June where we first learned that Governor Martinez was intent on taking out Republicans as well as Democrats in an effort to advance her legislative agenda. McCleskey's super PAC--not officially linked with her--threw the proverbial kitchen sink at Republican rancher Pat Woods, but in a scene that Jennings and Sanchez would love to emulate, here's Senator Pat taking the oath.

 Woods has a dead serious look on his face as he gets sworn in at the Curry County Courthouse by District Judge Ted Hartley with Woods' mother holding the bible.

That serious look is warranted after what Pat went through to get where he is today. The Governor and her political action committee spent thousands trying to keep him from the Senate by backing Angie Spears in what will long be remembered as one of the most strife-filled GOP state Senate contests ever.

The battle was for the seat held by GOP Senator Clint Harden. Harden recently resigned early after we blogged that he was going into the lobbying business. Governor Martinez then appointed Woods to fill the rest of Harden's term which runs until the end of the year. Woods faces no Dem opposition next week and will serve a four year term beginning in January.

The Guv must have paused for a moment when she signed the documents appointing Woods and wondered just how firm he will stand with her after that bloody primary. Woods says he will indeed stand with her in working for the repeal of driver's licenses for undocumented immigrants. But it remains to be seen how this independent minded rancher who beat the Guv's powerful political machine will play the game.


Hey, I know this thing is long. If you're tired, you have our permission to visit another web site and come back to us later and finish....but you are going to want to finish...


The top of the ticket is the middle of the blog today because of the non-suspense over those races. Look at that ABQ Journal poll from Sunday. You have Obama at 50%, Romney at 41% and Gary Johnson at 5%. Still, that doesn't mean the Obama machine that rolled over the state four years ago when Barack came with a 57% finish has been put in a storage locker. No, they have field offices around the state and that could help some of the Dem legislative candidates...

As for former Guv Gary--this year's Libertarian Party presidential nominee--nice call by our Alligators. They said if Johnson did heavy media in the state, he could challenge the 10% mark. If not, they said he will finish at 5% or lower. There was no Gary TV on the broadcast stations--so there will be no double-digit Gary.


For Heather Wilson the days have boiled down to a precious few. She has seemingly tried everything to dislodge front runner Martin Heinrich in the US Senate race. Now in the final hours she is making one last ditch effort to get the New Mexican public to like her.

In this TV ad Heather's son and daughter reveal she is a musician of sorts and clips of Wilson playing the banjo are highlighted. Her kids also say that Heather likes to unicycle--or at least she did in the 1969 home move clip that is also in the ad.

But Wilson's unfavorables are still near the 50% mark. She has driven Heinrich's higher with negative ads, but not enough. This ad that takes a stab at warming up the chilly Wilson persona is not going to change that. Not in the ninth inning.

One of the Alligators got a chuckle over Heather's banjo playing and unicycle riding TV ad:

Joe, I would be more impressed with Heather Wilson if  she could ride a unicycle and play a banjo at the same time.  Maybe her next TV ad will depict such a feat!  Then she will have sealed the independent vote of banjo players  and unicycle riders.  See this video.

And we wonder if in that TV ad Heather is plucking out that old banjo favorite, "Oh, Susana, don't you cry for me..."

Don't worry, Heather. She isn't.


It's not all one big blues tune for banjo picking Heather. Her old reliables at the ABQ Journal came through Sunday with yet another endorsement of her

...National security and military experience give her the edge at a time when New Mexico’s national laboratories and military bases--and the thousands of jobs that go with them--need a strong, committed defender in the Senate.

Dem Heinrich wasn't expecting to get the nod from the paper, but neither is he relaxing in the final week. His TV schedule includes a mix of positive and negative. His Heather hit scores her--for among other things--voting for the Wall St. bailout.


That the Heather banjo ad features Wilson's daughter Caitlin got our attention. Back in June of 2008 when Wilson held a news conference to announce she would be endorsing Steve Pearce we blogged that Wilson's daughter was at her side and broke down and cried over her mother's loss. We recorded it as part of the human toll the life of politics can take.

It was one of the few times that we heard a reaction from the Wilson camp which asked us to take down the reference to Caitlin crying, saying it was a private moment. We disagreed and said the event was news and was going to be reported by other sources as well. Still, they insisted and we relented. Sure enough, soon after the AP came with a story referencing Caitlin's tears.

The point being that if politicians are going to put their children in the middle of political events and paid TV ads (as both Wilson and Heinrich have done this campaign) and use them to persuade the voting public, it is unrealistic for them to expect them not to be included in news coverage.


Heather may have gotten the Journal endorsement but their polling continues to be a real downer for her. The final and third poll by the estimable Brian Sanderoff shows Heinrich hitting the 50% mark, with Heather stuck at 42%. Conservative independent candidate Jon Barrie gets 3%. The Dem-oriented pollster PPP said Friday they have Heinrich at 52% to Wilson's 44%. They did not measure Barrie who has no TV up.


Janice & Michelle
For Michelle Lujan Grisham this campaign has been about not dropping the valuable vase she is holding in her hands. So far, so good. And how can you complain when the conservative editorial pages of the ABQ Journal throw in the towel on Republican Janice Arnold-Jones and toss you an endorsement bouquet to put in that vase you're holding:

“She can be expected to sustain that type of energy and fairness in Washington and should be elected to represent New Mexico in U.S. House District 1.."

Now the editorial did hint that the ABQ congressional district is somehow still a swing district and that the R's could be back in '14 to oust Michelle. Fat chance.

Michelle's district is looking as blue as mid-day New Mexican sky. The R's could have helped Janice and made a play to get it close this year, but come Election Night it looks like Michelle may lead the Dem ticket in Bernalillo County. And that's a district with about as much movement as a rusted carousel.


The AP looks at the emergence of a new class of Hispanic politician and includes ABQ Dem congressional hopeful Michelle Lujan Grisham in that category:

Lujan Grisham is part of the next generation of college-educated,  middle-class Latino congressional candidates. Unlike many of their early  predecessors, the new Latino candidates don't come from union or labor  backgrounds, and some are seeking seats outside of predominantly  Hispanic districts.


They are the beneficiaries of civil rights  gains, demographic changes and new congressional seats created by recent  redistricting. They include a former astronaut, a medical doctor with  three degrees from Harvard, college professors, attorneys and children  of immigrants and civil rights pioneers.
Together they have the potential to make history as the largest class of Latinos ever to enter Congress..

Lujan Grisham is the daughter of a Hispanic dentist and an Anglo mother. She is also a distant relative of former ABQ GOP Congressman Manuel Lujan who held the ABQ US House seat from 1968-88.


Rep. Lujan, Blogger, Chairman Gonzales
Here's some broad smiles as we catch up on the campaign trail with northern Dem Congressman Ben Ray Lujan and New Mexico Democratic Party Chairman Javier Gonzales.

Ben Ray--seeking a third two year term in the US House--was given reason to smile over the weekend. After endorsing his Republican opponent in the Tea Party year of 2010, the ABQ Journal reversed itself and this year gave him their endorsement.

Lujan is running against Tucumcari are rancher Jefferson Byrd.

Chairman Gonzales is finishing up his final months as chairman. The former Santa Fe county commissioner will not seek re-election to the post next year, but he hopes to finish on a high note with victories here by Obama, Martin Heinrich and Michelle Lujan Grisham--in addition to Ben Ray. 

Rep. Lujan told me that he does not believe that the disaster of "sequestration" which would drop the nation off the "fiscal cliff" is going to become a reality. He believes a deal will be made that will avoid the loss of as many as 20,000 federal jobs here, including more losses at the already hard hit Los Alamos National Labs. However, no one in Washington really knows for sure what will happen.

It has been frustrating for Lujan since the Republicans took the majority in the US House following the 2010 balloting, and that does not appear as though it will change this election cycle.

The state's five member congressional delegation lacks any members on the powerful appropriations committees in either the House or Senate, despite our dependence on billions in federal funding. Maybe Lujan gets there if he keeps winning easy re-election bids like this year's. He reports over $400,000 cash in his campaign account, but has not bothered to put any TV on the air.

(Our pic was snapped at a celebration of the state's 100th year of statehood held by Las Amigas de Nuevo Mexico. It was established in 1983 by former Secretary of State Clara Padilla Andrews to promote the state of New Mexico.)

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