Monday, October 21, 2013

'14 Blow-Out Fears Rise Among State Dems In Wake Of ABQ Mayor Rout And Guv Fund-Raising Collapse; GOP Also Eyes State House; Dems Said To Face New GOP "Machine" That They Have Not Answered 

The nightmarish outcome handed them in this month's ABQ mayor's race and the recent gubernatorial campaign finance reports provides the backdrop for the newest fear of state Democrats--that they are about to suffer another blow-out in the 2014 election.

As with the mayor's race, there already seems to be an air of Dem capitulation. The meme goes that Governor Martinez is unbeatable and that no significant money will be spent by anyone, anywhere to stop her.

Her dominance in early fund-rising over her closest Dem rival--a 20 to 1 cash-on-hand advantage--is now seen as evidence that not only is the governorship slipping away, but that the slim Dem majority in the state House hangs in the balance and that it is no longer a no-brainer that the Dems will, as usual, win the down ballot races like secretary of state.

House Speaker Kenny Martinez's acquiesence to the Governor's economic plan--of which the centerpiece was corporate income tax cuts--is seen as leaving him and his team with little ammo to fend off the frontal assault that they will soon endure. By crafting a "bipartisan" plan with her, he has ceded the #1 issue in the state-- jobs and economic development.

Without a message to ignite, unite and turnout the Democratic base, he will face vicious hand-to-hand combat in the half dozen or so districts that will decide whether he retains the speaker's gavel.

For example, in 2012, in one House district, the Governor's team sent out 28 mailers against a Dem hopeful. The Speaker's team argues 2010 redistricting helps him and that low voter turnout could actually favor incumbents, and that makes a GOP takeover wishful thinking.

Still, if the of kind of over-the-top GOP determination we saw last cycle is combined with a very low turnout, a historic GOP takeover of the House could be in play.


The low turnout strategy being pursed by the R's for '14 is an idnetial replica of the ABQ '13 mayor race in which voter turnout crashed (the lowest since 1977) and the GOP made up a stunning 43% of the electorate in a city where they have only about 31% of the registered voters.

Turnout can crash when the Dems have weak candidates and/or when the R's decide not to challenge popular Dem officeholders, concentrating their efforts on one or two goals--like electing a Governor and taking over the House.

All Dem candidates for Governor are very weak now because Martinez's popularity remains high, making it that much harder for her foes to raise the necessary campaign cash. Also, none of the Dem candidates is "star" quality, offering something new for the public to latch onto.

But perhaps as important is the decision by the R's not to field a serious challenge to Dem US Senator Toim Udall. That would give Dems a reason to come out and vote. The same goes for ABQ Dem Congresswoman Michelle Lujan Grisham who will also apparently avoid a serious challenge as R's work to keep that turnout at rock bottom levels.

Then there is the Dems down ballot problem. It could shape up as a mostly Anglo dominated team which will not do much to excite Dem Hispanics. That also plays into the R's low turnout model.


Martinez & McCleskey
The Democratic elites seem exhausted and apathetic. The eight power-playing years of Bill Richardson kept them on top, but it ended badly with low approval numbers and no one around to fill the void.

Then there was the state economic collapse that had so many looking to secure their own personal futures and not looking to the world of politics and government for solutions--or for entertainment.

Then there is the big conservative money coming into the state...

Independent political observers like former ABQ City Councilor Greg Payne have argued that until the Democrats get their mojo back and put on the field a political consultant with the same "take no prisoners" attitude as Jay McCleskey, they will languish. That's a theme that is now spreading among disgruntled Democrats. Here's a Senior Alligator of the Dem variety with an in-depth take:

The election results verify that Governor and Mayor Berry political adviser Jay McCleskey has taken what seemed to be a couple of random victories in the past and created a machine.

Martinez and Berry are no longer aberrations and Dems need to face the fact that they have to get their machine back up and running to compete. But the Dem machine has morphed into a shadow of its old success. The new Dem machine consists of self interested, weak politicians formed into a mutual admiration society.

There's no bravery in the bunch, there's no "party above all" attitude. The party is simply a vehicle for themselves as are the interest groups that support them and have supplanted the party in significance.

When Democratic mayoral candidate Pete Dinelli came along, they let Berry pocket an historic win and strengthened the McClesky machine. Had they lifted a finger for Pete, they could have at least kept Berry down in the low 50's or perhaps forced a runoff. A runoff could have given more intense focus to the Berry record and the weak policies of The McCleskey Machine.

Democratic politicians' aversion to taking positions and taking a stand on principle is hurting them. They seem to have a preternatural desire to be liked by everyone. When facing a machine you have to stand up to it. Trying to be its friend or cozying up to the special interests is not the way to do it.

Unfortunately, Dem politicians are trying to outlive the machine or hide out in their safe districts. That's an assured path to insignifigance. Dems need to re-group and need to understand that your future is limited as long as you allow the McCleskey machine to rack up victories.


Joe Monahan
Some forlorn Dems are saying that even if the R's were to take control of the state House next year--either through an outright majority or via a coalition--it would probably be short-lived. That's because the higher turnout presidential year of 2016 will bring out Democratic voters. Still, the fact that they are thinking about losing it says it all.

Then there is the incessant talk among so many Democrats about 2018. It seems everyone and their brother wants to run when Martinez would complete her second and final term. But the damage being done by the capitulation of precious political ground in these Democratic dark years gives rise to concern that too may D's are taking too many things for granted.


Insider polling puts Governor Martinez's current statewide approval rating at 58%. That's down from the heady days when her approval soared to over 65%. But it is still a very solid foundation for a GOP governor.

As things stand, Martinez is not completely out of the woods. However, it appears it will take a major break against her such as a scandal erupting over the Downs at ABQ or the emailgate prosecutions that could deliver unexpected surprises. Or an out-of-the-blue charismatic candidate. But politics is of the moment and right now that moment is colored Republican red.

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