Monday, November 07, 2016

Election Eve 2016: State Heads Toward Clinton, Dem House Takeover Now Up In Air, Sen. Leader Sanchez Looks For Surge, Nakamura-Vigil Supreme Ct. Battle Down To Wire; Our Pre-Game Show Today at 5 p.m. On KANW 89.1 FM  

There's plenty of excitement for New Mexico political junkies this Election Eve 2016. Even as Hillary Clinton marches toward what appears to be a New Mexico victory the Trump forces cling tenaciously to the possibility that the polls are off and that the electorate will pull a surprise and take it away from her.

The battle for control of the state House--with the Dems needing three seats to take it back from the R's--is seen as up in the air, with top analysts declaring that the odds are better for perhaps a tied up 35-35 House at the end of the night rather than a takeover.

Senate Majority Leader Michael Sanchez, who the Governor's political machine has again targeted for defeat, is in the fight of his political life that a fellow Senator says "could go on all night" Election Night.

We'll preview all that action and more with our public radio team live at 5 p.m. today on KANW 89.1 FM and kanw.com. Democratic consultant Sisto Abeyta, former BernCo GOP Chairman Rick Abraham, ABQ Journal political reporter Dan Boyd, longtime Dem activist Sandy Buffet and onetime ABQ GOP State Rep. Janice Arnold-Jones will peel the onion on the big races and more as we prepare to bring you wall-to-wall Election Night coverage starting at 6:30 p.m. on KANW.

Now let's go what's behind our headlines today. . .


There has been no public polling showing Donald Trump winning New Mexico. The final  ABQ Journal poll released Sunday and conducted Nov. 1-3 had it this way: Clinton-45, Trump 40, Johnson, 11 and Stein 3.

A Zia poll, also nonpartisan and done Nov. 1 and 2, put Clinton at 46, Trump at 43, Johnson with 7 and Stein at 3.

The Zia Poll uses robocalls and Internet-based methods. The Journal is the only survey that interviews voters live and has a mix of 50 percent landlines and 50 percent cellphones. But this close to an election both polls are going to pick up the key trend and that trend is a Clinton win of the state's five electoral votes.

There's not much reason to doubt that outcome, but Trump's forces rightfully point out he is the candidate who has defied the pollsters all year and has thrown out the conventional rules. He will need to do it again tomorrow night if he is stop New Mexico from going blue for the third presidential race in a row.

Clinton's firewall is the Hispanic North, opines former Dem state legislator Lenton Malry. "She will seal it in the north," he declares.

In the newspaper survey she leads in the ABQ metro, garnering 54% of the vote. Her Hispanic support statewide is at 54%, a solid number in a four way race.

Trump's recent visit here was a Hail Mary pass. He got it into the air but getting it into the end zone is another matter.


Our photo: Dona Ana County Dem House candidate Nathan Small with Santa Fe Rep. Brian Egolf who could be House Speaker if the Dems take back the House from the R's.

Suddenly the chances don't look as good for the Dems taking back the state House from the Republicans. Just a few weeks ago it looked as though the three seats needed were lined up for their return to power, but late breaking events including the  flare-up over Clinton's email problems dampened Dem enthusiasm, but more importantly it excited the R's to get out and vote. Then there were those relentless attack campaigns that the GOP PACS used to full effect.

It's two to tie and three to win in the 70 member chamber, currently divided 37-33. Here's how the consultants, the Senior Alligators and the wall-leaners are gaming it out.

In the two ABQ swing seats, they say a split is likely. They see ABQ freshman GOP State Rep. Sarah Maestas Barnes hanging on against Dem challenger Ane Romero. They see former state Rep. Liz Thomson returning to her House seat and beating back a challenge from Christina Hall. If she does, she replaces GOP Rep. Conrad James and the D's come out of ABQ with a pick up of one seat. Two more are needed.

You head south for the rest of the battleground. In the Deming area Dems are concerned but think Candi Sweetser prevails over Republican Vicki Chavez for the seat currently held by retiring Democrat Dona Irwin. We're still at a net pick up of just one as we head over to Silver City/Las Cruces.

There, we find Dem Rudy Martinez, ousted by GOP Rep. John Zimmerman two years ago, trying to reclaim his seat. It should be easy, right? Not so fast. From a Senior Alligator with wide eyes:

Joe, Rudy has taken punches and is reeling. He's not on the canvas but the surprise is Zimmerman is very much in this. Rudy will need a good election day showing because we think he ran into a head wind in the early vote.

Say Rudy goes down, now we still have a pick up of one. Then you stay in Dona Ana County where Nathan Small, 34, is working to pick off 80 year old Republican Rep. Andy Nunez who has run into trouble over his campaign finances. From a Gator on the ground:

Joe, Small is a class candidate. He's a 34 year old former two term Las Cruces city councilor. Some thought he might be too liberal for the district, but Nunez's troubles have helped to make Small the front-runner. 

Okay, put Small in the win column and you are up to a pickup of two. Keeping it in Las Cruces (really this is where the action is this year) you veer over to the McMillan-Ferrary race where Joanne Ferrary is trying for the third time to defeat GOP Rep. Terry McMillan, but the Republican is resisting the fall and the third time may not be the charm. Back to the Gator pond:

Joe, this one looks like it is slipping away from Joanne. She has a shot, but McMillan has bonded with this district and is proving resilient.

Lose Ferrary? Now you are still at a pick up of two for the Dems.

Now we head a bit north to Silver City to check on the seat of retiring Dem Rep. Dianna Hamilton. Can Dem Mary Hotvedt, a former Grant County Dem Party chair, take advantage? It's tough in the conservative area, even though her opponent, Rebecca Dow, has run into some trouble at her job. The R's are saying their polling still shows Dow in good shape. For now, put it in their column.

As you head back to the ABQ metro, check on the heated race in Sandoval County between GOP Rep. Paul Pacheco and challenger Daymon Ely. Some late polling gives Ely a shot and if he pulls off the upset you would have a pick up of three House seats, giving the Dems their majority.

In Los Alamos, we assume Dem Rep. Garcia Richard holds on to her Los Alamos House seat,

And that covers the true swing districts on the ballot this year. It may tilt a little pessimistic in assessing the Dem chances but then the onus is on them to execute. There could be late Dem momentum developing in the final hours and that could shift the odds for the Dems and deliver some surprises to the armchair analysts. Otherwise, Speaker Tripp isn't going to have to get new business cards. Odds for a takeover: 51 to 49 against.


The Sanchez selfie
Senator Majority Leader Michael Sanchez is pulling out all the stops but so is the Governor's political machine with its Advance NM Now PAC.

Both knowledgeable Dems and R's present a plausible case for a Sanchez win or loss against GOP challenger Greg Baca. Most agree that a Sanchez loss would be more of a personal victory for his arch-enemy, Gov. Martinez, than having an impact on public policy.

The early vote in the Sanchez contest, according to a campaign insider, favors Sanchez quite a bit.

A Dem state Senator, off the record, tells us;

If Michael were to lose it would be a shock to the Senate. The plots for leadership would be all over the map, but ultimately the senate's political leanings would not be impacted and the gridlock that Gov. Martinez is blaming on Sanchez would continue because she still would not have the votes.

How about the longshot senate takeover dream of the GOP? The chamber is currently 24-18 Dem. The R's would need an extraordinary night which would probably include defeating Sanchez and Dem Jeff Steinborn who is heavily favored to beat GOP Sen. Lee Cotter in Las Cruces.


There are heart palpitations going on in GOP land as they think about the possibility of Republican appointed State Supreme Court Judge Judy Nakamura becoming the first R to win an election to the five member court since 1980. Can she?

The Dem contender is legal heavyweight and NM Court of Appeals Chief Judge Michael Vigil.  Nakumara is a respected judge from the ABQ area where she served many years and made many friends. The ABQ Journal survey has the race deadlocked at 45-45. If anyone can do it she's the one, but. . .

Even though the Journal survey says Nakamaura is edging Vigil in the early vote by a margin of 50 to 45, we have to remember that her home county of BernCo has some of the heaviest early voting in the state--perhaps as much as 75 percent of its total vote this year.

We assume her early vote lead is due in good part to BernCo. But many other counties in the rural areas and the north do not have such a high early voting percentage. That appears to leave enough votes on the table for Vigil to pull this one out. The Election Day vote will lean Dem and Hispanic and it is there that Vigil can put up the vote totals that will make up for his early vote loss. Still, this could be the one that keeps us up all night, not that we won't be up all night anyway.

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