Thursday, August 04, 2022

Too Much Info? MLG Says Her Polling Has Her Just Three Points Up; Asks Contributors To Step Up; GOP Takes Heart Over Small Lead, Plus: Strange Bedfellows In Guv Race 

In the first official word from the MLG campaign on where the race for Governor stands, her camp says she leads Republican rival Mark Ronchetti by just three points:

From her Wednesday fund-raising pitch:

We just got the most recent poll numbers – and to be honest, they aren't looking great. Right now, Governor Lujan Grisham is polling JUST 3 POINTS ahead of her far-right extremist opponent, Mark Ronchetti, and we need to lean on this powerful grassroots community once again. These polling numbers are WAY too close for comfort. We urgently need to confirm how much support Governor Lujan Grisham really has. So we have to ask: Will you add your name here to personally endorse the Governor's run?

Using the apparent closeness of the race to raise money is a proven method, but the downside is that the small lead could energize the Republicans who can continue to argue in their fund-raising missives that the race is a "dead heat." Analyst Greg Payne:

Why release any poll that shows you below the key 50 percent re-elect mark? Why not just characterize the race as "close or "tight?" This specific citing of a mediocre poll for an incumbent governor in a Democratic state when there is no polling to cue the public looks like another unforced error from her campaign. It almost appears as if they are passing the hat for the GOP.

The MLG email does not say who conducted the poll or when but her campaign has signed with DC polling firm GQR

The results are interesting because they presumably come well after the June 24th US Supreme Court ruling that overturned Roe and that appears to have energized the Democratic base around the nation. 
According to her own internal numbers, that energy boost has yet to come in any substantial way for MLG. 

In the April/May SurveyUSA MLG had a four point lead over Ronchetti, 47 to 43. 

On the other hand the big abortion push has just begun with Planned Parenthood now up on the New Mexico air with a scathing attack on Ronchetti's abortion stance--scoring him for his conversation with Rev. Steve Smotherman in which Smothermon says Ronchetti told him he is secretly for a total ban on abortion, not only the 15 week limit he claims publicly. 

And the huge referendum win in Kansas this week by pro-choice supporters was accompanied by heavy turnout. If that repeats in Bernalillo County in the fall, it would be deadly for the Republicans. 

Analysts continue to rate the Guv contest "lean Democratic" based on MLG's lead in the surveys. 

Other reasons for the rating include the Democratic lean of big Bernalillo County and the tendency of Democratic voters to firm up their decisions closer to the election while Republicans and conservatives tend to decide earlier.  

A three point GOP deficit--within the margin of error for most polls--about 90 days from the election isn't bad. And it leaves less room for error for MLG and the Dems--errors like this week's over the top video attack on Ronchetti claiming he is for defunding the police. 


Wayne Johnson
MLG appeared in Sandoval County Tuesday to announce a new $14 million public safety complex, $5 million of which will come from her share of capital outlay from this year's legislative session. 

The interesting twist is how she extracted this quote from Sandoval County Manager Wayne Johnson:

We are grateful to the governor for her continued support of first responders and law enforcement in Sandoval County.

Yes, that's the same Wayne Johnson who served as a GOP BernCo Commissioner, ran for Mayor of ABQ as a Republican and was appointed to fill a vacancy as state auditor by Republican Gov. Susan Martinez. 

And lest we forget--he's the husband of of Kurstin Johnson who is the GOP nominee for state House District 30 in the ABQ NE Heights seat held by Dem Rep. Natalie Figueroa.

Johnson made his statement about the safety complex in his capacity as county manager but in case he wants to go all the way, perhaps he can join a Republicans for MLG group. 

That group could include former GOP BernCo Sheriff Darren White, who is in the process of enriching himself in the legal marijuana business, has been a reliable contributor to MLG. And also former GOP House Minority Whip Dan Foley, whose insurance company employer holds major state contracts and along with his wife has donated the maximum $41,000 allowed to the MLG '22 campaign. 

Strange bedfellows, you say? In New Mexico politics you need a room full of bunkbeds to hold all the strangeness. 

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Wednesday, August 03, 2022

A Miss And A Hit For MLG's Latest Campaign Videos Against Ronchetti; Defunding Police Flops But Abortion Scores, Plus: Death Claims Veteran NM Consultant And Lobbyist Mark Fleisher  

There's no question that the Democratic Governor has clean-up to do on her crime fighting record. The ongoing violence in ABQ--the center of her support--is a gateway for Mark Ronchetti, her Republican foe, to make must-needed inroads in the state's largest county. 

But in a new video MLG's camp goes a bridge too far and accuses Ronchetti of the popular charge of wanting to "defund the police."

Never mind that Republicans are pretty much immune to this accusation after decades of advocating for overfunding of law enforcement and more recently facing down the far left on the issue. 

And Ronchetti, as far back as 2020 when he ran for US Senate, opposed the idea, calling it "reckless and irresponsible." 

He has not changed his tune in '22 but the video asserts that because Ronchetti opposed MLG's last budget that raised pay for state police by 16 percent that he is for defunding. 

Of course, Ronchetti could and would very likely propose paring back the state budget but not law enforcement funding. His funding plan highlights adequate police budgets as a key plank

Ronchetti will "slash budgets for police and law enforcement agencies," warns the narrator of the MLG video. 

All of this was easy pickings for the Ronchetti camp as they dismissed the video as filled with "distortions so severe, they're laughable." They also brought out Robert Parra, the NM FOP President: 

 The New Mexico Fraternal Order of Police is surprised to hear fabrications that Mr. Ronchetti is anti-law enforcement or is planning to Defund the Police. On the contrary, according to his crime plan and our numerous discussions with him personally, Mr. Ronchetti is a strong supporter of law enforcement.


While standing on quicksand on the defunding charge, MLG's campaign finds more solid ground in a 40 second video that scores points against her GOP rival on perhaps his chief weakness in ABQ--his stand on abortion. The video says: 

He supported (Supreme Court ) judges Amy Coney Barrett, Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh, who all lied to the American people about their intent to overthrow Roe. Ronchetti promises New Mexicans that he won't ban abortion but behind closed doors he tells a different story. New Mexicans know that re-electing Gov. MLG this November is the only way to assure a woman's access to abortion. 

The video flashes headlines of Ronchetti's now infamous meeting with the Rev. Steve Smothermon at which he said Ronchetti told him he is not only for banning abortion after 15 weeks but wants to eventually ban the procedure entirely. 

Ronchetti's campaign had no response to the ad which is accurate, but there's certainly more to come. The video of Smothermon describing his controversial meeting with Ronchetti has yet to be shown in an MLG ad. 

The MLG videos are not for broadcast but for "engagement" on social media. 


Mark Fleisher 
Veteran New Mexico political consultant and lobbyist Mark Fleisher, whose clients included prominent legislators, statewide officeholders, mayors and major corporations and who once served as chairman of the Arizona Democratic Party, has died. 

His wife, Toni, confirmed his passing, saying he died Monday night while on a family vacation in Puerto Vallarta. 

He returned to our room from the pool where he had been playing with family and passed away right after lying down. 

Fleisher, 68, had a history of heart problems. 

Word of Mark's passing circulated rapidly in New Mexico's political community with Dem Party official David Montoya calling it a "huge loss."

Fleisher was a dyed in the wool Democrat but he was a confirmed moderate who believed deeply in economic development and who most recently worked closely with House Appropriations Committee Chairwoman Patrica Lundstrom to advance the state's interests. The pair successfully fought for a better funding formula for McKinley County schools. 

He was also a key political and policy advisor to State Treasurer Tim Eichenberg, state Senate Finance Committee Chairman George Munoz, Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Joe Cervantes, former ABQ Mayor Marty Chavez and innumerable other officeholders and business professionals.

Former Mayor Chavez, who grew up with Fleisher in the city's Four Hills neighborhood and attended middle school, high school and college with him, offered this eulogy last night:

The thing about Mark was his good nature. Everything was positive with him. You could disagree, take a loss and come back smiling, just very good natured. But he had an edge and wasn't afraid to use it as you often must in politics. If you didn't listen to him you were missing an important voice at the table. It's a little known but fun fact that Mark was a professional card-counter and it caused him some trouble in Vegas, another skill that played into his political profession. He always had a joke. Last week at lunch he said, 'For all the medical advances in science the death rate is still 100 percent.' That's the last time I saw him. 

Mark was a loyal and dear friend of this blog, offering support, news tips that always proved right on target and even assisted in recruiting advertising clients. 

There was not a "Senior Alligator" more productive and who helped shed more light on key policy and political events from an inside, behind the scenes perch and who always was close to the levers of political power. 

Fleisher was also a well-known pollster who relished the horse race aspect of politics. His polls were relied on by campaigns for years and were often cited here as guidance for major political races. 

We offer our deep condolences to his wife Toni and family and express our gratitude for his long years of friendship, loyalty and, of course, for always picking up the tab. 

Mark Fleisher was a man who touched many lives, always carried the Zia Symbol in his heart and gave his all to his beloved La Politica. 

No funeral service is planned. There will be a celebration of his life at the family home in ABQ at a date to be announced. 

Rest in Peace, Mark.

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Tuesday, August 02, 2022

Vasquez Camp Pushes Back Against Negative Narrative; New Polling And Grassroots Action Cited, Plus: Readers Talk Pump Prices 

Advocates for congressional hopeful Gabe Vasquez are pushing back against the narrative that his race against Republican Rep. Yvette Herrell is turning sour as the national Dems seem to be shying away from backing him with heavy artillery.

In our July 27 blog political pros anonymously questioned the viability of Vasquez who has not yet received the national support they expected to be see by now. 

His campaign comes with a poll that shows the race is still in play and a grassroots group is holding the Vasquez banner high as it works to reach voters in the district--that is mainly in the south but includes parts of westside and downtown ABQ.

The poll was conducted July 19-25 among 500 likely voters (MOE +/-4.9%) by the Democratic Global Strategy Group and shows Vasquez leading Herrell 45% to 44% in the new district which has moved from Trump +12 to Biden +6.

Herrell has a commanding lead in name ID, according to the survey, with Vasquez at 31% while Herrell’s name ID is at 71%.

The polling methodology and questions asked were not released. 

Vasquez is amping up his attacks on the first term lawmaker and now calling her out for her anti-abortion stance that national Dems believe could play a vital role in key races:

I will always put working New Mexico families first, while Yvette Herrell's priorities are pushing a national abortion ban with no exceptions for rape or incest and palling around with January 6th insurrectionists.

Herrell's vote refusing to certify the 2020 presidential election result will also be an important line of attack for Vasquez, a former Las Cruces city councilor and aide to Sen. Martin Heinrich.

The problem? The campaign remains quiet as we enter August with no softening of Herrell on the airwaves by the DCCC. 


A grassroots group, BlueCD2NM, who calls Vasquez "a young, energetic and passionate conservationist, public servant and entrepreneur" is reaching voters via mail. They've raised $85,000 for the cause, explains the group's Rochelle Williams from Otero County:

In addition to the redistricting boost, we have a plan to turn out 20,000 low-frequency registered Democratic women in CD2 for Gabe, following the successful model of Sisters United Alliance in Texas. We have raised more than $85,000, about half of that for postage for 90,000 postcards to register new voters in the district. We are now doing postcards to the registered voters we plan to turn out. Postcards have been proven to increase voter participation by 2.5 to 4%--a small but very significant number in a tight race. 

The Herrell camp is counting on a mild turnout, nothing like the historic one the district had in 2018 when she was trounced by Dem Xochitl Torres Small.

While some insiders are starting to describe this battle as Lean R the Vasquez camp is saying hold your horses when assessing this horse race. They argue there is still enough time and plenty of action to come before the contest--ranked a toss-up by the national pundits--is put out to pasture.


Reader Mike from oil-rich Houston took us to task for bringing up the prospect of New Mexico enacting a windfall profits tax given the enormous gains big oil is getting from the price hike caused by the war in the Ukraine: 

Joe! If you're going to windfall tax profits, it would only be fair to do the opposite for losses! Chevron made $11.6 billion this quarter, but from Q2 2020 - Q1 2021 they lost $33.496 billion! Let 'em make some money back.

The oil industry gave $5.3 billion to NM in 2021. So, everyone in NM should have high speed internet, education programs should be skyrocketing, the homeless should have shelters under construction, and water pipelines should be almost finished running over to Las Vegas, NM. Instead, the state still hasdial up Internet accounts, ranks last in the nation for education and moves homeless people from park to park and have cities running out of water.

Reader Derrik Garcia comments on our observation that gas prices have been coming down across the state:

Joe, I was in Farmington this weekend and was shocked at how expensive prices still were. I gassed up for $3.54 a gallon in Albuquerque and the lowest price I could find in Farmington was $4.54. Mayor Duckett of Farmington has reached out to the Attorney General to investigate the high prices and makes price gouging claims. In a heavily conservative area, these high prices are angering people when major news outlets report lower prices from gas stations in ABQ and make the claim that the pain at the pump is over. 

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Monday, August 01, 2022

Gas Price Boomerang: GOP Inflation Argument Takes Hit As Area Prices Ease, Plus: Oil And Gas Dominated '22 Primary Money Chase  

Basing a campaign on the price of gas can be as risky as using the stock market as a guide. Both can have wild price swings that change the mood of voters on a dime.  

For New Mexico Republicans that lesson is hitting home as the calendar turns to August today, marking less than 100 days before the November 8 election. 

Only weeks ago gas was flirting with $5 buck a gallon and causing angst across the political spectrum. But this weekend it was going for $3.29 at the Santo Domingo Pueblo (which doesn't pay state gas taxes) and was well below the $4 mark at stations elsewhere across the state. 

That's still higher than when Biden took office when gas was cheap at $2.39 a gallon but memories are short and the memory of that $5 flirtation is much fresher in voters' minds. If the price continues to fall back toward that $3 level, the impact of inflation as an argument to oust incumbents could weaken dramatically.

GOP Guv hopeful Mark Ronchetti is airing a spot that tries to blame MLG for the inflation spike. The two Dem congressional incumbents--Stansbury and Leger Fernandez--who are probably more vulnerable to an attack on a national issue like inflation--have underfunded foes and have been spared. 

In his ad Ronchetti claims that home energy costs have risen since the enactment of the MLG-backed Energy Transition Act (ETA) of 2019 that calls for NM to adopt renewable energy to become a carbon free energy state by 2045.

Electric utility PNM was a key player in the ETA and the ad hits the company for their heavy donations to her campaign. 

Ronchetti (as mentioned in the report below) is a favorite of the oil and gas industry which opposed the ETA and is receiving substantial campaign cash from them. 

But right now its the daily gas price--not the monthly electric bill--that tops the list of consumer irritants and that is trending toward the incumbent. 

(If MLG is bothered by the Ronchetti inflation hit, she isn't showing it. Her latest ad is a soft, 60 second bio spot featuring one of her daughters who praises MLG's mothering skills.) 


Oil and gas dominated the money chase in the '22 primary campaign. NM Ethics Watch comes with a recap: 

The oil and gas industry contributed more than $2.5 million from October 2021 until early July. Republican Mark Ronchetti was the top recipient, pulling in more than a half million dollars. The House Republican Campaign Committee took in more than $216,000. Lujan Grisham received more than $137,000. House candidates received nearly 29 percent while PAC's received about 26 percent. Rep. Patricia Lundstrom, chair of House Appropriations, reported the most contributions at $44,000. The top oil and gas contributor was Chevron, handing out more than $250,000. Environmentalists reported about $160,000 in contributions during the primary cycle--less than 7 percent of the oil and gas total. 

Chevron didn't have to take out any loans to make those contributions. Amid high oil prices the company recorded $11.6 billion in earnings in the second quarter--a new quarterly record. 

If anyone in Santa Fe has the notion to start talking about a state windfall profits tax on big oil, the time would appear ripe--at least among those who have not been on the receiving end of Big Oil's munificence. 

By the way, PNM and its PAC gave nearly $584,000 in state elections from 2014 to 2020. Only Chevron and Devon Energy gave more.

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