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Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Ghosts And Goblins! Not At Your Door, On Your TV Screen, But No Tricks Here, Only The Latest Treats From The Final Stretch Of Campaign 06' 

You wouldn't think Big Bill would need to scare the pants off of GOP foe John Dendahl. Maybe he just wants to have some Halloween fun as my Four Corners Alligators report Big Bill has hit the Farmington area mailboxes with a negative piece on John contrasting his position on legalizing drugs with Dendahl's. Joltin' John has raised the legalization banner in the past, but has tried to stay away from it during this race. It appears that the Guv is doing all he can to get over the magic 60% mark and is trying to eat away at Dendahl's Republican support in conservative San Juan. If he keeps it up, he may get fined for running up the score.

The Guv isn't against all Republicans. In fact, he was heard on answering machines around ABQ this week touting the candidacy of GOP Metro Court Judge Clyde DeMersseman who the Guv appointed to the bench and who is facing opposition from Dem Rachel Irene Walker Al-Yasi.


All is not lost, sounded GOP attorney general candidate Jim Bibb Monday as he emailed the money-giving elite with a plea for another $100,000 saying his race with Dem Gary King has narrowed to "single digits." Is that one point or nine points, Jim?

Bibb, making his first run for elective office, has picked up huge money from out-of-state interests. It appears he has pumped more than a half million bucks into TV ads since the beginning of the month. And he needs more?

In the final week of a campaign, the polticios are like an alcoholic--one drink is too many and ten is not enough.

Tracking polls do show the AG's race closer than it was, but while King has come down some Bibb has not gone up much.


Another R, Vickie Perea running for secretary of state against Dem Mary Herrera, came with last minute negative TV claiming Herrera ordered Starbucks coffee and had maid service while on a taxpayer funded trip. I wonder if the maid was an illegal alien, but I am sure Herrera had photo ID for the Starbucks.


And how about this one from our Gators in Chaves county. Not only has the Roswell Record endorsed a Democrat for Governor for the first time in a gazillion years, but the conservative scribes also threw their weight behind Dem State House candidate Ellen Wedum who is running against Nora Espinoza.

Nora is the favored candidate of State Senator "Lightning Rod" Adair who helped Nora secure the GOP nomination in a biter contest with educator Mike Kakuska. Adair battled with the paper then, and now it's payback time. Wedum is not favored to take the prize, but she can frame the editorial as a keepsake of her moral victory.


Heather & Murphy
And our gal Heather was on the trail late last week in Roswell. Why would the ABQ GOP congresswoman be there since it is not in her district, you ask? One guess. Money. She attended a fundraiser and paused for this picture with Roswell oilman Mark Murphy. Murphy has been making rumblings about reforming the state GOP after the November 7th election to put it on a more mainstream path and increase its competitiveness. If he goes for it, he will no doubt tangle with Lightning Rod who has been one of several leaders of a breakaway faction of the GOP that has drawn the ire of centrist R's.


You know for sure when an attack ad is having an impact when the opposition sees fit to respond. So it is with Heather Wilson's brain freeze ad against Dem rival Patricia Madrid. Patsy launched Operation Brain Defrost with this ad on Monday, turning the tables on Heather and letting the spot go silent for several seconds after asking how often Wilson has questioned Bush on Iraq.

The Madrid-Wilson race has seen an astonishing 11,500 TV ads and over $11 millon spent overall, reports Mark Barabak of the Los Angeles Times (registration) who we again met with this week as he wrapped up his series of articles on the contest. (ABC's Nightline will focus on the battle later this week.) Mark will miss New Mexico, but he packed up a bunch of Barelas Coffeehouse tortillas with him to take back to enjoy with his family. Those California guys are quick studies.

The best TV ads this cycle have come from the Murphy, Putnam Shorr shop which is handling the TV for Madrid and Big Bill. Murphy and company have been quick to respond to any TV threat to Madrid and have positioned Big Bill well, especially with the humorous "western" ad which has been featured on several national cable networks.

Heather's campaign has not lacked in volume, but the focus has repeatedly shifted. That's something that has been hard to avoid as the campaign has not been able to find a single theme, like Iraq, that has worked for her. They have narrowed the spots down for the final week and it seems more effective. (Just don't let that duck out of the pond again, Heather.)

ABQ Mayor Marty made his 06’ campaign debut in a spot for Madrid. The mayor is his usual smooth self, but doesn't that American flag belong behind His Honor's right shoulder, not his left?

How close will Wilson-Madrid be? If the Guv is right, we may not know a winner Election Night. He predicts to the ABQ Trib's Kate Nash that Madrid will win by a mere one half of one percentage point. By my calculations, that would be less than 1000 votes and mean the lawyers could get in on the action. Let's cross our fingers and squeeze our rabbits' feet that whoever wins does so by a couple of thousand votes.


No candy corn for Big Bill tonight. The ABQ Journal's Trip Jennings reported on the Guv's new diet and his determination to slim down as he ponders a prez run. Trip was unable to get the Guv to disclose how much weight he has lost, but the Guv disclosed the secret in an interview with KKOB-AM radio Monday putting the number in "the high teens." Maybe we should start a pool. Will the Guv's weight loss by Election Day be greater or less than the percentage of victory he wracks up...

KRQE-TV weatherman Mark Ronchetti was downright spooky on the eve of Halloween. That is if you are a Democrat. Ronchetti's long-range forecast said to watch for some possible wet weather Election Day, surely a scary prospect for the Dems who count on a heavy vote November 7 since many of their traditional voters do not go for early voting. Of course, the weather forecasters can get into a fever pitch about these things, so much so that the Department of Homeland Securty might consider using them to announce the latest terorist threats...

Just one week to go and we're with you every day until E-Day, including the weekend, so email me your latest news from the top of the page and help keep the final stretch politics coming.

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Monday, October 30, 2006

Big Bill Predicts Sweep Of 32 of 33 Counties As Juggernaut Builds, Plus: Heather's Lame Duck And Patsy's Brain Freeze; It's All On Your Monday Blog 

On the trail
He does things in big ways and his coming re-election as Governor may be done in the biggest way in state history. According to insider tracking polls, Big Bill is positioned for an historic victory in the 62% range, and the Guv himself told supporters in Roswell he expects the "Democratic Party"--meaning him--to carry 32 of the state's 33 counties next week.

Which county is the lone hold out? The Guv pointed west to Catron, the biggest county in land area but one of the smallest in population--just 3,500. "I think that's a goner, but I'm going to go there. I'm going to try to get two votes out of there," he joked, reported the Roswell Record.

A 32 county 60% plus victory would apparently be unprecedented in a state with more than its fair share of conservatives. It may have been done in a U.S. Senate race (Email me if you know.) but for Governor where after four years of decision making enemies can pile up like dirty laundry in a corner?

For the record, Dem Jack Campbell crossed the finish line in the landslide year 64' with 60.2% of the vote to forge the biggest Guv win ever. If Big Bill surpasses that and also comes in with the 32 counties, it will be a once in a lifetime event to behold and put some additional wind at his back as he tests the waters for a run at the White House.


Big Bill is akin to Bruce King on steroids; he not only steals the thunder in any room he occupies; his political celebrity seeps out through the media in a way that enhances the cult of personality that King, the longest serving NM governor, was the first to cultivate.

But there is more here than personality. Big Bill is not an empty suit; he has mastered the details and pinpointed the institutional weaknesses of the New Mexican government and made it his own unlike any other executive in memory.

History will duly note that the State Supreme Court, the attorney general and the Legislature folded their hands at critical junctures to let Big Bill get even bigger. But the charge that he is a "dictator" or somehow abuses his fellow politicians rings hollow. The power goes to those who have the moxy to stand up and take it.

It also goes to those who have a knack for raising money. In that regard, the Guv has shown his flaws are sometimes equal to his strengths. Raising $12 million for a re-election effort in a state of 1.9 million reveals an appetite in need of restraint.

Campaign abuses are national, but our peculiar acceptance of politicos pushing the envelope on "pay to play" is a cultural barrier to attracting business and to keeping our best and brightest here. Raising and spending this kind of cash does not send a signal that reform is on its way.

Richardson's critics are most off mark when they criticize his ambition and argue it's all about him. What's wrong with wanting to succeed and be the best at what you do? Isn't that how we make life better for each other?

New Mexico has seen Big Bill up close and in action for four years. The collective judgment is that there is plenty of smoke and mirrors and political hanky-panky, but that they are asterisks to a record that has given hope to the next generation and their families that this can be their permanent home, not a way station to a better life elsewhere. It is this big idea that Bill Richardson has come to embody and which may very well be reflected in 32 of our 33 counties Election Night.


You don't need to know the latest insider tracking polls to know that ABQ GOP Congresswoman Heather Wilson is having trouble closing out her race with Dem rival Patricia Madrid. You just have to know about the duck.

Wilson's campaign sent a gal dressed in a duck suit to a Madrid event Saturday to protest her "ducking debates," only to cause a skirmish that made the 10 p.m. news and reinforced the notion that Heather has yet to make the correct quacking sounds to persuade a war-weary electorate.

The duck had its foot stepped on by a Madrid supporter and showed up Sunday on crutches. "Is Heather trying to get used to being a lame duck?" quipped, or maybe quacked, one Dem Alligator.

As Joe Klein, writing in Time Magazine, puts it: "...The prospect of a hanging doesn't always concentrate the mind. Sometimes it leads to feral, piss-pants desperation."

Those insider polls basically show the race tied, but Wilson is still polling well below 50% with much of the undecided vote naturally bent towards the challenger. That's trouble in River City and the duck, along with the Gators chasing the tasty delicacy, know it.


Heather was thrown a bone when Madrid misfired on Tuesday night's KOB-TV debate. Friday night she hit with a spot highlighting Patsy's brain freeze in which she went silent for seven seconds when asked about taxes. Could this finally be the spot that turns the race?

Wilson campaign manager Enrique Knell seemed to think so, going as far as saying that the twice elected Attorney General Madrid was "incompetent."

Those were fighting words over at the Madrid Quack Shack, where a spokeswoman asked: "Who is this guy?" Well, he is a guy with his back against the wall and trying not to be known as Enrique "Death Knell." It ain't easy either as the Alligators whiffed the tracking polls from Wednesday and Thursday and yelled, "no score." However, a track I have covering the entire weekend shows a couple of good nights apiece for Heather and Patsy, basically keeping this thing within the margin of error.

Wilson is light with Hispanics, thus her Sunday event where musician of note Al Hurricane endorsed her candidacy. Our Hurricane is not to be confused with Katrina, one of the reasons that at this late date Heather is still trying to close the deal with working class voters.

But back to Enrique's world where the Gators pointedly asked why, if it was so meaningful, it took the campaign three days to get the anti-Madrid debate ad on the air? (Were they waiting for the polling?) And who came up with the duck gimmick, which had Wilson's carefully crafted cool-as-a-cucumber "dignified" image getting all wet? Was that the same guy who let her go on the front pages bemoaning the fact that she could not ride in the State Fair parade?

Not that Madrid can sit back and gloat over this "incompetence." Dems are aching over her debate performance and hoping that there is not some kind of tape-delayed reaction. Her campaign is more sanguine than some who have seen victory snatched from the jaws of defeat too many times. They were pleased to see Patsy voice the end of her latest Iraq spot, showing that she can actually talk out loud, unlike the portrayal in Heather's brain freeze ad.

Since this is likely a one to three point race for whoever wins, everyone is going to stay jumpy for the next eight days, and no one is feeling ducky about that.


KOB-TV complained with ferocity about the use of "their" debate footage in Wilson's latest campaign ad saying they did not want to have the impression left that they were endorsing any candidate and asked Wilson not to use it. But we've been to this play before. The Dems used KOAT footage back in 98' that the station objected to. There is no law against it and Wilson has every right to use it. The public ultimately owns the airwaves which are federally licensed to the broadcasters and they are required to take the ads of federal candidates. That trumps any argument over an ad possibly damaging the credibility of a station's news department.

The public is fully aware of what a political ad is. The station's concern is understandable, but misplaced. We hope it does not dissuade them having future debates as they did a good job this year.

But let's not take anything too seriously. Certainly longtime New Mexico newspaperman Ned Cantwell doesn't. Ned effectively roasts several of us who chronicle our beloved La Politica. We're honored to be included in Ned's satire of TV attack ads with Belshaw, Terrell and Calloway. I just wonder what those guys think of being included on a list with me.

Not that we wanted any more of them, but we wondered last week where were GOP Land Commissioner's Pat Lyons negative TV spots against Dem challenger Jim Baca? Well, they are now up, along with Baca's. Just what you needed to start your week, right?

Get ready for the KANW-89.1 FM pre-game show Monday, November 6 at 5 p.m. For a full hour we will run down the key races with predictions and analysis from my guests. This year it's GOP Rep. Larry Larranaga, Dem Rep. Al Park and veteran journalist Sherry Robinson doing the honors. Lobbyist Scott Scanland has been kicking the can around with me at this gig for many of my 19 years of KANW "pre-game" shows and he'll be back again. Election Night we start at 6:30 p.m. on KANW. But look at the time right now...gotta go. Back tomorrow. Same time, same station.

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Friday, October 27, 2006

Latest On Land Commission Duel; Baca Tries To Bring Dems Home; Lyons Stays On Attack, Plus: Auditing The Auditor's Race 

Jim Baca may be the only statewide Dem candidate mentioning his party affiliation on his TV spots. He needs to. GOP Land commissioner Pat Lyons can only win the race with a significant abandonment of Baca by his own party. That's not impossible as Lyons showed four years ago when he narrowly defeated Dem Art Trujillo. Baca is not personally popular in many Dem circles and the citing of his party ID is a not so subtle call to vote the party, not necessarily the man.

Baca and the Dems are counting on the Guv's intensive early absentee voter effort to put him over the top while Lyons continues to hammer Baca in the mail. But observers are asking why no negative TV on Baca when Lyons has a pile of money? The turnout will b relatively low and the Lyons' camp apparently believes the mail will do the trick, as it did against Trujillo. Also, the last thing a lot of voters want to see is another candidate going negative. Still, if former ABQ mayor Baca ekes this one out, the no negative TV decision will be one Lyons will come to regret.

Going hard negative has its price, if you don;t get it 100% right. Pat Lyons found that out when he took this hit from the ABQ Tribune.

There's also going to be questions after this election about the focus of the NM Republican party. Their auditor candidate, Lorenzo Garcia, has an independent streak and tangled earlier this year with State GOP Chair Allen Weh over using a Weh and party approved consultant to handle his campaign. Garcia rejected the notion. He still picked up some money from Weh and a couple of party-paid billboards, but no big dollars.

Now, Garcia is picking up some of the most glowing newspaper endorsements of any Republican candidate, but has no money to get them before the public. The R's and their allied groups have gone ga-ga over attorney general contender Jim Bibb and R secretary of state hopeful Vickie Perea, but insider polling suggests both of them unlikely to pull off an upset.

Garcia, boosted in the free media by the scandal in the state Treasurer's office, is up against Dem State Rep. Hector Balderas who was named by the D's to replace Jeff Armijo who had to drop out because of allegations of sexual misconduct; a potentially momentum changing event in the contest. While the R's issue news releases touting Garcia's endorsements, the D's are providing full funding for Balderas, a vulnerable newcomer, but able to make his case before the state.


The readers took over the blog Thursday to comment on Tuesday's Madrid-Wilson TV debate. One of their comments drew a correction from in-the-know ABQ Journal science writer John Fleck who reports that writer Joe Barela was off the mark when he claimed employment at Sandia Labs was going down.

"Total employment at Sandia reached its highest level in history in Fiscal Year 2006. I've done several stories about this," corrected Fleck.

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Thursday, October 26, 2006

A Blog Special: The Readers Take Over; R's, D's And Alligators Have Their Say On The Patsy-Heather Showdown 

You hear from the top strategists, the politicos all the time around here. But today we are going to hear from you. The Tuesday night TV debate for the ABQ congressional seat between incumbent R Heather Wilson and Dem Patricia Madrid had my email box flooded when I asked for reaction. You are a bright punch and covered it all, so sit back and enjoy the commentary and analysis from New Mexico's most politically involved and passionate observers.

Bill Ruiman--"Patsy would be a fish out of water in Washington. She has no clear agenda and no solution to the problems facing New Mexico and the U.S. She would be a political toy for the power brokers. New Mexico has always survived on seasoned leadership, whether it be Democrat Bingaman or Republican Wilson."

Jarol Eckert, ABQ--I thought Heather won the debate hands down. I actually was nervous and embarrassed for Patsy a few times...I just don't believe Bush lied. I do think he had bad intelligence, or intelligence that was old...Hindsight is 20/20 as they say and the Democrats are great at that. I think Heather will win."

Joe Barela, Rio Rancho--"Wilson appeared stone faced, cold... Others I called saw her as scripted or robotic like. She was very condescending to the attorney general of the state... Calling her Mrs. Madrid was an attempt to demean her...

"The most interesting thing to me was the access question. I have always thought of Heather Wilson being inaccessible to her constituents, but yet she's there for the big bucks from corporations. She's no saint. Dirty money from saints like Tom Delay and Mark Foley. That gets access with her...Wilson's claim that KAFB and Sandia will lose jobs if Madrid is elected is just another scare tactic..Under this administration, Sandia is slowly losing jobs. There are no layoffs but people are leaving and not being replaced. There is simply no evidence to support that Sandia will be worse off with Democratic leadership.

Republican Alligator--After Tuesday night's fiasco, there is no doubt Patsy has had good reason not to debate Heather. Heather did win on presentation, poise, and content. Patsy focused too much on trying to correlate her talking points into her answers and several times got lost and/or confused on what she was saying. For a lawyer and former judge, I have seen very few performances that were worse than what Patsy put forth. If the war in Iraq was running smoothly, and this debate happened a month ago, Heather would be up on Patsy 10-15 points in the polls.

John Lattauzio, Former NM GOP Chair, Alamogordo--"It is easy to see why Patsy avoided debates. As I watched her mix apples with bowling balls, I couldn't help but think that this race would have been over long ago had there been debates."

Dan Fischer
--"Madrid was caught in double talk on healthcare. Patsy explained how we need healthcare reform, but did not indicate that she supported Universal Healthcare. Wilson quoted the debate article in the "Citizen" magazine where Madrid states: We can't sustain the employer-based health insurance system in the U.S." This really made Madrid look like she is just saying what she thinks the audience wants to hear."


Tod Singletary--"I was actually shocked that Madrid made her paying for access statement. How can I vote for someone that admits they won't listen to me unless I bring cash or a check? Simple, I can't. I had been considering a vote for Madrid, but no way I can do that now."

Nancy Hendrickson, ABQ--"Joe, As usual, you did a great summary...Patsy was extremely nervous which put me on edge, as I was just waiting for the shoe to fall. However, when it did, she seemed to be able to slide her foot into it again and pound home another point. Heather is definitely the most confident stage presence, but Patsy related to the 'common mom' and the audience gathered itself behind her, sort of David and Goliath."

Rodney Adams, ABQ--"In regards to the "known terrorists calling Denver ad," Heather denied that the FISA law provides for immediate wiretaps as long as a warrant application is made within 72 hours, as Patsy clumsily attempted to point out. As a member of a very relevant congressional committee surely Heather is aware of this provision in the law. How can she stand before a TV camera and display either her ignorance, or simply lie about it?..All in all it was pretty ugly. Like you said, they both looked terribly uncomfortable."

Jade Andrews--"Patsy scored a big one when she painted Heather into a corner about whether or not George Bush was a "good president?" She refused to answer--twice. While Heather clearly has a lot of foreign policy experience, I was really turned off by her "know-it-all" attitude. This is one reason Heather has so many problems with women--the very voters she so desperately needs. This was probably the first time she didn't trot out references to her kids. It would have helped soften her up. Even Patsy mentioned her son and grandchildren."

Jon Michael and Family, ABQ--"You wrote that (on Iraq) Patsy was "forceful, persuasive and well-informed"??? You're insane. I watched the entire debate with family, a mixture of Madrid and Wilson supporters. Everyone thought Madrid did very poorly and Wilson was the clear winner. No-one was supporting Madrid after this fiasco.The Madrid fans were especially disappointed with Patsy's dismal performance. She's clearly not ready for prime-time. Everyone agreed she was the opposite of "forceful, persuasive and well-informed" on every subject."

Brian Bennett, ABQ--" I wish someone would point out the simple fact that George Bush is not running! How is his performance in the Presidency indicative of either one of the candidates' qualifications? It's partisan sniping on the part of the Democrats. I'd really like to hear what they have to offer to the voters besides the mud slinging aimed at someone who really doesn't have much to say about what happens to the 1st District."

Alligator, ABQ--"The knockout blow came in the last minute and was self-administered by Madrid to her own noggin and sending herself to the canvas. It wasn't the casino issue, in particular, but Madrid's astonishing admission that lobbyists buy access to her via their contributions. The second I heard that, I thought, "Oh, man--she did herself in with that one." Sure enough, Wilson applied the coup 'de grace with a one-two punch that must have played well with most any listener: Not only is her office "not for sale," but ANY member of the public--not just those who "pay to play"--can, and will continue to have access to her."


John Gniady--"Wilson's direct appeal to folks at Kirtland and Sandia was an especially smart move on Wilson's part. It clearly caught Madrid by surprise. It will be interesting to see if and how Madrid responds. I also agree this was some of the finest television I have ever seen. Even Carla Aragon, who I usually can't stand and refuse to watch--most viewers are not inthe 4th grade--thank you very much--handled herself extremely well. I especially liked the playing of and responding to the most negative of the attack ads."

R Seth Heath, ABQ--"Heather won hands down..Madrid came off as grossly out of touch with the issues and unable to represent us in DC."

Lauri Lee Castro, UNM--"Wilson's oratory skills are stronger than Patricia Madrid's. Madrid stumbled verbally quite a bit. Nonetheless, Madrid made some strong points. One involved No Child Left Behind. Many educators feel there are countless flaws with it and so in that regard challenger Madrid may well have a great deal of support from educators...Rep. Wilson is also very smug about having the military-Kirtland-Sandia labs vote. Sometimes people get mad at candidates that take their vote for granted."

Republican Alligator--"I have had five calls tonight about the debate--best comment was that Heather was great and Patsy was so bad that she made (98' Dem nominee) Phil Maloof look like a debate champion compared to her performance--explains why they have been hiding her."

Betty Hileman--"Cheap trick of the night--Heather calling her "Mrs." Madrid instead of "Attorney General Madrid."

Republican Judy Vanderstar Russell, Rio Rancho--"Heather won hands down. While she appeared nervous at first, her answers were well thought out and intelligent. She had Patsy scrambling on the bio weapons thing. I worked as a defense contractor in 1990, and I had to do a study on threat assessment through the year 2020. I picked out Iraq then--not because of nukes, but chem/bio warfare."

Dem Alligator--"How long do you think it will take Heather or the NRCC to get up an ad with Patsy talking about giving donors access to her office?"


Diane, Roswell--"Heather started out stiff and a little slow but Dem blood was left on the floor, showing a stark difference in who looked or presented themselves as "Congressional."...Madrid lost on all counts! Madrid made a crucial mistake by saying she did take money to gain entrance into her office. Great TV ad I'd say!.. Madrid does not realize the $$$ importance of our military bases in New Mexico let alone Sandia, White Sands and LANL. Madrid will not be taken serious in Washington, she'll be as lost as Moses was for 40 years before his people were led out of the desert."

Bruce Krasnow, Santa Fe New Mexican--"The major media was way too generous to Madrid, who fumbled and was actually made to defend her position on the Iraq war. She failed to frame the race, it's not about Heather Wilson but about the leadership in this Republican Congress..Patsy came off like a thug. She called our President "Bush" instead of President. Wilson came off as warm, likeable and even humble. She politely schooled Madrid on some points about North Korea and wiretapping and was able to distance herself from the troubles facing the congressional leadership...A knock out for Heather--if anyone watched."

Michael Folsom, ABQ--"Not to burst anybodies bubble but the folks that are hyper concerned about Kirtland were already voting for Heather anyway. It may help a bit with turnout but that's all. I've knocked on those folks door too many times and they haven't voted for a Dem in many many years and ain't about to do so in the future."

Alan Pezaro, ABQ-
-"If you are still undecided at this point your IQ level should probably prohibit you from voting. Either you have been paying attention and are as outraged as apparently at least 60% of the public are or you are a blathering idiot. I watched a rerun of "Eureka" last nite. I, like many others, have already voted via absentee ballot."

James Mitas, ABQ-
-"Madrid may have scored on Iraq, but am I wrong in assuming it was nothing more than anti-war rhetoric? "Iraq this" and "Iraq that", Patsy rambled on ad nauseam. I'm sure the incessant rambling from Patsy on Iraq is bait for her masses, be it rhetoric or otherwise. I have seen Heather more composed in past debates. It's too bad this was not one of them."


Marilyn Hannahs, Corrales
--"I definitely found humor in last night's debate: Nothing could be funnier than Patricia Madrid touting how she supports the Strategic Defense Initiative. Nancy Pelosi would hang old Patsy if she even thought about supporting SDI. The Dems have done everything to kill that program..Patsy trying to shake hands with everyone after the debate without falling off her "perch." She almost lost that battle."

Santa Fe Alligator
--"Pay to Play is the rule in Santa Fe and Vigil and Montoya pale in comparison to the master, Big Bill! In order to do business in NM you must contribute. It truly pains me to vote for Patricia, however, she is the lesser of the evils and quite frankly, there is too much at stake nationally."

Andrew Leo Lopez, ABQ--"Heather was smooth, controlled and yes icy. She landed some good blows...Patsy failed to allay fears about her being a tax and spend liberal..By standard grading Heather won, but Patsy did not hurt the movement to her. There are things out of the control of either candidate..Voters want the Republicans out of control of the government. People understand that checks and balances protect them from the perfidy of either party at least until it is time to throw them out again. This year at the Federal level:¡ya basta con los republicanos!"

Bob Grant, Former GOP State Rep. ABQ--"Perhaps the most fascinating aspect of last night's feature presentation was that for the first time in New Mexico's incomparable political history we got to see two female major league candidates duke it out. It didn't quite turn into a cat fight, but the venom was certainly apparent. A male third party candidate standing between them wouldn't have stood a chance!"

And there was much, much more, and I thank all those who took time to send their thoughts. I am grateful for such a great readership, and always look forward to hearing from you. I know I make my share of mistakes, but with all you "cyber-editors" out there, I never stay wrong for long.

This is the home of Campaign 2006.

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Wednesday, October 25, 2006

The Debate: Madrid Dodges Knock-Out Punch; Wilson Plows New Ground & Scores, Complete Analysis Of All Aspects Of Face-Off Is Right Here 

Two somewhat stiff combatants appeared on the brightly lit stage of La Politica last night with undefeated heavyweight Heather Wilson retaining the debating title, but scoring a draw on the question of whether she will keep her ABQ congressional seat for another two year term. Her Democratic rival, Patricia Madrid, agreed to only one TV debate; a strategy derided by Wilson, but vindicated as the congresswoman brimmed with experience and verbal agility that kept Madrid fastened in for a sometimes bumpy ride.

But Heather has had her own problems this campaign and they were underscored by the first half hour of the hour long confrontation; just about all of it was consumed by the unpopular war in Iraq and sidebar issues of national security. She parried back and forth with Madrid, toughening her rhetoric--Madrid is for "surrender" and "immediate withdrawal"--as she moved to enthuse her Republican base and peel off conservative Democrats and independents her campaign now sees as crucial to a narrow victory.

Madrid hammered the key lines that have put her atop the latest poll by three points and even further ahead in others.

"It's a no-exit war." "Stay the course is no strategy." "You can't change Washington until you change the people you send to Washington."

Wilson did her best to reframe the race, repeatedly going back to the immediate withdrawal charge, a position Madrid denied having and one that even the largely anti-war electorate has distaste for. But that first half hour was a wash with both contenders doing well in nailing down their base votes. It was in the second half that Heather managed to turn up the heat, with the help of a couple of flubs from Patsy.


Plowing some new territory with just two weeks before Election Day and heavy early voting already underway, Wilson played her ace, asking Madrid how the "90,000" residents she said depend directly or indirectly on the military and government establishment--Kirtland Air Force Base and Sandia National Labs--could trust her.

"You said you want to reduce defense have no experience in the military," slammed Air Force veteran Wilson. Why, she asked, should someone dependent on those federal installations vote for you?

Madrid failed to counter the punch that she is for reducing the defense budget, only jabbing back that she expects the Democrats to take over the Congress November 7th and that they "care for people."

Score one for Heather. She finally personalized and localized the campaign to an important segment of voters who have been fixated on the everything-gone-wrong-war. We called in the political artillery in the form of war-weary and battled scarred political consultant and Democratic pollster Harry Pavlides.

"Heather is now working for a narrow victory--getting her base Republican vote excited and to the polls and using another base--Kirtland--to go after select conservative Democrats and independents.

"I believe the bet she is making is that the Democrats talk a good game about turnout, but in the end they won't show up in force. If they do, she is gone. If they don't, the tough talk on Iraq and the appeal on the local economy could be the path to a narrow victory," summarized Pavlides.

We asked for and received more from Republican, former Capitol Hill heavy and current defense lobbyist Bruce Donisthorpe.

"I wouldn't be surprised to see Patsy try to clarify her position in the days ahead," analyzed Donisthorpe who said Madrid "left a big issue on the table" by not talking up the defense budget.


What Patsy did not leave on the table was Iraq. She was forceful, persuasive and well-informed. Her passion was evident and it was beneficial to her that the most watched part of the debate was on the topic that got her into the party in the first place.

While the blood spattered on Madrid's elegant black dress accented with a pearl necklace when Heather nailed her on Kirtland, Patsy returned the favor and had Heather bleeding some of the red stuff on her fine lavender top with black striped collar when she pressed her to give an opinion on whether she thought Bush was "a good president."

Heather danced and danced around that one, trotting out the old "independence" argument, but it was a clear score for the diminutive Madrid who reveled in her opponents response from behind her podium at the UNM Continuing Education Center.


The debate progressed from there with a myriad of questions--health care, education and Social Security--but blood oozed again near the end of the second half hour when mild-mannered anchorwoman Carla Aragon dropped a seemingly innocuous question on the order of: "What are the ethical implications of a politician accepting money from lobbyists and special interest groups and what do they get for that money?

"It is only to give them access," fumbled Madrid as Heather went off to the races.

"I am amazed at what I just heard...Mrs. Madrid accepted $125,000 from a casino owner in southern New Mexico who has business pending in her office. No one buys access to my office," emoted Heather as catcalls decorated the airwaves from some of the 200 partisans invited to attend the event.

Heather has already worked this issue over with a ton of TV ads, but Madrid's phrasing opened the door to renewed ethics questions, even if it is doubtful they will work any better than they already have. (FYI: I do PR work for Sunland Park Racetrack whose owner Wilson referred to.)

Earlier in the debate, Madrid questioned just who gets access to Wilson's office, saying a mother of an Iraq soldier who wants to question Wilson on whether soldiers are getting proper body armor has been repeatedly denied access. Heather replied to the woman, who was in the audience, to contact her again.


I will go with what Pavlides, Donisthorpe and my anonymous Alligators came with--there was no fundamental reframing of the race last night, but Wilson did carve out a few areas that could keep Madrid from maintaining her slow, but steady momentum and begin a comeback.

She scored points on Madrid that were important, but did not remove the Iraq-Bush monkey from her back, the key driver of this race and just about all the others in the nation. Madrid is the symbol of the electorate's discontent. She waved that banner firmly and did not back down. Without the war as a backdrop, Heather may have been able to put her away, but if the war remains dominant and drives the turnout Democrats promise, she will remain positioned for a narrow win.


Neither Wilson nor Madrid seemed at their best in terms of poise. Wilson often over-emoted, was stiff and unsmiling and showed hardly an ounce of humor. She did nothing to shake her icy image. Madrid often appeared as if she was prosecuting a case, referring to notes and memorized lines. The warm smile she has sported on the campaign trail was nowhere in sight and, like Heather, she did not bring her humor bag to the show. However, she did get off the one genuinely funny line when she remarked about one of Heather's commercials: "I was surprised that Heather thought that I wanted to bomb Denver," quipped Madrid to the relief of Mr. & Mrs. New Mexico who are desperate to laugh at anything in this most negative of campaigns.

Joles & Aragon
KOB-TV has a solid record doing debates and the pressure was on them last night as this was the one and only in one of the hottest races in the country and one which could determine which party controls the U.S. House. They did well.

At the beginning they played for each candidate an attack ad from their opponent and had each respond to the charges. It was good television and kept the audience interested. Anchors Carla Aragon and Tom Joles did what they do best. They fired off the questions, kept the clock and stayed out of the line of fire, giving the candidates all the crucial air time and foregoing any annoying and unnecessary promotion of themselves or the station.

The direction, sometimes problematic with a live remote broadcast, was also on the mark, giving us cutaway shots of the candidates at just the right moments. Unfortunately for the candidates, the shots showed them to be nervous as cats on a hot tin roof.

The questions were not good, they were excellent, coming from the viewers and the station and covering almost every conceivable topic. You would need two debates to do them justice, but under the circumstances KOB-TV served the state well by making the candidates cover as much ground as possible.


Surprise! I received a bunch of email following the debate, with most R's claiming Heather knocked Patsy to the canvas. Most D's admitted that Heather won on presentation, but argued Madrid carried the day because of her firm stand on Iraq and Bush. What did you think? Drop me an email form the top of the page and I will run some of the best responses Thursday.

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Tuesday, October 24, 2006

The Final Stretch: Two Weeks To Grab Glory, Plus: A Preview Of Tonight's Heather-Patsy Showdown, And: Even More Politics From The Home Of Campaign 06' 

Balderas catnapping
Maximum pressure is now on the candidates in competitive races as we reach the two-weeks-to-go milestone of Campaign 06'. The final stretch will have the contenders crisscrossing our Enchanted Land looking to sway voters of all stripes. It's tiring work, even for a 33 year old like Dem state auditor candidate Hector Balderas who is pictured here catnapping in a photo taken by Dem land commissioner candidate Jim Baca. A group of Dems this weekend did a bus tour of southern NM starting in Ruidoso, on to Alamogordo then to Las Cruces for the Aggie Homecoming Parade. The tour ended in Deming with Balderas, we presume, well-rested.

The traveling may be the most exhausting part of the campaign, but it also is the most exhilarating. Makes me want to get out there with pen and pad and microphone again. I just might in the final days.

Speaking of the auditors race, the R's are throwing their candidate's many qualifications in the face of Balderas. They say Big Bill's "Task Force on Ethics" seems to back R Lorenzo Garcia, since the report states: "The Task Force recommends that the state auditor have certain minimum qualifications. For instance, the state auditor could be required to be a certified public accountant..." Lorenzo is a CPA with lengthy government experience.

The key words are "could be required." But it's not as though Hector is a country rube. He does have a law degree, is a practicing attorney and served a term in the Legislature. This race could be a tough pick for voters who carefully examine each candidate. But many will vote their party, not the individual, and that will favor the Dem.


The most anticipated media event of the campaign takes place tonight at 7 p.m. on KOB-TV when Heather Wilson and Patricia Madrid meet face-to-face for the first and only time in a live televised debate. I have the insider details.

The "debate," more like a question and answer session, will take place before a live audience made up of 100 supporters from each of the congressional hopefuls camps. It will take place at the ABQ UNM Continuing Education Center and be uninterrupted by commercials.

Dem Madrid and R incumbent Wilson will get a chance to ask each other questions--two of them each--and will have one minute to answer and 45 seconds for rebuttal. All other questions will be posed by veteran KOB-TV anchors Tom Joles and Carla Aragon. Also, the debate will be simulcast on 770 KKOB-AM radio.

Each candidate will make a one minute opening statement and a closing one as well.


Does this format favor a particular candidate? The time limit on answers--one minute--might be best for Madrid who has the least debate experience of the pair and whose job tonight is not to make any major mistakes. She leads in all the polls. Wilson will try to force the error, but with the one minute response limit a candidate can avoid answering even more than they usually do.

I look for measured responses from Attorney General Madrid and challenging rhetoric from Rep. Wilson who needs to make a move. One question hangs in the air: Will the incumbent in any way change the way she approaches the unpopular Iraq war? Several Republicans have recently, but any shading of her position is fraught with peril as it would be attacked by the Dems as an election ploy. Still, if Wilson and her advisers see this race as unlikely to close enough by Nov. 7, they could opt for a dramatic move.

C-SPAN plans on airing the debate nationally sometime before the election.


No surprises in the endorsements of the major newspapers in the Patsy-Heather contest. The ABQ Journal, as it always has, endorsed Heather and the ABQ Tribune, as expected, went for Patsy. For the Trib it is all about Iraq. The Journal tried to frame it as a local race.

My "editorial" opinion? Sometimes, politics isn't local. When young American and
New Mexican men and women are fighting and dying and being wounded by the thousands, that is the issue. Agree or disagree with your respective candidate, history will emphatically record the war as the issue of 06'. It was the same in 1968 with Vietnam and this is no different.


Several readers, including Santa Fe's Lorene Mills, sent along this article about the 04' Prez election in NM and whether all the votes were truly counted. It is a controversial piece, but it's central concern has been addressed. Ours is now one of the few states in the nation with an all-paper ballot system with a verifiable trail. If that doesn't stop the conspiracy theories, what will?


One of the biggest complaints about this election is the lack of competition, not only in contested races at the top of the ballot, but races across the board. Carol Miller, a onetime candidate for Congress for the Green Party, chimes in on this from Rio Arriba county.

"This election is on the verge of turning even me into a former voter. Part of it is being a Rio Arriba voter where all local races are unopposed. Add some very uncompetitive races; 3rd CD, US Senate--no Independents and no Greens or Libertarians to vote FOR and I am seriously thinking of sitting this one out. This really shouldn't be what democracy feels like?

No, it isn't Carol. But the state's minority party is in bad need of leadership and the Green party is basically moribund (except for PRC candidate David Bacon.) This leaves the playing field largely to the Dems. One party control of government--D's or R's--inevitably leads to corruption and abuse. The examples abound.

Send me your news, campaign and otherwise, from the email link at the top of the page. And thanks for making us part of your day.

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Monday, October 23, 2006

Lyons & Baca Keep The Suspense Going; They're Neck & Neck, Plus: Can Heather Regroup? And: Early Voting; How Is It Going? 

Thanks Pat. Thanks Jim. What would we do without them? With the Guv's race long gone, the senate battle a bust and even Heather Wilson slipping and sliding, the closest race left is the fight for land commissioner featuring incumbent Pat Lyons and Democrat and former land commissioner Jim Baca. The latest Journal poll released today has the two old pros taking it down to the wire. Baca is at 42%, Lyons 40% and 18 % undecided.

Baca is up with his TV buy. Lyons has that and more. Lyons has shrunk Baca's lead from five points in early September. This appears to be the race that will keep us up Election Night.


Insiders report the Guv's campaign has identified 40,000 "weak" Dems statewide and presumably mailed them absentee ballot applications. A weak Dem is considered one who has voted in the Presidential race, but not in an off-year election like this one. We saw a pretty good pop in the Dem absentee ballot request count in Bernalillo county on October, 10, apparently reflecting the Guv's get-out-the-vote effort.

"It's not that the R's are not voting absentee; it's that it appears more Dems than usual are," said one of our experts monitoring the action.

How many of those 40,000 will end up voting is guesswork, but it could be an important factor in that tight land commission duel and in the ABQ congressional race.


Gary King for Attorney GeneralYou want more Heather and Patsy? OK. You got it. Let's ask this question: Where does Heather go from here after the first poll in ABQ Journal history showed her in deep trouble, trailing Patsy Madrid by three points and getting hammered by Democrats and Hispanics. (See my special Sunday blog below.)

Most of my Alligators believe Heather has hit bottom and will begin clawing her way back in the final days. Most, however, feel Madrid is now positioned for a small win as reflected in the Journal survey.

They add the caveat that the election is not today and something big could still happen. But it is now clearly an uphill climb to prevent a historic defeat of the four-term Wilson. For example, nine percent in the poll are undecided. Many of them won't vote. Suppose five of the nine percent do go to the polls. Heather would need to get an overwhelming number of them in order to win. A tall order indeed.

So what can Heather do? It's a head scratcher among top pros I consulted. One pro advised a "Hail Mary" tossed to conservative Hispanic female Democrats using direct mail, not the more high-profile TV, to show a sharp contrast over the abortion issue between Heather and Pasty.

"She's now down to having to cherry pick Democratic votes. Maybe using some wedge issues can win back some Dems who have abandoned her," said our informed Alligator.

Wilson was polling only 11% of the D's in the Journal survey, a number that is sure to grow, but even if it doubles she would not make it across the finish line, according to historical turnout.


The Journal did not poll the contest for attorney general this time around, but it likely will when it does its final poll to be released two days before the November 7 election. Campaign watchers say they see the race between Dem Gary King and R Jim Bibb tightening up as Bibb comes with a flood of TV ads, many of them negative, and King responds with his own hit pieces on Bibb.

Bibb reported raising a total of $600,000 for his campaign as of the end of September. The King campaign thinks Bibb has come up with more cash and expect his total TV buy to be well over $500,000.

In the last poll Gary was at 55% to Jim's 24% and 21% undecided. What at first looked like a 57% to 59% win for King could come in lower, given the big Bibb budget, but King is still heavily favored for the victory.


Most voters don't seem to be having much trouble with the new all-paper ballot system judging from reports we received about the first day of early in-person voting which kicked off around the state Saturday. There was, however, a bit of confusion that forced some voters to have to cast second ballots.

"The most common problem was people voting for both candidates in a contested race. They filled in both circles. When that happens the ballot is rejected by the optical scanner and they have to re-vote the entire ballot," said one poll worker.

Another note of interest. There were no poll challengers from either the D's or the R's at the polling site we surveyed. As for voter ID, voters fill out a card listing their birth date and the last four digits of their Social Security number. That info is compared to what is in the clerk's computer and if it matches, they are allowed to vote. No photo ID is requested, although some voters were presenting those ID cards mailed out by the secretary of state earlier this year which were approved by the Legislature but not required to cast a ballot.

"The process is slower than the electronic touch-screen machines we have been using. It takes longer to fill out the ballot and we had quite a long line." Reported another poll worker. And, they added: "Some of the young people complained about the paper ballots. They preferred to vote on the touch-screen machines. They are used to being on computers and using a marker to fill out a ballot was seen as old-fashioned and too slow."


Marlo Melanie
Not all of the campaign is negative. Terry Brunner, campaign manager for Dem U.S. Senator Jeff Bingaman, reports wife Leigh delivered the latest member to the Brunner Casa Saturday. She's Marlo Melanie Brunner (pictured here) and weighed in at seven pounds eight ounces. It looks as if Marlo Melanie has good timing as Uncle Jeff is about to score another of his big re-elect wins. Marlo Melanie will be able to run for the senate in 2036. Do you think Bingaman will be done by then?...

And veteran NM lobbyist Bob McBride wants to set the record straight on who is the longest serving member of the NM Legislature. We blogged the other day that it was retiring Valencia county Rep. Fred Luna. McBride points out that Fred is indeed the longest serving member in the House, but is tied for longest serving for the entire Legislature with State Senator Ben Altimirano who will have the title all to himself when the Legislature convenes in mid-January. As for longest serving lobbyist, that has to be McBride who has leaned on the walls of the Roundhouse for decades.

Keep us posted. Drop an e-mail from the top of the page.

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Sunday, October 22, 2006

It's Now Or Never For Heather; An ABQ Journal Poll Has Her Behind For First Time Ever; It's Patsy by 3; Power Hangs By A Thread; A Sunday Blog Special 

Rep. Wilson
She must make a move. Now. Can she? To call the situation dire for ABQ GOP incumbent Heather Wilson is understatement. It's not the amount she is behind in the latest ABQ Journal poll released Sunday; it's the numbers in key groups--Hispanics and Democrats--that point firmly toward a Patricia Madrid victory November 7, unless something big happens soon.

Wilson has never trailed in an ABQ Journal since taking the seat in a special election in June 1998. She does now. It's Madrid 45%, Wilson 42%, undecided 9% and neither 4%. Complete poll article is here. And here is the PDF version.

The survey was taken Tuesday through Thursday and follows two out-of-state polls that had Madrid ahead by eight points. But because this one was taken by Brian Sanderoff's Research & Polling, a firm with extensive state experience, the numbers were anxiously awaited to confirm the Madrid trend. Experts had dismissed the eight point lead in the earlier surveys saying the polling methods showed the tend but exaggerated it towards the Democrat.

If the "neither" category in the Journal poll is removed, Dem pollster Harry Pavlides said we would have Madrid at 46.8% to Heather's 43.7%

Heather is polling only 11% of the Democrats when she needs at least 25%, if not 30% of them Election Night. She garners only 20% of the Hispanics, a collapse from the Journal's first poll of the season when she was getting 35% of this crucial voting bloc. Democrats far outnumber R's. Heather must now move some of them off of Patsy. But how?


Its true the margin of error in the poll-4.4%--could technically put Heather tied with Madrid or even ahead, but that is extremely unlikely and Republicans know it. We now have three independent polls in a row with Madrid ahead and Republican campaign insiders telling me Wilson's own polling shows her behind. In Washington this weekend, R strategists weighed in with the Washington Post.

"The mood among most GOP decidedly downbeat heading into the final 18 days. They see poll after poll showing a growing number of GOP House incumbents in serious danger, including many who just weeks ago were considered relatively safe for reelection. The list of most-imperiled incumbents now includes Reps. Heather A. Wilson (N.M.) and Curt Weldon (Pa.), a top GOP strategist said. " So reported the Post.

Heather has actually lost ground from the last Journal poll which had her tied with Madrid at 44%. The Zogby/Reuters poll and the RT Strategies survey also had her unable to breach the 45% mark, a number seen by polling professionals as critical for an incumbent.

The congressional race goes before the public in a big way Tuesday night at 7 p.m on KOB-TV. For Heather it may be her last best chance to shake the race up. She needs to.

More on Monday.

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Friday, October 20, 2006

The Crazy Week To Come; Fear & Panic And All That Good Stuff, Plus: We're On The Campaign Trail Across Our Enchanting Land 

Next week will probably be the craziest and dirtiest one of Campaign 06' as the contenders, aided by consultants with one track minds, pour liters of drudge across our Enchanted Land in a final frenzied effort to move Mr. and Mrs. New Mexico to their side.

In a prelude of what is to come, there were new charges Thursday in the state Treasurer's race; Gary King's campaign launched a "truth squad" to unveil "Bibb's Fibs," a reference to R attorney general nominee Jim Bibb, and there was a flurry of bottom-of-the barrel stuff flying across the Internet regarding GOP Congresswoman Heather Wilson. And then there were those direct mails pieces dripping with mud and jamming mailboxes from Cruces to Chama.

Party veterans on both sides tell me they are most worried (no, freaking out!) about turnout. None of them are ecstatic about the number of requests thus far for absentee ballots in Bernalillo county and fear the negative drumbeat to come could turn-off a good chunk of the electorate making it even harder to get them involved in this thing.

Around the end of the month voters will start tuning out the drumbeat (if they haven't already) as they and the media get more skeptical of late accusations. Also, early in-person voting starts Saturday and thousands will cast their votes around the state by the end of next week. With as much as 60% of the total vote cast early, the candidates will try to scare em' early.


This is my ninth New Mexico gubernatorial campaign so I am used to the screeching, the out-of-bounds attacks and the fear and panic that will soon ensue. I understand it, if still questioning why it is even more fever-pitched and tinged with uglier emotions than earlier days. Perhaps it is because many of those involved have nowhere to turn if they lose. Politics is much more of a profession than it was in 74' when I covered my first Guv race between Dem Jerry Apodaca and R Joe Skeen. There was always passion, but not downright hatred, an emotion driven primarily by fear and perhaps envy. Candidates and consultants lost, but went on to other things. No more. Now it is a permanent campaign with ever more gobs of money.

So sit back and watch the war go by, but don't take it too seriously. Yes, the campaigns are often an ugly sight, but at their bedrock is a magical, ingenious system devised over two centuries ago that is bigger than any of the individuals preparing to wage the final combat of Campaign 2006.


That hot race down in Las Cruces to replace retiring GOP state Rep. Ed Boykin sees R and political newcomer Scott Witt picking up the endorsement of the
Las Cruces Sun-News over Dem rival Jeff Steinborn who narrowly lost to Boykin two years ago. But Dems monitoring the action are nowhere near ready to throw in the towel.

"Steinborn and his workers are in the trenches, going door-to-door. The last poll had him up by two. There will be another one done this weekend. This race will come down to voter turnout," offered one of our Gators...

You just can't keep the fireman away from the fire. Veteran AP and ABQ Journal political writer and columnist Larry Calloway is long retired, but the heat being thrown off by the Wilson-Madrid congressional race has got him back on the beat for at least one round of typewriter pounding. And we're glad for that...

In Valencia county, the scuttlebutt has the seat of retiring Dem State Rep. Kandy Cordova looking good for the Dems, but R Jackie Farnsworth remains in a toss-up with Elias Barela in the battle to succeed retiring Rep. Fred Luna, the longest serving member of the Legislature. This is Jackie's third shot at the title...And early optimism has turned cautious over the prospects of Dem Traci Jo Cadigan to unseat GOP Rep. Teresa Zanetti in ABQ's mostly NE Heights district. Insider polling shows Zanetti with a pretty good lead. Traci Jo, though, has the dough, about %40,000 of it, and will be able to mount a strong close....


I should have started a poll on the poll. The ABQ Journal hits the streets Sunday with its latest numbers on the ABQ Congressional race. After scoring big leads in surveys conducted by out-of-state outfits, the Dems are expecting the Research & Polling survey to show a narrower race between Heather and Patsy. As usual, I have no idea. But pollster Brian Sanderoff and my pack of 1st CD Alligators will and I will post a ditty on that deal for you Sunday. That is, if I don't stay out too late Saturday night partying with Dem party chair John Wertheim and GOP exec Marta Kramer. We're going to karaoke. The featured song of the evening will be "I'm Your Puppet." John will be singing in honor of Big Bill; Marta for Demesia Padilla and James B. Lewis.

And who said politics can't be fun?

See ya' later Gators.

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Thursday, October 19, 2006

What's Wrong With Patsy? Heather Gives Her Top Three; Plus; Fear Issue Comes Into Campaign, And: More From The Busy Trail 

Patricia Madrid has been a moving target for Heather Wilson. Charges that the Dem attorney general tolerated corruption, was a bad district court judge and failed to fully prosecute an Internet pedophile have all failed to put the race away for Heather. Now in the final critical days Wilson is out with a new list of top reasons to vote against the tenacious Madrid; a list that is aimed squarely at conservative Democrats who are not coming home to Heather in the ABQ congressional district. Here is Heather's latest list as outlined by her on KKOB-AM Radio Wednesday afternoon

"1. Madrid will raise your taxes. 2. I am not a believer in big government. 3. National security. How do we protect this country?"

Well, not exactly something David Letterman would use in his famous top ten lists, but good blog material. Heather somehow needs to more negatively define Madrid in the closing days. That was even more evident Wednesday. She gave her top three list following a rambling discussion on how she weighed the controversial pre-Iraq war intelligence. And that leads us to the top three reasons Madrid has for tossing Wilson out.

1. The Iraq War 2. The Iraq War 3. The Iraq War.


Fear. Personal security. It has been the sharpest arrow in the quiver of the R's and they're hoping it will hit the target again for Heather Wilson Her new TV ad features an alarmist announcer warning that "liberal Patricia Madrid" would waste valuable time by applying for a court order before allowing the interception of an international call placed by a possible terrorist. "Wrong on Security. Wrong for America" concludes the voice of doom announcer. See it here.

Dems point out that the Heather ad is part of a cookie-cutter campaign by the R's; that the same spot is being used in key races where R's are in jeopardy. Here it is in another race, courtesy of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.


The GOP is picking up steam in the all-important absentee battle, but still lags. Here in Bernalillo county the numbers through Wednesday look like this: Total absentee ballots sent out----22,975. Sent to Dems--11,759 (51%). Sent to R's--9,155 (40%). Sent to Independents--2,061 (9%).

In our first blog report, the Dems accounted for about 9,000 of the first 13,000 absentee requests, reflecting their summer vote push. The clerk is now sending out absentee ballots to persons who have previously used that method and the R's are catching up. Democrats comprise 45% of the county's registered voters. R's are 35% and Independents are 17%. The Indy's lag in the absentee requests, in part, because the political parties concentrate on getting their own to request ballots. The inital big absentee request gap between D's and R's had the Dems gleeful. Now it is not nearly as much, but they are still happy to hold the lead. There are 350,000 registered voters in the state's largest county. A projected turnout of 50% would mean 175,000 voters.


A possible candidate for the chairmanship of the NM GOP has been given a feather in his cap. Roswell oilman Mark Murphy has been named by the President to the National Air & Space Museum Board. Murphy's appointment was touted by
NM Senator Domenici who could play a key role in any leadership struggle that develops in the GOP following the Nov. 7 election.

Murphy, an aviation buff and private pilot, has not said he will seek to replace Allen Weh who will leave the party's top job when his term expires next April, but he has said he is considering it and has signaled that he wants a change in course for the party which he sees as drifting from the mainstream. Domenici is up for re-election in 2008 and says he plans to run. If he sticks to that decision, he may want to play a more active role in who runs the show.


Meanwhile, over at state GOP headquarters, insiders report that State Rep. Justine Fox-Young is heading up the party's "ballot security" program. Fox-Young is a former legal secretary to lawyer-lobbyist Mickey Barnett, one of the leaders of the breakaway faction of the GOP who ousted Ramsay Gorham as party chair and who also ran candidates against fellow R's in the 2004 primary cycle. Fox-Young is seeking a second term to her ABQ Mid-Heights district and is heavily favored.


Staying with the R's, GOP U.S. senate candidate Allen McCulloch has a small TV buy in the works. You can see the spot here.

Lyons & Lionsgate
The latest on that tight race for land commissioner. Dem Jim Baca is getting a boost from the Conservation Voters of NM which has purchased this radio jingle on his behalf. (And you think your singing voice is out of tune!) R Pat Lyons was working the ABQ Metro area this week helping smooth a $25,000 charitable donation to Mountain View Elementary from the film studio, Lionsgate entertainment, which is expanding its business to NM.

Baca says he will come with a $100,000 TV buy. Lyons has already mailed two direct mail hit pieces on Baca. Stay tuned for more.


A couple of emailers wanted updated results on whether a controversial flier by R Treasurer candidate Demesia Padilla was objectionable. Here are the latest results from the unscientific ABQ Journal online poll and one that can easily be manipulated. Most respondents are now saying they were not offended, a switch from the first results. The flier, featuring a caricature of African-American Dem Treasurer candidate James B. Lewis was sent out by Padilla's campaign. (Not by the state GOP) Political pros I queried don't see it doing Demesia any good. We shall see Election Night.

Thanks for tuning in. Drop me an email with your latest political news from the top of the page.

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Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Dishin' with Dendahl; He Gets Debate Stage Solo As Bill Skips; How Did He Do? Plus: Shades Of James B. As GOP Poses Patsy As A Puppet 

John Dendahl managed to get off all his money lines last night in what was perhaps his one and only chance to directly address a wide swath of state voters via live television. But while rallying the GOP base against Big Bill--"The Governor is a dictator"--"Bill Richardson has ruled rather corruptly"-- Dendahl found himself dealing with his own baggage, namely his advocacy for legalizing drugs.

Dendahl was given 25 minutes of free air time when Big Bill declined KOB-TV's offer to debate the former NM GOP state chairman. He was interviewed by veteran news anchors Carla Aragon and Tom Joles who were their usual cordial selves, but brought to the table key questions of Campaign 06' which the camera-comfortable Dendahl relished answering.

The 68 year old Santa Fe native, dapperly dressed in a light gray business suit with a black and blue tie, looked like an IBM executive answering questions at a business seminar. But the look belied the rhetoric which was often harsh and somewhat personal.

"He is not an honest, straight-talking" Governor...He is two-faced," said Dendahl of Big Bill in rhetoric familiar from his days as the self-described "carpet bombing" party chairman.

The Richardson campaign has been critical of Dendahl for being a candidate who just "wants to tear down the state" and doesn't have anything positive to offer.

That charge still dangled in the air after the interview, as Dendahl was long on criticisms of the administration, but did not offer many highly detailed solutions. Perhaps he is a bit gun shy after earlier campaign miscues.

For example, he was careful to say that New Mexico has a "few great teachers" and "a few great schools" and the state ought to hold them up as examples on how to improve education. In a radio interview this summer, Dendahl misfired and said NM educators were teaching "socialism"

For a campaign that has been long on attacking and short on solutions, it was surprising that Dendahl's best performance came when he tackled that most complex of issues--water.

"Eighty percent of our water is used in agriculture. We need a better use of the market to sell that water for city use and development...We need more efficient irrigation for agriculture," declared Dendahl just days after Big Bill proclaimed that the 2007 session of the Legislature will be "The Year of Water."


But it was an old bugaboo that tripped up the old warrior. He was asked about the meth epidemic racing through the state. Without prompting from Aragon or Joles, Dendahl brought up his support for legalizing drugs.

"I am on the record saying the drug war is a disaster...Until we get legalization on the table and discuss it we are not going to solve the problem," said Dendahl, but quickly adding: "That's not part of my campaign."

But the proverbial cat was out of the bag and the confident candidate for a moment looked sheepish and uncertain.

Dendahl was more his old self as he condemned the $100 million spaceport--"If it has commercial viability, private capital will see that it gets built. I don't think we need to put a hundred million dollars into that deal just to build up Richardson's image," He jabbed.

He was also strong on his fiscal conservative credentials.

"We should not be spending our state endowments on films...We should not be putting money into spaceports or a billion dollar sinkhole like the commuter railroad. These initatives are financially ruinous...Our endowment is being squandered." He argued.


While Dendahl said his image as a divisive figure is "unfair" because he has spent most of his career working in business and "getting along with people," his reluctance, or inability, to put forth a comprehensive agenda capped his appeal and left the "old" Dendahl image more noticeable than he may have liked.

The GOP standardbearer did himself some good last night, but the signs of a late starting campaign and one that does not have heart and soul into the contest lingered. In his heyday, John Dendahl was one of the most powerful state party chairmen in history. His gubernatorial stint will be an asterisk placed well below that achievement.


Patsy's a puppet too. As was done with Dem Treasurer candidate James B. Lewis by his R opponent Demesia Padilla, the NM GOP has sent out a mailer showing Dem congressional candidate Patricia Madrid portrayed as a puppet on strings. In this one, the attorney general is being manipulated by "San Francisco liberal" and Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi who would become Speaker of the House if the Dems gain control of that body Nov. 7.

The Lewis flier sparked a storm of controversy with Dems, and some R's, who said it was borderline racism as it caricatured African-American Lewis as a puppet of Big Bill's. I tried hard to post the flier, but it came in a huge file from an Alligator and I just couldn't do it. (Maybe GOP headquarters has extra ones.)

Madrid as a puppet of Pelosi's is not political dynamite. In fact, placed in a plaid skirt with her arms raised over her head, she looks kind of like a cheerleader. But James Lewis looking like a dancing Mr. Bojangles? Well, that's something we'll be talking about for years and your grandchildren will someday read of in the lengthy and storied book of our beloved La Politica.

Email your news from the link at the top of the page and help keep the politics coming.

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Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Heather: Slip Sliding Away? More Polls Confirm Trend, Plus: Underdogs Get Some Attention, And: More Cool Stuff From The Campaign Trail From NM's Blog 

Somebody cue up that tune by Paul Simon; the one where he sings "slip slidin' away." Because that's what appears to be happening in the must-watch race for the ABQ congressional seat featuring GOP incumbent Congresswoman Heather Wilson and Dem Attorney General Patricia Madrid. We can peel apart the latest two polls on the race and find plenty of fault with them, but we can't argue with the clear trend; Madrid is ahead and something big--a big GOP get-out-the-vote drive--a national event that turns the tide toward the GOP or a big gaffe by Madrid--needs to occur. If not, the seat will likely flip to the Dems for the first time.

Now to the numbers. That Survey USA poll released by KOB-TV last night-- widely derided by the polling pros because it uses automated phone technology and does not pre-screen for likely voters--has Patsy pulling 53% to Heather's 45%. It was taken Oct. 13 to Oct. 15 and has a margin of error of 4.6%. Last month Survey USA had Heather leading 51% to 46%.

The RT Strategies/Cook Political Report numbers also give it to Madrid, 52% to Wilson's 44%. (Oct 8-10. Margin of error is 3.09%.) It also uses a computer interactive method, but it does make sure those called are on the registration roster and likely to vote.

What is the bottom line on these latest surveys? Dem pollster Harry Pavlides says: "I don't believe Madrid is ahead by these margins because the methodology is exaggerating the trend. But they do confirm the overall trend. The race is no longer a dead heat. Madrid is ahead, the question is by how much."

Maybe pollster Brian Sandeorff, in the field this week for the ABQ Journal, can sort it out. He will report Sunday. His late September poll had the contest tied at 44%. Sanderoff had the Dems and women coming home to Madrid and Republicans sticking with Heather. Those trends are intact in the most recent polls.


As for the campaign, it has grown stale. The omnipresent, annoying and overwhelmingly negative TV ads are basically the entire campaign. The monotony will be broken by the KOB-TV October 24 debate at which Heather hopes Madrid catches a severe case of foot-in-the-mouth-disease. Also expected to perk things up in the closing days are some big name visitors. Maybe former President Clinton for Madrid and perhaps former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani for Heather.

The race is not over. With U.S. House incumbents re-elected at a 98% rate, there is no way to call a race this close until actual votes are counted. But the race is now Madrid's to lose and if she does, it is going to be one heartbreaking evening for the state's majority party.


GOP U.S. Rep. Steve Pearce and Governor Big Bill are so far ahead of their opponents that they have refused to debate them on statewide TV. But the challengers--Al Kissling against Pearce and John Dendahl against Bill--have been given a break. KOB-TV has decided to give them free air time at 7 p.m. tonight to make their cases alone. It is an opportunity for both to make some news. Let's see if they do.


The other race besides Madrid-Wilson keeping the political junkies interested is the land commissioner face-off between GOP incumbent Pat Lyons and ex-land boss Jim Baca. The dynamic duo will meet in debate tonight on KANW 89.1 FM in ABQ/Santa Fe.

The insider polls show this one close, with Lyons being urged to go after Anglo Democrats in the ABQ metro area who are a soft spot for ex-ABQ mayor Baca who needs to keep raising money to match Lyon's $300,000 plus final month war chest.


A sidebar to that bizarre flyer put out by R Treasurer candidate Demesia Padilla against Dem foe James B. Lewis, an African-American. It portrays Lewis as a puppet on strings being manipulated by Big Bill. (It's pictured on Monday's blog.) Never mind what it does to Demesia's chances, R's are worried what it might do to Heather Wilson. African-American ministers are calling for blacks to get out and vote for Lewis and against what they call blatant racism. If they get 500 or 600 more voters out and if Wilson-Madrid turns out to be a cliffhanger, it could be those extra Dem votes that could push Heather over the cliff. It wouldn't hurt Heather to get on the phone and do some lobbying to keep this blaze away from her door.


It was just before the June 2004 NM primary election when ABQ district court chief judge John Brennan was busted for coke possession and DWI and forced to leave the bench. Now, with just a few weeks before the Nov. 7 election, another judge is in trouble over snorting nose candy and is being targeted for removal. The state Judicial Standards Commission is asking the NM Supreme Court to end Dona Ana county Magistrate Carlo Garza's judicial career for snorting coke and not submitting to a drug test. The entire sordid tale is told in a lengthy report sent by a Santa Fe Alligator and which you can read here.


Pete Domenici doesn't have to look too far for inspiration if he decides to stick to his decision to seek re-election in 2008. Hawaii Dem Senator Daniel Akaka, a spry 82, recently won a stiff primary challenge and is expected to win another six year term next month. Pete will be 76 in 08', but can argue he is still a relative youngster compared to several of his colleagues who are obviously taking full advantage of today's longer life spans.


Another weird addendum to Campaign 06'. GOP U.S. Senate candidate Allen McCulloch was in an auto accident near Cuba in NW NM Sunday night. The Farmington urologist escaped uninjured, but not before pulling one of the victims out of a burning car, according to his campaign.

The McCulloch accident comes on the heels of the brutal attack on John Dendahl spokesman Paige McKenzie. (She is now in satisfactory condition.)

A Bingaman supporter emailed he was glad to hear McCulloch was OK, but could not help sniping: "It's the most press he has gotten all year." What, Jeff has been getting some lately?

And so it goes on the trail. Drop me an email with your latest political news from the link at the top of the page and help keep the politics rolling.

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Monday, October 16, 2006

Hector To Get Hectic In Late Starting Auditor's Race; Is Armijo Forgotten? Plus: Demesia's Mess, And: Pete Coming For Heather 

Hector Balderas is the last candidate out of the gate for Campaign 06', but he plans a final hectic three weeks to ensure the job of auditing over 500 state agencies stays in Democratic hands. It's not a no-brainer, not after the late summer controversy that saw the Dems original candidate, Jeff Armijo, finally get off the ticket after reports surfaced that he faced allegations of sexual misconduct from two young women.

Balderas, a freshman state rep from Wagon Mound, has no baggage like that, but he has never run statewide before and faces an opponent, R Lorenzo Garcia, who has done it twice, is a CPA with extensive government experience and has appeal across party lines because of his demonstrated independent streak.

But Balderas, 33, an attorney, will pile on heavy in the coming days. (He just put up his Web site.) His campaign says it will buy up to $150,000 in TV time and throw additional money at radio ads in an effort to get the unknown known quickly. Big Bill can be counted on to up the money count and already has. The campaign says it has $100,000 on hand with more to come.

Garcia, of ABQ's North Valley, has only $18,000 on hand. The Dems are breathing a sigh of relief that the R's have more or less ignored the race, despite the epic scandal in the Treasurer's office, making ethics more of a concern and who is State Auditor more than a trivia question. In 2002 Domingo Martinez won re-election as Auditor, but only narrowly, eking out a 52% to 48% win over gadfly and Republican Tom Benavides. Insider polling has Balderas and Garcia running close in vote-heavy Bernalillo county.

If Benavides, without the scandal, could do so well, think what Garcia could do if he had has much funding as Balderas. I did notice a billboard for Garcia and R Treasurer candidate Demesia Padilla on I-25. It pictures the two hopefuls together as a clean-up team for the state financial offices, something the R's have been advised to do by politicos for months now. If they could take that concept to TV, they could deliver a major scare and maybe even get lucky.

Balderas appears positioned to get known quickly and separate himself from any negative lingering feelings the public has over the Armijo affair. Still, with that 2002 contest in mind, with Garcia making his third outing and with Hector getting a late start, the race could turn out to be a bit closer than most might expect.


State GOP Treasurer candidate Demesia Padilla stepped in the pit of racial politics when she sent out a controversial flyer (pictured here from the ABQ Journal) featuring her Dem opponent James B. Lewis. The flyer was dubbed borderline racist (Registration required) by Big Bill's campaign. NM GOP executive director Marta Kramer argued that "accusing a Hispanic woman of racism is ridiculous," But others disagreed saying racism can come from anyone, regardless of their ethnic identity.

Former NM Governor Dave Cargo, a longtime friend of Padilla's and a Republican with one of the state's strongest civil rights records, told me he was disappointed with the flyer and called it "a big mistake." He blamed it on "consultants who do not understand" the state and said he warned Demesia, an ABQ CPA, that it would backfire.

Cargo was emphatic that Padilla did not act from any racial motives. He was joined in that assessment by NM's first black state legislator, Lenton Malry, a friend of Lewis's. "I have met her several times. She is a nice lady and she is not a racist, but she was out of line on this one," Malry told me.

Republican Barry Bitzer, now chief of staff to Dem ABQ Mayor Mary Chavez, blasted Kramer and company for the flyer, saying it is a sign that change is needed in the direction of the state GOP.

"The strings in the Padilla piece don't offend's the caricature. I may not be able to totally define the legacy of Jim Crow, but I know it when I see it. Padilla strikes me as a decent and qualified candidate. I am left to conclude that the urge to slime opponents continues to come from (GOP headquarters). It's a tragedy for the party." Blasted Bitzer.

Demesia's mess had the Dems pointing out that she was not the first R to bump up against the racism charge this campaign. Guv nominee Dendahl was widely roasted for saying in a radio interview that Hispanic lawmakers are not all that keen on solving the state's DWI problems because, he asserted, most DWI offenders are Hispanic.

An an on-line poll by the Journal on the controversy found that 53% thought it was offensive; 47% did not.


His re-election, according to the political intelligentsia, is in the bag, but Big Bill is working it like it is his first time. Take a look at some of his schedule--just for today.

Event: Tourism Welcoming Speech 9:00 a.m. Ruidoso
Event: Fire Truck Funding Announcement 11:00 a.m. Ruidoso Downs
Event: Ribbon Cutting, School Based Health Center 2:30 p.m. Lovington
Event: Joe Stell Highway Dedication 4:00 p.m. White City
Event: WIPP Permit Signing Ceremony 5:00 p.m. Carlsbad
Event: Speech to 10th Anniversary of Character Counts 5:45 p.m. Carlsbad

You have often heard us opine that "who wants it the most" is a major factor in political success. Big Bill wants the re-election bad, and he wants a historic landslide even more.


At first, the Madrid campaign told me they were not planning on putting up TV ads tying Heather Wilson to disgraced Florida Congressman Mark Foley. Well, that didn't last long. Over the weekend they put up a spot pointing out that Wilson was one of the biggest recipients of Foley PAC money, taking in $8,000 and claiming that as a member of the U.S. House Page Board Heather did nothing "while Foley preyed on children." Wilson has since donated the Foley money to charity. Apparently Madrid feels she needs all the firepower she can get as she will probably be outspent by the R's in the final weeks and Mark Foley is high-power ammo.


Meanwhile, D.C. Alligators report that NM Senator Pete Domenici will be out with a TV ad for fellow R Wilson in the coming days. Domenici also plans joint appearances with the congresswoman who he personally blessed for the seat when Rep. Steve Schiff passed away from skin cancer in 1998. Of course, a Domenici ad is no guarantee of moving big numbers. Oldtimers will remember he came with TV for then GOP U.S. Senator Jack Schmitt in 1982. Schmitt lost to Jeff Bingaman.

Some have speculated that Pete might back away from Heather if he thought she was going to go down, but don't expect it. He will raise the banner as he always does. Maybe the intensity will not be as high if things look like they are going south, but the old warrior will not "cut and run."

Here's the latest national take on Madrid-Wilson from the New York Times. (Registration required.) Also, (Congressional Quarterly) is now ranking the race as "no clear favorite," dropping its earlier assessment that the seat "leans Republican."


Newspaper endorsements are highly sought, but whether they do much to sway voters is still hotly debated. The ink-stained wretches at the state's largest paper, the ABQ Journal, (Sunday circulation 149,000) came with its first round of picks for the statewide offices Sunday. Gary King received the nod for attorney general. Fellow Dem Mary Herrera was chosen over R Vickie Perea for secretary of state and incumbent GOP Land Commissioner Pat Lyons was the editorial board's choice over Dem Jim Baca.


Jim Bibb is getting a taste of the negative medicine after unloading TV accusing his Dem rival for the attorney general nomination, Gary King, of missing "one out of four" votes during his career as a state legislator. In his new 30 second spots, King counters that Bibb has received "hundreds of thousands" of dollars from "East coast interests" to smear him. The two will also continue to do battle away from the TV screens when they meet up at the UNM School of Law Oct 18th from 12-1pm in room 2401 to do a town hall discussion with the students.

And if you are a student of La Politica who likes a lot of homework, here is the complete KANW-89.1 FM debate between Bibb and King.

Thanks for stopping by. Let's do it again tomorrow. Meantime, help cover the final stretch by sending your new via email from the top of the page.

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Friday, October 13, 2006

Big Bill Hit Over "Clinton Glow Job," Plus: Bingaman's Big Bank Account, And: Land Commission Battle Keeps Em' Talking 

Stepping into the fast moving currents of national politics this week, Big Bill found himself under fire from the right, giving him a taste of what is to come when he hits the Prez trail. The sparks flew when the Dem Guv painted a glowing picture of how the Clinton Administration, of which he was a prominent member, handled relations with North Korea. It was all a "glow job" struck back hard-right commentator Ann Coulter. That was a clear reference to the other kind of job that was administered on the White House grounds by Monica Lewinsky and who Big Bill, while U.N. ambassador, once interviewed for possible employment.

"Current New Mexico governor and former Clinton administration official Bill Richardson has been on tour, bragging about the groundbreaking Clinton administration negotiations with North Korea--keeping his fingers crossed that no one has access to news from 1994." blasted the controversial Coulter.

Maybe Coulter ought to sign up with the John Dendahl for Governor campaign as she is delivering the attacks he promised.


But the Guv trucks merrily along, plodding toward a landslide re-elect and confident enough to be spreading his ample campaign wealth to lower-ballot contenders. Tonight he and Light Guv Diane host a fundraiser at ABQ's El Pinto restaurant for Dem secretary of state candidate Mary Herrera and Dem auditor nominee Hector Balderas. The cheap seats are $500 a pop and the money will be split between the two candidates. The top ticket is going for $2,000.

Balderas is a Bill favorite, but Herrera, Bernalillo county clerk, has clashed with the Guv over the all-paper ballot system now in effect. The cash he raises for her this evening is sure to soothe any remaining wounds in that relationship.

Like Bill, Jeff Bingaman has way too much money. In fact, the four term Dem U.S. senator will report having $1.6 million in cash when the federal reports come out soon. If his opponent, Allen McCulloch, tries anything tricky in the final days, he will face that mountain of money. Meanwhile, Bingaman has doled out about $15,000 to various Dem legislative candidates. When they hear about all that cash he has on hand, they may put their hands out to him again.


There's only two major NM races the pros say are still in play--the ABQ Madrid-Wilson congressional face-off and that growing more negative by the day contest for state land commissioner. Dem contender Jim Baca has felt more comfortable since the ABQ Journal poll showed him four points ahead, but incumbent GOP commissioner Pat Lyons is reporting he has over $340,000 to finish this campaign, with Baca nowhere near that number.

So far, the mud-throwing has been on the radio airwaves. Here's Baca's latest and here is the Lyons attack.

Lyons will be able to hit the mailboxes hard in the final days. He should be able to get some decent TV time too. Baca could see Big Bill come to his aid with TV money if the Guv's polling shows Baca, a former land commissioner and ABQ mayor, in serious jeopardy.

Baca is worried about big Bernalillo county and lingering unpopularity from his term as ABQ mayor. Lyons is concerned that low GOP turnout in the conservative SE could hurt his chances. This one remains a race to watch, and we'll be doing just that.

Thanks again to photog Mark Bralley for his cool pics, like the one today of Big Bill in recent action. And thanks to you for tuning in here.

Help us cover NM politics. Drop an email from the link at the top of the page.

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Thursday, October 12, 2006

Is The Noose Tightening? Top R Analyst Says It's Madrid's To Lose. Plus: Heather On Radio: Not Too Buzzed, And: Tidbits From The Trail 

The noose appears to be tightening. Conservative Republican political analyst Robert Novak has moved the Wilson-Madrid battle for the ABQ congressional seat into the "lean Democrat" column, yet another sign that a historic upset here is a very real possibility. Writing in his e-mail newsletter, Novak, who is known for his top contacts among D.C. R's, put it this way:

Districts such as that of Rep. Heather Wilson (R-N.M.), always closely divided, cannot be counted on to perform as in the past, given that the tide running away from the GOP right now.

Some districts now merit Democrats' efforts and resources in a way they never could have just two weeks ago. Republicans are on the defensive all across the map, and the map keeps getting bigger." So wrote Novak.

The Novak switch on the race came into focus as Congresswoman Wilson appeared on the 770 KKOB-AM airwaves Wednesday where passion was noticeably missing, but the ginned up phone calls from the Patricia Madrid camp were not. This, on the state's "conservative station." How could Wilson's campaign allow her to be bushwhacked there? (No pun intended.)

Forgive me for being an armchair Freud, but Heather's heart just did not seem in it. When asked what would be the difference if Madrid won and she lost, she quipped;" "Your taxes would go up" and "missile defense" would be put in jeopardy. Taxes? Missile defense? This after three months of pounding Attorney General Madrid over alleged ethical lapses? What happened to that? It hasn't worked, that's what.

On TV, Wilson's campaign is now in the jello stage with her campaign, national interest groups and the D.C. R's throwing everything up against the wall on Madrid and seeing what sticks.


Meanwhile, Madrid remains largely under wraps. The strategy is to walk this one home, barring a jarring change in the national environment or a late negative bombshell from Heather. She will not appear, or will appear very selectively on radio or other venues that would give her the opportunity to screw up and alter the landscape. She will do the October 24 KOB-TV debate with Heather and that will be it. As for a theme, that's easy--it's all-Iraq, just about all the time.

The strangest thing about Heather's appearance yesterday was the aforementioned Iraq. It was not mentioned even once during the hour. Of course, Heather does not want it brought up. But it was the elephant in the room and it is being roused. The question now is will it stampede or simply trot. Either way, Heather Wilson is directly in its path.


While Heather was going through the motions, her fellow NM GOP U.S. Rep., Steve Pearce, was apparently feeling the shifting landscape too and put up radio ads attacking his unknown and underfinanced Dem opponent, Al Kissling.

Pearce calls the affable Las Cruces Reverend Kissling "extreme" and "bizarre." But so is the political mood and Pearce could find himself coming up with less impressive victory as the Dems even pick up steam in the south where the Bible Belters are disgusted with Foleygate and where many could just decide to sit this one out. Pearce will put up his TV next week and try to move this one to the 60% mark he hit in 04'. It is not a no-brainer that he will get there this time.


Rep. Emanuel
The Madrid campaign was quick to go ballistic over the recent ABQ semi-secret visit of Bush political architect Karl Rove, saying the R's were trying to hide the Bushie from the public for fear of losing votes.

But it seems both sides have something to hide. U.S. Rep and Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee chairman Rahm Emanuel D-Ill) was in ABQ Wednesday, but the Madrid campaign did their best to keep it a secret. They did say he held a fundraiser for Madrid and offered her advice on the race, but they would not say where the lunch was or how much was raised.

Heather asked out loud if Congressman Rahm had any knowledge of the disgraced Congressman Foley's activities, claiming he wasn't too clear about it in a recent interview. She did that as she was asked how well she knew Foley who donated $8,000 to her campaigns, money she has donated to charity.

We are told that the DCCC boss has a soft spot for the state as he and his wife honeymooned here. It's fine for lovers to keep their secrets, Rahm. But this is no honeymoon. It is a political campaign--the people's business--or at least it used to be. The former Clinton White House aide did take time for a phone interview with KKOB house liberal Richard Eeds, an interview that will air on the station today.


The race for attorney general appears closed out--55% for Gary King n the latest polling-- but that isn't stopping R hopeful Jim Bibb from hammering Dem King over his long ago voting record as a legislator. We're told he was at at it again Tuesday night at a forum in El Dorado, NM where he acknowledged that King missed a lot of legislative votes following a serious car accident, but maintained the missing votes he cites did not include the time frame around the accident. Interestingly, King did not make the forum. He had his primary opponent, Geno Zamora, stand in for him. Want more of this? Tune in for a King-Bibb debate tonight at 6 on KANW 89.1 FM in ABQ/Santa Fe.


Here's more on all the green stuff floating into the campaigns. No big surprises but some interesting tidbits from the reports filed with the state this week.


Is Big Bill dissing, promoting or not doing much of anything with Heather Wilson in his ad touting how he helped keep Cannon Air Force Base open. We blogged this one yesterday after readers pointed out that Heather is pictured in the ad for a brief moment. The consensus verdict on this is summed up in this email: "The ad has Heather right under the headline: "Pentagon to close Clovis" accompanied with spooky music. I think it is far from a promo."

So that puts the Bill makes peace with Heather conspiracy to rest. What's next? I am sure my mail will have the answer soon.

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Wednesday, October 11, 2006

All Hail Big Bill (Including You, Heather), Plus: The $12 Million Man, And: The Very Latest From The Frontlines Of Campaign 06' 

Kim Jong-il
Who would have thunk? Heather Wilson praising the diplomatic skills of Big Bill, the very guy who just two weeks ago pledged to oust the GOP congresswoman from her ABQ seat and crown Patricia Madrid her successor! But there she was on the front pages of the fish wrappers saying the Dem Guv would be the perfect guy to conduct one-on-one talks with those wily and nuclear prone North Koreans. "He has experience," she gushed. Not that Heather's Prez was listening. The White House says one-on-one is best left for the basketball court, not dealing with the likes of Kim Jong-il.

But Heather had made her point, or rather revealed it. She is in dire need of Democratic votes as the day of judgment nears in the closet contest of her political career. Cozying up to Big Bill may have been as appetizing to her fellow R's as a thousand point drop in the Dow, but you gotta do what you gotta do. And what has to be done to keep the ABQ seat in GOP hands is turning out to be a whole lot more than anyone expected.

If Heather's warm fuzzy was meant to temper Big Bill's zeal for ousting Senator Domenici's favorite congressperson, and not solely aimed at Dems who might find it charming that she was charming their Guv, she may be in for a surprise. Anyone who knows the Big Fella will tell you the smell of weakness is a scent more pleasing to him than even one of Fidel's finest cigars. The conspiracy minded are sure to e-mail that there has been no love lost between Big Bill and Patsy and that maybe his recent ardor toward her can indeed be cooled. We welcome such e-mails, along with sightings of Black Helicopters and UFO's hovering over the nuclear stockpile in the Manzano Mountains.


How about this? As soon as I got done blogging that bit, I checked the e-mail and up popped this:

"Why do you think that Richardson's TV ad on Cannon Air Force Base features in the first frame a clear picture of Heather Wilson and the Guv in the ABQ Journal? Is this a not so subtle endorsement of Wilson by Richardson, an admittedly right wing Democrat? Is this his way of commenting on Madrid who he doesn't like? Or are we supposed to think that his campaign is just that plain stupid?"

You can see the ad in question here. There is a newspaper photo of Heather in it, but it does not appear she is with Big Bill. But why is Heather in any Big Bill ad? Even Bruce Daniels of the ABQ Journal--"Joe, you are genetically conspiratorial"--wants to know!

Maybe there are UFO's over the Manzanos after all.


If the early count on the first wave of absentee ballots that went out to voters in Bernalillo county Tuesday is any indication, Heather and Company can be forgiven for pandering for Dem votes. Of the 13,000 folks who signed up to get those ballots, a stunning 69%, or about 9,000 of them, are from Dems. It's an early sign that the Donkey is kicking, while the Elephant may be napping. But the larger of those beasts could be and should be getting a get-out-the-vote wake-up call today.

Wilson has always performed well in the absentee vote. Every Election Night it seems we sit in the KANW 89.1 FM studios in ABQ counting the votes from E Day and witness Heather getting trounced, only to have a huge wave of absentees pour in putting her more than over the top. But there's another kind of wave forming this year and if it comes in with the force that the D's say it will, Heather and Patsy are going to be fighting to the end to get the last seat in the lifeboat.


And I thought it was clever to call the Guv "The $10 Million Man." Guess we need to change that to the $11.6 million man, and probably be prepared to up it to 12 mil by the time the campaign ends. Can you believe it? The Guv has raised $11.6 mil since starting his re-election drive in 03'? To do what? Kill a gnat with a bazooka? His GOP foe, sacrificial wolf John Dendahl, reports raising $275,000 since the R's got itchy and dropped Santa Fe Doc J.R. Damron from the ticket.

Of that nearly $12 million, Big Bill had about $3.1 million left at the end of September, say state reports filed Tuesday. You mean they've already spent over $8 mil and I don't even get an ad on the blog? Dendahl has less than $200,000 left and blog ads may be about all he can afford.


Word came late Tuesday that GOP attorney general contender Jim Bibb has joined the Heather-Patsy party and launched a negative ad against Dem rival Gary King. I'm told it faults Gary for missing a bunch of votes when he was a state legislator. But the King campaign counters that the time period Bibb sites coincides with a serious auto accident King suffered and repairing his body took priority over the legislative body. Bibb is one of two pet candidates of the GOP powers-that-be, the other being R secretary of state candidate Vickie Perea, who have been singled out for special fundraising treatment.

I know. You are asking, for the umpteenth time, why did the R's not concentrate on the scandal-ridden treasurer's office or even the auditor's job? Please forward those inquiries to GOP executive director Marta Kramer who, GOP Chairman Allen Weh told me recently, I "drive crazy." Maybe she's talking about my photo, not my blogging. Hey, I know how to spin too.


Big Bill isn't the only one raising huge dollars. National Public Radio phoned in here the other day with the news that over a billion bucks will be spent nationally on the mid-term election. I was one of several numbed observers they asked for comment for a piece that aired coast-to-coast Tuesday morning.


Please don't ask what else is going on. So much that the bottoms of my blogging pajamas are wearing thin. There's that new ad for Heather featuring Arizona Senator John McCain; there's U.S. Senate candidate Allen McCulloch finally going up on the air with a small TV buy in his uphill battle against Dem Senator Jeff Bingaman. There's also the sad news of the death of NM broadcasting legend Johnny Hyatt (the longtime voice of Rich Ford). There's also the annual Gridiron show poking fun at the press and politicos that I have been busy writing copy for and urge you to attend Oct. 28 and help provide student scholarships by doing so.

And then there's my thank you for the hospitality to the "Petrol Club" which I spoke to at ABQ's Tanoan Country Club Tuesday. The R group has been going since 1948. And then there's the looming deadline for my piece for New Mexico Magazine on talk radio. (Editors: Please, can I have an extra day or two?)

And then there's...tomorrow. And I hope you will join me then for more New Mexico politics. Meanwhile, let me hear from you. Just drop an email...

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Tuesday, October 10, 2006

New Details in McKenzie Beating Mystery, And: Guv Less Cocky Over Cockfighting, Plus: Death Calls Longtime NM Congress Staffer & Even More NM Politics 

The crime has shocked the state's political community. Paige McKenzie, 41, spokesperson for R Guv candidate John Dendahl, was struck in the face with a tire iron and savagely beaten Wednesday night after a flat tire sidelined her in the town of Bernalillo. Who would do such a thing? A reliable source reports that the assailant was not a personal acquaintance of McKenzie's, but offered his assistance when she pulled over with her flat tire.

"The motive of the man attacking her was assault; he attempted an assault. He saw an opportunity when he spotted her changing her tire in the bank parking lot. There was resistance and then Paige was brutally attacked with a tire iron. There was confusion in the first reports that indicated Paige may have known the person, but she says she had no prior relationship with him." Said our source.

According to Dendahl, Paige suffered broken cheekbones and a broken chin. She had several teeth knocked out and her jaw had to be wired shut.

Bernalillo and State Police are seeking the perpetrator who is described as an Hispanic male in his late 20's, about 5-foot-10, weighing 175 to 180 pounds and clean shaven.

The horrific assault had McKenzie's parents flying here from Florida to comfort their daughter. McKenzie, who has worked for the state GOP and Congresswoman Heather Wilson and legislative Republicans, is making gradual improvement with her condition now listed as satisfactory. She was listed in critical condition at UNM hospital in ABQ in the hours after the assault.


Cockfighting has been as sharp a thorn in Big Blll's side as those spurs the roosters use to cut each other up. He may finally have had enough. At a recent meeting with the editorial board oF the Las Cruces Sun-News, the Guv indicated he may come out against the controversial sport when he kicks off the 2007 Legislature.

Big Bill has straddled the issue of cockfighting which has appeal in rural parts of the state. But his position, or nonposition, has irked animal rights groups and others who could make their influence strongly felt if and when Big Bill takes to the presidential campaign trail. Several celebrities have lobbied him to push for a statewide ban on cockfighting, including former Baywatch star Pamela Anderson, Rue McClanahan of The Golden Girls and comedian Bill Maher.

If he does get aboard the anti-cockfighting bandwagon, he will be one of the last passengers, but it will likely be finally enough to win a ban from the Legislature and a nice, flashy ceremony of the Guv signaling to national Dems a newfound dislike for the blood sport.


Believe it or not, voting in Campaign 06' gets underway today. NM voters can go to their county clerk's office to cast their ballots. Also, thousands of voters who have requested absentee ballots will have them mailed to them today. (Over 13,000 in Bernalillo county.) Early in-person voting at satellite locations will begin October 21.

How much of the vote will be cast early? We've gone past 50% in past elections. We may hit nearly 60% this time. And what should we watch for? Probably for any decline in Republican enthusiasm. The clerks' offices will track how many early votes are being cast by each party, giving us a clue of which party's voters are the most excited.


We kicked the can around with ex-GOP State Rep. Greg Payne and top NM lobbyist Scott Scanland on 770 KKOB-AM radio Monday morning. Both of the pros lamented the lack of competitiveness in the top state races and speculated on what a rout, if it happens, will mean for the future leadership of the state GOP.

"They have basically laid down," Said Scanland of the GOP. Payne said the party has lost touch with the "grass roots" and wondered what happened to "fiscal conservatism" as a campaign theme.

Scanland said keep your eye on the Dist. 15 State House race in ABQ where GOP incumbent Teresa Zanetti is facing a challenge from Traci Jo Cadigan. The district favors the R, Scanland said, as Zanetti has proven with two consecutive wins. But Cadigan is knocking on doors, a must for a challenger. Overall, Scanland looks for the R's perhaps picking up one seat in the House or Election night ending in a "wash" with the 42-28 Democratic majority staying right where it is. But if polls predicting a Republican free fall are prophetic, the GOP worries their legislators could suffer. We'll keep you posted on the key races.

Payne joshed me over Monday's blog, calling it a "bouquet" to R Guv nominee John Dendahl. "You jut want a fight," he ribbed. Well, he's right about that. There's something weird about not having any exchanges at all between Big Bill and Joltin' John. Kinda like the old Soviet Politburo where the incumbents get 99% of the vote. Campaigns are about holding the incumbents accountable, no matter how popular, and this campaign gets a big fat "F" in that regard.


But Big Bill continues to get all the breaks. It seems to work that way when you keep yourself front and center. The apparent North Korea nuke test has given him yet another chance to showcase himself as an international player. The Guv was interviewed Monday on the nuclear issue by CNN and MSNBC and he did it from West Palm Beach Florida. Still traveling out-of-state with only a couple of weeks until Election Day? Well, he is head of the national Dem Guv's group and what is there to stop him? Certainly not the polls which tell him full speed ahead in any direction he would like to go.


Death claimed longtime NM congressional aide and always involved politico Lucy Salazar over the weekend. She served Manuel Lujan during most of his twenty years representing NM in the U.S. House and later when he became Secretary of Interior under the first President Bush. She was in her 70's and died of a massive heart attack

Lujan's biggest claim to fame was outstanding constituent service and it was Salazar who was key in that regard. She had contacts throughout the state and was a fixture on the political scene for decades. She started on Lujan's office staff in the early years of LuJan's tenure (He was first elected in 68'.) and finished her congressional career as his chief of staff. After her stint with him at Interior, she retired to ABQ, but remained active in GOP causes.

"Lucy represented the word loyalty, and there are not that many people in politics who really represent that word," eulogized Kurt Lohbeck of ABQ who served with Salazar in Washington as did your blogger.

Lucy was a master of efficiency, a noted political tactician and a role model for women who sought to advance beyond the secretarial pool in the then-male dominated world of top level congressional aides.

Kurt told me that Lucy was the widow of Robert Salazar who served as motor vehicle commissioner under GOP Governor Ed Mechem back in the 50's. I think of her life as a great drive through the many roads of our beloved La Politica.

Thanks for the company. Come back again soon.

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Monday, October 09, 2006

Dendahl Shows His Tame Side; Can It Bring The R's Home? And: Is CYFD Doing a CYA? Plus: NPR Reports On Patsy-Heather 

John Dendahl has not done himself many favors in campaign 06'. By blurting out ill-considered statements on school teachers and DWI, he has helped cement his image as a wild-eyed, impulsive politician. But anyone who has followed the former GOP state chair for any length of time, knows that he is more than capable of taking on complex issues, discussing them in a reasonable and informed manner and coming across confident and well-spoken on television. The problem is New Mexico voters have not been seeing that side of Dendahl whose political acumen was proved in the 90's when under his leadership the GOP added a bevy of House seats to the Legislature.

The fire and brimstone side of Dendhal's personality is finally set aside and the soothing side of the fiery politico well-captured in a series of short, punchy video clips now being broadcast on his Web site. Wearing a blue dress shirt and looking assured and comfortable, Dendahl opines on his key issues, including education, illegal immigration and, of course, "Richardson's hypocrisy."

It is an impressive performance and one that might send some chills down the spines of Big Bill's campaign staff, if the 68 year old Santa Fe native had the funds to broadcast his appeal on TV. Surely, Dendahl tamed, not unleashed, as he is in these Internet appeals, would complicate the Guv's drive to reach the 60% mark, which if he does, will be a debacle for the GOP.

Dendahl's undoing this campaign has been his inability to enthuse and unify the GOP base. That goes back to his decision as state chair to support Governor Johnson in legalizing drugs and his shunning of party moderates in favor of a breakaway faction of the state GOP that created havoc that was extensively covered when we launched this blog over three years ago and eventually made its way onto the state's front pages. Hard feelings have proved hard to heal.

It's difficult to argue that Dendahl has been unfairly caricaturized by his opponents and the press because he feeds that beast. But if Dendahl could somehow raise a quick $250,000 and air what he is putting up on his Web site, New Mexico would see the flip side of the GOP veteran that might, just might, get that GOP base to start coming home. If that happened, the final stretch of this campaign could prove to be far more interesting than anyone currently expects.


While the political world immerses itself in the seamy exploit of ex-U.S. Rep Mark Foley, there is a sex scandal unfolding right here that demands more attention--It's the rape of two teenaged boys (registration required) in a state facility supervised by the Children, Youth and Families Department. The incidents are described by the department as "bumps in the road" as CYFD transitions to a "better' system of treating and housing juvenile offenders.
(Maybe we should change their name to CYA.)

Boys getting raped in a state run facility is not "bumps in the road." They are a sign of systemic failure. Unlike Foleygate, these are actual physical attacks. I don't know the name of the latest CYFD secretary, but we all know the name of the Governor. And, while we're at it, what does Dendahl think?


The spirited battle between Patricia Madrid and Heather Wilson for the ABQ congressional seat has eyes around the nation watching the action. National Public Radio hit with a nice long piece on the contest and you can hear it here. You wonder if we are going to see one or two more momentum shifts in this hot race, or will it stay flat and tight until E Night? Patsy got the Mo in late September, tied the race up and has had the momentum since. Can Heather get it back?


Back on the Guv race for a minute. Retired congressional staffer Larry Morgan blogged in last week from Alamogordo with the news that Big Bill may be the first Dem Guv candidate in memory to carry conservative Otero county in. But we said Larry was himself a D. Not so, he was when I first met him in D.C. in 1979 when he was a top staffer to conservative D Congressman Harold Runnels. But in 1980 he says he switched to the R team when then-Guv Bruce King "played games" and tried to have his nephew replace Runnels when the congressman passed away. By the way, that nephew was David King, now a Public Regulation Commissioner and who has also become a Republican!

Thanks, Larry. We really need to keep up better.

You can keep up with campaign 06' just by checking in here. Send me your news tip and comments and let's keep the politics rolling.

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Friday, October 06, 2006

Pat Lyons Roars, But Jim Baca Avoids Deadly Bite, Plus: Politicos Pause For One Of Their Own 

With a second poll putting him in the lead, partisans for Dem land commissioner candidate Jim Baca are feeling more confident that the often controversial former ABQ mayor can bring this one home, despite a vigorous campaign being conducted by GOP incumbent Pat Lyons.

The latest ABQ Journal poll has Baca ahead by four points--43% to 39%--and time is growing shorter for Lyons to move the numbers. His best chance would appear to be in Bernalillo county where he trails Baca, himself a former land boss, by only two points. Much of Lyons' strength is in conservative SE NM where the pros believe turnout could suffer because of no big competitive GOP races. Baca is the heavy favorite in the Spanish North which has helped put him over the top in the past.

Lyons has been up with negative radio for several weeks, but not TV. He may have to go there in order to get voters' attention, but it could be risky as the electorate is already being bombarded with hyper-negative messages in the Madrid-Wilson congressional race.

History is blowing wind in Lyons' face. It is rare for any R to win a down ballot race in our state. His 2002 election over Dem Art Trujillo was possible because of Trujillo's DWI record and other political events that Lyons effectively highlighted. But Baca, while having a reputation for his prickly personality, is qualified for the job and does not have naerly the baggage Trujillo had.

Lyons, a former state senator form the east side, is the GOP's best hope to avoid a complete Dem ballot sweep. It appears he will raise close to a million dollars, compared to $300,000 for Baca. But with momentum with the Dems and their registration in the state overwhelming, Lyons needs to come roaring strong to turn this one around.


The Patricia Madrid congressional campaign will hold its fire for the time being on TV spots linking GOP congresswoman Wilson to the seamy House page affair. So says an insider, calling the topic "too hot." Which means the thing could backfire. But Madrid will continue to use the issue on the campaign trail. TV could also come toward the end if the campaign polls say it is needed and would work.


The partisanship of Campaign 06' took a breather Thursday as word came that Paige McKenzie, spokeswoman for GOP Guv candidate John Dendahl and a fixture at the Roundhouse during recent legislative sessions, was the victim of a horrific and outrageous attack Wednesday at a parking lot in Bernalillo. Governor Richardson issued this statement:

“I am shocked and disgusted by this brutal, senseless attack. Our thoughts are with Paige and her family and we pray for her full recovery. I have also offered the resources of the State Police to assist with the investigation, should they be needed.”

McKenzie's family arrived in ABQ Thursday and said: "We hope that those responsible for this despicable act will be brought to justice soon. We appreciate your prayers and support during this very difficult time."

All can agree with that statement and join in wishing Paige a full recovery and for the rapid capture of the perpetrator.

Paige McKenzie was the subject of a recent profile in the ABQ Trib which
you can read here.

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Thursday, October 05, 2006

Another 1st CD Stunner: Zogby/Reuters Has Madrid Up by 10; Big Spread Disbelieved, But Not The Momentum; Patsy's Got It; What's It All Mean? Read On 

AG Madrid
More shock waves rolled through the New Mexican political community Wednesday as the Zogby/Reuters poll hit the Worldwide Web showing a startling 10 point lead--50.4% to 40.3%--for Patricia Madrid over ABQ GOP Congresswoman Heather Wilson. Could that really be? Probably not was the nearly universal answer from the political pros, but nearly all agreed that the survey does confirm that momentum in this campaign is now indisputably with the challenger and that any complacency on the part of the incumbent needs to be ditched fast.

It was the psychological impact of the new poll that was most noticeable. Our email box was flooded as readers alerted us to the survey (thanks to all) with Dems going into a feeding frenzy and R's, already reeling from the House page scandal, astonished that any survey distributed by one of the world's leading news agencies could show such a spread.

The Zogby poll came on the heels of the ABQ Journal weekend survey showing the congressional race a dead heat at 44% each. But pollster Brian Sanderoff said the momentum was with Madrid. Wednesday he told me: "I feel Zogby is picking up momentum regardless of the Foley scandal."

Regardless of the Foley scandal? What happens when that is weaved into the next round of polling?


Zogby has an iffy track record here from 2004 when he utilized Internet surveys to track the presidential race and was all over the map. But this was not an Internet poll; it was a field poll with 500 phone calls into the district. However, Zogby used a random telephone sample that had respondents telling pollsters whether they were registered and likely voters. Sanderoff prescreens for definite voters. That identification process probably explains some of the wide gulf between Madrid and Wilson.

Still, the trend is your friend. The Zogby numbers back up the momentum for the Democratic attorney general picked up by Sanderoff and earlier by Democratic pollster Harry Pavlides. There is simply no denying now that the race is drifting from the toss-up column to "lean Democrat." It may not be there yet, but that is the present direction.

Zogby's poll was taken from September 25 thru October 2. The margin of error is plus or minus 4.5%. Even employing the full margin of error, Madrid is ahead 1.1%. And there were plenty of analysts Wednesday saying that's where they really see this exciting contest which could help determine the party that controls the U.S. House. Zogby also polled other key congressional races around the country and found that in 11 of 15 of them the Dem was ahead. He warned of a "Republican freefall," but added that the time is there for the R's to mount a recovery.


Rep. Wilson
The Alligators chipped in and put up the $199 for the critical "cross tabs" of this poll in our continuing effort to bring you comprehensive coverage of perhaps the most important state congressional race in history.

What we found was not good news for Wilson. On the vital question: "Do you think Heather Wilson deserves to be re-elected, or do you think it is time for someone new? Fifty-eight percent said it was time for someone new and only 38.5% said Wilson deserves re-election. Even if the margin of error on that question is the full 4.5%, Wilson remains well below the magic 50% mark.

We jumped immediately to how Heather was doing with the R's. If she was losing them, we thought, that might actually be good news since she would have a good chance at winning them back at the end. But it was not to be. Zogby had her getting 85% of the R's, about where Sanderoff had her. No, the bleeding is clearly with Democrats (82% for Madrid) and Independents, voters that are moving to the Democrat and will be harder to get back. Independents went overwhelmingly for Madrid 64% to Wilson's 23%.

The poll assumes 10% of the electorate will be Independents, but pollsters Sanderoff and Pavlides said it will be more like 15 or 20%. Pavlides' poll also had Madrid leading in this group, but by 10 points less. If there is a flaw in the Zogby poll, besides identifying who is a definite voter, we think it is too big a lead for Madrid among the independents. That number is key in taking her to the 50% mark in the horse race. Still, with momentum continuing for her after the Journal survey, she certainly is moving toward the 50% mark.

While the poll may have been low in weighting the Independents, it was a bit high with Republicans, weighting them at 40% of the survey when other experts say they will comprise about 38% of the electorate.

Zogby will poll one more time in this race, releasing it November 2nd. The Journal is expected to come with another poll October 22. You can go through the age and gender groups to learn more on Zogby's poll and you can refer to my Sunday blog for the PDF of the Journal poll. But the main point remains: For Madrid the trend is her friend.


The utter disarray in the scandal-plagued Republican-led U.S. House means Wilson will get no momentum this week. She will go into the early voting either tied or behind, depending on how you read the polls. The fact is there is not that much longer to go. November 7 is a somewhat perfunctory deadline. Thousands of actual votes will start to be cast following October 10, the date absentee ballots will be mailed out.

I checked on this all-important aspect of Campaign 06' for you with Bernalillo County Elections Administrator Jamie Diaz. He told me that so far he has a list of 13,000 voters who will be mailed absentee ballots on the 10th. Those votes will start coming in a few days later.

Diaz said the lion's share of the mailed out absentees will start coming in after the 16th, with the big rush coming around October 20-23.

"Voters don't mail them back right away. I think they have learned to wait a bit for any further campaign developments because often things have happened that would make a voter change their mind, but they have already voted." He explained.

Early, in-person voting at various sites around the ABQ area begins October 21. That is just over two weeks. Well over 50% of the vote will be cast early, not on November 7th. What this means for Wilson is obvious. She must stop Madrid's "Little Mo" now, and then start building her own head of steam. If Madrid can hold a good chunk of conservative Dems in the early voting--Heather's past key to victory--Wilson would likely lose.


Still, there is a sense of complacency about the Wilson campaign, even denial. One of the GOP Web sites describes the Sanderoff poll citing Madrid's momentum as a big "yawn." Heather supporters also reject criticism for not having her "Another Home for Heather" signs dotting the landscape as they have in past successful campaigns. They say signs don't vote and the focus is on TV. But signs, as anyone who has been playing this game for more than six months knows, are the telltale signs of organization, passion and personal ownership of a candidacy. They help galvanize the all-important GOP base.

The campaign also seems intellectually exhausted, having spent millions attacking Madrid on ethics and still failing to put the race away. Yet, they keep coming with the same TV theme and it is looking tired. If Wilson has a bombshell ready to drop on Madrid, then look out below. The momentum in this thing could go back to her in a snap. But if she is looking for it with what she has up on the air now, opinion I consulted said it ain't gonna happen.


Several political pros urged change. Perhaps they're overreacting, but they have done many, many campaigns, seen the shift of power over the generations and see significant trouble for the incumbent. They do not live in denial. They have had real power and real responsibility in the real world. They have brought home winners, hung with losers and always play for keeps. One of them summed up this way:

"Yes, if the bombshell is there, drop it. If not, then she needs to mix this thing up. Sure, the attacks will continue and they need to, but in a different form. Heather is a classy, intelligent, well-studied congressperson; an image that is nowhere to be seen in the wall-to-wall negativity of this campaign.

"The multimillion dollar mud is piling up on her. She has done a lot for the district. She needs to tell that story, not just build a bigger mud pile, but get her base enthused and get waffling Dems to seriously question abandoning her." Said our campaign vet.

Recognizing your weaknesses and correcting them. Wanting it more than the other guy (or gal). Those are the traits of success and they will help decide this congressional race as they have in countless contests of the past.

When it comes to Campaign 06' we're kickin' you know what and takin' names. This is indeed the home of Campaign 06' bringing it to you fair, balanced, nonpartisan and with readers across the USA aboard for the ride. Help us cover it by sending your email from the link at the top of the page. Thanks for your support!

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Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Good News For Beleaguered R's? They Could Pick Up Some Roundhouse Strength, Plus: Dateline Otero County; Guv Goes For Kill In Little Texas 

The Roundhouse
Even though all 70 State House seats are up for election this year it's pretty easy to follow the action because the political pros tell me only a handful are in play. And there could be a glimmer of good news for the R's whose top of the ticket team is being overwhelmed by the Dems. These insiders say the GOP could actually pick up a House seat or two, despite the expected landslide for the D's in the U.S. Senate and Guv's race. Here's the Legislative tip sheet.

The most likely R pick up is in Eddy and Otero counties where Dem Joe Stell is retiring. The candidates are Dem Christy Bourgeois of Carlsbad and R William Gray of Artesia.

"This district is really Republican. Joe held it because of his personal popularity, but with him leaving this is a very likely R pick up," explained one of several legislative experts we consulted.

In Las Cruces, there is concern among Dems about State Rep. Andy Nunez, but they expect him to hang on. Also in Cruces is the battle to replace R Ed Boykin. Dem Jeff Steinborn is trying to put the seat in the D column against R Scott Witt. Lt. Guv Denish recently held an ABQ fundraiser for Steinborn, but the seat is seen as lean R, but one to keep your eye on.

The most action is in Valencia county where two incumbent Dem legislators--Kandy Cordova and Fred Luna--are retiring. Both are possible R plays.

R Jackie Farnsworth is running for the third time for the Luna seat, but with no incumbent to battle, insiders are saying this is a true toss-up. The Dem is Elias Barela of Belen.

In the Cordova seat, it is Andrew Barreras of Tome battling Republican David Young. This is a swing district that the R's will have to fight hard to pick up. Dem House Speaker Ben Lujan can be expected to go to work, and so can GOP state reps who will be seeking leadership spots in the next session and will try to pick up allies for that future power struggle.

Another key race is in ABQ where R Teresa Zanetti is being challenged by Traci Jo Cadigan, wife of ABQ City Councilor Michael Cadigan. This is a lean R district, but the race watchers say Cadigan is working it hard in the mainly ABQ North Valley/NE Heights area which Zanetti has won twice.


Overall, the legislative wall-leaners are conservative in their projections with the consensus leaning towards a pickup of perhaps one seat for the R's. But if the top of the ticket punishment they expect for the GOP isn't as bad as expected and R's come out in better numbers than currently expected, they could do a bit better.

A hole card for the D's is Big Bill and his big war chest. He has never shied away from involving himself in these contests and one suspects if he sees things slipping too much, the Dem candidates will get a little extra help.

If the GOP picks up a couple of seats, the Dems would still retain power with a comfortable majority. (They currently lead 42-28.) However, one insider pointed out that the number of R's on the legislative committees would increase and that could make things interesting. That might give them a bit more bargaining power, especially with conservative D's who often share their views."


While the R's may have hope for some good legislative news, the depth of their overall problems could not be illustrated better when looking at how their R Guv candidate, John Dendahl, is running against Big Bill in the heart of Republican country--the East and southeast side of the state., The latest ABQ Journal poll has the Guv garnering 47% of the vote in that region to Dendahl's 36%. This in the most conservative section of the state. I asked retired Dem congressional staffer Larry Morgan in Alamogordo if it was possible that Richardson could actually carry Otero county.

Gary King for Attorney General"Dendahl has appeared here several times, but has not drawn large audiences. I wouldn't be surprised if he did not carry Otero which is a Republican stronghold.

"The Governor recognizes he didn't have much popular support here previously. However, he has reached out over the past two years. He has made several trips to Alamogordo during the past year and is personally given credit for two major projects which have resulted in increased employment opportunities.

The Governor is, however, getting negative comments about all his out of state travel, as well as his refusal to have a TV debate with Dendahl."

Thanks Larry. Big Bill lost Otero in 2002 to John Sanchez 54% to 42% with the Green candidate getting 3%. If he is going to go over 60% statewide, he will have to improve as Larry indicates he will. It will be one of the stories we will be watching closely when we anchor Election Night Coverage Nov. 7 on KANW 89.1 FM in ABQ/Santa Fe.


It didn't take long for the national Dems to put up a TV ad on the Foley scandal. I saw one on MSNBC last night for a D House challenger. Could one be coming soon in the Heather-Patsy congressional race? Expect sooner, not later.

Meanwhile, the Madrid campaign kept their heel on Heather's neck Tuesday, despite protests that they were going "over the top" to say that Wilson, who sat on the House committee overseeing the pages from 2001 to 2005, should be held responsible for Foley running amok with teenaged pages. But the Dems are going to cash in on all they can. They are chewing up news cycle after news cycle and reminding everyone that Heather belongs to the party in power. The next couple of days will be important. The R's need to stop the bleeding, and now.


For the record, Dem pollster Harry Pavlides' late September poll has Patricia Madrid running one point ahead of Heather Wilson in the hotly contested ABQ congressional race, not one point behind as was posted here for a time this week. It's Madrid 46.6% to Wilson's 45.6%. The ABQ Journal has it a dead heat at 44 to 44, with both pollsters saying the race has been trending Madrid...We expect another Journal poll around Oct. 22...I believe that at this moment Madrid is very narrowly ahead, but don't get vexed Heather fans, today is not Election Day...

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Tuesday, October 03, 2006

October Surprise Sex Scandal Hits Heather; She Sat On Panel Overseeing Pages; Dems Strike; Details & Exclusive Analysis On The Home Of Campaign 06' 

NM Democrats became jubilant Monday as the October sex surprise got wrapped around ABQ Congresswoman Heather Wilson, just a day after the latest poll in her re-election bid showed her in a dead heat (44-44) with Dem challenger Patricia Madrid. It turns out that Wilson served from 2001-2005 in what is now one of the hottest seats in D.C.--the House committee that oversees the teenagers who work as House pages. Florida GOP Congressman Mark Foley resigned in disgrace when it was revealed he sent sexually charged emails {PDF} to a 16 year old male page, setting off a political firestorm that has the Dems hammering and the House GOP leadership running for cover.

Here in River City, the Madrid campaign wasted no time pinning the page problem on Heather's lapel.

" early as 2001, when Wilson was named to the House Page Board, pages were being warned about Foley's inappropriate behavior.

"We have another case of Wilson refusing to stand up and ask the tough questions. In 2001...pages were already being warned about the inappropriate conduct of Rep. Foley. But Wilson did nothing to protect teenage boys from this sexual predator... Why did Heather Wilson choose to do nothing to protect teenage boys from Mark Foley?"

Wilson, facing the roughest stretch of her political career, was quizzed on her knowledge of the page scandal by the AP:

"Foley's sexually explicit instant messages were sent in 2003. He also exchanged e-mails with another page in 2005.

"Although Wilson helped oversee the page program during part of that time, she told the AP that if anyone had a concern about Foley, it was never relayed to her.

"It's not clear to me what all the facts are," she said. "Certainly, based on what I saw last Friday, you (should) report it. The question is whether somebody knew, and when did someone know about those e-mails.

"If anyone...knew an adult was soliciting sex from a child and didn't report it, that person could have broken the law. "The obligation first and foremost is to protect children," she said. "I don't care if someone is a parish priest...or a member of Congress..." said the AP dispatch.


Reaction was immediate and widespread in the state's political community with the unanimous opinion that this can only hurt Heather, although to what degree is a matter of argument.

"This goes right to her base vote. Conservative Republicans will react strongest to this. They uphold the banner of moral values, and this strikes at their core. It is another reason they have to not vote this year," analyzed one Alligator monitoring developments.

And another: "Is this the straw that breaks Heather's back? I don't know, but it could be. It sure makes her TV commercials condemning Madrid for turning her head on the investigation of (ex-Treasurer) Vigil look dead. If Madrid turned her head on Vigil, it looks as if they can charge Wilson turned her head when this congressman was on the loose. I would look for Madrid or the national Democrats to come with ads linking the Foley scandal to Heather."

And another: "How long does this last? If it becomes a daily drumbeat it is going to keep the momentum with Madrid. If not, Heather should be able to move ahead, but this does work in Madrid's favor by offsetting the ethics attacks that Heather has made against Madrid."

It's been one thing after another for Heather; a bad poll, the guilty verdict on Vigil which diminishes him as a campaign issue against Madrid; her donation to charity of $8,000 that Rep. Foley's campaign contributed to her and now the revelation that she sat on the Page Board.


Right on schedule the long knives are coming out and slashing at the campaign Wilson is running, but the knives are being wielded not by Democrats, but by Republicans who are showing increasing frustration over the possibility that they could lose the seat. Here is a report from a GOP Alligator on the scene

"The many shortcomings of the Wilson campaign. Where do I start?!?

"No yard signs until September 25; the latest ad stating Heather voted to overturn Bush's stem-cell bill has outraged Right to Life; No positive commercials from Heather, with none in sight; Victory 2006 (the GOP get-out-the-vote effort) has been a waste of $40,000 a month; Next to no volunteer activity; Too many out-of-staters on Heather's campaign staff; Moving away from Bush is hurting Heather among the grassroots volunteers." Reports our upset campaign insider.

We've reported to you previously that it was hard getting direct info from the Heather campaign team, but the Alligators don't have that problem.

But what about the flaws in Madrid's campaign? Well, when you're ahead there are no flaws, but if Patsy slips you can be sure those long knives will get rust-free in a hurry. Meantime, maybe Madrid disappears for one of her favorite vacation spots, one where folks believe silence is golden.


How do you tie state corruption into the threat of sexual predators? If you are GOP attorney general contender Jim Bibb you call them "corrupt sexual predators." OK. I don't know if I quite get that, but Bibb's latest campaign commercial is well-produced. The problem is so is Democrat Gary King's whose aides say is determined to heavily outspend political newcomer Bibb and close out this one...U.S. Senator Jeff Bingaman continues to expand his lead over GOP challenger Allen McCulloch. The ABQ Journal poll released today shows Jeff getting 65% of the vote to Doctor Allen's 19%. If the numbers hold, Bingaman will easily lead the Democratic ticket this year...


Barbara Longeway is one of our most persistent critics, but I respect her passion, even if disagreeing with her conclusions. Here's her latest email, addressing our Monday blog where we wrote on how J.R. Damron was replaced as the GOP Guv candidate by John Dendahl.

"Check the facts, I spoke with J.R. and asked if he was "dumped from the ticket." After he stopped laughing, he replied "absolutely not." The truth is that J.R.. wanted to be removed from the ticket, and he personally picked John Dendahl as his successor. There was no "plot" as you call it."

"You may argue that you're just repeating what your "Alligators" tell you. Well, maybe you need to find better informed "Alligators." If you insist on writing about La Politica and really want to have "nonpartisan" credibility, use facts." Stings Barbara.

Thanks, Barbara. I am confident of my sourcing and firmly believe that Damron was pushed out by top operatives--in NM and Washington--who wanted to make life difficult for Big Bill by damaging his standing here and nationally. Clearly, it has not turned out that way. Public quotes from R leaders support our story. Just Google them and see where the road leads. As for "better informed" Alligators," no way. They have nailed just about every major NM political story here for three years. We're stickin' with those who brought us to the party.

Your email of news, comments, criticisms and corrections are welcome. Send them from the link at the top of the page.

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Monday, October 02, 2006

Big Bill: He Keeps Getting Bigger; Hits 60% In Poll, And: Heather's Lost Weekend; From Bad To Worse, Plus: A Red Meat Brunch With The Alligators 

The Guv
Big Bill. He just keeps getting bigger, and if you're a forlorn R, maybe badder, too. The Guv has now hit the magic 60% re-elect number in the ABQ Journal poll as his GOP foe John Dendahl remains stuck in the mud at a meager 28%. (MOE +-3.7%) This isn't a race; it's a rout. And there's not much sympathy being expressed for the underdog who pledged a more aggressive campaign than that of J.R. Damron who was dumped from the ticket following the June primary for the alleged sin of not doing enough Bill bashing. But Dendahl is doing worse than anyone imagined J.R. doing, not growing even one point since the Journal's first survey in late August. The base Republican vote is in the mid-30 range and Dendahl, with just a month to go, has yet to even nail that down.

It's no surprise. His campaign has had no media presence, and the free media he earned was all wrong, with statements that offended Hispanics and school teachers. The recovery from foot-in-mouth disease has been slow and painful to watch. Combine that with the division over John in his own party and you have a recipe for Richardson to hit 60%, even in a state filled with as many conservative voters as ours.

The plot, or whatever you want to call it, to dump Damron and replace him with ex- party chairman Dendahl is looking like one of the great mistakes in the history of our storied La Politica, something that we will be talking about for years, certainly more than we will ever talk about the non-existent Guv campaign of 2006.

The silver lining in this cloud is that sometime you have to burn the village to save it. If the R's are swept away we may finally get some leadership that can purge and then unify the old elephant and restore a competitive two party system to the state.


Where should we start when it comes to describing Heather's hellish weekend? The Journal poll showing the ABQ GOP congresswoman in a dead heat with Dem foe Patricia Madrid? The guilty verdict against ex-Treasurer Robert Vigil, who has become Heather's poster boy for her allegations that Madrid has not been tough enough on ethics? How about the fact that she has to return $8,000 in campaign contributions from the Florida congressman who was hitting on a 16 year old male page and resigned Friday. Or maybe we should begin with the strange ABQ visit of Karl Rove, the Presidents chief political adviser who was here Saturday and acted like an undercover agent, not seen or quoted by any media, but meeting in unannounced locations. He did evade the protesters, but not the politicos, who see Karl's "cut and run" as a better indicator than any poll on how the R's are doing this cycle.

Maybe we can kick the weekend review off with the ABQ comments of the Rev. Al Sharpton who Heather dubbed a "rabble rouser and anti-Semite" in her September debate with Madrid and wondered if Madrid would reject an endorsement of her candidacy by Sharpton, even though none had been offered. Sharpton, sharp-tongued as ever, had a response for Wilson when he touched down in River City Saturday for a meeting with African American activists:

"Why denounce Democrats when you can ask your own Republican leaders--Bush and Karl Rove--why they stood next to me at the Voters Rights Act signing at the White House this summer. I was invited to the White House and acknowledged by them, now I await sister Wilson to denounce them, too." He declared.

"Sister Wilson?" As the kids say, payback is a bitch. And how was your weekend?


There's been so much going on that we had to convene a special in-person session with the Alligators. Appropriately enough, we met where there is plenty of red meat--at Jerry Wright's Great American Cattle Company where, again appropriately, we ordered rare USDA T-bones to put us in the mood to discuss that Wilson-Madrid poll. Jerry wasn't around to comp us, so Steve Cabiedes and I nominated Republican and heavy-hitting lobbyist Bruce Donisthorpe for the honor. Pollster Harry Pavlides preferred to stay at his place, chain-smoking Marlboro's and comparing his poll to that of the Journal's Sanderoff. He joined us by conference call, pointing out that he had Madrid at 46.6% and Wilson at 45.6%, prior to the Journal dead heat survey.


Cabiedes, a former Green Party activist, now an independent (He'll work for the party that pays best.) has aggressively predicted where we are today and now he's getting more aggressive, saying "the race may be Madrid's to lose."

"Among the few undecided voters, there are many Hispanics and Dems. They have begun to break Madrid's way. As things stand today, the odds actually favor a Madrid victory. I think something big has to happen to shake it up for Heather. If it doesn't, as I said last month, she will need an all-out field campaign to get her vote out."

Republican Donisthorpe was nowhere near ready to throw in the towel, although he had a nice pristine one next to his hanging-over-the-platter T-Bone. Instead, he acknowledged that "we are in uncharted territory. We've never been here before. There is plenty of time for both sides to make a mistake, but the most likely determining factor is who is able to turn their vote out."

He also pointed out that millions of dollars will now be poured into each campaign. Will the R's have their traditional financial edge? He wondered. If so, that could also be a factor in the final critical days.


Cabiedes says Heather needs to find a new issue mix. "What is out there for her? Iraq and Bush do not work. What we got was a stem cell ad to show she is independent of the President. It was weak. And how about some positive ads, for Heather? I think the negative campaign may have gone too far and could be hurting her. She may have some more stuff on Patsy and will go negative with it, but it's not guaranteed to stick. She is going to have to be very careful now about a vote backlash."

Bruce feels the ethics attacks on Madrid are played out and he also says a new field needs to be plowed. "I wouldn't be surprised to see Heather go after some of Patsy's previous controversial statements. The Vigil guilty verdict may force her to reassess the ads on that subject," said Bruce as he sliced a healthy wedge of prime beef.

Dem Pollster Pavlides says Madrid is in good shape going into the final weeks, but will need to rally the base in the final days. "This election is about Democrats coming home to vote against Bush and Wilson. I think a visit by President Clinton would excite those voters. As for Heather: "She needs to stay on the attack, but I agree with Steve that she needs to be careful. You don't know when something is going to backfire."

Now that's what I call a meaty Sunday brunch.


When Big Bill last week said "my get out the vote operation" will put Madrid over the top, not all of the attorney general's supporters were jumping with joy. They said the statement ignored the intensive campaign they are mounting. One of them also took a mild jab at the Big Guy: "Patricia knows the Governor will be helping her a lot, but she is still supporting John Edwards for the presidential nomination...Ex-Treasurer Robert Vigil was found not guilty on 23 of 24 corruption charges at his retrial Saturday. His first trial ended in a hung jury. What happened? State House Majority Leader Ken Martinez thinks the feds overplayed their hand. He would appear to have a point. AG Madrid has charged key figures in the case with state charges. Will she have better luck, or is this a case not ready for primetime?

Speaking of primetime, GOP secretary of state candidate Vickie Perea has booked a $90,000 TV buy with all that money national R's have been raising for her...She also has a good sign presence up in the South Valley of ABQ...The ABQ Tribune's Kate Nash also reports Vickie's Dem rival, Mary Herrera, has not yet booked any airtime...R AG candidate Jim Bibb is up with an $185,000 buy. His Dem foe Gary King is over the $225,000 mark...

Thanks for tuning in today. Send your email via the link at the top of the page.

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Sunday, October 01, 2006

Oh My! As Close As It Can Get; Journal Poll Shows Dead Heat in Heather-Patsy Race; Fasten Your Seat Belts For Final Act Of High Drama 

The smell of blood turned into an actual sighting of the red stuff in the wee hours of Sunday as computer screens coast-to-coast flashed the news that apparently for the first time ever ABQ GOP Congresswoman Heather Wilson failed to hold the lead in an Albuquerque Journal poll. The four term congresswoman, according to the survey, is in a dead heat with Dem rival Patricia Madrid with each garnering 44% of the vote, 7% undecided and 5% saying they would not vote for either.

"This is the real deal," longtime Journal pollster Brian Sanderoff told me. "There is real movement toward Madrid in key groups--Hispanics and Democrats."

The margin of error for the poll is 5%, but Sanderoff said because of the movement in the particular groups, the race is a dead heat. His survey showing the Dem drift toward the NM attorney general confirms movement in the same groups shown by Democratic pollster Harry Pavlides who Thursday released a survey to this blog showing Madrid ahead of Wilson by one point.

The polling stunner makes the battle for the ABQ congressional seat one of the tightest in the nation, if not the tightest, and makes more realistic the possibility that the seat could go to the Dems for the first time in history. The complete Journal poll story is here. {PDF}

"It is Iraq and the President's unpopularity. Those are the key issues. The race has become a referendum on Wilson and her ties to those issues." said Sanderoff of his survey which was taken Sept. 25-28.


Rep. Schiff
Wilson took the seat in a special election in June 1998 when she replaced GOP Congressman Steve Schiff who died of skin cancer. She won her first full two-year term in November of that year, defeating Dem Phil Maloof. Sanderoff said he could not recall Wilson ever being tied or behind in any poll he conducted in those contests, or the others Wilson has faced since. Neither can I.

Wilson's foe two years ago came within one point in a poll, but that race had a completely different set of circumstances and the race was not seen by analysts as truly in play. This time it's different.

Especially worrisome for the Republicans is the millions of dollars they have already poured into TV ads faulting Madrid for allegedly failing to pursue ethics problems among state officials. The ads may have helped keep Madrid from surging into the lead, but they have not stopped the slow drift toward her. In the first Journal survey, taken in late August, Heather had 45% of the vote and Patsy came in with 42%.

The stark reality of Iraq war casualties and the growing feeling in the district that the nation is bogged down in a Vietnam type, no-way-out conflict is preventing Wilson from defining the race.

"This race is clearly about the war and what is going on in the nation, not here," analyzed Sanderoff.


The R's can be expected to come with a full-borne attack operation to stop a death blow in the form of the majority Democrats coming home even more to their party's candidate.

In that regard, Sanderoff said the news is somber for Wilson as she failed to get anywhere near the 25% of D's she must have in order to win. She is now getting only 11% of them and Madrid is getting 74%, up eight points since the late August survey. Hispanics, a heavy Dem group, are also coming home, with Madrid garnering 58% of them--up four points--to Wilson's 29%, a drop for her of six points.

There is much time for much to happen. In the past the undecided has broken towards Wilson, but at this point they are not. If that trend continues only minimally, the seat will turn.

With a poll showing Madrid in a position to win, Wilson will not only have to worry about Iraq and Bush, she will also have to worry about the prospect of a Democratic Party becoming even more energized over a possible upset which could boost Dem turnout. In a district with 39,000 more D's than R's, that would be the nail in the coffin.

We'll have more on all this Monday, so be sure to stop by.

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