Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Roundhouse Roundup: Taking Sides in a Primary?

A version of this was published in The Santa Fe New Mexican
April 8, 2010

The Santa Fe Democrat challenging state House Speaker Ben Luján for his seat says the state Democratic Party seems to be choosing sides in the June primary.

Carl Trujillo said Wednesday that he wanted to purchase a database called Vote Builder. It contains not only names, addresses and other information on voter registration forms, but also voter histories and tools needed to build canvassing zones for campaigns.

At first, Trujillo said, party leaders said he could get access to the database for $500. But when a campaign staffer drove to Albuquerque with a check, he was told the party had an “anti-incumbent policy” that forbids giving the database to those challenging Democratic incumbents.

Party spokesman James Hallinan on Wednesday confirmed that the party did not provide Trujillo with the software needed to access Vote Builder. He said Trujillo, “just like any candidate, Democrat or Republican,” can get voter lists from the Secretary of State’s Office.

Trujillo, however, said the lists at the Secretary of State’s Office don’t have all the information that comes with Vote Builder, such as voter history.

I asked Hallinan whether any other Democratic candidate had been denied Vote Builder. He said he wasn’t aware of any others. Asked whether the party would sell the Luján campaign the database, he said, “That’s a hypothetical. I’m not going to answer that.”

The rules of the state Democratic Party, as posted on its Web site, say the party chairman must “refrain from using his/her office to advance the cause of any individual candidate, including himself/herself, for office in the Democratic Primary Election.”

Hallinan denied that withholding the database from Trujillo was tantamount to advancing Luján’s cause.

“The software belongs to the (Democratic National Committee) and the state party has the right to decide who we give it to,” he said.

Bill vs. Brown: Since early last year when he had to back out of that Cabinet appointment because of an embarrassing grand jury investigation, Gov. Bill Richardson has generally been laying low as far as national politics go.

So it was surprising when he showed up a couple of weeks ago as the author of a fundraising letter from the Democratic Governors Association (a group he used to head.)

“Imagine a Scott Brown running 37 states,” the governor’s letter said, referring to the Republican senator from Massachusetts who won a surprise special-election victory in that deep blue state earlier this year. “With a historic 37 governorships up for election in 2010, the GOP has crafted a scheme to win statehouses and put a Scott Brown in each of these states to gerrymander their party back into power.”

Richardson continued in the letter: “As Chair of the DGA in 2005 and 2006, I witnessed the extremes the Republican Party will go to — violating the truth and using down-and-dirty campaign tactics to win gubernatorial elections. But now the stakes are even higher.”

“You see, governors have the power to influence the redrawing of congressional and state legislative districts. And the Republican Party has a blueprint to manipulate this process to their electoral advantage, courtesy of Tom DeLay and Karl Rove,” the letter says. “We can’t let them get away with it.”

Mike Madden in a article this week poked some fun at the governor’s letter. “Tom DeLay! Karl Rove! The boogeymen of the last 10 years were back, front and center and still up to no good.”

Madden, who pointed out that both parties are using the Census and the fear that the other party will rule redistricting, said, “Redistricting fights in 2011 provide for good fundraising pitches in 2010. And the committees are, to some extent, just using the Census as yet another talking point to suck in cash. If you listened to Richardson and gave the DGA $25, for instance, there would be no guarantee it would wind up being spent in a state where the Census results are likely to change the makeup of the House for the next decade; the DGA doesn’t earmark its funds for any particular race.”

Two Americas: Madden quoted Richardson asking for contributions of $25 or more. However, in the e-mail I received on March 23, Richardson said, “Please contribute $10 or more to the DGA today.” I guess I’m on the mailing list for cheapskates.

The Boogeyman cometh: As devoted readers of this blog know, one of the chief villains of Richardson’s letter is coming to New Mexico. No, not Scott Brown, but Karl Rove, who will be in Albuquerque on May 1 for a state Republican Party fundraiser at the Albuquerque Hilton Hotel. It’ll cost you $100 to go a reception and get a copy of Rove’s book Courage and Consequence. For $250, you get into a VIP reception and get an autographed copy of Rove’s book.

UPDATE: 12:10 a.m. Thursday -- About an hour ago, state Democratic spokesman James Hallinan e-mailed me a section of the swap agreement between the state and national party for the Vote Builder voter file, which appears to verify the party's right to withhold the data base from those challenging incumbents. It reads:

"State Party shall provide all information in the State Party Voter file to all bona fide Democratic candidates for federal, state, and local office in the state for both primary and general elections except that State Party shall not obligated to provide such information to candidates in a Democratic primary in which there is a Democratic incumbent running for office."