Sunday, October 28, 2012

Roundhouse Roundup: Attacking Your Allies

A version of this was published in The Santa Fe New Mexican 
Oct. 28, 2012

Maybe I’ve become jaded because I’ve been doing this political beat for so long, but hardly anything in politics truly surprises me anymore. But last week’s news that a political action committee associated with Gov. Susana Martinez was going after Rep. Andy Nuñez, the independent from Hatch, was not only surprising but eye-popping, even for a cynical old news dog like me.

Stolen from Monahan blog. Click to enlarge.
OK, Martinez is a Republican and there is a Republican candidate in District 36, Mike Tellez. So it’s not that shocking that she would back her own guy, even back him over a fairly conservative declined-to-state. But Nuñez isn’t just any fairly conservative declined-to-state. He’s probably is best known in other parts of the state as the sponsor of one of Martinez’s pet bills — the one that would repeal the law that allows the state to issue driver’s licenses to illegal immigrants.

Yes, the same PAC that’s going after legislators for opposing the driver’s license bill is going after the bill’s sponsor. What seems really strange was that Reform New Mexico Now, headed by Martinez’s political director, Jay McCleskey, not only came after Nuñez, they’re coming after him hard.

Blogger Joe Monahan was the first to post a full-color mailer sent to voters in District 36 that screams “Andy Nuñez opposes the death penalty, even for child murderers.” “Some crimes are so horrific that the ultimate penalty is the only deserving punishment,” the mailer says. “Child murderers, cop-killers and terrorists should face the ultimate penalty to protect society from them ever getting out and killing again.

“But politician Andy Nuñez put ideology in front of our safety by voting to abolish the death penalty, even for child murderers … ,” the mailer says. “Andy Nuñez puts the welfare of convicted murders above keeping our families safe and supports Bill Richardson’s ban on the death penalty.”

Uh oh. Nuñez likes Bill Richardson as well as child murderers!

I wonder if Martinez realized that former Rep. Brian Moore, R-Clayton, put the welfare of convicted murders above keeping our families safe when she hired him as deputy chief of staff at the outset of her administration. (Moore no longer works for the administration.)

It’s true that Nuñez supported the death penalty repeal. And it’s true that this kind of slightly hysterical attack is common in contemporary campaigns. But again, this is against the guy who carried one of the major flagship bills of the Martinez administration two sessions in a row.

Asked for comment Thursday, McCleskey would only say, “Reform New Mexico Now is supporting Mike Tellez in [House District] 36 and has been for a month.”

Rep. Andy Nunez Changes Registration From Dem to Indie
Nunez changing his registration in Jan. 2011
Reached at his home in Hatch, Nuñez was busy keeping his family safe. “I’m babysitting my great-grandkids,” the 76-year-old rancher chuckled. “I was very surprised,” he said of the mailer. “But I think it’s going to backfire.” Nuñez said he’s had several constituents as well as leaders express anger about the attack.

Nuñez theorized that Martinez’s folks had “done a poll” that showed him beating Tellez, causing them to come down so hard on him.

Something tells me, though, that Martinez’s operatives weren’t worried so much about Nuñez winning — after all, he’s been an ally on several issues — as they are concerned about the possibility of the Democratic candidate, Felipe Archuleta, winning.

I asked Nuñez whether he and Martinez have had a falling out. “No,” he said. “I just saw her at the Border Governors conference in Albuquerque a couple of weeks ago and everything seemed all right.” Nunez serves as chairman of a related border legislators group.

While there’s been no obvious beef between Martinez and Nuñez, there have been hints that not everything was sunshine and lollipops between them. In January, Nuñez was quoted in an El Paso Times blog, saying Martinez is “hard to work with. She gets madder than hell when I don’t do what she wants.”

I guess that will mean Martinez will be madder than hell if Nuñez doesn’t lose.