Thursday, September 27, 2012

Crystal Ball: NM Senate Seat Now Likely Heinrich

According to the Crystal Ball, New Mexico's U.S. Senate race is no longer "leaning" to Democrat Martin Heinrich ... it's likely to be won by Heinrich.

No, I haven't turned to the occult to make political predictions. I'm talking about Sabato's Crystal Ball , the website of the University of Virginia's Center for Politics honcho Larry Sabato. Yesterday, Sabato's site changed its rating for the New Mexico race and several others.

After mentioning improved outlooks for Democratic Senate candidates in Florida and Ohio, Sabato and his co-authors wrote:

The same thing goes for New Mexico, where Republicans have apparently already abandoned their candidate, ex-Rep. Heather Wilson. We’re upgrading Rep. Martin Heinrich’s (D) chances to likely Democratic, which matches our rating of the state in the presidential race.

The reference to the national Republicans "abandoning" Wilson is a reference to the fact the the National Republican Senatorial Committee pulled a planned $3 million ad buy for Wilson, who has consistently trailed Heinrich in polls. Wilson insists that her own polls show she has begun a comeback. We'll know for sure in about 40 days.

The Washington Post's political blog The Fix still shows New Mexico "leaning" toward Heinrich, as does Real Clear Politics.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Gary Johnson, Zombie Fighter

Libertarian presidential candidate Gary Johnson just released this, well, unusual video for his campaign.

In it, the former New Mexico governor positions himself as the only candidate who will fight political zombies. Or at least yell at them.

Johnson appears in this video, made in Concord, N.H. But a Youtube disclaimer says it was "Not paid for by any candidate or committee."

Say what you want about this ad, but it's a nice relief from the harsh slasher videos most candidates are running these days.


Monday, September 24, 2012

President Blasts KSFR News Director

The President was John F. Kennedy. There wasn't any KSFR in 1963, but the station's news director, Bill Dupuy, was an Air Force flack.

JFK called him a "silly bastard."

The story surfaced today in The New York Times from one of Kennedy's Oval Office recordings just released by the Kennedy Library.

Dupuy explains it himself at the KSFR site:

The President was yelling at an air force general about preparations being made at my base just in case a pregnant Jackie Kennedy went into labor on one of their frequent weekend visits to their Cape Cod summer home. The place was a base on Cape Cod where yours truly was serving as an Air Force second lieutenant in charge of media relations. Air Force One regularly landed at my base during the summer so the Kennedys could spend a weekend at Hyannis Port. My job was to handle local media and the White House press corps on these visits.

The air force had secretly cleaned up a wing in a World War II era hospital for Jackie Kennedy just in case. Word got out. The press showed up and air force headquarters in Washington told me to escort photographers and reporters to the hospital wing. I did. I showed them the spartan room, the bed and the rocking chair placed by the bed for JFK's personal use. The reporters insisted I get into the picture to provide a human touch. I did. It was that photo that JFK saw the next day in the
Washington Post.

The president was angry because he was afraid taxpayers would think the $5,000 spent on the hospital room was a waste of money.

The KSFR site has the actual recording of JFK railing about the "silly bastard" who was endangering the Air Force budget.

I'm jealous. I've been called a lot of names by a lot of politicians, but never a president. Congratulations, Bill.

Roundhouse Roundup: Working Together in Harmony

A version of this was published in The Santa Fe New Mexican 
Sept. 24, 2012

The year 2012 isn’t quite cooked yet, but — shock shock — Gov. Susana Martinez already is running for re-election. Recently, her political action committee sent out a full-color mailer to voters, including one to at least one registered declined-to-state I know.

On the address side of the card, in huge letters, it says, “Something Republicans and Democrats Can AGREE ON.”

On the flip side it says, “Gov. Susana Martinez is working to stop corruption.” Below that: “People have honest disagreements. But there is one thing on which we can all agree — there should be no room for corruption in state government. … Susana Martinez ran for governor to clean up government. From day one, she’s been working to bring Democrats and Republicans together to clean up government and stop corruption.” The part about working to bring Ds and Rs together is outlined in yellow.

The card then touts a law Martinez signed “requiring elected officials found guilty of corruption to forfeit their state pensions.” That’s close, but not quite correct. The pension isn’t required to be forfeited. Under the bill, sponsored by Senate GOP Whip Bill Payne, if a public official is found guilty of a corruption-related charge such as bribery or embezzlement, there would be a hearing to determine how much, if any, the official should be fined. The fine could not be greater than the value of the official’s salary and benefits.

The card is correct that Martinez worked with leaders of both parties to sign it. Carrying Payne’s bill in the House was Democratic floor leader Kenny Martinez (no relation to the governor.) Payne introduced the bill for years, but 2012 was the first time it ever got anywhere.

The mailer goes on to tout an executive order Martinez signed banning her political appointees from lobbying for at least two years and her rule that all political employees submit financial disclosure statements.

“Ending corruption is not a partisan issue,” says a quote above a smiling photo of the governor. “In New Mexico, Republicans and Democrats are showing we can work together.” Running along the bottom of the mailer is the message “Susana Martinez: Bringing people together to clean up government.”

Sending out such a card, even two years before she’s up for re-election, probably is a smart move. She’s starting early to define herself as a tough reformer intent on keeping campaign promises, while at the same time seeking bipartisan consensus and common ground.

Kumbya, my Lord, Kumbya …

Meanwhile, that other PAC, Reform New Mexico Now, headed by Martinez’s political director, Jay McCleskey, is revving up to savagely attack legislative Democrats who have “honest disagreements” with the governor.

Senate President Pro-tem Tim Jennings of Roswell is the first known victim. “I’m lucky, I guess,” Jennings said wryly. The conservative Democrat, who is running for re-election against Republican Cliff Pirtle, told me Thursday that last week people in his district began receiving mailers from the PAC that said he was “More Liberal Than You Think” and blasted him up and down on several issues.

But you can’t say Reform New Mexico Now doesn’t reach out to the other side of the aisle. During the primary they helped a handful of Democrats — including Sen. Phil Griego of San José and Carl Trujillo of Pojoaque — who were running against more liberal challengers. Griego and Trujillo won their primaries.

Earlier this year in the primaries, Susana PAC went nuclear against a Republican Senate candidate in Clovis, rancher Pat Wood, who was running against a candidate Martinez had endorsed. One of Woods’ vile transgressions was making campaign donations to a handful of Democrats who had backed agricultural legislation Woods was pushing. Woods fought back and won the primary.

More lawmakers are bound to feel the sting shortly. According to Reform New Mexico Now’s latest campaign finance report, the committee has more than $305,000 in the bank.

I don’t think much of the campaign material coming out of this PAC will be talking about bringing Democrats and Republicans together.

Friday, September 21, 2012

I Sit The Line

I'm off work today, celebrating Larry Hagman's birthday, (81 years young!) but I'll be on TV tonight on KNME's In Focus

I'm a guest panelist on "The Line" along with Republican PR consultant Whitney Waite, former Democratic Party chairman John Wertheim and New Mexico Law Review editor Sophie Martin. And, of course, host Gene Grant.

We discuss Gov. Susana Martinez’s role in this year’s election, New Mexico’s energy policy and other topics.

The show airs tonight at 7 p.m. and repeats 7 a.m. Sunday.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

3 GOP Senators to Stump For Wilson

Sens. John McCain of Arizona, Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and Kelly Ayotte of  New Hampshire, are coming to Albuquerque next week to campaign for U.S. Senate candidate Heather Wilson.

 “New Mexico’s Senate race could very well determine the future of this country,”  McCain said in a news release today. “Heather Wilson is the only candidate New Mexicans can trust to put a stop to the reckless spending and turn this economy around. The nation is watching.”

But while they're praising Wilson for wanting to stop spending, all three senators -- who serve on the Senate Armed Services Committee --  have been holding events around the country to talk about the important of not cutting defense spending.-- namely the automatic cuts to the Pentagon scheduled to take place next year.

The senators will hold a media event in Albuquerque on Sept. 25 to talk about national security and attend a private fundraiser in Albuquerque. No further details were available in the news release.

Monday, September 17, 2012

OK, This Looks Fun

This "rumble" between Jon Stewart and Bill O'Reilly will take place at George Washington University, will be moderated by CNN anchor E.D. Hill, and will be streamed live online.

As David Letterman says, "Remember, no wagering."

Heather's Internal Poll Says Shows Her 5 Points Behind

Republican Heather Wilson's U.S. Senate campaign this afternoon released an internal poll showing her 5 percentage points behind Democratic front-runner Martin Heinrich.

According to the poll, Heinrich had 46 percent.of the vote while Wilson had 41 percent. The poll of 500 likely voters was conducted conducted by Public Opinion Strategies, a Republican company  Sept. 12-13.

Says the campaign:

Heather Wilson continues her comeback in the New Mexico Senate race with a new poll showing her within striking distance of Congressman Martin Heinrich. This represents a significant change from just a few weeks ago when polls showed Wilson down by double digits, and political bloggers all but declared her chances of winning dead.

Wilson, who has a long history of come-from-behind victories, has been steadily climbing her way back in the last few weeks. Wilson trailed Heinrich by 10 points in mid-August, according to internal polls. However, just last week, an Albuquerque Journal poll showed Wilson down by 7. And now, just one week later, a new poll by Public Opinion Strategies shows Wilson down by just 5 points, barely outside the poll's 4.38% margin of error.

That's one way of looking at it. But the Heinrich campaign was quick to point to this item in the National Journal:

"Not a good sign for your campaign: Releasing an internal poll showing you down five points.

"In a sign of how far Heather Wilson's prospects have fallen in the New Mexico Senate race, the Republican nominee's campaign did just that on Monday -- and touted the results as a `comeback.' ...

"While the race was once considered likely to be close, more recent polls have showed Heinrich pulling away -- and the National Republican Senatorial Committee has pulled its advertising from the state, indicating that the GOP no longer considers it a good pick-up prospect."

UPDATE: 4:02 p.m. I had incorrect numbers in the first version of this post. They have been corrected.

ROUNDHOUSE ROUNDUP: Candid Tape Recorder

A version of this was published in The Santa Fe New Mexican 
Sept. 16, 2012

Keith Gardner’s secretly recorded, hour-and-13-minute conversation with an erstwhile friend definitely was the talk of the Roundhouse this week.

Gov. Susana Martinez & Chief of Staff Keith GardnerBlogger Joe Monahan — who posted the entire recording on YouTube this week — predicted it would go down in New Mexico “political folklore.” I suspect he’s right.

In that recording, Gov. Susana Martinez’s chief of staff expressed his unfiltered hate for state Senate President Pro-tem Tim Jennings, offered to find state jobs for his friend and his friend’s wife, told how he never used state email and other issues.

Gardner’s friend was Brian Powell, an official with the Roswell Fire Department — and a Republican who says he voted for Martinez.

Powell has said he recorded his friend because he thought Gardner might be trying to prevent “crucial testimony” by a witness at an upcoming preliminary hearing involving Powell’s daughter, who had accused a coach of improper sexual conduct. The witness, a relative of Gardner’s, had “suddenly expressed reluctance to testify,” Powell said in a written statement.

You kiss your mother with that mouth? The reactions of some people to the recording reminded me of 1974 when President Nixon was forced to turn over the White House tapes to Watergate prosecutors.

No, I’m not comparing Keith to Tricky Dick. My point is that lots of people seemed far more concerned about Nixon’s deleted expletives than the content of the tapes. The same is true with reactions to the Gardner tape, which is saltier than 10 pounds of pretzels.

It’s a “family newspaper,” so I won’t list all the dirty words Gardner used in the course of his meeting with Powell. Anyway, it would be shorter to list the ones he didn’t use.

I can understand why Jennings doesn’t enjoy being called a laundry list of nasty names. And the vitriol he had for Jennings is somewhat surprising considering Gardner’s normally amiable demeanor. (Is it not amazing that Gardner, at least at the time I’m writing this, has not publicly apologized to Jennings?)

But I’d be a gosh-darned hypocrite to come down too heavy on Gardner’s vocabulary itself. I hope this doesn’t shock anyone, but that’s how guys — at least guys I know — talk to each other in private.

Fortunate son: In the recording, Gardner even bragged about mouthing off to a police officer who stopped him for a traffic violation.

“Either write me the ticket or leave me alone,” Gardner said he told the cop. “You know if you write the ticket I’ll get it dismissed because my dad is the judge, so write the [expletive] ticket, I don’t care.”

I can’t help but wonder what all those cops who lined up in that TV ad for Martinez in 2010 think about that little anecdote.

Santa Fe boosterism: In talking about finding a state job for Powell, Gardner said, “We’ve got enough idiots out there. We could always replace one of them.” That sounds like a great new motto for the State Personnel Office.

And here’s a modest proposal: The Santa Fe Chamber of Commerce could use another part of the Gardner recordings for radio spots promoting our city.

When Gardner and Powell are talking about the possibility of Powell getting a state job, Gardner, who moved to the capital city after Martinez named him chief of staff, has only positive things to say about Santa Fe. “Best move we made, Brian,” he said.

Gardner, who represented a Roswell district in the state House of Representatives before the governor hired him, didn’t disagree when Powell said of Roswell, “This town is evil.” Gardner replied, “It was sucking the life out of us.”

Powell said he hated Roswell so much he would even consider taking a job in Alamogordo. “Don’t do anything rash,” Gardner joked. Both men laughed heartily.

This reminded me of something Sam Pick once said at a City Council meeting shortly after he was elected mayor in 1986. The city of Alamogordo was trying to get the state to move the Law Enforcement Academy from Santa Fe to their town.

“If I knew I only had one year to live, I’d want to move to Alamogordo,” Pick said. Why? “Because it would seem like an eternity.”

Pick later apologized to the mayor of Alamogordo, who didn’t find the humor in the joke.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

PPP Shows Increasing Leads for Heinrich, Obama

A new poll, by Public Policy Polling, the Democratic polling firm from North Carolina, has Martin Heinrich leading Heather Wilson and Barack Obama leading Mitt Romney by margins even wider than the Albuquerque Journal poll showed a few days ago.

In the poll, conducted of 1,122 likely voters in New Mexico between Friday and Sunday, Heinrich would beat Wilson by a margin of 50 percent to 41 percent. Obama would defeat Romney 53 percent to 42 percent.

The Journal poll, conducted by Brian Sanderoff last week, showed Heinrich over Wilson 49 percent to 42 percent and Obama over Romney 45 to 40 percent. So the new PPP poll shows Heinrich's margin 2 percentage points better than Sanderoff's poll, while Obama's margin is 6 points higher than Sanderoff showed.

Although PPP normally includes Libertarian Gary Johnson in its surveys, it didn't this time.

Grains of salt: The poll was conducted on behalf of five environmental groups that back Heinrich (and, I'm assuming Obama.)

The margin of error is 2.9 percent.

In another development in the Senate race, the Democratic Senate Campaign Committee has pulled a week's worth of tv ads for Heinrich to use the money in races they consider more competitive. The committee's Republican counterpart recently did the same, pulling ads for Wilson. My story about that is HERE.

UPDATE 5:23 p.m. The state Republican Party was quick to denounce the poll “As we have unfortunately come to expect, PPP’s latest poll once again showed blatant disregard for accountability and accuracy,” said the party's executive director Mark Knoop in a news release. “Rather than sampling the appropriate percentages of registered Democrats and Republicans, PPP increased the percentage of Democrat influence in the poll." Knoop also criticized PPP for not including Johnson. The Journal poll, as other polls have indicated, showed Johnson taking slightly more votes from Romney than from Obama.

The Not-So Gentle Giant

Gov. Susana Martinez & Chief of Staff Keith Gardner
Monahan's favorite photo from my FLICKR account
Smile! You're on candid tape recorder!

No matter what your political leanings, anyone with half a heart has to feel at least a little sympathy for someone whose private and extremely candid conversation with an old friend who refers to him as "brother" bursts into the public domain.

But when you're a top government official and that conversation is peppered with unbridled loathing for another top government official, it's going to be news.

And candid talk about finding government jobs for pals and campaign fund-raising is big plump cherry on that sundae.

My story on this mess is HERE. Joe Monahan posted the entire conversation HERE

I was a little pressed for space, so some things had to be cut. One of those lines that didn't make it was Gardner talking about getting stopped for speeding about 20 years ago. Here's what Gardner said he told the cop:

"Either write me the ticket or leave me alone. You know if you write the ticket I’ll get it dismissed because my dad is the judge so, write the fucking ticket I don’t care."

Susana's law-enforcement supporters might have some questions about that one.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Back to Work

It was a great vacation, lasting a little more than two weeks. But now it's back to work.

Let's see what happened while I was gone:

Brian Sanderoff just did his poll for The Albuquerque Journal, basically confirming what everyone already knew. Democrat Martin Heinrich is leading Republican Heather Wilson  by seven percentage points while in the presidential race, Democratic incumbent Barack Obama is leading Republican Mitt Romney by five.

Up here in CD3, Democratic incumbent Ben Ray Lujan is heading for a landslide over Republican Jeff Byrd, 57 percent to 31 percent.

In the other Congressional races, Michelle Lujan Grisham is beating Janice Arnold-Jones by a healthy 46 percent to 34 percent margin in CD1, while Republican  Steve Pearce is crushing his Democratic sacrificial lamb Evelyn Madrid Erhard 56 percent to 30 percent.


Meanwhile, back at the Roundhouse, the Martinez administration's email scandal is getting stranger.  The governor's chief of staff Keith Gardner was caught on tape saying he never uses his state email because, "I don’t want to go to court (or) jail.”

(This was recorded last fall, before Martinez ordered state employees to always use state email to conduct state business -- an order that came about after I revealed the widespread practice in her administration of using private emails.)

KOB news also revealed that the tape showed Gardner appearing to offer a state fair job to his friend who was taping the conversation

And, as my colleague Kate Nash reported Friday, the governor is trying to get out of testifying in the wrongful termination case of fired state Probation & Parole official Larry Flynn.

Lots to catch up on ...