Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Johnson at the Foreign Policy Debate

Most of the lamestream media completely missed out on the fact that Libertarian presidential candidate and former New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson was at the last debate.

Here's proof!

(Note to irony-immune readers. He who laughs last ... had to have it explained to him.)

Check out Johnson's non-verbal reaction at about the 6:37 mark. Puts Biden to shame.

Biz Group Backs Andy

The New Mexico Business Coalition, a conservative lot if there ever was one, has come out for independent Rep. Andy Nunez in his heated re-election campaign,

Unfortunately, there are some in both the Democrat and Republican parties who feel the seat currently occupied by Nunez should be under their party's control. Mudslinging, malicious attacks, and false accusations financed by these parties and their "friends" have no limits. Andy Nunez, however, has stayed out of the ugly political maneuvering, proving once again that his steadfast leadership and integrity will best fill the needs of his constituents and the people of this great state. ... Rep. Nunez may be the first person to be elected as an Independent to the state legislature, but it is our sincere hope that he is not the last.

Nunez, as I noted in my Sunday column, recently was attacked by Reform New Mexico Now, a political action committee headed by Gov. Susana Martinez's political director Jay McCleskey -- even though Nunez is the sponsor of one of Martinez's top agenda items -- the bill to repeal the law allowing driver's licenses for illegal immigrants.

Nunez is being opposed by Republican Mike Tellez and Democrat Felipe Archuleta in House District 36.

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.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Area Legislative Races

In the past week I've written a couple of profiles about local legislative races.

In today's New Mexican, I wrote about the District 39 Senate contest between incumbent Democrat Phil Griego and Republican Aubrey Dunn, Jr. Griego won his bitterly fought primary against Jack Sullivan and Nicole Castellano, picking up support from Jay McCleskey's Reform New Mexico Now PAC. That irked Dunn who has asked for a refund of his $5,250 campaign contribution to Gov. Susana Martinez in 2010. (No refund has been made.) The PAC is not supporting Dunn, who agrees with Martinez on most major issues, though it isn't supporting Griego in the general either.

A few days ago, the paper published my profile of the District 43 House race between incumbent Republican Jim Hall (no, not the retired judge) and Democrat Stephanie Garcia Richard. Democrats see this race as one of their few chances to actually pick up a seat. Richard came within 190 votes of ousting the late Rep. Jeannette Wallace in the Los Alamos-based district two years ago, so PACs from both sides have been pouring mailers into District 43 mailboxes in tones far more strident than either of the candidates. In fact, both Hall and Richard have asked the outside groups to butt out -- not that they will.

My colleague Kate Nash this week wrote about the House District 50 campaign. There Democrat Stephen Easley is running against Republican Larry Miller in the contest to replace Rep. Rhonda King, who decided not to seek re-election. Like Senate District 39, House District 50 stretches from southern Santa Fe County deep into central New Mexico.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Pardon Me, Boy, Is That The Chattanooga Endorsement?

Gov. Gary Johnson's long-shot Libertarian presidential bid got an unexpected boost today when The Chattanooga Free Press endorsed him.

Here's a snip from the endorsement.

Some may argue that voting for a minor party candidate is a waste of a vote. While Johnson won't win on Nov. 6, the more votes Johnson receives, the more the Republican and Democratic parties are forced to consider adopting his policies. Voting for Johnson is the most effective way to inject the ideas of liberty and limited government into the political mainstream.

I'm not real familiar with this paper, or Chattanooga in general beyond that famous song. So I'll quote Rob Nikolewski from Capitol Report New Mexico:

The newspaper has an unusual setup. It runs two editorial pages, one staunchly liberal – under the banner of the Chattanooga Times — and another that is solidly conservative – called the Chattanooga Free Press — and together the newspaper is distributed under the name of the Chattanooga Times Free Press. The paper has a daily circulation of 70,000 and a Sunday circulation of 95,000. In 2002, the Tennessee Press Association named the Times Free Press as the best newspaper in the state.

Monday, October 22, 2012

What Kind of Crazy Liberal Would Vote For The Dream Act

Crossroads GPS, that right-leaning PAC associated with former George W. Bush political director Karl Rove has sent out a mailer blasting Democrat Martin Heinrich for supporting "Amnesty legislation that would give illegal immigrants a free ride ... while New Mexico families are stuck footing the bill."

"Heinrich's vote for President Obama's immigration plan provides a `path for citizenship' for illegal alien," the mailer says.

Tiny footnotes on the mailer indicate that this vote of Heinrich's refers to The Dream Act, which was passed by the U.S. House of Representatives in 2010, but later stalled in the Senate.

Indeed Heinrich voted for this legislation, which indeed would give the children of illegal immigrants a pathway to citizenship via military service or enrollment in college. He even brags about being a co-sponsor of the bill.

But I think we might have evidence that candidates really don't coordinate with the outside groups trying to help them.

In Sunday night's debate with Republican Heather Wilson, Heinrich asked he if she would have voted for the version of The Dream Act that passed the House.

Wilson answered yes, she would have.

Ask Emily Litella used to say: "Never mind ...."

ROUNDHOUSE ROUNDUP: Congress Behind the People on Marriage Equality

A version of this was published in The Santa Fe New Mexican 
Oct. 21, 2012

One political truism that’s been repeated countless times in recent years is that same-sex marriage and other gay-rights issues are gaining momentum with the American people. And indeed, poll after poll shows a growing acceptance of gay marriage, even among some of the politically conservative.

However, one place where it apparently isn’t true is in the hallowed halls of Congress.

“While the American people move forward on issues of equality, the majority of Congress — particularly the House — continues to be out of touch,” said a blog post of the Human Rights Campaign — a major national gay-rights organization.

The group released its annual congressional scorecard Thursday. “The average score of House members was 40 percent and 35 [percent] for Senators, down significantly from the 111th Congress,” the campaign’s blog said.

The group scored congressional votes on legislation as well as who signed on as co-sponsors to certain legislation. Senators also were scored on their votes for and against a couple of openly gay federal judges.

U.S. Rep Martin Heinrich, D-Albuquerque, who is running for U.S. Senate, was one of 115 House members who received a perfect score of 100 percent. He was the only member of New Mexico’s delegation to do so.

Heinrich got news of his 100 percent the day after a televised debate with his Republican opponent, former Congresswoman Heather Wilson, in which he spoke of his support for marriage equality and boasted of his vote against the “don’t ask, don’t tell” law, an action that allowed gay people to serve openly in the military. (Wilson, in the debate, reiterated her opposition to gay marriage. She also had been against repealing “don’t ask, don’t tell.”)

Not among the legislation considered in the Human Rights Campaign scorecard was Sen. Al Franken’s bill that would prohibit bullying in public schools based on sexual orientation or gender identity. In Wednesday’s debate, Heinrich noted that he is a co-sponsor of the bill. Wilson is opposed.

Wilson said her main concern was that it would cut funds for schools where bullying exists. “We don’t want to have to turn to Washington to solve those problems,” she said at the debate.

As for the other New Mexicans on Capitol Hill, Ben Ray Luján of Santa Fe got a 90 percent rating; retiring Sen. Jeff Bingaman scored 88 percent; Sen. Tom Udall got an 82 percent and Rep. Steve Pearce of Hobbs — the lone Republican in the delegation — got an even zero.

Why was Udall, who usually is considered more liberal than Bingaman, rated lower by the Human Rights Campaign?

The only difference in the senators’ scorecards was that Bingaman, according to the organization, is a co-sponsor of a proposed act that would equalize the tax treatment of employer-provided health coverage for domestic partners and other non-spouse, non-dependent beneficiaries. The current version of the bill, which has been kicking around for nearly a decade in various forms, hasn’t made it out of the Senate Finance Committee.

For the first time, the Human Rights Campaign’s scorecard this year noted whether members of Congress have taken an affirmative position in favor of allowing same-sex marriage. In the New Mexico delegation, Heinrich, Luján and Udall have taken that position.

On their blog, the campaign has a graphic saying that 54 percent of Americans support marriage equality, while only 33 of Congress does. Another says that 79 percent of Americans support workplace protections for lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgendered people, while only 40 percent of Congress does.

I’m not sure about the workplace protection polls, but the campaign is correct that two national polls this year — CNN and NBC/Wall Street Journal — each said that 54 percentage support for same-sex marriage. Other polls have been slightly lower. Whatever the exact number, it’s pretty clear the public is ahead of the leaders in these issues.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Live Blogging Tonight's Senate Debate

The third (if anyone's keeping count) debate in the U.S. Senate race between Democrat Martin Heinrich and Republican Heather Wilson starts at 6 p.m. and will be televised on KOAT, Channel 7.

Once again, I'll be live blogging over  at The New Mexican's Elections page.

Follow it there. Feel free to add your own thoughts.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Reform NM Now Goes Up on TV

Reform New Mexico Now, the political action committee headed by Gov. Susana Martinez's political director Jay McCleskey has launched a new TV ad.

It's actually pretty mild for Reform New Mexico Now. There's not even a grainy photo of Manny Aragon in it anywhere. In fact the only individual named in it is the gov.

Here's what it says:

New Mexico is one of two states still giving drivers licenses to illegal immigrants. It attracts people from all over the world, some who want to do us harm. Gov. Susana Martinez is fighting to repeal the law. But she's being blocked in the Legislature. In this election support candidates who support our governor. Early voting runs until Nov. 3. Vote early and let's stop giving driver's licenses to illegal immigrants.
The anti-Martinez group Independent Source PAC is asking television stations to pull the ad, claiming the truth was "manipulated." In a news release, the group says that not two, but four states give driver's licenses to undocumented residents -- New Mexico plus Utah, Washington and California.

That's correct, though at least two of the other states have more restrictions than New Mexico.

Utah issues undocumented immigrants a "driver's privilege card," which can't be used as a government identification card.

Early this month Gov. Jerry Brown of California signed into law a measure making driver's licenses available to  if they are accepted by a federal program giving work permits to those who came to this country before they were 16 and are now 30 or younger.

But whether television stations would pull an ad for an incorrect number is pretty doubtful. How many thousands of other ads with far worse manipulations of truth are running across the country as we speak?

Here's the ad:

Thursday, October 18, 2012

In Case There Was Ever Any Doubt ...

Gov. Susana Martinez is indeed supporting Heather Wilson for Senate.

The Wilson campaign posted this video earlier this week.

I wrote about this topic not long ago.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Watch Heinrich Wilson Debate at New Mexican Website

The second U.S. Senate debate between Democrat Martin Heinrich and Republican Heather Wilson, which is taking place in Las Cruces, will be streamed at the New Mexican's Elections Page. It's also being broadcast on CSPAN.

The debate starts at 7 pm -- about 40 minutes from now.

Maybe we'll be lucky and something like this could go down:

Monday, October 15, 2012

R.I.P. George Buffett

Former state Rep. George Buffett, R-Albuquerque, died this weekend. He was in the House when I first started covering the Legislataure all those years ago.

Blogger Joe Monahan said of Buffett,

"His crusty and no-nonsense personality was on full display during his tenure as an ABQ GOP state representative from 1979 to 2002 and in his well-known and anticipated newsletter `Buffett's Bullets.' It was that publication filled with his conservative wit and wisdom and frequent ribbing of the Democratic majority that made him a statewide political presence.

"Buffett was a cousin of famous Omaha investor Warren Buffett. He invested with him early and was richly rewarded, but George was also one of New Mexico's most successful businessmen in his own right. Buffett's Candies on Lomas Blvd. with its iconic candy cane is a local institution, in business since 1956. ...

"Buffett was a conservative, but not a bully and not in the game to feather his own nest but to spread his message of hard work and fiscal discipline. He did so as a curmudgeon and with a perseverance that won him admirers on both sides of the aisle. His chapter in the never-ending book of La Politica was well-earned.

State Republican Chairman Monty Newman had this to say about him:

“We at the Republican Party of New Mexico extend our deepest sympathy and condolences to the family of former Representative Buffett. Our prayers go out to his family, as we remember his extraordinary legacy of service and transparency. “We are thankful for his service to his community and to our great state, and we know that he will long be remembered—both for his years of service in the Legislature and for his efforts to expose corruption in his newsletter, Buffett’s Bullets.”

U.S. Rep. Steve Pearce said this:

“My thoughts and prayers go out to George’s family. He was a true public servant and New Mexico is a better place because of his service to our great state. He was a mentor to me when I was first elected to the State House and I will always be thankful for that guidance. George was a consistent voice in speaking out against government corruption. He will be sorely missed.”

Roundhouse Roundup: Fountains of Misinformation

A version of this was published in The Santa Fe New Mexican 
Oct. 14, 2012

Attorney General Gary King announced last week that he’s investigating a Republican poll-challenger training workshop in Albuquerque where a GOP official leading the session was caught on video telling challengers false information about voter identification.

Among the false information, caught on video by the progressive political action committee Progress Now New Mexico, was the contention that voters can be required to show a physical form of ID if two polling-place officials from different political parties request it.

Another wrongheaded notion spread at the event that anyone who is on a list of “inactive voters” from the polls would have to vote on provisional ballots. This has to do with postcards mailed by the secretary of state this summer to start the lengthy process of removing inactive voters. The cards were mailed to nearly 178,000 registered voters in the state. However, despite what anyone might have heard at this training event, all those “inactive voters” will be be able to vote on a regular ballot, just like real people.

I’m glad that King is investigating this. Spreading false information about voting just isn’t right. Whether or not this was criminal I’ll leave to the proper authorities to decide. (The state Republican Party has said they didn’t organize that training session and is looking into the matter.)

But Republicans aren’t the only ones who have disseminated misleading information about Secretary of State Dianna Duran’s infamous “postcard purge.”

Last month at the State Fair, I was approached by a young woman in front of a Democratic Party-affiliated booth. She asked whether I wanted to register to vote. I smiled and told her I’d been registered for 40 years.

“Well you’d better vote this time or you’ll be purged,” she said. Sure enough, her mistake was rooted in a misunderstanding about Duran’s much-maligned postcards and the weird notion that the secretary of state was labeling everyone “inactive” in order to suppress the vote.

I told her what Duran had told me in an interview — information I later verified by a voting official not affiliated with Duran or the Republican Party.

No names will be removed until after the 2014 election, Duran told me. Just because someone currently is listed as “inactive” doesn’t mean they can’t vote. Anyone who fills out the postcards and returns them to the Secretary of State’s Office won’t be purged. But you don’t even have to do that. Anyone who votes in any election between now and 2014 will not be put on any purge list.

I told the woman at the fair that purging voters is a lengthy bureaucratic process — not done by Duran or her office, but by boards of registration appointed by each of the 33 county commissions in the state.

SOS Dianna Duran
Duran and her postcard collecttion
I don’t think she believed me.

Before all my Democratic readers start squealing “False equivalency!” I know this encounter isn’t at the same level of the Republican workshop. I’m not calling for an AG investigation. At least the young woman at the fair was trying to scare me into voting — not trying to stop me from voting. She was just one volunteer repeating some false hearsay.

There’s no evidence that she was officially trained to spread this bit of misinformation. But the implication that Duran inaccurately labeled innocent people “inactive” voters so that she can remove them from the rolls has been repeated in Democratic circles so much in recent weeks, it’s practically party line.

Granted, Duran helped set herself up for such suspicion last year by her much ballyhooed investigation of noncitizens registering to vote (which revealed that only 19 noncitizens have voted in recent years and a good number of those apparently were registered by mistake). But I still say she’s gotten a bum rap on the “postcard purge.”

Why do I have this rotten feeling that if this turns out to be a close election, if the Democrats win, Republicans will scream,“Voter fraud!” and if it goes the other way, Dems will cry, “Voter suppression!”

Friday, October 12, 2012

Wilson Down in Polls, But She Out-raised Heinrich in Campaign Cash

Republican U.S. Senate candidate Heather Wilson might not be winning in any poll taken, but she's apparently raised more money than Democrat Martin Heinrich  in the past three months.

According to Wilson's campaign, she raised $2,152,659 between July 1 and September 30 and has $1,031,884 cash on hand. Wilson has raised $6.2 million for her campaign since jumping in the contest last year.

Heinrich's campaign was close. A spokeswoman said he raised about $1.96 million in the last quarter and that he has $1 million cash on hand. Heinrich has raised more than $5.85 million since the start of his campaign began last year.

The complete quarterly reports, which are due Monday, weren't available from either campaign.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Live Blogging Tonight's Senate Debate

UPDATE: It's over.

I'll be live blogging tonight's U.S. Senate debate between Martin Heinrich and Heather Wilson.

You can follow it -- or even better, join in -- right here below, or go to the Santa Fe New Mexican's elections page. The fun starts at 7 pm.

Here's Kate Nash's preview of the debate.


Susana Campaigning in Nevada Saturday

Gov. Susana MartinezGov. Susana Martinez will campaign for Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney in Nevada this weekend, according to a news release from the Romney campaign.

According to that release, Martinez will attend a rally at the Romney's Nevada Headquarters in Summerlin, Nev., a meet-and-greet at the East Las Vegas Victory Office, and an event at the Henderson Victory Office in Henderson, Nev.

Nevada is a swing state in which the Hispanic vote could make a real difference. Like New Mexico, Nevada has a Hispanic Republican governor, Brian Sandoval.

Another Good Poll for Heinrich and Obama in NM

No big surprises here, but the latest Rasmussen poll shows Democrat Martin Heinrich beating Republican Heather Wilson in this state 52 percent to 39 percent.

That's an even wider gap than the 51 percent to 41 percent margin shown in last week's PPP poll.

Four percent say they support an unspecified other candidate while five percent are undecided.

Wilson has to be praying that Heinrich starts channeling President Obama in tonight's debates.

Speaking of Obama, he's taken a hit in other states following last week's anemic debate performance. But it doesn't seem to be affecting him much here. Rasmussen shows the incumbent walloping Republican Mitt Romney in the state 54 percent to 43 percent.

Libertarian Gary Johnson wasn't included in this poll. Two percent said they preferred "some other candidate," while two percent were undecided.

Rasmussen surveyed 500 likely voters in New Mexico on Monday. The margin of error is +/- 4.5 percentage points

Domenici Helps Heather

Just hours before her first debate with Martin Heinrich, Heather Wilson has brought in one of her big guns, her mentor former U.S. Sen. Pete Domenici.

In it, Domenici claims Heinrich "voted for massive new defense cuts that will cost twenty thousand New Mexico jobs." He's referring to last year's deficit-reduction stop-gap agreement (agreed to by both parties.) Unless some agreement is reached in Congress before next year, there will be across across-the-board spending cuts, including cuts at the national laboratories.

Domenici, who stepped down at the end of 2008 after 36 years in the Senate, is still very respected in the state. However, his endorsements have not swayed any elections lately.

In 2008, he endorsed Wilson for Senate just days before the June primary after staying neutral through most of the Republican battle. However, she still lost to Steve Pearce in that contest. (Pearce later lost to Tom Udall in the general election.)

In 2010, Domenici backed his son Pete Jr. in the GOP gubernatorial race. At first the younger Domenici was considered the front runner due to name recognition. However, he ended up placing 4th in the 5-candidate race.

Here's the new ad:

UPDATE: 12:15 pm: Heinrich's campaign responds to the ad :

"Heather Wilson’s accusations against Martin Heinrich are getting more desperate, but they’re still not true. The idea that Martin would vote to cut 20,000 jobs in New Mexico is ridiculous, and Congresswoman Wilson knows that. Martin has consistently fought against cuts to our military bases and national labs—like the cuts that the Ryan budget, which Heather Wilson has said she `admires,' would have imposed on our labs. Voters in New Mexico deserve a debate about who will do more to protect and grow jobs for the middle class, not more false attacks."

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Local Legislative Campaign Finance Reports

Perhaps due to the lopsided Democratic majority in the Santa Fe area, most local legislators got a free ride this year.

Sens. Nancy Rodriquez and Peter Wirth, as well as Jim Trujillo and Brian Egolf, had no primary opposition and no general election opponents this year. Carl Trujillo, who won a hard-fought primary against Santa Fe Mayor David Coss to represent House Speaker Ben Luján’s old district, is unopposed in November.

The only lawmaker from the city to get a general election opponent is Rep. Luciano “Lucky” Varela, a Democrat who faces Libertarian Bob Walsh. Walsh has said his main purpose in running is to draw attention to Libertarian presidential candidate Gary Johnson, the former New Mexico governor.

Varela raised more than $6,000 in the last month and has more than $67,000 cash on hand. Walsh raised no money in the last reporting period. According to his previous report, he had no cash on hand.

There is some competition in districts that include parts of Santa Fe County.

Sen. Phil Griego, D-San Jose, raised more than $15,600 in the past month and has more than $22,000 cash in hand. His biggest contributors were the Committee on Individual Responsibility, a trial lawyers PAC, which gave $5,000, and New Mexico Realtors Political Action Committee, which gave $2,000.

Griego’s Republican opponent, Aubrey Dunn Jr. of Alamogordo, raised more than $19,000 this reporting period — $10,000 of which was a loan from himself. He has more than $18,000 cash on hand. His biggest contributions were $1,500 from Senate Republican Leader Stuart Ingle’s campaign and $1,500 from the Lincoln C0unty Republican Party.

In the hotly contested House District 43, Republican incumbent Jim Hall, R-Los Alamos — who was appointed by Martinez to fill the term of former Rep. Jeannette Wallace, who died last year — collected $11,000 in the last month, and has a cash balance of $52,000 as of Monday. Early this year, Hall loaned his campaign $36,000.

His biggest contribution in this month’s report was $2,300 from House Republican Leader Tom Taylor’s campaign committee. Hall also received $1,200 from Santa Fe Federated Republican Women and $1,000 each from fellow Republican House member Nate Gentry, Yates Petroleum of Artesia and Progress New Mexico, a political action committee whose treasurer is Rep. Jimmie Hall, R-Albuquerque — no relation to the Los Alamos Hall.

Hall’s Democratic challenger, teacher Stephanie Garcia Richard of Los Alamos, reported raising nearly $18,000 and had more than $56,000 cash on hand. Her largest contributions came from the American Federation of Teachers, which gave $5,000, and the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, which contributed $2,000.

In District 50 — currently represented by Rep. Rhonda King, D-Stanley, who isn’t seeking re-election — consultant Stephen Easley, a Democrat, raised more than $12,000 and has $27,700 in the bank. His biggest contributors were the Santa Fe-based New Mexico Defense Fund, a PAC started by Egolf, which gave $4,000, and outgoing Speaker Luján’s campaign, which contributed $1,000.

Easley’s GOP opponent, retired educator Charles Larry Miller of Edgewood, raised $7,300 and has more than $12,000 cash on hand. Miller’s biggest contributions were $2,000 from Santa Fe Federated Republican Women and $1,000 from Edgewood electrician Peter Straker. Miller also got $500 from Susana PAC.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Jennings Campaign Shows Muscle in Latest Finance Report

In case anyone thought Senate President Pro-tem wasn't going to take his re-election challenge seriously should read Jennings' latest campaign finance report.

In the last month, Democrat Jennings raised more than $105,000 and spent more than $134,000. He's still got $53,000 cash on hand.

That's quite a bit of dough to spend on a state Senate race.

But the totals aren't the only thing that's notable about the report. Even though Jennings has been targeted by the PAC led by Gov. Susana Martinez's political director, there are some prominent Republican names and traditional GOP supporters on his donor list.

I reported in last week's column, that Jennings' previous report showed a contribution from The Jalapeno Corporation, an oil company chaired by former state GOP Chairman Harvey Yates. The new report shows that oilman Mark Murphy gave Jennings the maximum $2,300. Yates Petroleum kicked in $500. Former Public Regulation Commissioner Rory McMinn gave $500. Oilman Ray Westall, a former state game commissioner, contributed $1,000.

And Jennings got $1,000 from former State Fair Commission Chairman Tom Tinnin, who left the state Board of Finance last year because, he said, he was pressured  by the Martinez administration to back the Downs at Albuquerque racetrack/casino deal. (Martinez has denied pressuring Tinnin and any wrongdoing in the controversial Downs deal.)

Jennings' Republican opponent Cliff Pirtle raised just $3,100 last month and has $17,000 in the bank. However, Jay McCleskey's Reform New Mexico Now still has nearly $113,000 to play with according to its latest report. I suspect some of that will go into the Roswell Senate race.

Monday, October 8, 2012

ROUNDHOUSE ROUNDUP: Keith Gardner Talks Dirty for Tim's Campaign

A version of this was published in The Santa Fe New Mexican 
Oct. 7, 2012

Senate President pro-tem Tim Jennings, faced with his first serious election challenge since — I dunno, the dawn of civilization? — has an unusual campaign surrogate.

His name is Keith Gardner. He works as Gov. Susana Martinez’s chief of staff. You can hear his voice in new ads for Jennings.

Remember that secretly recorded tape in which Gardner was calling Jennings every cuss word in the book? Jennings has turned that tape into campaign radio, television and newspaper ads, a mailer and a website called

The broadcast ads, naturally, bleep out all the obscenities, while the newspaper doesn’t even refer to the salty language. The mailer also contains none of the dirty language, though one side of it is photo of the inside of a decrepit “They Hate Roswell and think it is a …”

But the website contains the entire hour and 13 minute recording of Gardner and his erstwhile friend Brian Powell, a fire department official in Roswell. No expletive is deleted. And, apparently for the hearing impaired, several key quotes, all uncensored, are printed.

Jennings’ Republican opponent Cliff Pirtle, a 26-year-old rancher who I assume loves Roswell, was not part of the Gardner tape. But in that conversation, recorded about a year ago, Gardner bragged about raising half a million dollars to run someone against Jennings. And now Jennings has been the target of attack mailers by Reform New Mexico Now, a Martinez-associated political action committee.

“This web site is paid for and authorized by the Tim Jennings Re-Election Senate Campaign Committee,” says a message on the site’s home page. “Sen. Jennings has always run positive, issue-oriented campaigns. He feels the unprecedented attacks by his Republican opponent not only affect him, but this community. This web site is his response.”

Gov. Martinez and Keith Gardner
The controversial recording was released last month to reporters by Albuquerque lawyer Sam Bregman, an active Democrat who won’t confirm or deny whether he’s considering running for governor. In the conversation, which took place about a year ago.

Powell says he is a Republican who voted for Martinez.

I Hate This Town: The part about “hating Roswell” was brought up by Powell, talking about the hard time his daughter was having in school. “I hate this town, I hate this town. I hate this school district, I hate this town,” Powell said. “I’m with ya, I’m 100% with you,” Gardner, a former legislator who represented a Roswell district, replied.

Jennings’ web site surprisingly doesn’t quote a later part of the conversation in which Powell says, “This town is evil.” To that, Gardner replied, “It was sucking the life out of us.” (Gardner moved to Santa Fe after Martinez appointed him chief of staff.)

Attacking the attackers: Jennings is taking a page from Clovis Republican Pat Wood, who survived a bitter primary in June after making Martinez’s political director Jay McCleskey, his opponent’s campaign manager, an issue. McCleskey had unleashed attack mailers on Woods.

“Reform New Mexico Now was created by an Albuquerque political consultant who is renown for running negative campaigns,” Jennings’ mailer says. Some of his ads identify Gardner as an “architect” or “leader” of Reform New Mexico Now, which probably isn’t technically true — though he did boast about raising money to defeat Jennings.

Jennings also noted that Reform New Mexico Now is funded by out-of-state special interests. That’s true. According to the most recent campaign finance report filed last month, the biggest contributor to the PAC is Republican State Leadership Committee, which gave $250,000. Texas developer Marcus Hiles kicked in $25,000 while Las Vegas, Nev. airline executive Maurice Gallagher donated $5,000.

Speaking of campaign contributors, Jennings had a one that might be surprising. His latest report included $2,000 from an oil company called The Jalapeno Corporation, whose chairman is Harvey Yates, a recent chairman of the state Republican Party. The corporation’s former business manager was one Ryan Cangliosi — who now is Gov. Martinez’s deputy chief of staff.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Sen. Clint Harden Resigns

Sen. Clint Harden, R-Clovis, who did not seek re-election this year, has officially resigned from the state Senate.
Sen. Harden

In his letter to Secretary of State Diana Duran, Harden recommended that the governing bodies in the counties in his Senate District -- Curry, Quay, Harding, Union, Colfax, Taos and San Miguel counties -- recommend the name of Pat Woods, who won the Republican primary for Senate in June. Woods is unopposed in the general election.

“It has been my honor to serve the people of New Mexico and the district,”  Harden said in a news release. “I believe Sen.-elect Woods values are consistent with the views of the constituents in the district and I know he will be successful.”

Gov. Susana Martinez makes the actual appointment of the person to fill out the rest of Harden's term, which ends at the end of the year. Martinez was a vocal -- and financial -- supporter of Woods' opponent Angie Spears in that heated primary.

Harden was appointed to the New Mexico Senate in 2002 after then Sen. Pat Lyons was elected as state Land Commissioner. He won re-election in 2004 and 2008. Prior to his time in the Legislature, Harden served in Gov. Gary Johnson’s administration as Secretary of Labor. (The Labor Department's name later was changed, for reasons I still don't understand to the Department of Workforce Solutions.)

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Another Senate Forecast Moves NM to Likely Dem

No the election's not over yet, but Roll Call, a Washington, D.C. publication that specializes in Congressional coverage, has moved the U.S. Senate race from "Leans Democratic" to "Likely Democratic."

... another race where they got the strongest possible nominee despite the demographics of the state favoring Democrats. Former Rep. Heather Wilson (R) has run a good campaign. But national Republicans aren’t spending any money to help her, and polls show Rep. Martin Heinrich in a good position to win next month.

... For all of  (Wilson’s) strengths as a candidate, she entered this open-seat race with high unfavorable ratings from her previous statewide campaign. Plus, she’s running in a heavily Hispanic state no longer viewed as competitive in the presidential race and against a solid Democratic recruit in (Heinrich) who took the lead in August and does not appear willing to let go."

Let's not forget though that there are a bunch of Heinrich/Wilson debates ahead in the next few weeks. The first one is next Thursday. I'll be live blogging over at The New Mexican site.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Johnson Still Left Out of Debates

I just talked with former Gov. Gary Johnson, the Libertarian Party candidate for president, who conceded the fact that tomorrow's presidential debate will go on without him despite the fact he filed an antitrust lawsuit in an effort to be included.

Johnson's suit, filed last month in federal court in California, invokes the 1890 Sherman Antitrust Act to force the Commission on Presidential Debates to include all candidates who are on enough state ballots to get 270 electoral votes to have a spot on the debate state.

Johnson is on the ballot in 47 states so far, plus Washington, D.C.

"It appears we will be excluded from the first debate," Johnson told The New Mexican. He said the court so far has taken no action on the suit.

"It's possible the court could act in time for me to be in the second and third debates," he said.

The commission's rule that all candidates must be polling at least at a level of 15 percent is the reason Johnson was not invited to the debates.

Johnson's suit quotes a former head of the League of Women Voters who describes the establishment of the debate commission as a "conspiracy" by the Democratic and Republican parties to "hoodwink the American people."

While Barack Obama and Mitt Romney are debating in Denver tonight, Johnson said he’ll be in Chicago where he’ll be participating in an online Google Plus event. He also said he’ll be tweeting his reactions to the debate.

Johnson's antitrust suit is below:

Scan 001

Two More Bad Polls for Wilson and Romney in NM

Last Friday the Heather Wilson and Martin Heinrich camps released conflicting internal polls. Heinrich's showed him with an eight percentage point lead over Wilson. But Wilson's showed her only one percentage point behind Heinrich -- which represented a dramatic shift and backed up Wilson's contention that she was on the comeback trail.

There have been exceptions, but I generally ignore internal polls. I figured these two cancelled each other out and that the truth was somewhere in between.

But yesterday, (when I was off work), two independent polls came out, and if you can believe them them, Wilson's internal poll was way off and even Heinrich's poll underestimated his lead.

The Rasmussen Report -- which tends to lean Republican -- showed Heinrich 13 percentage points ahead, 52 percent to 39 percent. It was an automated poll on Sept. 27 of 500 likely voters with a 4.5 percent margin of error.

As her campaign has done with other polling companies, Wilson questioned the methodology of the Rasmussen poll. Rob Nikolewski has those comments HERE.

Later in the day, another poll from the We Ask America firm showed Heinrich head by about 11 percentage points. The Democrat was supported by just over 52 percent and Wilson with just under 41 percent. The company did automated interviews with 1,258 likely voters between Sept. 25 and 27. Their margin of error is 2.5 percent.

Both polling firms also asked about the presidential race. Both showed President Obama with a double digit lead over Republican Mitt Romney in the race for New Mexico's five electoral votes.

Rasmussen showed President Obama with 51 percent and Romney with 40 percent of the vote here. "Some Other Candidate" pulled six percent.

We Ask America had Obama at just under 51 percent and Romney at 40.6 percent. Former New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson was right under four percent of the vote.

With numbers like these, I suspect New Mexico won't be seeing many more national polling companies working this state for the rest of the year.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Roundhouse Roundup: How Will Susana Help Heather?

A version of this was published in The Santa Fe New Mexican 
Sept. 30, 2012

Gov. Susana Martinez traveled to Tennessee and Texas last week to do some politicking — speaking to a Republican luncheon in Nashville on Wednesday and going to Houston and Austin the next day for a couple of GOP fundraisers.

HEATHER WILSONAnd, as KOAT first reported last week, in the coming weeks she’s expected to campaign for Mitt Romney in the Hispanic-heavy battleground states of Florida and Nevada.

Meanwhile, there’s been a lot of chatter here in this enchanted former swing state about why Martinez has been relatively invisible on the campaign trail — at least in the U.S. Senate and House races.

Republican U.S. Senate candidate Heather Wilson could certainly use the help of the popular governor. Wilson consistently has trailed Democrat Martin Heinrich in that race. Last week, pundit Larry Sabato — director of the University of Virginia’s Center for Politics and head honcho at the Sabato’s Crystal Ball website — changed his Senate map to indicate that the New Mexico Senate race is now “likely Democrat” instead of “leans Democrat,” as it had been for several weeks.

“If I were running Heather Wilson’s campaign, if I were Heather Wilson, I’d be knocking on the governor’s door for a TV endorsement,” said Albuquerque pollster Brian Sanderoff. His recent poll for The Albuquerque Journal showed Martinez’s approval rate at 69 percent.

A television spot featuring Martinez offering a strong endorsement would be ideal for Wilson, Sanderoff said. Another option would be direct mail, featuring the governor’s image and a message touting Wilson, the pollster said.

I recently put the question to the Wilson campaign. “I expect the governor will be helpful,” spokesman Chris Sanchez said in an email.

And actually I do, too.

There’s no real political downside to taking that plunge. Even if Wilson ended up losing, nobody could honestly say that the loss was a reflection on Martinez’s clout.

And as Sanderoff pointed out, the two have a good relationship. Wilson, following the 2010 election, served as the chief of Martinez’s transition team. Martinez didn’t formally endorse Wilson in the Republican primary for the Senate seat. But her preference for Wilson was pretty obvious.

When Lt. Gov. John Sanchez announced he’d be challenging Wilson for the nomination, Martinez promptly released what more than one writer called an “icy” statement. She said Sanchez wouldn’t be given any assignments in her administration beyond the skimpy constitutional duties of the lieutenant governor. (The Sanchez campaign never really recovered from that. He eventually threw in the towel and endorsed Wilson.)

However, some argue that political endorsements don’t make that big of a difference anyway. Consultant Whitney Waite, a veteran of many GOP campaigns in this state, made a strong case for this position on a recent KNME New Mexico In Focus panel I also was on. I agree that endorsements often are overrated — though in this case, as far as Wilson is concerned, it couldn’t hurt.

Gov. Susana Martinez Spotlight on New Mexico: It’s not as if Martinez has been shy about getting into other races this election cycle. As Sanderoff noted — and I wrote about in last week’s Roundhouse Roundup — Martinez has been quite active in several legislative races, putting the heat on Democratic legislators who have opposed her agenda.

Senate President Pro-tem Tim Jennings of Roswell and Senate Majority Leader Michael Sanchez of Belen already have been on the receiving end of attack mailers from SusanaPAC, Martinez’s political action committee, headed by her political director, Jay McCleskey.

Whether you agree with the content or tone of the attacks, it makes sense for the governor to focus on legislative races. It’s more of a direct pain to Martinez if Michael Sanchez remains majority leader in the state Senate than if Harry Reid remains majority leader in the U.S. Senate.