Alex Goldsmith

Road to the Roundhouse: Pocket Change

May 13th, 2014 at 1:18 am by under Politics

In just three short weeks, Democrats across New Mexico will take a field of five gubernatorial contenders and abruptly narrow it to one.

It’s felt like a relatively low key race, one where the candidates have primarily stayed focused on themselves or attacking Governor Martinez. Intra-party campaign combat has been mostly absent to this point. As the contest enters its final days that could change, but a big driver of whether it will change could come down to who has the campaign ammo to make a statement (i.e. cash).

The latest campaign finances give us a big clue to not just money but momentum. And by that standard, there are really just two candidates in the field with either.

Rising

Alan Webber 

Money Raised Last Period: $116K

Money Spent Last Period: $100K

Closing Campaign Balance: $456K

If you’ve been following this race at all, you’re probably not surprised to see political outsider Alan Webber beating the field when it comes to dollars. The difference between this fundraising period and the last is that the $116K Webber brought in did not include a generous donation/loan from himself.

As the race’s outsider, Webber has had significant success in this part of his campaign. He’s also one of just two candidates on TV right now. Webber’s lone ad hit Martinez on her ties to the Koch Brothers. Whether Democrats will take to that focus is unclear, but getting his name out there is more important and he has more money to do that than any of the other contenders. That could bode well for a Webber win come June 3rd.

The big question remark remains whether his outsider status will help or hurt him at the polls.

Lawrence Rael

Money Raised Last Period: $58K

Money Spent Last Period: $77K

Closing Campaign Balance: $210K

We turn from the race’s outsider to the race’s insider. Longtime administrator Lawrence Rael has had plenty of enthusiasm behind his campaign. That showed at the pre-primary convention. Although he finished just behind Webber in third place, Rael has appeared to gain momentum. In the money race, he is well behind Webber and well ahead of Howie Morales and the rest of the field at this stage.

But even with fewer funds, Rael has spent them more aggressively than Webber has to this point. Monday his campaign announced its second TV ad. That’s not a surprise as Rael was first to the punch when it came to buying TV time. He may not have as much ammo as Webber to sway voters in the final weeks, but with deeper ties to the state than his Missouri-born opponent… he may not need as much to be the Dem pick.

Fading

Gary King

Money Raised Last Period: $12K

Money Spent Last Period: $53K

Closing Campaign Balance: $48K

Gary King may well be the party’s nominee after June 3, but if he is it will be due to his name and his name alone. King’s campaign has lagged in the money race and in the most recent period finished a distant fourth.

The attorney general’s camp has repeatedly pointed to a Public Policy Poll taken in mid-March showing he was well ahead of his Dem rivals. King’s political pedigree and name recognition are an undeniably huge part of that. But if that lead was accurately stated, King’s campaign has seemed to do little to keep it. No TV or radio ad presence yet and a fifth place finish at the Dem pre-primary convention plus the sluggish fundraising figures make a King win look unlikely.

But realizing he is still far better known than anyone else in the field and without a new poll showing anything different, it’s hard to say he’s not a contender either.

Howie Morales

Money Raised Last Period: $22K

Money Spent Last Period: $27K

Closing Campaign Balance: $45K

If you’re not well known, you’d better have some money to change that. That’s the chief problem for Howie Morales right now. The state senator grabbed early momentum in the race by finishing first at the pre-primary convention.

However, the air appears to be going out of the balloon. While party insiders were excited by Morales, donors (especially big money donors) have not been. Morales was fourth in campaign spending and third in amount raised during the last period. Without any political advertising, increasing name ID is a big problem that’s only going to grow bigger if a lack of funds continues to keep Morales off the air. Grassroots only goes so far without the green.

Linda Lopez

Money Raised Last Period: $10K

Money Spent Last Period: $16K

Closing Campaign Balance: $14K

Sen. Lopez finished fourth at the pre-primary convention and has been consistently dead last in fundraising totals. Enough said.

 

But Don’t Forget

Susana Martinez

Money Raised Last Period: $562K

Money Spent Last Period: $553K

Closing Campaign Balance: $4.2M

Money isn’t everything, but it sure doesn’t hurt. Governor Martinez’s fundraising momentum has not slowed and she continues to build a sizable bank balance to take on whoever emerges in June.

Add all five Dem challengers together and the funds they raised this last period are less than half of what the governor brought in. She also has more than nine times what Webber has in her campaign account. Oh, and the DGA doesn’t consider this a race it wants to invest in at this stage.

The good news for Dems? They have the numbers (at least registered anyways) and the election is still a long way away.

 

 

 

 


Road to the Roundhouse: Money Race

April 15th, 2014 at 3:13 am by under Latest Posts, Politics

It’s an unavoidable fact in politics at just about any level.

You can have the right message, qualifications or just about any other factor that makes for a winning candidate. But if you don’t have any money to let people know about it, you are in for a very long (or short) campaign.

To slightly modify Duke Ellington: It don’t mean a thing if you ain’t got the green.

Monday was the first major money deadline for all five of the Dem hopefuls looking to unseat Republican incumbent Susana Martinez. It’s the first chance to see who truly has the fundraising legs to keep battling. The newest reports due today show how much candidates have raised in the last six months, from Oct. 2013 thru now.

The numbers are in some ways telling and in others deceptive. Here’s a candidate by candidate breakdown:

 

Alan Webber (report here)

Amount raised since Oct. 2013: $811,613.44

Amount left going forward: $439,914.67

Campaign debt: $150,000

Analysis: Santa Fe businessman and Fast Company co-founder Alan Webber’s fiscal performance is not surprising, but it does undeniably put him in the best position of any of the five Democrats in the race.

It’s also not surprising that the majority of the money in Webber’s campaign coffers is Webber’s money. From looking at the report, Webber contributed a little more than $300K of his fundraising to his own campaign. He also loaned the campaign another $150K. That means more than half of what’s been raised has come from Webber himself.

Given Webber’s second place finish at the Dem’s pre-primary convention, this cash flush candidate remains well positioned to be the party’s nominee.

 

Lawrence Rael (report here)

Amount raised since Oct. 2013: $322,963.60

Amount left going forward: $228,767.50

Campaign debt: $176,950.60

Analysis: Rael’s fundraising efforts and campaign war chest have put him in a solid second place at this point.

The former Albuquerque CAO hasn’t been shy about lending himself money just like Webber. More than half of his campaign’s haul has come from a string of loans. The most recent one is a big show of faith, $150,000 lent on April 7th.

As we noted before, Rael finished third at the Dem’s convention a little more than a month ago. He was also one of the candidates that seemed to have significant audience enthusiasm (volume-wise anyway) during that event.

That enthusiasm, combined with his position in the money race put Rael as a dark horse. He’s still looking up at Webber and Morales, but he’s far from out of the race.

 

Gary King (report here)

Amount raised since Oct. 2013: $229,479.00

Amount left going forward: $89,177.60

Campaign debt: $143,006.14

Analysis: The numbers on their face look like a solid third place performance for the state’s current attorney general. Combine that only with a top performance in a recently released PPP poll and perhaps the strongest name recognition in the field and Gary King looks to still be on solid footing.

But as you might be able to tell from the lower cash balance left in King’s war chest and the campaign debt, there is some significant weakness in the fundraising data. As the longest running candidate in the race, King has already raised $655,702.34. He’s also spent all but the nearly $90K.

On top of that, King’s campaign has more debt than it has campaign cash. Also, $100K this last six months alone was from King loaning his campaign the money.

King is the best-known name in the race and the PPP poll reflected that. However, money problems and the lack of support with party insiders are some mighty strong headwinds.

The tide has not completely turned.

 

Howie Morales (report here)

Amount raised since Oct. 2013: $126,291.70

Amount left going forward: $46,624.61

Campaign debt: $25,000

Analysis: This was the report a lot of people had their eye on.

Despite the Silver City senator’s first place convention finish, campaign organization and fundraising ability are two factors that could keep Morales from holding the early lead that convention gave him. Before that top finish, Morales was nearly kicked out of contention for having too few petition signatures. In fact, his campaign had the fewest overall of the five Dem hopefuls.

Morales is going to have to work hard to show that an apparent fourth place fundraising finish isn’t his Achilles heel and that he can match up with the Governor on that front. He also doesn’t have a lot of cash on hand at this point.

There are two major caveats. One, Morales was barred from soliciting contributions in the days surrounding the session… a problem only Lopez was also saddled with on the Dem side. Two, there are signs his momentum significantly picked up after that convention win. I’ll get into why in a section below.

 

Linda Lopez (report here)

Amount raised since Oct. 2013: $28,570.00

Amount left going forward: $19,289.07

Campaign debt: $0

Analysis: If there’s a clear fundraising loser in the reports released Monday, it’s the only female Democrat Sen. Linda Lopez.

She has dug herself a very deep hole and it appears to be getting deeper.

A disappointing convention performance combined with a lack of the kind of name recognition that could make up for it were bad enough. Now Lopez has finished dead dead dead last in fundraising. It’s as close to the kiss of death as there can be at this stage and Lopez winning the nomination would be nothing short of a miracle.

Here’s a bit of bright news.. Unlike the other four contenders, Lopez hasn’t loaned her campaign a single penny. Yes, her Senate campaign chipped in some of the cash, but if this ship goes down it doesn’t appear it will go down with any debt.

 

MOMENTUM

All of these numbers are one thing, but is fundraising a flood or a trickle for each candidate right now?

One of the ways to tell is by looking at their fundraising numbers after the Democratic Pre-Primary Convention March 8th. Below are those numbers (not including loans or the candidates’ own spending on themselves) along with the candidate’s finish at that convention.

Alan Webber: $125,714.44 (2nd)

Howie Morales: $66,436 (1st)

Lawrence Rael: $62,916 (3rd)

Gary King: $62,425 (5th)

Linda Lopez: $4,585 (4th)

Analysis: No matter how you slice it, Alan Webber is the fundraising leader in both sheer dollars and momentum. Again, that number did not include his own $150,000 contribution during that time period. Although his campaign has been getting some high dollar donors, his total number of donations are significant too. Quite a bit of it all is from out-of-state. Finishing second in the pre-primary legitimized Webber and he’s been reaping the fiscal rewards.

Morales is a distant but strong second place here. He had the highest number of individual donors, nearly 500 in all during this time period but the big checks haven’t been as forthcoming. It’s a good recent showing that could allay some Dem concerns. Rael’s story is a similar one, although overall Rael has more cash to play with in his campaign’s coffers right now.

Gary King has been buoyed by just 60 donors during the time frame in question, but has been getting very big checks when he’s gotten donations. It’s deep-pocketed but narrow support that’s kept him in the fundraising conversation over the last month or so.

Linda Lopez’s number speaks for itself.

 

THE ELEPHANT IN THE ROOM

All of these numbers need to be taken with a huge grain of salt, in context and/or with a MAJOR caveat. Governor Susana Martinez is simply blowing every single Democrat out of the water on the fundraising front at this point, even Alan Webber.

Here’s the breakdown that paints a bleak November picture for Democrats on the money front:

Susana Martinez (report here)

Amount raised since Oct. 2013: $1,396,169.51

Amount left going forward: $4,212,263.47

Campaign debt: $0

Analysis: Nobody is touching the Governor right now in the fundraising arena.

Add up all five Democrats and you get $1,565,541.75. That’s more than the Governor received, however nearly half (at least $750,000) of the Dem total is from those candidates pouring money into their own campaigns through either contributions or loans.

During that same time period it does not appear Martinez gave her reelection bid a single cent. There doesn’t appear to be a need right now.

That means from outside contributions alone, the Governor is beating all comers.

Simply put, the money is spread awfully thin on the Democrat side of the coin and could remain so unless the five candidate field starts shrinking.

Even since the Democratic Pre-Primary Convention, Martinez has raised $577,891.50. That’s more than the five Dem contenders combined.

She also had a prohibition on soliciting contributions for a longer time frame than either Morales or Lopez.

Martinez’s fundraising edge and campaign war-chest remains a daunting barrier for those who have their sights on unseating her in November. But it’s a very nice security blanket for a reelection bid at this stage.


ABQ Protest: New Mexicans protest APD shootings

March 25th, 2014 at 7:08 pm by under Latest Posts

KRQE News 13 Reporter Alex Goldsmith is in downtown ABQ as New Mexicans protest APD shootings. Most recent tweets will appear first.


Road to the Roundhouse: Starting Gun

March 9th, 2014 at 1:54 am by under Latest Posts, Politics

The Route 66 casino parking lot was utterly and completely jammed.

Cars decked with campaign signs outside gave a small taste of the political poster peppering awaiting inside.

Saturday was the Democratic pre-primary convention, political theater to many but a milestone of the 2014 campaign in a big way.

Although Republicans held their convention a week earlier, this weekend’s event was the true kickoff to the primary season for the state races. That’s because this was the first time the field of five Democratic gubernatorial candidates seeking to tangle with Gov. Susana Martinez in November was on full display and put to the test.

Winning is always nice but the number all five of them were watching Saturday was 20 percent. That’s the magic number needed to guarantee a spot on the June primary ballot. Not getting there doesn’t make winning the primary impossible technically because all it takes is getting more signatures to earn a spot. But falling under that level of support is almost certainly a campaign killer for many practically.

By the end of the longer than expected day, there were clear winners and clear losers. Oddly enough, petition signatures didn’t predict convention support as the candidate with the least, won big, and the candidate who got the most, lost big.

And before we get into those winners and losers… some context as to why this matters.

Four years ago, then-DA Susana Martinez won 47 percent of the vote at the Republican pre-primary convention. She handily won the party’s nomination and later the keys to the fourth floor.

2006 there was no convention fight in either party but in 2002, Bill Richardson blew Gary King out of the water with nearly 76 percent of the vote at that year’s Democratic convention. Then-Rep. John Sanchez scored 54 percent of the delegates’ vote at the Republican convention. Both won their primaries with Richardson topping Sanchez that November.

In 1998, former Albuquerque mayor Marty Chavez also won a decisive victory over Gary King at that year’s convention, taking 53 percent of the vote to King’s 23 percent. Chavez won the nomination but lost to incumbent Republican Gary Johnson.

Four years before that, Johnson squeaked out the needed 20 percent at the convention but lost. He still went on to narrowly win the primary. 1994 was the last time a gubernatorial candidate lost at the pre-primary convention and won their party’s nomination.

Winning doesn’t guarantee a primary win, but it’s a pretty strong indicator.

On the winning side this year was Sen. Howie Morales, D-Silver City. He’s the field’s youngest entrant (although he would not be the youngest New Mexico governor if elected), a state senator since 2008. Morales’ background is in education and backing from teachers’ unions was huge in propelling Morales to nearly 30 percent of the vote on Saturday.  Morales’ high profile issue during the 2013 session was trying to massively overhaul the Martinez-backed A-F grading system. This session he was one of two senators on Senate Finance who voted for the early childhood amendment. Expect that to continue to be a big focus as he marches along toward June as the front-runner.

Runner-up Alan Webber also had a solid night. The first word I heard of the Fast Company co-founder and Santa Fe businessman was a campaign volunteer asking an attendee if they wanted a “John Webber” sticker. But he’s well in the mix for nomination now. A vote tally north of 21 percent was good enough for second place on Saturday. Webber is selling himself as the right man to bring jobs to New Mexico and lists that at the top of his platform on his campaign website. An assumed fundraising base, given his background, could provide another advantage.

Right behind him and just ahead of the 20 percent needed was longtime public administrator Lawrence Rael. Albuquerque’s former CAO had a loud presence at Saturday’s convention which rivaled Morales’ crowd volume. It translated into a close third place finish. Bronze medal or not, he’s earned his spot on the ballot. Rael’s campaign has pitched him as someone with the right resume for the job (“Experience Matters”). He’s certainly set himself up as the dark horse.

Sen. Linda Lopez, D-Albuquerque, drew a lot of attention during the last two sessions for holding a string of hearings on the controversial Downs deal and Martinez education appointee Hanna Skandera. All of that smoke didn’t quite light enough of a fire Saturday. Lopez fell less than 2 percent below the 20 percent needed when all was said and done. That may be challenged, but it’s a tough blow for the tough-talking candidate.

But Lopez’s disappointment wasn’t anywhere near the disaster attorney general Gary King had at Saturday’s convention, a familiar location for King as we mentioned earlier. King entered the race before anyone else and got more petition signatures than anyone else, but he still came in dead last.

It started with a strange blunder before the speeches began. In the convention hall, a string of ads for a number of candidates, including all five gubernatorial contenders, played for the assembled delegates. King’s stuck out like a sore thumb because it wasn’t an ad for governor.

It was one of his ads for when he was running for attorney general in 2010. How do we know? One is obvious… it specifically showed attorney general on the ad. But the other one was a web link in the ad directing people to GaryKing2010.com. That used to be a campaign site, but if you click on this link you’ll see it’s been sold off since then.

Then there was a speech that many delegates told me afterward seemed to fall flat.

That all led up to a fifth place finish. King cracked double digits, but not by much.

It’s unclear what the exact path forward is for Lopez and King. King already has the needed signatures to continue if he wants, but finishing fifth is a heavy blow. Lopez can at least say she was close to where she needed to be, a lesser hurdle but still a significant one.

Remember, since 1998, every pre-primary convention gubernatorial pick has gone on to secure their party’s nomination.

That being said, this was a much narrower win than any of the wins Martinez, Richardson, Sanchez, Chavez and Johnson enjoyed during that time frame. Because of that, Morales’ win is far from the knockout punch a blowout could’ve provided.

Governor Susana Martinez is sitting above the fray for now. She’s still enjoying solid approval numbers and is building up an impressive campaign war-chest for the race. Her camp released a statement along those lines today:

“The contrast between an optimistic Governor seeking to build on a record of achievement and move New Mexico forward versus the shrill voices of extreme politicians seeking to advance their own standing with out-of-the-mainstream rhetoric and dishonest attacks could not be more stark,” wrote campaign manager Danny Diaz.

A still-open race means there will likely be a lot of negative campaigning in the coming months. It’ll be interesting to see if the negativity among the Democratic hopefuls is directed more at the fourth floor… or at each other.

Either way, we now have a way to sift the gubernatorial hopefuls.

After Saturday we know there’s a front-runner, two very different men breathing down his neck, a fierce female senator who narrowly missed her target and a long shot with the best-known name of all of them.


Sine Die Pt. 1b: Devilish Detail

March 1st, 2014 at 9:35 am by under Latest Posts

This is a follow-up post to Sine Die Pt. 1: Harper’s Gamble .

Last second legislating has its benefits and its pitfalls.

The sense of urgency can get important things that would normally take weeks finished in mere minutes. But in a rush, mistakes can happen. And with legislation even small mistakes can have major consequences.

This year it was a massive amendment to the lottery scholarship bill that drew a lot of attention. As I wrote about on this blog, Rep. Jason Harper, R-Rio Rancho, made an aggressive move to substantially change a massive lottery solvency fix.

Harper’s change did a lot of things but a significant error in the language of the amendment, now the bill on Governor Martinez’s desk, would have huge unintended consequences if its not fixed. Sen. Michael Sanchez, D-Belen, sounded the alarm in a press release from the Senate Democrats released Friday.

The issue in the amendment lies with the difference in the bill between “semester” and “program semester” when it comes to the lottery scholarship program.

In the bill, program semester is specifically defined as such:

“program semesters” means those semesters for which a legacy or qualified student may receive a tuition scholarship, but does not mean the first semester of college

That makes sense as a definition because the lottery scholarship isn’t awarded to incoming freshmen during their fall semester. Many students take advantage of a “bridge” scholarship to close the gap. Second semester freshmen are then eligible for lottery scholarships.

Harper’s new amendment changes a section in the bill:

(2) a qualified student who is not a legacy student is eligible to receive the tuition scholarship for a maximum of seven program semesters, starting in the second program semester, and in an amount determined pursuant to the provisions of Section 4 of the Legislative Lottery Tuition Scholarship Act.

The use of “second program semester” is in a couple of places in the bill’s amended language. But remember, “second semester” and “second program semester” work differently because “program semester” is defined differently in the bill. It actually means a student’s sophomore year (i.e. the second semester they “qualify” for the program).

Under the language, freshmen entering school in the fall 2014 wouldn’t be able to get a lottery scholarship until fall 2015.

“That wasn’t what I intended the bill to do,” said Rep. Harper in a phone interview Friday afternoon.

Harper blamed the problem on a drafting error by Legislative Council Service, something the group’s director Raul Burciaga confirmed.

“I apologize to Representative Harper,” Burciaga told me over the phone. “It was an error on our part.”

But Legislative Council Service didn’t have a lot of time to draw up that amendment. Burciaga told me the request was made with less than 24 hours to go in the session.

In an interview with me Friday afternoon, Sanchez said using LCS as an excuse doesn’t cut it.

“It’s unacceptable,” Sanchez said.

Sanchez says lawmakers have the ultimate responsibility to understand the bill they’re trying to change and the practical effect of any amendments they propose. He also criticized the practice of making major changes to important legislation at the last second, something he says has “backfired” two years in a row.

Although Sanchez has vowed to quickly introduce the necessary clean-up language next session and has written to universities asking them to back off on charging tuition to lottery-eligible until the legislature sorts things out, the solution may come much sooner.

In a sense, Harper may get saved from this major technical ordeal by a lucky break and the fourth floor.

Constitutional language on the line-item veto makes Governor Martinez’s power very broad in some cases, perhaps even more broad than most lawmakers themselves may have realized.

Here’s the key part in Article IV, Section 22 of the New Mexico Constitution, the section that spells out veto authority:

The governor may in like manner approve or disapprove any part or parts, item or items, of any bill appropriating money

Because the lottery bill appropriates $11 million to shore up the scholarship fund this fiscal year, the governor’s office is asserting Martinez’s ability to fix the problem by  subtracting language in all sections of the bill and not just the section dealing with that appropriation.

Practically that means that any bill spending so much as a dollar can have entire sections axed if the governor so desires.

Governor’s spokesperson Enrique Knell says it’s unclear what the exact solution will be, but believes removing a few words can repair the problem Harper’s amendment caused and ensure students themselves won’t be affected. Sanchez remained skeptical Friday afternoon that a fix would be that easy.

After the possibility of a line-item veto solution became apparent, Harper went on the offensive when he spoke to me later Friday, accusing Sanchez and Senate Democrats of playing politics and prematurely trying to scare families instead of finding a solution.

But the plain truth is that the mistake wouldn’t have been there in the first place but for the rushed nature of the lottery bill, a problem both chambers should share responsibility for.

The Senate waited until there were less than two days in the session to pass a massive lottery solvency fix the House hadn’t fully examined. The House waited until the last hour to substantially change it.

The only reason it appears that it won’t lead to disaster for New Mexico students is a constitutional provision Harper could not have possibly been counting on before the mistake became apparent.

It’s an unexpected safety net that may not be there the next time the Legislature leaves vital proposals in limbo until the final seconds of the session.