Politics

Primary Election Day 2014

June 3rd, 2014 at 6:47 pm by under Latest Posts, Politics

Voters headed to the polls across New Mexico Tuesday to vote in the primary election.

KRQE News 13 reporter’s @AlexG_Reporter and @ChrisMcKeeTV were sharing updates as the results rolled in. (Most recent updates first)


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.


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. 2 – Will and a Way

February 21st, 2014 at 7:04 pm by under Latest Posts, Politics

In a hallway outside the Senate chambers a little after the Senate closed, myself and a pair of reporters were digesting the last-second frenzy before the gavel came down.

Aside from the lottery fight, the session’s final hours were mostly quiet.

But there was one nagging mystery none of us had really solved.

“What’s the deal with HJR 16 ?”

Joint resolutions, most of them constitutional amendments, have gotten an awful lot of press attention this year. Minimum wage, marijuana, gay marriage, early childhood funding and changing who runs education were all fodder for headlines either before or during the session.

All of those big proposals had two things in common. They were being pushed by one party or the other and they all failed at some point in the process.

So that’s what made HJR 16′s trip from first being filed Wednesday night to the ballot in less than 24 hours particularly interesting. Even truly non-controversial constitutional amendments get a very thorough vetting and for good reason. After all it’s not so simple to fix a mistake in the state constitution once voters put it there.

But in the Senate, HJR 16 was introduced, removed from the President’s table and voted in through in a span of approximately two minutes.

That being said, the constitutional amendment’s background and history makes its rapid pace easy to understand.

In fact I covered HJR 16 on this blog when it was known by a different name, SJR 4. The proposal, sponsored by Sen. Tim Keller, D-Albuquerque, was backed by the State Investment Council and significantly changes where the $13 billion land grant permanent fund can be invested. Right now the SIC is handcuffed by a constitutional provision that limits the amount of that critical endowment that can be in international investments to 15 percent.

In HVEC testimony, the SIC said that can limit the growth in an investment fund that pays out hundreds of millions of dollars a year because parts of the international economy are growing at a faster rate than the US economy.

The idea sailed through the Senate 26-1, but ran into trouble in HVEC when Speaker Ken Martinez, D-Grants, successfully added on an amendment that allowed the SIC to increase distributions out of the land grant permanent fund from 5 percent to 5.5 percent starting after July 2016. Although the fund pays out 5.5 percent a year right now, that’s set to drop to 5 percent after FY 2016 ends a little more than two years from now.

Many Democrats who have eyed the fund as a potential source of revenue for education and early child problems citing the need to boost results, while Republicans and some fiscally conservative Democrats say the better way to go is to let the permanent fund grow going forward and not “raid” it.

SJR 4′s House sponsor Rep. Larry Larranaga, R-Albuquerque, was hopping mad. After losing a floor fight aimed at amending his bill back, Larranaga pulled the item from discussion. In the hallways he could be heard asking if Martinez’s amendment was truly legal or not.

It was a moot point because SJR 4 failed 34-32. In all fairness, the increased distribution option in the amendment likely would have killed the proposal in the Senate too.

Sen. Keller was caught in the middle of a House dispute he didn’t create over what had been a mostly non-controversial idea. Time was running out and both the SIC and Keller worried that the land grant permanent fund could miss out on millions in investment growth if the amendment didn’t make it onto the ballot before sine die.

So Keller reversed course and introduced HJR 16 at the last second together with House Majority Whip Moe Maestas, D-Albuquerque. The new amendment rolled back almost all of the House changes. The only change was an increased safety valve of sorts that cuts land grant fund distributions if the market crashes and the fund’s value drops too much. Without getting too technical, the cutoff number in the constitution for a five year average is $5.8 billion. The amendment ups that floor to $10 billion.

HJR 16 sailed through the House without opposition, but nearly died due to the drama over the lottery scholarship overhaul. It came up immediately after the Senate concurred on the lottery bill. Keller and Senate Majority Leader Michael Sanchez, D-Belen, sped through the needed motions and by necessity, Keller kept his debate very brief.

“This is a bill we’ve put on before, we need to get this out of here,” Keller urgently and quickly insisted.

Sen. Peter Wirth, D-Santa Fe, called the question and a quick vote later Keller got through the last of the frenzied formalities. HJR 16 went through to the ballot on another quick vote and the Senate adjourned sine die immediately after.

The whole scene was reminiscent of the massive session-saving tax deal that got slammed through the House at the buzzer (or a minute or so after) last year. HJR 16′s passage shows that if there’s enough political buy-in on an issue, enough political will, a way can be found regardless of how much or how little time is left on the Roundhouse clock.

———–

Coming up in Sine Die Pt. 3, a more detailed look at what the Legislature got to Governor Martinez’s desk and voters at the 2014 session and some stats.