Wednesday, November 08, 2006

ELECTION

Yikes, I'm exhausted ...

I'm unwinding in my motel room in the luxurious Comfort Inn West in Albuquerque. I spent several hours over at the Democratic victory party at the Hotel Albuquerque Old Town.

I think I'll just cut and paste what I wrote for the New Mexican The only update I'll offer is that at this point Heather Wilson has a slight lead over Patricia Madrid at this point in the Congressional District 1 race.

Here's my stuff:


ALBUQUERQUE — The wave of anti-war and anti-Bush sentiment that swept Democrats into control of the U.S. House of Representatives affected New Mexico races, Democratic leaders said Tuesday, even though it wasn’t a clean sweep for the party here.

In the Albuquerque area, the bitterly-fought 1st Congressional District race between Republican incumbent Heather Wilson and her Democratic opponent, Attorney General Patricia Madrid, remained too close to call at press time.

“Great things are happening in this country tonight,” Madrid told cheering supporters at the Democrats’ election-night party at the Hotel Albuquerque Old Town. But she stopped short of declaring victory.

In other races for federal offices, incumbents won easily. U.S. Sen. Jeff Bingaman and U.S. Rep. Tom Udall of Santa Fe, both Democrats, won huge victories, as did Republican U.S. Rep. Steve Pearce, who represents Southern New Mexico’s 2nd Congressional District.

Gov. Bill Richardson, meanwhile, glided to an easy victory over his Republican opponent, John Dendahl. And it appeared the governor was joined in victory by most Democratic candidates for state offices.

Democratic state land commissioner candidate Jim Baca was the only Democrat statewide to lose. As was the case four years ago, Patrick Lyons appeared to be the only Republican to win election in a statewide race.

How much the national mood affected most New Mexico races is open to debate.

Lonna Atkeson, a political science professor at The University of New Mexico, said Tuesday that anti-Bush sentiment likely helped some New Mexico Democrats. “There probably were a small number of people who said, ‘Screw it; I’m voting a straight Democratic ticket,’ ” she said.

The war in Iraq — and the tight Congressional race between Wilson and Madrid — probably helped bolster voter turnout in the Albuquerque area, Atkeson said.

However, judging by early voting turnout, she said, this issue did little to stimulate turnout in the state’s other two Congressional districts, where the races weren’t exciting.

Richardson told a reporter Tuesday: “The national mood has had a spillover on state races. The war in Iraq, the Hurricane Katrina rescue effort and ethics problems with the Bush administration have had a positive effect in state races — even in the governor’s race.”

Richardson’s campaign chairman, Dave Contarino, said Tuesday that the national mood had energized state Democrats and helped with turnout.

Richardson trounced Dendahl, a former party chairman who has been critical of Richardson since the Democrat’s days as Northern New Mexico’s congressman. The governor racked up impressive numbers.

The race was so one-sided that Richardson’s victory, however huge, can’t be considered a surprise. Even Republicans complained about Dendahl running an “invisible” campaign, while many wondered why the GOP couldn’t field more competitive gubernatorial candidates.
Richardson also was able to accumulate some political IOUs.

After amassing a huge campaign treasury — a record-smashing $12.9 million — the governor shared his wealth with other Democratic candidates.

He was the biggest single contributor to Baca’s unsuccessful campaign, giving him $75,000 at last count. He also donated $70,000 to secretary of state candidate Mary Herrera, $60,000 to state auditor candidate Hector Balderas and $50,000 to attorney general candidate Gary King.

In addition, the Richardson campaign donated thousands of dollars of in-kind services such as automatic “robo” calls for individual Democrats’ campaigns, which were a great help to the down-ticket candidates, Atkeson said. “His purse was overflowing to his friends,” she said of the Richardson treasury.

There was a danger of some Democratic voters staying home because Richardson’s race seemed so one-sided and pre-determined, Atkeson said. But, she said, Richardson did “an incredible job at encouraging turnout and getting out the vote.”

New Mexico Democrats weren’t the only beneficiaries of Richardson’s generosity. He also contributed to Democratic candidates and organizations in other states — most notably New Hampshire and Nevada, both early presidential-primary states in the 2008 election.

Atkeson said Richardson’s contributions and travels to primary states probably will help him get contributions from those states if he runs for president. However, it probably won’t immediately pay off in endorsements from party leaders, she said. Democratic leaders make presidential endorsements much later than their Republican counterparts, she said.

Democratic domination of most New Mexico state races was not unusual. The state has elected only one Republican attorney general since 1930 and no GOP secretary of state in more than 76 years.

But while the Republicans might be faulted for tacitly conceding the governor’s office, unlike 2002, the last year the statewide offices were on the ballot, the party this year fielded candidates for all the positions.

Most of the down-ticket Republicans ran aggressive, well-funded campaigns. Some, like GOP attorney general contender Jim Bibb and secretary of state candidate Vickie Perea, ran television commercials.

The GOP’s effort for these races was serious. Republican National Committee chairman Ken Mehlman came to Albuquerque for a fundraiser in July. But it wasn’t for Wilson or Dendahl. It was for Perea’s race for secretary of state.

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ALBUQUERQUE — To the surprise of virtually nobody who has paid attention to the governor’s race, voters by a staggering margin elected Bill Richardson to a second term.

Richardson led his Republican opponent and longtime critic John Dendahl, a former state GOP chairman, 67 percent to 33 percent as of about 10 p.m.


Most political observers believe the 2006 governor’s race was little more than a dress rehearsal for the 2008 elections in which Richardson is expected to seek the Democratic nomination for president. Richardson has said he will make an announcement about his possible presidential plans in January.

Richardson, who was at the state Democratic victory party at Hotel Albuquerque Old Town, said his victory was a mandate from the voters to continue his policies. He credited a superior campaign organization for his big win. He also said the nation’s mood against the Bush administration had some “spillover” effect on his and other state Democratic races.

Richardson said during his campaign his main focus in a second term would include increasing the state’s minimum wage, providing pre-kindergarten to all 4-year-olds in the state, overhauling the state’s health insurance system and reforming the state’s ethics and campaign finance rules. If re-elected, he said during the campaign, he would declare 2007 to be The Year of Water and he’d fight for funding new water projects to the tune of $103 million.

The governor’s race for months had the smell of a landslide. The only Republican to run in the primary for governor was J.R. Damron, a Santa Fe doctor and political novice. He was criticized by some within the GOP as not running an aggressive campaign against Richardson. Shortly after the June primary, Damron withdrew as a candidate. The state Republican Central Committee, meeting behind closed doors, nominated Dendahl for the position.

Dendahl, during his eight years as party chairman, earned a reputation as an “attack dog,” always ready to hit an opponent with his quick wit and a barbed tongue. Many assumed he was in the race to do as much damage to Richardson as possible. And many thought it could turn out to be an exciting race.

In his concession speech, Dendahl said, “We wish the best for New Mexico, so of course, we wish the victor of this election well.”

Dendahl stood at the podium with his wife, Jackie, his running mate, Sue Wilson Beffort, and her husband, Steve Beffort. “The main reason that I’ll sleep well tonight is knowing that the Dendahl-Beffort campaign was important work,” Dendahl said to gathered Republicans at the Albuquerque Marriott Pyramid North.

He said his disappointments included the brutal attack on his campaign spokeswoman, Paige McKenzie, the difficulty of raising cash and Richardson’s refusal to debate him on live television.
As the race increasingly looked like a Richardson rout, fundraising for Dendahl grew more difficult. By the end of last month, he’d been able to raise just over $300,000 — compared to the incumbent’s $11.9 million.

Dendahl was only able to buy one television commercial late in the campaign. Richardson, meanwhile, commanded the airwaves with a plethora of television ads, all of them positive, touting his achievements and never mentioning his opponent.

Richardson’s ads provided the major framework of the campaign. Voters never were able to see him directly contrast his ideas with those of his opponent.

Richardson was criticized in newspaper editorials across the state for refusing to debate Dendahl on television. However, that decision never seemed to make a dent in the governor’s poll numbers or fundraising.

Despite the criticism, Lonna Atkeson, a political science professor at The University of New Mexico, said Tuesday that Richardson’s refusal to debate probably wouldn’t affect him in a presidential race. However, she said, there’s no way he’d be able to duck debates against other presidential contenders if he runs for president.

In the last weeks of the campaign, Richardson seemed to be campaigning more for other Democrats than himself. His overstuffed campaign coffers doled out thousands of dollars to the campaigns of fellow Democrats — both in New Mexico and out-of-state, including candidates and organizations in the early primary states of New Hampshire and Nevada.

Staff writer David Miles contributed to this report.

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ALBUQUERQUE — After a hard-fought and often bitter race for state land commissioner, incumbent Patrick Lyons defeated his Democratic opponent Jim Baca, a former land commissioner.

As in his first election to the job in 2002, Lyons was the only GOP candidate to win a statewide office.


With 91 percent of the precincts reporting, Lyons had 53 percent of the vote to 47 percent for Baca.

In conceding the race late Tuesday, Baca said he had refrained from airing negative television ads against his Republican opponent and said that was probably a factor in the outcome.

“I made the decision not to do negative ads because I didn’t want his family to see them, like my family saw his ads about me,” Baca said in an interview. “That decision probably hurt me.”

Baca also said the fact he trailed in campaign funding was a factor. “I’m proud I didn’t take any oil company money,” Baca said.

Lyons is a rancher from Cuervo, a small community in Eastern new Mexico. He served in the state Senate for 12 years before winning his first four-year term as land commissioner.

“We ran a good, hard campaign,” Lyons commented while watching election results Tuesday night along with other Republicans gathered at the Albuquerque Mariott Pyramid North.

Baca, who lost despite help from Gov. Bill Richardson, held the job for four years in the 1980s. In 1990, he won another term, which was cut short when he was appointed by President Clinton to head the federal Bureau of Land Management.

The land commissioner manages the state Land Office, overseeing 9 million acres of state-owned land and 13 million acres of state mineral rights. Revenues from leases go into the state’s permanent fund and benefit several institutions, including public schools, universities and children’s hospitals. Last year, the office raised $386 million.

From the beginning, Lyons had much more money than Baca. According to the most recent campaign finance reports, Lyons had raised about $959,000, more than twice as much as Baca.

During the campaign, Lyons stressed how much money the Land Office had made for its beneficiaries during his term.

He also aggressively attacked Baca, blasting the Democrat’s stormy years as Albuquerque mayor.

Baca made a major issue of campaign contributions in his race against Lyons. He accused the Republican of being a “business agent” for the oil and gas industry because of the campaign funds Lyons has accepted from that industry, which accounts for much of the public revenue generated from state trust lands administered by the land commissioner.

The latest figures available from the Institute of Money in State Government — which don’t include contributions made during the past three months — show energy and natural resources interests are indeed Lyons’ top source of money, accounting for more than $87,000. His next largest source of industry support was agriculture ($67,050), which is another major sector that leases state lands.

Baca’s major contributor was Gov. Bill Richardson’s re-election campaign, which gave him $75,000.

Baca said this was probably his last political race. “I think I’m going to stay retired,” he said.

UPDATE: Blogger, bless its twisted little heart, has changed the way to upload and display photos, so I wasn't able to add the shots of Madrid, Richardson and Lyons (an old one of him)until Wednesday night -- and only then by figuring out a way around the new system. Anyway, I took a few snapshots (nothing great) of the Democratic festivities in Albuquerque last night, which can be found on my FLICKR site.


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