Posts Tagged ‘Diane Denish’

Candidates line up to replace Heinrich in New Mexico’s First District

Posted on: August 26th, 2011 by The American Independent No Comments

This report is part of collaboration with WNYC’s “It’s a Free Country” to cover the 25 most captivating congressional races from around the country.

New Mexico’s First Congressional District — which encompasses Albuquerque, its suburbs and a sparsely populated rural area to the east — swung with the political winds in the past two elections. Rep. Martin Heinrich saw a 12-point victory in 2008 to become the first Democrat to represent the seat, but in 2010 he came within four points of losing. Now, he’s vacating the seat to run for the seat of retiring U.S. Sen. Jeff Bingaman.


New Mexico’s Sen. Bingaman will retire

Posted on: February 18th, 2011 by The American Independent No Comments

The Washington Post reported that Sen. Jeff Bingaman will announce his retirement today. Earlier this month, Public Policy Polling found the New Mexico Democrat to be a “near lock” for re-election, with an approval rating of 56 percent.

The Post’s Chris Cillizza cites an unnamed “source close to the decision,” adding that Bingaman has been pondering for months whether to run for a sixth term. After the November election, the New Mexico Independent reported that he said he was then “weighing retirment.” Bingaman has served in the Senate since 1983.

Cillizza writes that the likely decision is part of a Democratic strategy to get incumbents to declare their intentions about running early.

Reps. Martin Heinrich and Ben Ray Luján as well as former Lt. Gov. Diane Denish are sure to be mentioned as Democrats who could vie to replace Bingaman.

Update: Bingaman’s office confirms his retirement plans.

NM: Martinez faces tough road ahead for repeal of driver’s licenses

Posted on: November 10th, 2010 by The American Independent No Comments

Republican Gov.-elect Susana Martinez promised repeatedly during this year’s election to try to repeal a law allowing illegal immigrants to get New Mexico drivers licenses and to revoke thousands of already-issued documents. But interviews with state lawmakers this week make clear that undoing the law isn’t a sure thing when the New Mexico Legislature convenes in Santa Fe in January for one of the toughest sessions in recent memory.

For one, it’s unclear whether enough state lawmakers support the repeal effort to push it through both chambers in the Legislature, which Democrats still control despite losing eight seats in the House of Representatives during last week’s election.

Then there’s the potential for New Mexico’s budgetary problems to crowd out other large, controversial measures, some lawmakers said.

Fixing the state’s budget will dominate the legislative agenda as Martinez and state lawmakers learn to work together to close a $260-million gap in the 2012 budget after the state already has cut costs and raised revenue during previous legislative sessions.

On Tuesday a spokesman said Martinez remains committed to the goal in the upcoming 60-day legislative session.

“It was a top priority during the campaign and absolutely it is part of the agenda moving forward,” spokesman Danny Diaz said.

Citing a September poll that found more than 70 percent of New Mexicans oppose the state law, Diaz added, “There’s no disputing where the people of New Mexico are and they want the law repealed and licenses revoked.”

But veteran lawmaker, Rep. Luciano “Lucky” Varela, D-Santa Fe, said he wasn’t persuaded that state lawmakers will have enough time to juggle a potentially contentious debate over immigration with a wide-ranging, tough budget battle.

“We have so many important issues,” Varela said. Besides, he added, “I don’t know if we have the votes.”

State lawmakers have shown an ability over the years to juggle several substantial issues simultaneously, and there’s no reason to think they can’t this time too, responded the House’s top Republican, Minority Leader Thomas Taylor, R-Farmington.

“Just to think everyone is going to sit around and do nothing (except the budget) is ridiculous,” Taylor said. “I would think all of those  issues will be discussed and voted on.”

Pressure builds to repeal the law

About 10 states had similar laws on the books when New Mexico passed its drivers’ license law in 2003. But since then that number has dwindled to only three – New Mexico, Washington and Utah.

Combined with the national debate over illegal immigration, thanks to Arizona’s toughest-in-the-nation law, political pressure thrust immigration into this year’s New Mexico governor’s race.

From the start, Martinez took the tougher stance than Democratic Lt. Gov. Diane Denish, her opponent. Whereas Denish said she’d consider stopping the issuance of licenses going forward, Martinez vowed to work toward repealing the law and to revoke the tens of thousands of the state’s drivers’ licenses already issued to illegal immigrants.

Currently around 80,000 foreign nationals have New Mexico driver’s licenses, but not all are illegal immigrants, making it difficult to determine the exact number of illegal immigrants with state driver’s licenses, state officials said earlier this year.

State lawmakers are familiar enough with the issue, said Sen. Stuart Ingle, R-Portales, the state Senate’s top Republican lawmaker.  They’ve debated it in previous sessions and “people have answered lots of questions,” Ingle added.

“After an election like this, you’d think people would pay attention to what their constituents want them to do,” Ingle said.

The unknown is whether Martinez, working with legislative allies, can cobble together enough votes in the House and Senate to push through legislation repealing the law, and revoking the already-issued licenses, observers say.

Legislative Republicans won big in last week’s election, picking up eight seats in the House of Representatives. But Democrats still retain a four-seat advantage in that chamber, 37-33. Democrats enjoy a 12-vote advantage in the Senate, although enough conservative and moderate Democrats make common cause on key issues to sometimes nullify that advantage.

Legislative Republicans also likely will feel more emboldened with one of their own as governor, GOP lawmakers say. In Martinez they will have a powerful ally in the executive branch for the first time in eight years. Martinez replaces outgoing Democratic Gov. Bill Richardson.

“There’s a bigger place at the table. The governor tips the scale a little bit,” Taylor said.

But Sen. President Pro Tem Tim Jennings, D-Roswell, said while he understood that there’d be a push to repeal the drivers license law, he hoped the debate could wait.

“We have such a pressing issues on the budget that all the other side issues are just things we have to figure out how to deal with if the time is there,” Jennings said.

Then saying what other state officials have said across the nation, Jennings said, “We need to tell Congress to do their business and let us do our business. Congress is regulating how many drains you can put in a swimming pool, but they are not balancing the (federal) budget or taking care of immigration. We need to send them that message.”

NM: Election results used to grade pollsters

Posted on: November 5th, 2010 by The American Independent

According to New York Times polling expert Nate Silver, Rasmussen Reports is the big loser in this year’s midterm election. For two years, Rasmussen Reports’ polling results were consistently more favorable to Republicans than Democrats, Silver writes.  And while many pollsters with polls that are divergent from the others regress to the average near election day, the polls from Rasmussen Reports did not—to their detriment.

Meanwhile, firms SurveyUSA and Quinnipiac University were more accurate, according to Silver’s preliminary analysis of polls released in the final three weeks of the campaign.

Silver wrote:

On Tuesday, polls conducted by the firm Rasmussen Reports — which released more than 100 surveys in the final three weeks of the campaign, including some commissioned under a subsidiary on behalf of Fox News — badly missed the margin in many states, and also exhibited a considerable bias toward Republican candidates.

Other polling firms, like SurveyUSA and Quinnipiac Univesrity, produced more reliable results in Senate and gubernatorial races. A firm that conducts surveys by Internet, YouGov, also performed relatively well.

SurveyUSA and Rasmussen Reports both polled the New Mexico gubernatorial race in the three week period.

SurveyUSA pegged the race at 54 percent for Susana Martinez and 42 percent for Diane Denish and Rasmussen Reports put the race at 52 percent for Martinez to 42 percent for Denish.

The final election result in New Mexico was 54 percent for Martinez to 46 percent for Denish.

Martinez beats Denish, becoming first New Mexico’s first woman governor

Posted on: November 3rd, 2010 by Paul No Comments

Republican Susana Martinez cruised to victory Tuesday, riding a crest of voter discontent and anger over a broken economy to become New Mexico’s first female governor — and the first Hispanic woman in the country to lead a U.S. state.

Unofficial results late Tuesday showed Martinez capturing nearly 54 percent of the vote, to Democrat Diane Denish’s 46 percent.

The first-time candidate for statewide office made winning look easy, an outcome that would have seemed laughably optimistic in June when Martinez and Democrat Diane Denish first squared off but which felt like a foregone conclusion Tuesday after the Doña Ana district attorney had led in the polls for months.

But crowds of her supporters erupted into applause in Albuquerque on Tuesday evening as local pollster Brian Sanderoff and NBC News called the race only an hour and a half after New Mexico polls had closed.

“This victory tonight says something,” Martinez told supporters Tuesday night. “This message says something, that someone who grew up in a working family just a few miles from the border can achieve anything. The message sent to all those children watching tonight is the American dream is alive and well.”

Martinez also took time in her comments to acknowledge Denish’s service as lieutenant governor.

Denish meanwhile conceded the race in a speech shortly before 10 p.m.

“We fought a good fight for the state we love,” Denish said in an e-mail her campaign sent out shortly afterward. “Thank you for joining me and for standing with me throughout this campaign. I end this race more proud than ever to be a Democrat and to stand up for Democratic values. I believe government can – and must – be a force for good. I will never back down from that belief.”

Delaware Gov. Jack Markell, chair of the Democratic Governors Association, also issued a statement commending Denish’s run for governor.

“In a tough national environment that could not be more challenging, Lt. Gov. Diane Denish ran a robust campaign,” Markell said. “Although she fell short of victory tonight, we applaud Diane for her commitment to strengthening small businesses, expanding Pre-K and standing up to powerful interests.”

Markell finished by congratulating Martinez, wishing her well in her role as governor.

GOP wins big with Martinez

Martinez’s victory puts the GOP in control of the state’s top office following eight years of Democratic control of nearly all levers of state government. Martinez succeeds outgoing two-term Democratic Gov. Bill Richardson.

It also gives the GOP more of a say in large national issues affecting New Mexico.

As governor, Martinez will preside over New Mexico when the 2012 presidential election rolls around. Governors are often viewed as powerful resources for a party’s nominee during a presidential election, especially in a battleground state like New Mexico.

Then there’s redistricting, the decennial tradition the New Mexico Legislature is about to embark on that requires redrawing the state’s legislative, and federal congressional districts. A Republican governor acts as a counterweight to the Democratically controlled Legislature during redistricting, political observers have said.

But before those big-picture issues come into focus Martinez will have plenty to keep her busy. She takes over New Mexico at a time when thorny problems beset New Mexico, especially high unemployment and state budget woes that will force leaders into making uncomfortable decisions.

She also must contend with a Democratic Legislature that feuded with the last GOP governor, two-term Republican Gov. Gary Johnson.

Time will tell if the new Republican governor and Democratic legislative leaders can work together during the upcoming legislative session to address the problems confronting New Mexicans.

Massive out-of-state spending fueled race

Martinez’s resounding victory over Denish, who was once viewed as the race’s front-runner, was due to a convergence of factors: a sour economy, voters wanting change after eight years of Richardson, several high-profile scandals involving Democrats, and fundraising machine that helped Martinez reap more than $5 million in cash since late June, state records show. It took Denish all of this year and part of last to raise that kind of dough, according to state records.

In out-of-state money, in oil-and-gas giving, in the number of eye-popping contributions, Martinez beat Denish on every front in the battle for dollars, campaign finance reports show.

National GOP organizations and allies gave Martinez a big boost, especially the Republican Governors Association, which contributed about $1.3 million, or nearly 20 percent of Martinez’s fundraising, through last Tuesday.

Top Republican donors also gave big, including Wyoming investor Foster Friess, who wrote Martinez a $200,000 check, and Texas financier Bob Perry, who gave Martinez  a single $350,000 contribution prior to this year’s Republican primary.

Perry, a Texas developer, helped underwrite the 2004 attacks on Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry by the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth.

Denish also scored big contributions; she had several six-figure donations from labor unions during the election cycle, including two in the last campaign finance report filed. But the big money seemed to be too little, too late to slow down the Martinez juggernaut.

Negative ads permeated the airwaves

Tuesday night culminated a four-month gubernatorial contest in which negative ads and harsh, sometimes personal, attacks saturated the airwaves. Both sides often played fast and loose with the facts.

The Denish campaign called Martinez a “Tejana,” attempting to paint Martinez as an outsider – both for her birthplace, El Paso, Tex.,, and for the amount of money she had received from Texas contributors, which accumulated into the hundreds of thousands of dollars.

The Martinez campaign answered back with ads that portrayed Denish as a corrupt crony of Gov. Bill Richardson, whose administration has weathered several large scandals, including federal criminal investigations, who also was married to a shady lobbyist.

The negative tone of the campaign was so overbearing KOB-TV anchor Tom Joles joked about it during the last gubernatorial debate, quipping after a particularly attack-free portion that “We’ve just made history. We’ve gone four minutes and neither candidate has attacked the other.”

In the end it was Martinez’s hammering away at corruption and her repeated suggestions that Denish was tied to the Richardson administration that seemed to damage Denish’s chances the most. The prosecutor bludgeoned Denish again and again over her eight years in Santa Fe as lieutenant governor, a period that coincided with an eruption of scandals that took down several high-profile Democrats and tarnished Richardson’s once-shiny national appeal.

Denish never was implicated in any of the scandals. And contrary to Martinez’s attacks a lieutenant governor is not usually in a governor’s inner circle, determining state policy. Like the U.S. vice president, the office of the lieutenant governor is mostly for show.

But that didn’t matter. Martinez’s attacks seemed effective with voters, who were already angry over the economy and high unemployment, and appeared ready to vote in new state leadership. Voter surveys show Richardson with the lowest approval ratings of his eight years as governor.

“Everything from loss of jobs to dropout rates, Diane Denish was being blamed for as part of the Richardson administration,” New Mexico pollster Brian Sanderoff of Albuquerque-based Research and Polling Inc. said of the Martinez campaign. ”They saw it as key campaign tactic, and I think I worked.”

The Denish campaign “had a tough decision to make, whether to ignore these associations or to defend. And they chose not to defend,” Sanderoff added.

The pollster then ticked off a few Richardson administration accomplishments: the lowering of the state income tax; eliminating food from the state gross receipts tax; its tough stance on DWIs; and its pro-business stance.

“Those would have been good messages in this anti-tax, anti-establishment year,” Sanderoff said. Defending the Richardson administration “may have been tough, but it doesn’t look like ignoring (the associations) worked either,” he said.

At the same time the Martinez campaign attacked Denish it followed a strict regimen of limiting her exposure to media, thereby reducing the chances that the candidate might stumble and giving Denish and the Democrats fodder to use in attack ads.

The campaign also skipped several endorsement interviews, and cut off access to media outlets it viewed as unsuitably aggressive.

Challenges await Martinez on Day One

Martinez now will take over as governor at an unenviable time when New Mexico’s coffers are empty, and the state’s leaders face some difficult decisions ahead.

Governing, the old saying goes, is always harder than campaigning. And Martinez likely will find out how true it is come January, when she is sworn in as the state’s chief executive. Several weeks later state lawmakers will converge on Santa Fe for what is expected to be one of the most difficult legislative sessions in memory.

The first priority will be to balance the state budget.

Martinez made promises on the campaign trail that she might find hard to keep as she and state lawmakers cobble together a state spending plan, beginning in January when the next legislative session starts.

Like Denish, Martinez promised not to raise taxes in her first year at the same time she promised not to cut two of the largest areas in the state budget — public education and Medicaid, the government’s low-income health insurance program. Education and Medicaid make up 60 percent of the state budget.

Such statements provoked skepticism among state lawmakers and people familiar with how the budget works.

Legislative sessions are usually graveyards for election-year promises as rhetoric and philosophical conviction give way to pragmatic deal-making and compromise, especially during tough economic times.

The 2011 legislative session awaits Martinez as the first test of her governing capabilities, including how she works with lawmakers from the other party on difficult  budget issues.

On Tuesday night Martinez appeared to acknowledge the tough road ahead.

“We need to work across the aisle,” she told supporters, to fix the problems confronting New Mexico.

(Photo credit:

In New Mexico, Dem-funded mailer targets Martinez by highlighting write-in alternative

Posted on: October 29th, 2010 by The American Independent No Comments

A Democratic PAC is sending a mailer to New Mexico voters that appears to urge them not to vote for a little-known write-in candidate because he is too conservative. But it actually appears to be an attempt to convince tea party voters to vote for him instead of Susana Martinez, thereby siphoning voters from Martinez.

Heath Haussamen of received the mailer that warns that Kenneth Gomez is “too conservative for New Mexico.” Gomez has received virtually no attention from the media since the Secretary of State said that write-in votes for the tea party candidate would count on the ballot.

There have been no profiles of Gomez and only three stories on Lexis and three stories on Google News mention Gomez’s name. Gomez has raised a scant $1,200 and spent a little more than $1,000 according to campaign finance reports with the Secretary of State’s office, all from Lynette Gomez. His largest expenditure is $387.06 for door magnets.

So why is this mailer opposing Gomez?

Heath Haussamen explains:

The mailer was paid for by Majority Action PAC, which describes itself on its Web site as “a campaign organization aimed at winning elections through aggressive independent expenditure campaigns to help build and protect the Democratic majorities in Congress.”

Is this Democratic group really worried that Gomez might win the governor’s race? No, because he’s simply not a factor in the race. Is the group worried that Gomez might be taking votes away from the Democratic candidate for governor, Diane Denish? Unlikely.

Instead, it appears the group is trying to let conservatives know there is another choice for governor on their side besides Martinez. In telling people not to vote for Gomez, the mailer uses buzz words like “Tea Party” to describe Gomez and lets people know that he’s opposed to abortion, wants to reduce taxes and takes a right-wing stance on immigration.

It seems unlikely that Gomez will gain much traction. There have only been two reported write-in candidates for governor in the state’s history. Combined, the candidates received less than 1,000 votes in the 1990 gubernatorial election.

(Photo: KNME)

NM: Martinez, Denish spend big in final weeks

Posted on: October 29th, 2010 by Luke Johnson No Comments

Susana Martinez has raised more money than Diane Denish has in the last few weeks—but she’s spent more, too.

Martinez raised $1.07 million and spent $2.1 million in the period that ran from October 5 to October 26. Denish raised $871,000 and spent $1.6 million in the same period. Both spent over $1 million on campaign advertising.
Both spent a lot of money on advertising—Martinez spent over $1.5 million and Denish spent nearly $1 million—and on polling, with $122,000 for Martinez and $71,400 for Denish.

Martinez spent $126,000 on voter contact expenses while Denish spent $225,000.

Denish received sizable backing from labor. The Service Employees International Union donated $215,000 in the period to Denish and AFSCME donated another $100,000 to her campaign.

The Communications Works of America and the American Federation of Teachers also each donated $50,000 to Denish’s campaign. The International Brotherhood of Teamsters and the United Food and Commercial Workers each donated $15,000 to Denish.

The Democratic Governors Association donated $75,000 to Denish, bringing their total donations to $200,000 in the campaign cycle. The PAC of Sen. Jeff Bingaman also donated $20,000 to Denish.

Koch Industries, the company whose owners are among the richest men in the world, donated $10,000 to Martinez. The Koch brothers have been major backers of the tea party movement as well as other libertarian and conservative causes.

The private prison company The GEO Group donated $25,000 to Martinez’s campaign. The Independent has reported on the GEO Group’s problems in the state with low staffing levels that could have earned the company millions of dollars in fines.

Martinez’s notable contributions included $25,000 from SunRay Gaming of New Mexico, LLC, a horse racing track in Farmington New Mexico and another $50,000 donation from the Republican Governors Assocation (RGA). The RGA has donated $1.3 million to Martinez so far this cycle.

Home health care company owner Mary Merrell of Belen donated $25,000 to Martinez’s campaign.

Larry Mizel, a long-time Republican big money donor and Colorado developer, donated $50,000 to Martinez. The Colorado Independent wrote about Mizel in 2008.

(Photo: KNME)

NM: Denish wins most out-of-state dollars but trails Martinez in money

Posted on: October 29th, 2010 by Patrick Caldwell No Comments

This time around Democrat Diane Denish claimed the eye-popping contributions and raised the most out-of-state money.

But two six-figure contributions and nearly $600,000 in out-of-state money wasn’t enough to power Denish past Republican Susana Martinez in dollars raised during the waning days of the 2010 New Mexico governor’s race, campaign finance reports filed Thursday show.

In the three weeks from Oct. 5 through Tuesday the Dona Ana County district attorney raised nearly $1.1 million, to Denish’s $961,000.

Martinez’s fundraising edge appears to be yet another signal of the Republican’s strength as Election Day nears.

Denish’s strong showing in out-of-state money this reporting period is a turnaround from earlier reports and puts her campaign in an interesting situation. Denish has criticized Martinez for the amount of out-of-state money the Republican has raised, particularly from Texas.

From late June through early October it was Martinez who vastly outstripped Denish in the amount of out-of-state money raised, with more than half of the $3.4 million the Republican collected coming from all over the country.

But in the last three weeks Denish outpaced Martinez in out-of-state dollars, collecting about $570,000 in contributions of more than $5,000. Martinez meanwhile took in nearly $310,000 in out-of-state money in contributions of over $5,000, the reports show.

Unions aid Denish

The vast majority of Denish’s out-of-state haul came from unions, including an Oct. 20 contribution of $200,000 from the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) and a $100,000 contribution Oct. 7 from the American Federation of State County Municipal Employees.

The Communications Workers of America and the American Federation of Teachers each donated $50,000 to Denish’s campaign also.

The Democratic Governors Association also contributed $75,000 to Denish’s campaign, an amended report from Denish’s campaign shows.

While Martinez collected around $300,000 in out-of-state money, she appears to have kept the lead in money raised through big contributions. Martinez raised about $645,000 in contributions of more than $5,000, compared to Denish’s $640,000.

Martinez’s contributions

Martinez also reported some noticeable contributions.

Koch Industries, the company whose owners are among the richest men in the world, donated $10,000 to Martinez. The Koch brothers have made headlines this year for their backing of the Tea Party movement as well as other libertarian and conservative causes.

The private prison company, The GEO Group of Florida, donated $25,000 to Martinez’s campaign. GEO is one of two private firms operating prisons in New Mexico, with the Florida company overseeing three of the four prisons under private management.. The Independent has reported on the GEO Group and Corrections Corp. of America’s problems in the state with low staffing levels that could have earned the companies millions of dollars in fines.

Other notable Martinez contributions include $25,000 from SunRay Gaming of New Mexico, LLC, a horse racing track in Farmington, N.M. and another $50,000 donation from the Republican Governors Assocation (RGA). The RGA has donated $1.3 million to Martinez so far this cycle.

Home health care company owner Mary Merrell of Belen contributed $25,000 to Martinez’s campaign. And Larry Mizel, a long-time Republican big money donor and Colorado developer, donated $50,000.

What the campaigns spent

In addition to raising more than Denish, Martinez also spent more in the three weeks covered by the report, with her campaign logging $2.1 million in expenses. Most of that money, close to $1.5 million, was spent on media buys and air time for advertisements, the reports shows.

Denish spent $1.6 million during the period, with $1 million of that expended on radio and TV ads, her report shows.

In other expenses, Martinez spent $122,000 on polling to Denish’s $71,400. Meanwhile Martinez spent $126,000 on voter contact expenses compared to Denish’s $225,000.

The Independent’s Matthew Reichbach contributed to this post.