Inside the Capitol

Thursday, November 02, 2006

It's Almost Over

Syndicated Columnist

SANTA FE -- Finally, the 2006 election campaign is almost over. Close elections may be good for a democracy but the months of attack ads are agonizing to watch. It makes one wish that all races would be as lopsided as the gubernatorial contest and three of the four federal races.
The other statewide races have stayed fairly civil until near the end but late infusions of money led to some nasty ads. The big chunk of money for Democrat candidates came from Gov. Bill Richardson's leftovers. Republicans got theirs from a Houston home builder with a curious interest in New Mexico.
The attorney general race can be expected to be hard fought. It was a dead-end post for the first 70 years of New Mexico statehood. But after Jeff Bingaman was elected U.S. senator and Toney Anaya was elected governor in 1982, the job became a steppingstone.
U.S. Rep. Tom Udall later served as attorney general and current Attorney General Patricia Madrid intends to move to bigger and better things, be they in Washington or Santa Fe.
The high profile nature of the secretary of state race caught many by surprise. Maybe Republicans targeted it for big money because of a longstanding concern that Democrat secretaries of state have been stealing elections ever since the Great Depression.
Republican Vickie Perea was a popular Albuquerque City Councilor for many years so maybe GOP officials thought she had a fighting chance. Democrats think she is being rewarded for switching parties two years ago.
Perea has gone after Mary Herrera big time the past few weeks with a television ad criticizing Democrat Herrera for going to a conference in Hawaii and charging a cup of Starbucks and maid service to taxpayers. That requires a little more explaining before I can get too upset about it.
Republican Land Commissioner Pat Lyons finds himself in trouble for filming a campaign ad in a Santa Fe classroom. A parent complained that his daughter appeared in a shot without his permission. The offense doesn't seem that serious, except that the father is a Jim Baca supporter. That's not surprising, considering the ad was shot in Santa Fe.
Most state land commissioners have liked tying their office to the schools. By law, revenues collected from state lands are distributed among about 20 beneficiaries. Over 80 percent of the revenues go to schools. This past year, that amounted to over $400 million.
That's a lot of money, but it isn't nearly enough to support the state's $2 billion public school budget. So the remainder of the budgeted revenue for schools is taken from the state's general fund.
Thus there isn't a particularly direct correlation between the Land Office and schools. An increase in Land Office revenues really benefits the state as a whole, but generating money for school children is a more popular cause.
That being said, Lyons has done a good job increasing Land Office income and hopefully this flap won't hurt him much.
The national political scene could have some effect on state and local races here. It is difficult to imagine Democrats picking up 20 to 30 seats in the House and at least six in the Senate.
The House could see a change in control. Either way the numbers will be close and will demand that whichever party is in power, more bipartisanship will be needed to get anything accomplished.
California Rep. Nancy Pelosi, who has appeared in Albuquerque for Patricia Madrid, has been demonized as a speaker of the House the country doesn't need. It is difficult for GOP leaders to make that assertion when they are keeping Rep. Dennis Hastert despite his ethics difficulties.
I'll predict the U.S. Senate won't change hands. Everything will have to go right for Democrats to make it happen. Like drawing to an inside straight.
On the state level, Democrats had a surprising edge in absentee voter applications. But Republicans are returning theirs in greater numbers.
MON, 11-6-06

JAY MILLER, 3 La Tusa, Santa Fe, NM 87505
(ph) 982-2723, (fax) 984-0982, (e-mail)



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