Legislative Update
5 October 2003
Number 03-04


How the Permanent Fund Election was Lost:
Snatching Defeat from the Jaws of Victory


Steve Pearce offered to help, but it wasn't Accepted

"We gave it our best," said Republican Chairman Ramsay Gorham.
----Albuquerque Journal October 4, 2003

Well, did we?

(Warning: despite the assaults on free speech in recent days, I am going to comment on this issue, even though past experience has resulted in personal attacks against me. I will talk about facts, as always, and let you be the judge. I know I will be called names, but I will continue to talk about issues and facts.)

On Monday, September 29, I was stunned to find out from a source close to the congressman, that Steve Pearce had offered not once, but twice, to do radio commercials opposing Amendment 2. He "offered about 10 days out, then again about 5 days out," the source said.

"Wow," I said, "Why on earth did they not do it?"

"I don't know," he said, "but there seemed to be a lot of turmoil at the state[GOP]party headquarters and I guess the ED (executive director) I was talking to was in the process of getting fired. Whatever happened, they kept saying they were going to do it [the commercial], but they just never did make a decision."

Incredible. There is absolutely no doubt that radio commercials featuring Congressman Pearce would have won the election for the "No" forces.

First of all it would have countered the message contained in the question I heard more often than any other: "What's up with Senator Domenici, why is he for the Raid?"

To be sure, most conservatives walked away puzzled after listening to Domenici, and went ahead and voted "no" anyway. However, it is clear that Domenici had a tremendous effect among soft Republicans, conservative Democrats, independents, and perhaps even a scattered few conservative Republicans. And there is no doubt that Senator Domenici's widely broadcast remarks, "I made the difference on Amendment 2," are accurate. Without Domenici's support, the Amendment would have gone down, plain and simple.

That's where Pearce comes in. A Steve Pearce commercial would have sent a clear message to thousands of voters that "this isn't a good idea." A known conservative who enjoys tremendous respect in Southern New Mexico---and a considerable amount throughout the state---would have made the Domenici position appear even more "mysterious" than it already did. It would have been the missing ingredient that a lot of people needed---a major player saying something to counter the most successful politician in New Mexico history.

(No disrespect to Patrick Lyons, who did more than anyone else to fight the Raid, but the fact is a congressman has a much higher profile than the Land Commissioner. Pat, by the way, did much to raise his standing among New Mexico Republicans and is owed a debt of gratitude by all of us.)

In Lea County alone, where a strong "Yes" effort was led by local educrats, including the school superintendent and the local school board, Pearce commercials would have obliterated the opposition. Oddly enough, the "No" vote in Lea County was notably lower than in the less conservative surrounding counties of Chaves, Roosevelt and Eddy. If Lea had reached the percentage of (far less conservative) Eddy, for example, the amendment would have lost a net 520 votes----and would have lost statewide by almost 400! And that is just in one county! Pearce's opposition broadcast on the airwaves would have had a whopping effect in all 18 counties he represents. Most likely the amendment would have lost by somewhere between 4,000 and 5,000 votes.

Bill Richardson had no problem paying for Domenici's ads, but the Republican Party of New Mexico won't put Congressman Pearce on the air. Go figure.


Senator Rod Adair can be heard every Friday from 9:15 to 11:00 on KINF Radio (AM 1020) in Roswell as he appears alongside Roswell Says radio show host Ron Stevens. Rod and Ron take calls from all over Southeastern New Mexico, discussing philosophical differences between liberals and conservatives as well as talking with listeners about national, state and local issues of the day.


Credibility Problems?

The turmoil at the Republican Party of New Mexico has left them with their third ED in just over four months, although the current ED holds the title "Deputy Executive Director." The fact that they have a "Deputy" with no ED means the Chairman is essentially serving as the ED. That is a recipe for disaster regardless of who the Chairman happens to be. Even a Haley Barbour or Lee Atwater would not do that. It's just too difficult for any one person to do both jobs.

The State Executive Committee should be commended for voting 21-3 to oppose CA 2
back in the late spring.

At that point old New Mexico hands, in and out of state, weighed in and eventually got the Republican National Committee (RNC) to donate the bulk of the money that was used to fight Amendment 2. The direct mail, which was the chief advertising weapon, was prepared by an out-of-state mail house chosen by the RNC. The state chairman's office was left in charge of the radio and press campaign.

The job of getting the message out in the print press was of course left to the state chairman. Unfortunately, this resulted in a slew of comments that drove morale down. Most famous perhaps were her election eve comments in which she expressed her view that there was almost no chance of stopping Amendment 2: "It will take a miracle to win," she told the Albuquerque Journal.

More than likely that took the wind out of any number of would-be voters, especially the elderly who may have felt that it wasn't worth the effort to get out and vote. Did it keep 122 people away from the polls? We can't know for sure, but it certainly seems highly likely.

This steady stream of "downer" comments, or those that "poor-mouthed" the GOP's chances had the greatest effect in Bernalillo County where most of the readers of the Albuquerque Journal live and vote. This was reflected in the Bernalillo County election returns where the "No" forces took a real beating. The Amendment carried Bernalillo County by over 6,000 votes, or by more than 50 times the statewide margin!

Similarly, as Gorham was handling the Bernalillo effort in her home county and senate district, her close associate and supporter, former Representative Judy Vanderstar Russell, was the high-profile spokesperson in Rio Rancho and Sandoval County, writing editorial columns and leading the charge against CA 2. When the votes were counted however, Sandoval county's results were even worse, percentage-wise, than those of Bernalillo County, a landslide 58-42 victory for the Richardson Raid.

Don't get me wrong, it's not their fault that Senator Gorham and Representative Russell had no particular credibility in their home counties, it is just that there was help from other sources that just wasn't called upon. Republicans in the Greater Albuquerque area would undoubtedly have responded to a Steve Pearce or a John Sanchez. (Word on the street has it that Gorham plans to hand off her Senate Seat to protégé Vanderstar Russell next year, as Gorham makes plans for higher office.)

Meanwhile, Land Commissioner Pat Lyons, as well as some state senators and state representatives, worked tirelessly in other parts of the state. This took courage because we were forced to speak openly against the position taken by Senator Domenici in areas of the state where the senator is very strong. Lyons worked all over the state, but his efforts were most strongly endorsed in those counties he represented while a state senator.

State Senator Bill Sharer challenged Governor Richardson to a debate and worked hard in San Juan County which rejected the amendment by a strong margin, 64-36. Commissioner Lyons' old district rejected the amendment 68-32.

I was asked to speak in five counties: Luna, Lincoln, Eddy, Lea and my home county, Chaves. I made six speeches, including one debate, did several newspaper interviews and articles and more than a dozen radio shows. Those five counties voted 68-32 against the amendment.


Mixed Messages and Mixed Messengers

Getting back to Steve Pearce, at least one observer e-mailed me to say she believes that the state party ended up ignoring Pearce because of other agendas, including speculation about who would or would not be a strong statewide candidate for senator should Bingaman retire in 2006, or should Domenici retire in 2008. I don't know about that. But the comment leads us back to the old idea that state chairmen should not be elected officials themselves, nor potential candidates. It presents too much potential for conflict of interest. Be that as it may, for whatever reason in this instance we clearly did not use our best spokesman.

That leads to another area of concern. I was contacted by the State Party and asked to do a telephone recording, opposing Amendment 2, to go to my senate district. Apparently, many, if not most Republican legislators were asked to do the same. I did the recording, as did a number of others, only to be told after the fact, that "Oh, Ramsay decided to do those." Was that a desire to advance her own name ID? Or was it for the perhaps legitimate reason that, say, it was just simpler that way? Who knows? More than anything it was probably an indication of disorganization and lack of communication in the state headquarters.

But the severe beating we took in Bernalillo County----among Republicans no less---means we had some kind of problem with either the message or the messenger.

Whatever we do in future, we have to put personal differences, grudges and, perhaps above all, agendas, aside. We have to have the best messengers we can find deliver the best messages we can communicate----all around the state.


Extremely Narrow Margin means Winter Predictions Badly Wrong

As this issue goes out, the latest count on Constitutional Amendment 2, AKA, "the Raid" is:

Yes 92, 224
No 92, 103

Governor Richardson and the Raiders of the Lost Fund led by 122 votes. When asked last Thursday, when the Raid was losing by 23 votes, if I thought it would eventually pass or fail, I responded, "It is going to pass. If Richardson can't steal 23 votes, he's not presidential material."

I went on to explain, "Look, Democrats don't lose statewide races in New Mexico by 23 votes, they win them by 23 votes. If Richardson went hat in hand to the Democrat National Committee and told them he had come up 23 votes short in an election in New Mexico, they would laugh him out of town. He'd be through, zero credibility left. He'd be no more than a AA ballplayer pretending to be able to play in the big leagues."

Clearly, the same criteria do not apply to Republican leaders. As is always the case---most recently observable in California----they are held to completely different standards of conduct.

I remember my colleagues hammering me last March for refusing to vote for adjustments to the proposal to raid the permanent fund. "Look Rod," said one senator from Albuquerque's Northeast Heights, "This thing is gonna pass like crap through a goose." "These changes (that tinkered with the percentage increase in the raid, and the number of years the raid lasts) will make it better for the state. At least we won't lose as much money for as long."

"No," I argued, "they will make the Constitutional Amendment more palatable, easier for the people to vote for, they will be fooled into thinking it is less harmful than it is."

"You're dreaming," the senators shot back, "They will have every union member in the state rounding up votes, they're going to set the date for some date in September when only the NEA and their families, the public employee unions and their families and the teachers and their families will show up. They'll have the press on their side (for the children), all the money and we won't have anything to fight it with. You're nuts if you think this has any chance at all of not passing. It is going to pass overwhelmingly."

"Well, my wife's a teacher," I said, "and I don't think all teachers will be for this. And I think we have a great chance to defeat this."

They ended up not getting my vote. I believe the election returns show I was right about our chances. It is obvious that a better managed effort would have blocked this Raid. It was no "done deal" at all. Not by a long shot.


No one left to Belittle: And Suddenly there was no one to Call On

If you are wondering why the New Mexico Republicans were not all over this election, impounding ballots, monitoring every move by the Bernalillo County Clerk and filing motions to ensure that there was an accurate count, you are not alone.

As quoted in the Albuquerque Journal, GOP Chairwoman Ramsay Gorham said, "I'm not sure we didn't win." Neither are we. But, we will never know.

When it came time to find people to do the things that have always been done, usually free of charge, by a half dozen Albuquerque lawyers, and long-time GOP vote watcher Lou Melvin, there was no one there. The call went out, but no one came forward.

The state chairman had spent almost two years trashing the same lawyers who have given long hours of volunteer service to the party. Despite the fact that the same group of people have kept numerous elections from being stolen over the past 25 years, she had called them names and accused them of all kinds of greed, avarice and every manner of untoward, unethical conduct.

When they were needed again, to ensure that this election was not stolen, there was no one left to belittle. The state chairman had no idea what to do to ensure that the two-weeks' long count was done correctly. And she had run off all the help. As a result, we will truly never know if this election was won or lost.


No Special Session this Year

I suggested three days ago that Governor Bill "I'm still very popular" Richardson would call off the special session he has set for October 27. While this is unlikely, I still would not be stunned to see it happen.

The reasons are two-fold:

1. The pending special session is for the purpose of "tax reform." Tax "reform" in the Richardsonian sense means a tax "increase." It is becoming clear as the final votes are being counted that Constitutional Amendment 2 has passed. The passage of the amendment means a windfall of $75 million for the Richardson budget. While Richardson may in fact spend this windfall on education, the passage of the amendment frees up a separate $75 million already being spent on education, allowing it to be spent elsewhere. Richardson badly needed that money because of the dramatic increase in recurring expenditures he was successful in getting from the lapdog legislature he rules over. In short, he already got his tax increase (through Constitutional Amendment 2). He doesn't need the special session now.

2. Even though Richardson won the referendum on CA 2, he was somewhat taken aback by the closeness of the vote. Most telling were his comments to Albuquerque Journal reporter Loie Fecteau. Richardson blurted to no one in particular, "I'm still very popular." What he unwittingly revealed in that comment was "It's all about me." It isn't really about New Mexico, it isn't really about public policy, or education----and it certainly isn't about "the children." It's about Bill. His focus is on whether he is popular, on whether he is approved of, on whether he is on TV, and in the paper. With such a close call under his belt, it makes sense to take the $75 million and run. He may well decide the 50.02% was too close a shave. If he goes to the special session and gets bad publicity for being too greedy too soon, people might end up thinking he's not overwhelmingly popular. He can't have that. He can always shake down the taxpayers again come January.