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Monday, August 15, 2011

A Free-Wheeling Conversation With Diane Denish: Part 2

Di-Pic- Here is Part 2 of our recent interview with former Lt. Governor and Democratic candidate for governor, Diane Denish. In this installment, Diane discusses the Susana Martinez administration, the congressional races in CD1 and CD2, Democratic messaging and the media. 

Late last month we published Part 1 of our interview, which covered Diane's views on the U.S. Senate race in New Mexico, the Darren White controversy, Albuquerque Mayor Richard Berry, the federal debt ceiling, jobs, fracking and mining. Thanks again to Diane Denish for taking the time to discuss the issues with us in an informal setting.

SUSANA MARTINEZ ADMINISTRATION

DFNM: How is the Susana Martinez administration doing in your view?

DD: Well I think she's just a new version of Bill Richardson. She's putting her friends who helped her with money in high places within her administration.

I'm also disappointed because she really has not put out one agenda about jobs. We should all hope that she does really well because we need jobs, we need work. Her focus has been on law enforcement, and the Darren White thing gives her a chance to put more focus on that.

I read the recent Albuquerque Journal article about her first six months, even though we no longer subscribe to that paper. In their headlines, they mentioned jobs, but there was nothing in the article about any efforts on her part to create jobs. They focused on her push about the drivers' licenses; critics mentioned that she was not engaged and that she doesn't like to meet with people -- which I had heard from others.

Martinez is still in the phase of blaming Bill Richardson for everything and continuing to talk about possible pay to play from the past. I'm disgusted by it. Most of the stuff that came out in the gubernatorial campaign was a surprise to us. We used to say, what could possible be next? 

DenishObamaABQcr DDD&TeagueShake_DCJan08 DianeDenishMeetup1.10

DFNM: What about Martinez's approval numbers in the recent Public Policy Polling survey, including some support from Democrats?

DD: Well, I think Dem support in the PPP polling was at about 32% -- not bad but really not strong either. I understand that in Senate campaign polling in February Martinez was at about 62% approving -- and that she's now at 52%. In the PPP poll, she was at 49% favorable to 45% unfavorable. Martinez isn't faring that well in the first congressional district. She should be above 52% in the first six months. She's doing good compared to other new GOP governors like Scott Walker in Wisconsin or Rick Scott in Florida, but not good for a first-time, brand-new governor early on.

DFNM: Did you see the report showing that New Mexico is dead last in job creation? Do you see anything that's being done at the state level to create jobs?

DD: No, I don't see anything concrete being done. In fact, the Martinez-backed filibuster of the capital outlay bill in the legislature by Sen. John Ryan was a job killer. The way Gov. Martinez and Republican legislators have approached the film industry is a job killer. They've been killing jobs -- and they don't have a focus on how to create jobs. I don't see any plan.

Martinez and the Republicans are working to kill the SBIC, which has been the source of capital for micro loans that create jobs. I believe Martinez has mostly been on a mission to get rid of whatever the previous administration did to create a vision for the future. I really believe this should be a fight about a real vision and about jobs and how we're going to get there -- not a battle on purely partisan grounds.

Same thing at the city of Albuquerque. This Darren White thing -- that's just a big mask -- this city and state are losing jobs by the boatload. We need to focus on a combo of old and new industries, and we're not doing anything about the new industries under Republican governance, like green energy.

As far as environmental issues in the governor's race, I tried to stick as close as I could to Democratic values. I did disagree with Governor Richardson on the pit rule -- and it's not what controls drilling. If they think there's oil down there they will go get it.

Now it's all about natural gas -- they're all selling us a bill of goods. I just read about Chesapeake Energy having what's being called their "Enron moment" in a New York Times story. The claim is that national gas reserves are performing at 7-10%. Well, that remains to be seen.

What controls drilling is the market. Do a smart regulation policy. Oil and gas drilling and markets are very different -- it's not one size fits all. Environmentalists killed me on my pit rule position, but I was pro-choice, pro-labor, pro-teacher, pro-small business. I was everything else that I could be in terms of taking strong Democratic positions in my race. Remember -- I was raised in redneck country. I have come a very long way!

DDD&LujanTalk_DCJan08 AdamsDenish DenishABQ

CD 1 CONGRESSIONAL RACE

DFNM: What's your take on the Democratic primary race in CD1 to replace Rep. Martin Heinrich?

DD: I think the field has yet to play out. I think there will be more entries into that field. No predictions until I see all the candidates who will be in there. I think the district will change a bit during redistricting, but not enough to make it substantially different than it is now. I think Michelle Lujan Grisham is taking a strong look at it. I think Stuart Paisano is still on the list. Those are two names that I've heard.

I think Eric Griego is going to be in the primary race until the end. That Progressive Change endorsement really was a boost for him. We'll see.

DFNM: Can Democrats hold onto the CD1 seat in 2012?

DD: It's going to be a real battle and we're gonna have to work our tails off to do it. Everybody's going to have to work hard because the electorate is very volatile and we can't predict where we're gonna be in the economy. I think if Obama stands his ground on this budget battle and doesn't give up too much territory, that will work in our favor. There are a number of things that have to happen for us to maintain that seat, and I think it will be hard.

Even if we win, the seat will be hard to maintain going forward. I hope somebody says to the next person coming in, "if you win, we want you to be there for five terms so we can solidify this is a Democratic seat." It takes 3-4 terms to really do it, and we never ever had the seat before Martin so it's tough.

I understand Martin has the right to make the decision he made to leave the CD1 seat -- that the life of a congressman is a grind and that he has children -- but I wish we'd had those conversations with him before Jeff Bingaman retired, or last year, and let him know he had to make a commitment to hang in there for 10 years in the House. I can certainly understand why he wants to run for Senate.

However, when you talk to my friend Harry Teague, he says he always envied Martin, with a house right in ABQ in the middle of his district and near the airport. Harry had to fly into El Paso, Midland or Albuquerque, then drive around his huge CD2 district three or four days and then drive back many miles to get on a plane. So CD1 is our prime district in terms of structuring your life in a way that you don't have to be so beat up and tired out.

DDD&HeinrichShake_DCJan08 DianeDenishConventionCr DenishColon

DFNM: Your name was mentioned a lot for both this House seat and the U.S. Senate seat. What made you decide not to enter either race?

DD: I took a look but, as I have always said, it's not really the life I want. The Senate is very prestigious but New Mexico is where I really belong, where I want to be. As for the House seat, there's the two-year election grind, and it's also bothersome to see those congressional candidates sitting in those cubicles making those phone calls day in and day out all the time to raise money.

However, a whole lot of people encouraged me to run for the House seat. I got lots of encouragement from Emily's List and others, but my own family wasn't very supportive. I didn't think it was the right race for me. If the right opportunity came around, I think I would run again. I'd like to maybe run for office one more time -- not just to run for the sake of running, but because it would be something meaningful to me. Timing is everything.

Being in the House or Senate is a different thing than wanting to be governor. I'd look for opportunities for executive leadership in Albuquerque or the state. I think I'm more suited to that than Congress.

CD 2 CONGRESSIONAL RACE

DFNM: So how is former CD2 congressman Harry Teague, having lost to Steve Pearce?

DD: He's doing good. He thought it was the adventure of a lifetime to serve his home district in Congress and he enjoyed it.

DFNM: Who can take on Pearce and win?

DD: If one of the great, strong women representatives in that district or somebody in the Las Cruces area would decide to run, that would help. But I don't know that any of them wants to do it. This year, working with my friends on the national level on different things, I've learned that this has been one of the toughest years to recruit candidates that they've ever had. That difficulty doubles when it comes to women, because they say, who needs it? The money, the intellectually dishonest way that the media plays out,the savage 30-second ads (on both sides) all make it a hard sell. They think, why would I put myself through that?

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DEMOCRATIC MESSAGING AND THE MEDIA

DFNM: How can Democrats get their message out if many media outlets -- including the ones like TV news and local newspapers that ordinary people access -- refuse to cover the issues from any perspective other than a right-wing slant?

DD: We're terrible at that and the media doesn't help. For instance, during my campaign for governor, media wouldn't look into things we thought represented important failings on the part of Susana Martinez. The information we provided was based on significant research showing that many things she did as DA were designed to protect the sheriff's department. Nothing was ever printed about that.

The consolidation of the media across the country is a real threat to democracy because are about eight companies that own everything -- print media, radio, tv -- and that affects everything we do. Here's an anecdotal story: I went to UNM and taught a class on ethics in business, media and politics. I spoke to a student who interviewed Clear Channel execs and were told straight out that they promote the conservative agenda.

If that's fair, then who in big news media promotes the progressive agenda? The students couldn't name any major progressive news outfits except maybe NPR, which is seen as "neutral." This brings us to Fox News, the Wall Street Journal, the New York Post -- and Rupert Murdock. He has had a terrible impact on news and politics, but he may finally be getting his due.

As for newspapers, the New York Times is what I read now. I need a hard-copy newspaper in the morning and that used to be the Albuquerque Journal but it's now very clear that most of what they provide is biased and slanted. They ignore or play down stories that don't fit their ideology. We now subscribe to the daily Times, not just the weekend editions, and we never manage to get through the entire paper. There are so many great stories, but there are very few of those kinds of news sources left, and many people don't have easy access. Where I come from they don't even sell the New York Times. so people don't really have access to the facts that are out there in the so-called "liberal media."

DFNM: We often have all the arguments and facts on our side, but we don't have the messaging to make the argument persuasively and widely enough to make a difference. 

DD: We don't, and I don't think either the local or the national folks are doing it that well. For example, in the 2000 in the Gore v. Bush presidential race, the Supreme Court pick won and I don't think the American people really understand that. On the local level we have all these communications trainings for candidates and all, but the party doesn't say, "we're going to hire a really professional and experienced communications officer and we're going to fund that generously." Instead, they bring in inexperienced people or people who work on it only part time.

DFNM: On the other hand, Republicans spend a lot of money on communications, supporting blogs and news outlets, developing effective short-term and long-term messaging strategies and hiring seasoned people to get the message out. Look at the local Rio Grande Foundation. They operate with relatively astounding amounts of money and other resources.

There don't seem to be any sophisticated communication strategies being implemented by Democrats that compete effectively with GOP operations. Even at the national level, Obama does his thing to work towards his reelection, but what's our bigger message as a party?

DD: I know. Consider The Independent. They take nonprofit foundation money so they can't really be seen as "partisan" in any way, even if the Rio Grande Foundation certainly is. They're not a useful business model in helping our cause. Their funding almost guarantees that they can't really be going after the stories they need to go after to show our side of things.

Click on photos for larger images. All photos by M.E. Broderick.

August 15, 2011 at 03:30 PM in Democratic Party, Diane Denish, Eric Griego, Media, NM-01 Congressional Race 2012, NM-02 Congressional Race 2012, Rep. Harry Teague (NM-02), Right Wing, Susana Martinez | Permalink

Comments

Thank you Diane and DFNM for this refreshing interview. In my book, Diane Denish is the number one Democrat in the state in terms of practical ideas, respect and recognition, experience, and leadership.

Regardless of the election- many aberrations and strange ideas there, not Diane's best showing, R's tied her to Richardson too tightly- Diane still represents and reflects the ideals of the Democratic Party.

Thank you Diane. We await your renewed leadership.

Posted by: Cheryl Harris | Aug 15, 2011 8:45:27 PM

Joe Monahan's political obituary for Diane Denish on June 29th, "Di is Done," was premature. I may disagree with some aspects of Diane's gubernatorial campaign, but Cheryl Harris is right that the Democratic Party of New Mexico needs the leadership of people like Diane. These DFNM interviews with Diane have done a great job of showing us Democrats how much wisdom, charm, and experience Diane possesses. It is people like Diane that make me proud to be a New Mexican Democrat.

Posted by: Sterling Fluharty | Aug 16, 2011 10:39:00 AM

Diane makes too much sense. No wonder she didn't win!

Posted by: AT | Aug 17, 2011 7:02:24 AM