It’s political, personal and expensive: A look at the Michael Sanchez-David Chavez race
Print This Post
He’s also the man Democrats across the state yearn to see re-elected as Senate Majority Leader to counter-balance (and annoy) a hard-charging governor he’s butted heads with.
Simply put, anybody who cares anything about politics in New Mexico is watching the race between Sanchez and Republican state Rep. David Chavez, two trial lawyers who are running rough and tumble campaigns that are only getting rougher and tumbler as we head into the final weeks until Election Day on November 6.
“I do feel like I have a target on my back,” Sen. Sanchez said in a telephone interview with Capitol Report New Mexico while adding, “I’m running my race the same way I always do and that’s door-to-door.”
“This really is a referendum,” Chavez said in a phone interview. “We’re at a crossroads in New Mexico. This is a huge race to determine how the legislature and the Senate will be run in the coming years.”
Even though the race involves big personalities, it’s also crucial from a tactical perspective.
The role of Senate Majority Leader is critical because the person holding that position has extraordinary power in the Roundhouse. It’s the majority leader who rolls out and doles out what bills will be heard on the Senate floor on a given day during the 30-day/60-day sessions in Santa Fe.
As legislative sessions wind down to their final days, legislators (as well as reporters and lobbyists) all stop what they’re doing when Sanchez takes the microphone to read the order of legislation for the Senate.
In the first legislative session of Gov. Martinez’s tenure in 2011, two education bills her administration considered critical never reached the Senate floor, finishing a step shy of passing the legislature. Martinez bitterly called out Sanchez for bottling them up, accusing him of “playing politics with our children.”
Sanchez responded by saying of Martinez, “From the context of what I heard and read was, ‘You do it my way or else.’ And I don’t think that’s the way the legislative process works.”
Since then, there’s been no love lost between Martinez supporters who would like nothing more than seeing Sanchez lose his re-election bid and Sanchez fans who would love nothing more than to see the governor taken down a peg.
The intensity of the Sanchez-Chavez race is only exceeded by one thing — the amount of money being spent.
A look at the latest candidates’ reports filed with the Secretary of State’s Office shows Sanchez has raised $182,372, an extraordinary amount for a legislative race.
Chavez is no piker either, having raised $62,406 but that’s only about a third of Sanchez’s total.
“When we’ve been told that the governor and Reform New Mexico is spending $500,000 to $1 million against us [Democrats across the state], we have to have some resources to combat that,” Sanchez said.
“He’s going to spend a lot of money on the race,” Chavez said. “He’s got a lot of special interests and lobbyist money coming in but we’ve got money to run a good campaign.”
At least eight pieces of direct mail attacking Sanchez have been sent to voters in the district that makes up parts of Valencia and Bernalillo counties as well as the Isleta Pueblo, going after him on a host of issues, ranging from the state law granting driver’s licenses to illegal immigrants to calling Sanchez “the biggest roadblock to reform in New Mexico.”
The Sanchez campaign website and the senator’s Facebook page post refutations to the mailers sent by the conservative “Super PAC” Reform New Mexico Now and go after Jay McCleskey, the political advisor for Gov. Martinez. Sanchez has sent out his own mailers accusing Chavez of being “a puppet for extremist Jay McCleskey’s out-of-state corporations and special interests.”
“I just don’t think the things they put in the mailers are truthful,” says Sanchez.
“If he wants to call me Pinocchio or a puppet, that doesn’t say much about the issues and that’s what this campaign is focused on,” Chavez said.
Having served in the Senate for 20 years and seeking a sixth term in office, Sanchez is extremely well-known to voters in his hometown of Belen and is considered the favorite in the race.
On the other hand, a look at the political party statistics in Senate District 29 shows that it’s not quite the Democratic Party bastion one might think. The performance number for Democrats in SD-29 is 53.1 in favor of Democrats — a majority, but hardly an overwhelming figure.
This is Round 2 for Chavez, of Los Lunas, who ran against Sanchez in 2000 and lost. This is the first time Sanchez has had a general election opponent since 2004, when he defeated Abran Gabaldon with 62.7 percent of the vote.
“I take this race very seriously,” said Chavez adding that “this is a race where we can really make a difference in New Mexico … to get legislation on the floor and to debate those bills about education and jobs instead of having them shoved in the back.”
“All I can say is I run my campaigns as hard as I can during elections and when there’s not an election,” said Sanchez, “and I feel good about how things are going.”