My alligator-devouring, West-of-the-Pecos coyotes from near-tejana-land, just across the river from Rosa's Cantina, out in the badlands of New Mexico, are telling me they don't expect the petticoattails of Wicked Susana La Tejana, born on the wrong side of the Rio Grande in the South Mesilla Valley, to extend too far down the ballot. Let's take a look at the scenario.
Democratic Party insiders are tacitly conceding the governor's race will be won by Susana, in spite of her wicked origins. But how deep are the coattails? The more people are inclined to blame the Democratic Party for enabling the past eight years of Richardson's tyrannical rule, it would seem, the more effect this might have downstream on the ballot.
The national mood also plays a role here. There is likely to be a shift of about 50 House seats to the Republican Party. Nancy Pelosi will almost certainly be gone in January. But only one of the three Congressional seats in New Mexico, all held by Democrats, seems to be vulnerable. Pearce appears to be pulling away from Teague down the stretch, almost certainly due to the national mood, since the two candidates are nearly identical twins: both from Hobbs, about the same age, oil-and-gas-related businessmen, conservatives.
The state legislature? I calculate Republicans will pick up only 2-4 seats in the House, statewide. Normally state house members are evaluated by their effectiveness either in getting things done for their district or getting important statewide legislation passed, rather than by the generic mood of voters. Weak legislators in safe districts have been known to survive for decades, but this year, where Republicans were able to recruit adequate candidates, voters seem inclined to be paying attention, especially in districts with independent-minded voters. So I may be wrong about my count. If Republicans pick up more than five legislative seats, this would be a sign of strong coattails.
So where does than leave us?
Just below the governor's race, voters will encounter secretary of state, auditor, treasurer, attorney general, commissioner of public lands--in that order. The only Democrat among these who appears to be in trouble is Mary Herrera, who has received a good deal of bad publicity about the bureau of elections within her office in recent months. The rest, from polling data, appear to be shoo-ins. After that come some judges races, state rep, and then the local county races.
In the local races in Dona Ana County conventional wisdom (the alligator devouring West-of-the-Pecos coyotes again) has it only Nate Cote and Jeff Steinborn may have serious opposition out of seven state reps; three don't have any opposition. If they lose it will almost certainly be because of the coattails. The same is true all the way at the bottom of the ballot, where two of the five supreme court justices and two of ten Court of Appeals judges are in retention elections. Here it only takes 43% to toss out a judge. So a serious statewide test of the coattails effect will come if one or more of these (all Democrats) is knocked off.
Bottom line: If the Republican Party picks up only a couple of seats in the legislature and perhaps the secretary of state's seat, this will hardly be a rousing coattails election. If, however, they pick up more than five seats and lose one or more of the judges up for retention, it might signal something far more serious to the Democratic Party.