“The voters are saturated with information from presidential politics and the economic crises,” President of Albuquerque-based Research & Polling Inc. Brian Sanderoff tells SFR. “It’s harder for people to absorb and to keep up with all these other stories. Even though they’re somewhat sexy stories, they still revolve around a Public Regulation Commission district that is basically one-fifth of the state and sometimes doesn’t get the attention from the voter that it should.”
This week, the Attorney General’s Office declared Block’s confession—that he lied about the use of campaign funds, a fourth-degree felony offense—is “top, top priority.”
The story began to come to light on Aug. 20, when SFR reported Block had paid $2,500 to Wyld Country, a Las Vegas, NM-based country-western band in which San Miguel County’s top elected official, County Clerk “Pecos” Paul Maez, plays guitar [“Audit Right There”].
Block’s campaign justified the payment to SFR via e-mail, stating, “Wyld Country was part of a large get out the vote rally we had in San Miguel County, just prior to the primary election. Wyld Country is a well-known band and was paid for services rendered.”
It has since been revealed that the band never played; in a Las Vegas Optic article, Block blamed his false statements on the pressure from the media’s negative coverage of his earlier misrepresentations, which include fudging his criminal record and educational background in newspaper questionnaires.
Block’s confession also is questionable: He reported the erroneous payment on June 6 for an event that supposedly occurred on May 3. That was two months before SFR broke its first story on Block’s undisclosed criminal history [“Failure to Appear”], which began the media scrutiny of Block’s campaign.
Despite months of negative publicity, Sanderoff says Democrats’ habit of straight-party voting, as well as reluctance in the north to support Green candidates, still puts Lass at a disadvantage. “What it would take [to defeat Block] is even more adverse publicity occurring from now until election day,” Sanderoff says.
That seems to be the direction Block’s opponent is moving. Lass will begin running radio ads in the second week of October. “We don’t have the exact wording written, but we’re going to point out that Jerome Block Jr. is not capable of having this job,” Lass tells SFR. “When he says the reason he continued to lie about the campaign rally is because of pressure from the local media, what’s he going to do when there’s pressure from PNM’s lobbyists and Qwest lobbyists and his father’s friends? He’s going to fold, just like he folded and failed to tell the truth to the media.”
Lass also may benefit from a boost of support from dissatisfied Democrats. Former state legislator Robert Perls, who authored the legislation to consolidate the State Corporation Commission and Public Utility Commission into the PRC (in part, to term-limit Block’s father, Jerome Block Sr., who also sat in the District 3 seat), tells SFR he officially endorses Lass.
“My concerns are, No. 1, incompetence, No. 2, undue influence from his father and No. 3, undue influence from the industries [Block] is supposed to be regulating,” Perls says.
Yet, many are cynical about Lass’ chances in November.
“When I’ve talked to [Block], it was like there was nobody home,” Taos Daily Editor Bill Whaley says. “But Lass will really have to campaign hard to beat Block…If I were to predict today what will happen in November, I bet Block will win [Taos County] only because people go in and hit the button.”
In San Miguel County—the only county Block won during the primary—observers are more optimistic about Lass’ chances. Las Vegas community activist Robert Jones had planned to file a formal complaint against Block, before the election-reform organization Common Cause New Mexico filed a formal request for investigation with the Secretary of State’s office.
Now Jones is calling for Maez to resign. “People reacted very badly to Jerome Block winning in the first place,” Jones says. “A lot of us over here helped Rick Lass get his papers filed in a very short period of time…it was apparent to most people over here that [Block] simply wasn’t qualified.”
Las Vegas Optic Editor David Giuliani agrees: “I mean, how loyal are people going to be to someone who just lies and lies and lies?” For more on Blockgate, including his campaign manager’s outstanding bench warrant, the alleged “ransacking” of Block’s home, and a poem about the candidate’s follies, visit SFR’s election blog, swingstateofmind.com.