Inside the Capitol

Sunday, November 20, 2005

11-25 Statewide Races Taking Shape

Syndicated Columnist

SANTA FE -- Statewide races for the 2006 elections are beginning to take shape. Nominating petitions have been available to candidates since October 3.
Statewide and congressional candidates must submit those petitions by mid-February to be eligible for preprimary nominating conventions. Many candidates announced soon after the first of this year. Some have been running hard since summer.
Three key primary races are shaping up. The GOP contest to challenge U.S. Sen. Jeff Bingaman and the Democrat primaries for attorney general and treasurer are attracting numerous candidates. And the general election in the 1st Congressional District will again be bitterly fought.
The Republican U.S. senatorial primary has nothing to do with beating Sen. Jeff Bingaman a year from now. Once New Mexicans make up their minds on a U.S. senator or representative, they seldom change.
These candidates are lining up to succeed Sen. Pete Domenici in case he decides not to run in 2008. Our senior senator has had health problems for years. The past few years, some say they have seen signs of senility.
But never count Pete out until he says so. He has overcome all those health problems and if you think he's getting senile, you should have listened to him banter with Don Imus on MSNBC last week. He was as good as he was in his college days 50 years ago.
If that's a little longer than you've been watching, just remember back to the last 10 years former U.S. Rep. Joe Skeen was in office. Rumors circulated about his health every two years and prominent Democrats ran against him even though they knew it was hopeless.
They just hoped to choose the election when Joe decided not to run again or when he died in the middle of a campaign as his predecessor, Harold Runnels, did. But Joe just kept on going.
Lined up for the opportunity to run against Bingaman are Republicans Allen McCulloch of Farmington, Steven Gavi of Roswell, David Pfeffer of Santa Fe and Tom Benavides of Plaza Benavides in Bernalillo County. State Sen. Joe Carraro, also of Bernalillo County is taking his usual look at every promising race that comes along.
But Domenici's most likely successors aren't even in that race. Republican U.S. House members Heather Wilson and Steve Pearce have the inside track. Pete chose Wilson as his successor long ago.
And that is why strong Democrats keep challenging Wilson for her 1st Congressional District seat. Judging from the success Democrats have running for Albuquerque mayor, there is no reason they shouldn't have the congressional seat -- except that a Republican already has it.
If Wilson were to move up to the Senate, Democrats would have their chance again. So, it appears they have been able to talk Attorney General Patricia Madrid into being Wilson's challenger next year. That will be a very hard-fought race.
Because Madrid is leaving office, a long line is forming for her spot. That's mainly because the attorney general's post is seen as a good steppingstone.
That was completely untrue for our first 70 years of statehood. But since 1982, when former attorneys general Toney Anaya and Jeff Bingaman won the state's two highest offices, the outlook has changed, even though Rep. Tom Udall is the only one of the three elected since to successfully move up.
Democrats running for attorney general are Gary King, Geno Zamora of Santa Fe, Al Park and Eric Sedillo Jeffries of Albuquerque and Lemuel Martinez of Los Lunas. Republicans are Bob Schwartz and Jim Bibb of Albuquerque.
Park has had the most active campaign going, but now that King has jumped into the race, the Bernalillo County Representative is mulling the possibility of moving over to the state treasurer's race.
After the shocking revelations of the past few months, the treasurer's contest can be expected to have several candidates promising to clean thing up.
FRI, 11-25-05

JAY MILLER, 3 La Tusa, Santa Fe, NM 87505
(ph) 982-2723, (fax) 984-0982, (e-mail)



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