Inside the Capitol

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

2-17 Candidate Dropouts

Syndicated Columnist
SANTA FE -- Candidate filing days often are as interesting for revealing who didn't file as well as for who did file. This year's Feb. 14 filings for statewide offices were no exception.
In the governor's race, former Rep. Bengie Regensburg of Mora County and Eli Chavez of Albuquerque's South Valley both were going to teach Gov. Bill Richardson a lesson for perceived slights. But come filing day, Richardson was the only candidate in the Democratic primary.
For the GOP, Santa Fe radiologist J.R. Damron will be alone on the gubernatorial ballot. Minister/teacher George Bailey of Edgewood announced many months ago, but didn't obtain enough signatures, so he filed as a write-in candidate.
In the GOP lieutenant governor's race, it wasn't a matter of people dropping out. State party chairman Allen Weh almost didn't find a candidate to drop in.
Early this month, blogger Joe Monahan mused about the GOP's potential embarrassment if it couldn't fill its ticket against the powerful governor and Lt. Gov. Diane Denish.
On Feb. 3, the day of President George Bush's Albuquerque visit, Sen. Sue Wilson-Beffort caught the spirit and agreed to give it a try. Collecting 2,000 signatures in 10 days wasn't the problem faced by other candidates. Party officials were more than happy to give her a hand.
In the U.S. Senate primary, Democrat Jeff Bingaman has no opposition, largely because former challengers Tom Benavides and Francesca Lobato now are Republicans. Lobato is a candidate again. Benavides was first to announce, but was a no-show on filing day.
Also filing in the GOP primary are Farmington urologist Allen McCulloch, Santa Fe City Councilor David Pfeffer and state Sen. Joe Carraro. Another non-filer was Steven Gavi, an assistant Wal-Mart manager in Roswell.
The Democrat secretary of state's race has plenty of takers, but not nearly as many as those who talked about it during the past year. Every county clerk and former county clerk from the Albuquerque-Santa Fe axis, along with all living past secretaries of state, consider that race every four years.
This year's entries include two past secretaries of state Shirley Hooper and Stephanie Gonzalez, plus Bernalillo County Clerk Mary Herrera and Letitia Montoya of Santa Fe, who ran for secretary of state in 1998.
First to announce her interest in running for secretary of state was Rebecca Bustamante, soon after ending her second term as Santa Fe County clerk in January 2005.
Not long after that, incoming Santa Fe County Clerk Valerie Espinoza said she was interested. Also mentioned was Patsy Trujillo Knauer, a former state legislator from Santa Fe.
Get the picture?
Filing for the Republican primary was Vickie Perea, a former Albuquerque city councilor and mayoral candidate. An early announcement of interest came form state Sen. Dianna Duran. But she's from Alamogordo and may have thought she was ineligible.
The attorney General's race once had Rep. Al Park and attorney Eric Sedillo-Jeffries, both of Albuquerque as serious candidates. But the late entry of former gubernatorial and congressional candidate Gary King chased them out. Remaining in were former Richardson legal staffer Geno Zamora and 13th Judicial District Attorney Lemuel Martinez of Grants.
On the GOP side of this race are two candidates with close ties to Democrat governors. Bob Schwartz of Albuquerque resigned his position as criminal justice adviser to Gov. Richardson in order to run. And Santa Fe attorney Jim Bibb is a son-in-law of former Gov. Toney Anaya.
Hopefuls also cleared out of two other contests when the heavyweights arrived. The state treasurer's Democratic primary is now down to Rep. Luciano "Lucky" Varela of Santa Fe and former Treasurer James Lewis of Albuquerque.
And the state Democratic land commissioner's race is down to two former land commissioners, Ray Powell and Jim Baca, both of Albuquerque.
No wonder state government doesn't understand all the state.
FRI, 2-17-06

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



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