Inside the Capitol

Monday, March 06, 2006

3-10 Is Gov Involved in AG Race?

Syndicated Columnist

SANTA FE -- Wouldn't it be fortunate for Gov. Bill Richardson if the next attorney general were to be a former employee of his?
If the Democrat and Republican nominees in next November's general election were to be Geno Zamora and Bob Schwartz, Richardson couldn't lose.
Current Attorney General Patricia Madrid and Gov. Richardson both are Democrats. They have had a few major disagreements the past three years, but in general, their public interactions have been civil and professional.
Both, however, are very ambitious politicians. Add to that mix another very ambitious politician, Lt. Gov. Diane Denish, and you have the makings for some behind-the-scenes tension.
That's especially the case since both Denish and Madrid are on about the same rung of the political ladder. They have been primary election opponents before and could be again.
So Gov. Richardson just could be dreaming of a day when an attorney general is in office with whom he can kick back and relax before they start talking business.
Zamora would be such a person. At the beginning of the Richardson administration he was the governor's chief legal adviser. He remained in that post until last summer when he left to begin his race for attorney general.
Would Richardson have encouraged him to make that run? Perish the thought. Those things don't happen in politics. But there is the matter of former Rep. Gary King getting into the attorney general race at about the same time.
King's name recognition caused two other hopefuls to get out of the race when their internal polling showed King to be way out in front. Relations between Richardson and the King family never have been exactly warm.
Richardson first came to New Mexico in 1978 to be executive director of the state Democratic Party. A few months later, King's father, Bruce, became the Democratic nominee for governor, and bounced Richardson out on his ear.
That's not an unusual action for gubernatorial nominees. Richardson cleaned house after winning the 2002 Democratic primary. Party officials should expect to be bounced, but when it happens to you, the perspective is a little different.
Years later, when Richardson became secretary of Energy in the late '90s, he hired Gary King to come to Washington to work for him. It wasn't a typical political hiring. King is an attorney specializing in energy law.
As President Bill Clinton's second term ended in 2000, King informed Richardson that he was thinking about another run for governor. Two years earlier, he had gotten into the Democratic primary late and he wanted to correct that in the 2002 race.
But, King said, if Richardson intended a gubernatorial run, that would weigh heavily on his plans. Richardson declined to commit one way or the other, so King came home and began his campaign. A year later, Richardson jumped in and the two ended up facing each other.
The prospect of King becoming attorney general during Richardson's second term likely isn't nearly as appealing as having a former staff member in that office. Zamora has been very successful at raising money. Do you suppose he might be getting any help?
On the Republican side, former Bernalillo County District Attorney Bob Schwartz recently resigned as the governor's criminal justice adviser. Expect to find no ties between Schwartz and Richardson during his GOP primary race against Jim Bibb. Schwartz just hopes Republicans forgive him for his previous employment.
Attorney General Madrid has drawn the Democrat assignment to challenge Rep. Heather Wilson for her congressional seat. That hasn't been a pleasant task for past Democrat candidates. Madrid is the strongest challenger yet, but if she wins, it will be by the narrowest of margins.
And that advantage could be obliterated by a Green candidate in the race. We haven't heard much from the Greens lately, but they don't like some of Madrid's rulings and have vowed to challenge her.
FRI. 3-10-06

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



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