By JAY MILLER
SANTA FE -- It might be called the Battle of the Political Stars. This year's contests for statewide offices feature perhaps the largest array of big-name candidates the state has seen.
Several officeholders from the past are seeking to reclaim their former positions. All are Democrats, as one might guess, since Republicans don't win many statewide offices below governor.
The secretary of state contest has two former holders of that office. Shirley Hooper served from 1979-1982 and Stephanie Gonzales from 1991-1998. Other Democrats in that primary will be Bernalillo County Clerk Mary Herrera and Letitia Montoya of Santa Fe. On the GOP side is former Albuquerque city councilor and mayoral candidate Vickie Perea.
The state land commissioner race also has two former office holders vying for the right to challenge current Land Commissioner Patrick Lyons in the November general election. Former Albuquerque Mayor Jim Baca held the land post from 1983-1986 and from 1991-1993, when he was appointed to head the Bureau of Land Management in Washington, D.C. Baca will be opposed in the Democratic primary by Ray Powell, Jr., who served nearly 10 years, from 1993 to 2002.
The state treasurer's race has former Treasurer James Lewis, of Albuquerque, squaring off against state Rep. Luciano "Lucky" Varela, of Santa Fe, in the Democratic Primary. Lewis, a Roswell native, also has been Bernalillo County treasurer, chief of staff to former Gov. Bruce King and chief administrative officer for the city of Albuquerque.
Admittedly, the name Lucky Luciano is a big one, but possibly not the best for identification with a candidate seeking the scandalized treasurer's office. But his nickname has not been an impediment in the past. Rep. Varela, is known as a financial expert and a straight shooter.
The attorney general's race also has some big names. Former Rep. Gary King is a member of arguably the most politically prominent family in the state. He has run for governor and Congress. Although both races were unsuccessful, they helped him build a name recognition and political base that chased some fellow Democrats out of the race when he announced. Staying in the contest with him are Geno Zamora, the former legal adviser to Gov. Bill Richardson and Lemuel Martinez of Grants, the 13th Judicial District attorney.
On the Republican side of attorney general contest are former Bernalillo County District Attorney Bob Schwartz and former assistant U.S. attorney Jim Bibb. Schwartz has stayed in the news as Gov. Richardson's crime adviser. Bibb is an Army National Guard major who flew in Afghanistan, and a son-in-law of former Gov. Toney Anaya.
Current Attorney General Patricia Madrid, a Democrat, is challenging Rep. Heather Wilson for her 1st Congressional District seat. Madrid has been a state district judge and a candidate for lieutenant governor and Congress in the past. This could be Wilson's toughest challenge yet.
The GOP lieutenant governor pick, Sen. Sue Wilson-Beffort, of Albuquerque, isn't particularly well known at this point, but my prediction is that she will be by the end of the campaign. She's a dynamo, much like our current governor, and evidently stays in shape much like our previous governor, Gary Johnson.
The word back during the Johnson administration was that she was the only person who could do more pushups than the governor. Of course, Johnson was doing them with one arm, but Wilson-Beffort's accomplishment is still notable. She married General Services Administration Secretary Steve Beffort toward the end of the Johnson administration.
Sen. Joe Carraro, a GOP candidate for the U.S. Senate nomination to challenge Sen. Jeff Bingaman, is also a headline grabber. While arguing for open conference committee hearings during the last session, he said he looked forward to the day when they become a reality because he comes up with some of his best quotes in conference committees. Unfortunately, that kind of grandstanding is a major reason used against opening conference committees.
JAY MILLER, 3 La Tusa, Santa Fe, NM 87505
(ph) 982-2723, (fax) 984-0982, (e-mail) email@example.com