Inside the Capitol

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

4-10 PRC Races to be Lively

Syndicated Columnist
SANTA FE -- Some of the more interesting regional races this year will be those for the Public Regulation Commission, which regulates public utilities, transportation and insurance.
Until 1998, those contests were statewide and it was called the state Corporation Commission. But that commission's duties were combined with the appointed Public Utilities Commission to create the present PRC with five districts. The hope was that the new body would eliminate the turmoil that raged with the SCC but it hasn't happened.
So now, instead of preprimary nominating conventions deciding who will be on the statewide ballot, any candidate can get on by submitting nominating petition signatures and many are taking advantage of it.
In the northwest region of the state, five Democrat candidates are vying to replace Lynda Lovejoy in a district created to give Indian candidates an advantage. Lovejoy is Navajo from Crownpoint.
Those who wish to replace Lovejoy, all Democrats, are Carol Sloan of Gallup, Derrith Watchman-Moore of Navajo, Andrew Leo Lopez and Steve Gallegos of Albuquerque and Louis E. Gallegos of Santa Fe.
Watchman-More is an environmental scientist who recently resigned as deputy secretary of the state Environment Department in order to run. Previously she worked for the Navajo Nation. Steve Gallegos is a former Albuquerque city councilor and county commissioner. Louis E. Gallegos is a former member of the state Corporation Commission.
Two Democrats are vying to challenge Commissioner David King, now a Republican, in the southeastern New Mexico district. They are Stephanie DuBois of Tularosa and Joseph Calderon of Hobbs. King is a former Democrat state Treasurer and nephew of former Gov. Bruce King. The district leans heavily Republican.
In the most exciting of the three PRC races, one Democrat and three Republicans want to unseat E. Shirley Baca of Las Cruces. Baca caught the nation's attention in late 2004 when she was arrested at the Albuquerque Sunport on marijuana and drug paraphernalia charges. The charges later were dropped but the damage may have been done.
Baca's Democrat opponent will be Sandy Jones of Williamsburg, chairman of the state Fair Commission. On the Republican side are Kent Evans and Doyle Pruitt of Las Cruces and Earl Greer of Truth or Consequences.
Evans is a Dona Ana County commissioner. Greer was a candidate to take over the 2nd Congressional District when Rep. Joe Skeen retired. He put up a very good website for that 2002 primary race. He didn't win that one, but saved the website and has it up again, the only one for any state or regional Republican candidate.
This southwest New Mexico PRC district can go either way. Baca is a Democrat and Tony Shaefer was a Democrat at the end of his term. But Shaefer originally was elected as a Republican in 1998.
Much less exciting regional races will be run for the five vacant seats on the 10-member Public Education Commission. This commission replaced the state Board of Education in the constitutional amendment that created the Public Education Department and put New Mexico's public schools under the governor rather than an independent board.
This commission, although elected, serves only in an advisory capacity. The lack of interest in the body is evident from the fact that only one person filed for three of the positions and no one filed for the other two.
Candidates for the PRC and the PEC file at the same time as candidates for local offices and the Legislature, five weeks after statewide and federal candidates. These candidates don't have to go through preprimary conventions as statewide and federal candidates do.
Technically, members of the U.S. House are regional candidates, divided into three congressional districts. But they have to go to the state preprimary convention to get on the ballot.
If there is competition, state convention delegates split into congressional districts at a point in the proceedings to decide on the congressional ballot for their district.
MON, 4-10-06

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



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