Inside the Capitol

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

4-5 Dems Having All the Fun

Syndicated Columnist

SANTA FE -- Once again, Democrats get to have all the fun. They have competition in four statewide primaries. The GOP eliminated competition in the only statewide race it had.
Both parties held preprimary nominating conventions in Albuquerque in mid-March. Democrats gathered at Highland High School for a rollicking day of speeches, demonstrations and passing resolutions. One was a resolution to impeach the president. State GOP chairman Allen Weh called the Democrats left-wing radicals.
Republicans dined at the Marriott while listening to candidate speeches. Applause was allowed, and even some banner waving, but nothing unseemly like demonstrations.
I've noticed that Republicans also stand in line -- a foreign concept to Democrats. And they don't leave campaign material all over the floor. But if you have no opposition, why campaign?
Gov. Bill Richardson will not receive any primary election opposition on the ballot, as the last sitting Democratic governor did. Twelve years ago Gov. Bruce King had to weather a furious challenge from his lieutenant governor, Casey Luna.
But that's not to say Gov. Richardson had a cakewalk. Two dissatisfied Democrats announced last year that they would oppose Richardson. Neither one did, but that didn't mean the governor was without opposition at the convention.
Members of the Hispano Roundtable of New Mexico demonstrated against Richardson for vetoing funding important to children and the needy, not appointing enough Hispanics to top jobs and punishing legislators who don't support his priorities.
Republicans only race was for attorney general. Former Gov. Toney Anaya's son-in-law was pitted against Gov. Bill Richardson's former crime adviser. Anaya should be glad to know that his blessing no longer is the kiss of death. Association with the present governor is even worse.
Schwartz said he was surprised at the Republican partisanship. He shouldn't have been. If a Democrat had taken a position as a top adviser to former Gov. Gary Johnson and then run for office, he would have been treated badly too.
Jim Bibb, the Republican attorney general nominee, has managed to get Republicans excited about his candidacy. He is a National Guard officer and has considerable appeal to the religious right, which has successfully organized for preprimary conventions since the parties went back to them in 1994.
Democrats' most talked-about race also was for attorney general. Gary King did not look as strong as he had appeared in poll results. King says he thought it best that he, Geno Zamora and Lemuel Martinez all be close in the balloting.
Four years ago, King and Ray Powell, Jr. were denied a gubernatorial ballot position by a strong Richardson machine. King and Powell have had very strong feelings about that exclusion ever since. King says he didn't want to divide the party like that.
If that is what happened, it may not have been politically smart. The three finished in almost a dead heat, separated by only four percent. King ended up in third and now has to worry about spirited campaigns being conducted by both Zamora and Martinez.
The Democratic secretary of state race also was lively. Bernalillo County Clerk Mary Herrera bested two former secretaries of state. Stephanie Gonzales finished a percent behind and Shirley Hooper finished with 21 percent.
A fourth candidate, Letitia Montoya, did not receive the necessary 20 percent to get on the ballot, but says she will submit the extra signatures necessary to stay in the race.
This will be quite a contest. Although Hooper is behind coming out of the convention, she may gain strength from being the only candidate who can identify with southern New Mexico. After serving as secretary of state, she went back to Lea County and was elected clerk.
In the other Democrat race of interest, Ray Powell overwhelmed Jim Baca in the race for land commissioner. Baca says not to worry. He almost was kept off the ballot the first time he ran but came back to win the primary despite being outspent 4-1.
WED, 4-05-06

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



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