Inside the Capitol

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

4-7 House Remains with Dems

Syndicated Columnist
SANTA FE -- Republicans may pick up one or two House seats in this year's elections, but Democrats will retain firm control of that chamber.
That's the way it looks after candidates filed for House seats on March 21. All House seats and none in the Senate are up for reelection this year. Democrats outnumber Republicans 42-28.
Nine House members did not file for reelection so we know we'll have some new faces. Five of those stepping down are Republicans and four are Democrats.
It seems as though there usually are more Republican retirements despite their smaller numbers. One reason may be that it isn't as much fun to constantly be in the minority. Another reason could be that Republican districts often are along our borders, making the drives to Santa Fe become old quickly.
One of the retirees is Minority Leader Ted Hobbs of Albuquerque, who brought a stability to House Republican leadership that had been changed every two years for a very long time. In his eight years as leader, Hobbs has provided a steadiness to calm the infighting between his party's two factions.
One of those factions believes in standing united for GOP principles and against the Democrat leadership. The other faction leans toward looking for common ground with Democrat leaders.
That approach usually leads to passage and signing of more of a lawmaker's bills, but also has invited Republican opposition in primary elections. Hobbs has been able to juggle the fissionable material to prevent detonation.
There doesn't appear to be quite as much intra-party squabbling in this election, although it may lie just below the surface. Rep. Sandra Townsend of Aztec, who suffered the fewest vetoes of any Republican lawmaker this year, is stepping down after fending off GOP challengers in the last several primary elections. Rep. Jeanette Wallace, of Los Alamos, who often receives GOP opposition, has a free ride this year.
But Rep. Dan Foley, of Roswell, a leader in recruiting opposition for wayward Republicans, drew Republican opposition himself from Wal-Mart assistant manager Steve Gavi, who had been planning a U.S. Senate run.
Rep. Keith Gardner of Roswell, who unseated Minority Whip Earlene Roberts last election, has drawn opposition. And Bob White, who lost his Albuquerque Heights district to Justine Fox-Young two years ago, will try to reclaim it.
In case you are from Democrat country and see nothing unusual about challenging an incumbent, Republicans typically see such a practice as poor form.
When Gov. Gary Johnson stood for reelection, many Republicans were unsure of him but closed ranks to get him reelected. A few months later, their doubts were confirmed when he began a campaign for drug legalization.
Besides Hobbs and Townsend, other House members relinquishing their seats are Democrats Fred Luna and Kandy Cordova of Valencia County, just south of Albuquerque. The area is growing rapidly, with much of the new population leaning Republican. The GOP just might pick up one of those seats.
Perhaps the most likely gain for Republicans is the Eddy County seat of Democrat Joe Stell, who is stepping aside after a long, distinguished career. I have many good feelings for Joe, who was my English teacher and football coach in Deming 50-some years ago. Nobody messed around in his class and we learned a lot.
Also retiring are Reps. Ed Boykin of Las Cruces, Harriett Ruiz of Albuquerque, Avon Wilson of Roswell and Richard Cheney of Farmington. Cheney once ran for governor against Gary Johnson and John Dendahl. He won the preprimary nominating convention, but he may be known more for being confused with the other Dick Cheney.
Thirty incumbent representatives and one rookie have no opposition in the primary or general elections. Most are from well outside the Albuquerque-Santa Fe axis, where it is more difficult to give up one's life for a month or two every year for no pay and much aggravation.
FRI, 4-7-06

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



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