Inside the Capitol

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

6-12 Primary Election

Syndicated Columnist
SANTA FE -- It was a big night for Gary King and Allen McCulloch.
In a statewide primary election without much excitement, Democrat attorney general candidate Gary King and Republican U.S. Senate candidate Allen McCulloch pulled off surprisingly strong victories.
Both candidates were in three-man races. Both started strong, but encountered what appeared to be formidable opposition during the campaign. And both ended the night with close to half the vote.
In King's race, young, energetic Geno Zamora, former legal counsel to Gov. Bill Richardson, mounted an aggressive, well-financed campaign that had King working hard to keep his momentum.
In McCulloch's race, Santa Fean David Pfeffer picked up plenty of free publicity walking our border with Mexico. And state Sen. Joe Carraro, of Albuquerque, made a bid to capture the big Duke City's vote.
But on election night, what the challengers had dubbed as close races, turned into easy victories. Unofficial figures give McCulloch slightly over 50 percent. King is at about 45 percent.
King got off to a strong start with high name recognition from previous statewide races for governor and the southern congressional district seat.
McCulloch's strength came from an early start, good campaign advice, a healthy war chest and the apparent support of party leaders. He made up for Carraro's strength in Albuquerque by taking almost everything else.
King did well in the south, as expected, but also won a majority in Bernalillo County and surprisingly held his own in the north. Support for Zamora from Gov. Richardson may have helped Zamora's fundraising and forced King to put in a wad of his own money. But it didn't affect the final outcome.
King's victory likely will strengthen the Democratic ticket in November. There is no way he can be tied to an effort by Richardson to take over an office that would be very valuable to him. In addition, King's reputation for integrity may blunt any Republican effort to portray him as soft on prosecuting ethics scandals.
Jim Bibb, the Republican candidate for attorney general appears poised to give King a very good race. His tie to father-in-law and former governor, Toney Anaya, could pick him up some support in the Hispanic north.
Ironically, the King and Anaya families have a close relationship. Both are from the Moriarty area and have known each other for years. Former Gov. Bruce King and his two brothers have had coffee every morning at Mike Anaya's El Comedor Restaurant for decades.
And then add this to the mix. Bruce and Toney have never been close, politically.
It was a closer race for the Democrat secretary of state candidates. That contest was won by Bernalillo County Clerk Mary Herrera. I will admit, that one came as a surprise to me. County clerks often run for secretary of state. That's no surprise.
But Bernalillo County clerks never have had much luck. First, they're from Albuquerque and that doesn't carry much weight in the rest of the state. And secondly, they're the ones who slow down election returns and sometimes make us wait until the next day to find out which statewide candidates won.
Herrera, however, has done a better job of dealing with the problems of counting about a third of the state's votes. So she took a shot at the top vote-counting job. She not only swept up Bernalillo County, she did remarkably well throughout the state.
Indications are that the 2006 primary will go down as the poorest turnout in any statewide election. About 20 percent of Democrats showed up and 15 percent of Republicans.
It's surprising that many Republicans bothered to exercise their civic duty. They had only one statewide race to decide and the winner of that is very unlikely to be successful in November.
Don't blame voters for not caring. The 2004 general election had the best turnout ever. Give 'em some contests and they'll vote.
MON, 6-12-06

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



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