Inside the Capitol

Thursday, August 31, 2006

9-6 Guv's Eye Now on Nevada

Syndicated Columnist
SANTA FE -- Figure on Gov. Bill Richardson spending quality time in Nevada the next two years. No, not at the gambling tables. He hasn't shown the compulsion of former Louisiana Gov. Edwin Edwards or former Education Secretary Bill Bennett.
Gov. Richardson's compulsion is running for president and Nevada suddenly has become much more important. The Democratic National Committee recently stuck a Nevada presidential caucus ahead of New Hampshire's primary election.
In a way, it was a set-back for Richardson, who had been trying to organize a Western regional presidential primary early in the selection process. But organizing his fellow Western governors to get anything done had seemed to be like herding cats.
Nevada had not been a prime mover in pushing the Western primary but now it has catapulted ahead of New Hampshire, perhaps with aid from U.S. Senate Democrat Leader Harry Reid.
That doesn't mean that Richardson's efforts to organize a Western primary in early March will be abandoned. It just means that he can be expected to be a frequent visitor to the Silver State.
Nevada was chosen because of its growing Hispanic population. Since Iowa and New Hampshire have very few minorities, the DNC decided it needed to be more representative in its early primaries. South Carolina was moved up for another early primary because of its high Black population.
Another criterion was that the four early states be fairly small. Large states don't have nearly as much worry about getting attention. But was Nevada the best choice of a small state with a large Hispanic population?
Nevada's Hispanics are fairly new, attracted by jobs in the gambling industry. Its biggest advantage may be that it is a swing state and growing fast. Another advantage may be that top DNC officers and staff like the idea of spending time there.
Arizona might have been a better choice. It is larger, has more Hispanics, is growing rapidly and can be a swing state. And what about New Mexico?
We have the highest percentage of Hispanics and still carry the honor of being the best bellwether of any state in the nation.
The DNC's decision to stick another caucus in front of New Hampshire may not be without problems. New Hampshire has threatened to move its primary up further. The DNC has countered that it would encourage candidates not to campaign there, and those that do might not have their New Hampshire delegates recognized.
That could create a messy situation at the Democratic National Convention, something that Democrats anxiously fear. Remember two years ago when the convention rule was that no speaker could say anything bad about Republicans?
But New Hampshire may already have that confrontation headed off. As soon as he heard about the DNC threat, New Hampshire Gov. John Lynch quickly secured written pledges from 10 potential Democrat candidates that they would campaign in New Hampshire. Bill Richardson was one of those ten.
In other presidential primary news, Steve Terrell of the Santa Fe New Mexican reports that Richardson has registered his gubernatorial political action committee in New Hampshire so he can make political contributions in that state. His first contribution, Terrell says, was $2,500 to the New Hampshire Senate Democratic Caucus.
Richardson has received some political help from Albuquerque Mayor Marty Chavez who has advised him that to win the presidency, he will have to take a stand against cockfighting. Gov. Richardson didn't take a stand when the issue came up in last year's legislature.
Cockfighting is sure to surface again in next year's session and Richardson says he plans to address the issue then.
Meanwhile a brutal murder in Texas has revealed a nationwide ring of dog fighting that law enforcement officials say is probably as big as the underworld drug business.
Sounds preposterous, but if true, it could crowd chicken fighting out of the news.
WED, 9-06-06

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



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