Inside the Capitol

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

11-3 Carpetbomber vs. Carpetbagger


Syndicated Columnist


      SANTA FE -- The battle of the carpetbomber vs. the carpetbagger didn't work out.

    GOP gubernatorial candidate John Dendahl is left with an entire warehouse full of bombs he can't afford to deliver, leaving Gov. Bill Richardson free to roam the state he chose for its political opportunity.

    The governor has taken full advantage of that opportunity to wage a campaign that he now predicts will win 32 of the state's 33 counties, according to Ashley Meeks of the Roswell Daily Record. That would certainly be a record showing.

    My research indicates the biggest victory ever posted by an incumbent governor was Jack Campbell's 1964 win in which he took 30 of New Mexico's 32 counties. Cibola County didn't exist back then.

    The two counties Campbell lost were Lincoln and Harding.  Richardson plans to take those, but figures he'll lose Catron County. But that won't keep him from trying, says Meeks, who reports that the governor will go there and try to find at least two votes.

    Eastside counties aren't easy for a Democrat to win. Richardson pulled out a squeaker four years ago when he took Lea County by five votes. This time, he plans similar narrow victories in other traditionally Republican counties.

    Catron County is in ranching country on New Mexico's western border. Most of its 3,500 residents don't think much of the state or federal government, whether they're governed by Republicans or not. But that doesn't mean they don't know what is going on.

    After retiring as president of New Mexico Western College in 1962, my father began a second career as a public speaker. Upon returning from a speech in Reserve, he excitedly told everyone who would listen that his Catron County audience was the best informed group of people he ever had addressed.

    So despite their isolation, the good folks in Catron County keep up with the world. And they've also given us state Supreme Court Justice Patricio Serna, a native of Reserve.

    Debates, or the lack of them, have been a major topic in this year's campaign. Gov. Richardson decided even one debate with John Dendahl was too risky. Dendahl countered by giving Richardson a new nickname. As a candidate, four years ago, Richardson often was called an 800-pound gorilla because of his strong resume and powerful campaign.

    When Richardson decided not to debate this time, Dendahl began calling him a 300-pound chicken. The moniker not only called attention to Richardson's trepidation, but also to his weight. The governor now is trying to address the latter by losing some of that girth.

    Rep. Heather Wilson has tried to call attention her challenger Patricia Madrid's hesitancy to debate by sending a person dressed as a duck to Madrid's campaign functions. The duck now seems to be ducking further appearances after getting its feet stepped on and turning up lame following its first outing.

    Madrid's performance in her one debate aptly demonstrates why she didn't want to debate in the first place. Most analysts opined that there was no knockout. If that is true, then Wilson certainly won big on points.

    There was no televised debate in the 2nd Congressional District but blogger Heath Haussaman has secured a video of the face off between Rep. Steve Pearce and Al Kissling. You can see it at

    In the 3rd Congressional District, Rep. Tom Udall and challenger Ron Dolin have been showing up for joint appearances wherever requested. Voters got to see debates between those two and between Sen. Jeff Bingaman and challenger Allen McCulloch on KOB-TV.

    Sunday's Albuquerque Journal will have final polling data on all the statewide and federal races. At this point, it appears the Albuquerque congressional race and the land commissioner contest will be the only close ones.

    Gov. Richardson predicts Madrid will win by a half percentage point. If that happens, we won't know a winner for days.

FRI, 11-3-06


JAY MILLER, 3 La Tusa, Santa Fe, NM 87505

(ph) 982-2723, (fax) 984-0982, (e-mail)



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