Inside the Capitol

Monday, February 12, 2007

2-16 Dems Should Keep Eye on 2008

Syndicated Columnist
SANTA FE -- With all the complaints about the 2008 presidential race starting so early, New Mexico has gone one-up on the nation with a race already developing for governor in 2010.
Actually it was inevitable. When Gov. Bill Richardson jumped into the presidential sweepstakes, it threw some of the state spotlight onto Lt. Gov. Diane Denish. And what better way to strengthen her hand than to immediately announce her intent to run for governor.
Add to that the lineup of people who intended to run for governor in 2002 when Richardson decided he would. That included Denish, Albuquerque Mayor Martin Chavez, Attorney General Patricia Madrid, former lawmaker Gary King and former state Land Commissioner Ray Powell.
Chavez and Madrid quickly backed out and threw their support to Richardson, thus ingratiating themselves to the big guy. Denish took aim, once again, at the lieutenant governor slot. But King and Powell stayed in. Richardson swamped them at the preprimary nominating convention and has held a grudge ever since.
King dropped back to the attorney general race in 2006 and won it despite Richardson's best efforts in the primary. King could very likely opt to seek a second term as attorney general in 2010 but don't count out another run for governor. He's always wanted to follow his father into that office.
Powell ran for land commissioner again in 2006 and lost in the primary, in no small part because of Richardson's support of his opponent, Jim Baca. He's a possibility for a future race.
Madrid let it be known following her narrow congressional loss in November that her political career is not over. Congress wasn't really what she wanted. But Democrat officials promised it would help any future gubernatorial run to take one for the party by giving Heather Wilson a good race.
So Denish declared her intention to run for governor within days of Richardson's presidential announcement. She released a poll at the same time indicating she had an 18-point lead on the Albuquerque mayor.
At that point, Chavez had no choice but to jump in quickly. Denish had been raising money for a year and already had over $1 million. If Chavez didn't get in immediately, he'd have no chance of catching up.
It will be a hard-fought race. Denish has received statewide exposure, traveling frequently to promote Richardson initiatives. Being Albuquerque mayor doesn't enable Chavez to get around the state, but he's done much nationally and even internationally.
Chavez serves on the board of the National Conference of Mayors and is its leading authority on the environment. He's on Newsweek's advisory panel on global warming issues. He's accepted a World Leadership Award in London for Albuquerque's water-supply efforts. And he has spoken at a world climate change conference in Paris.
Denish and Chavez may not be the only people in the 2010 gubernatorial race. Madrid is a likely addition. Blogger Heath Haussamen says Democrat Joseph Cervantes and Republican Susana Martinez from down in Las Cruces may be interested.
Also mentioned on the Republican side are U.S. Rep. Steve Pearce, former gubernatorial candidate John Sanchez, Bernalillo County Sheriff Darren White, former U.S. Attorney David Iglesias and former attorney general candidate Jim Bibb.
But, while Democrats are getting so excited about 2010, they must remember the two big 2008 federal races. Rep. Heather Wilson must run again and Sen. Pete Domenici's six-year term comes up for renewal.
Those aren't races serious Democratic candidates like to contemplate. But Domenici is feeling age and health problems creeping up. And although he already is running hard, and although I believe him, Democrat leaders figure they must be wary of any inside handoffs such as occurred in the Republican gubernatorial nomination last year.
Domenici is rumored to have figured heavily in the sudden and surprising switch from J.R. Damron to John Dendahl.
It could always happen again.
FRI, 2-16-07

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

CORRECTED COPY--major change to paragraph 6 re: Powell


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