Inside the Capitol

Monday, February 05, 2007

2-7 Denish Lends a Hand to Richardson

Syndicated Columnist
SANTA FE -- Lt. Gov. Diane Denish is doing everything she can to help Gov. Bill Richardson become president. That includes not accepting the extra $250 a day she receives while the governor is out of state.
Since most of Richardson's out-of-state forays will be to campaign for higher office, Denish says she doesn't want New Mexicans to feel the governor's campaign is costing them anything.
It's a nice gesture on the lieutenant governor's part because there are plenty of things she could be doing with that money.
Prior to Richardson's declaration that he has formed an exploratory committee for a presidential bid, Denish was donating that money to charities. But now she is just not filing the form necessary to receive the extra stipend.
Of course, Denish has her own plans. She'd like to be our next governor. If Richardson happens to win the presidency or if he leaves to accept some other position in the federal government, Denish would automatically become our next governor, serving the remainder of Richardson's term.
She then would have a head start on other gubernatorial candidates in 2010. Actually Denish already has a head start. A year ago, she began raising money for her 2010 gubernatorial race and has $1 million in the bank already.
We could be in for a replay of the last two gubernatorial races, with Denish overwhelming her opponents in the money raising arena, just as Richardson did.
Albuquerque Mayor Martin Chavez also has often expressed interest in another try at governor. His 1998 effort was unsuccessful against Gov. Gary Johnson, with Denish as his running mate.
Chavez didn't want to jump in this early but he had no choice. If Denish gets too far ahead in fund raising, potential Chavez donors later on will likely take a look at whether they are throwing their money away.
The ability to raise money is the most significant factor in a political campaign. It gets a candidate more money. It gets more volunteers. It attracts the best staff. And it buys all that advertising.
Denish could be putting those $250 checks into her campaign account to beef it up. Of course, most of us likely would be using it to pay off credit card debt, and such.
But our lieutenant governor doesn't have to worry quite as much about that. She and her husband both have had successful businesses and Diane has a comfortable cushion of family money.
With Denish running so hard, will Bill Richardson become a lame duck? Not likely. The governor will keep his thumb on everything because that's his style.
Since the beginning, he has delegated some of his program priorities to Denish for implementation. That now includes water issues, in this "Year of Water."
But don't expect to see the two go off in different directions. The governor's office keeps everything well coordinated. And when he is out of state, the real power is vested in his chief of staff and not the lieutenant governor, who takes over his ceremonial duties.
That normally is well understood in all administrations. It did become public when Lt. Gov. Casey Luna started getting so anxious for Gov. Bruce King to leave the state that King almost quit traveling. And when he did travel, he would sit Luna down and extract promises that he wouldn't try to take over in King's absence.
But Richardson and Denish get along. And it is very much to their mutual benefit to work together. Richardson is a practiced politician with much to teach Denish.
Denish is an efficient, intelligent lieutenant governor, who can be very helpful to the accomplishment of Richardson's goals. One of those goals is running for president. Denish is eager to help any way she can.
WED, 2-07-07

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



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