Inside the Capitol

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

6-6 Some Election Night Surprises

Syndicated Columnist
SANTA FE -- The last of the nation's primary elections now are over. New Mexico, South Dakota and Montana brought up the rear
Unfortunately New Mexico didn't receive the national attention lavished on the other two states as they put Sen. Barack Obama over the top in delegate votes. That's because New Mexico Democrats chose to hold a presidential selection caucus four months ago.
In a normal year, that would have brought us more attention. But who knew that this year's Democratic presidential selection process would go down to the very last state?
As state Democrats bemoan missing out on their big chance, they also are considering the mess their volunteer effort made of the counting process last February and the quarter million dollars it took out of their kitty that could have been used to help Democratic legislative candidates in the November general election.
Party officials reportedly already are beginning to talk about maybe just letting the state run their presidential selection in June 2012.
Republicans stuck with the June primary this year and ended up with a meaningless election. So far, I haven't yet seen the GOP presidential results in any newspaper. For the record, Sen. John McCain received 86 percent of the New Mexico vote and Texas Rep. Ron Paul received 14 percent.
But that didn't mean New Mexico didn't have a wild primary election night. A few races were very close and one other appeared to be an upset until the Associated Press realized it had been putting figures in the wrong columns.
That race, between Ben Ray Lujan and Don Wiviott in the 3rd Congressional District, caused some head scratching and maybe a few heart palpitations, but nothing like a similar mistake 14 years ago.
Diane Denish and Patricia Madrid were battling it out for a Democratic lieutenant governor nomination. Statewide Democratic candidates were headquartered at the Albuquerque Holiday Inn Midtown that year.
When the news came that Denish suddenly had grabbed the lead from Madrid, a mad dash of well wishers and job seekers streamed down the halls and across the courtyard of the hotel to regale Denish with stories of how hard they had campaigned for her.
Madrid's formerly packed hospitality suite was deserted. But when news came a bit later that a mistake had been corrected in the count, several of the slow-footed barely escaped injury as the thundering herd returned to Madrid's suite to explain that they had just gone down the hall to the restroom.
Lujan hosted a big election night party at the Hotel Santa Fe on Tuesday night, but Wiviott held a private party at his house. That eliminated any opportunities for fickle well wishers.
Big money didn't always buy victories in New Mexico's congressional elections. Wiviott's $1.4 million of personal cash didn't do it. Neither did the $990,000 the National Association of Realtors dumped into Monty Newman's 2nd Congressional District race.
Endorsements from political heavyweights didn't help much either. Heather Wilson in the U.S. Senate race and Marco Gonzales in the 3rd Congressional District lost despite endorsements from Sen. Pete Domenici. Gov. Bill Richardson's backing of three longtime incumbent legislators didn't keep them from good sized defeats.
One of the biggest surprises in this election was the strong showing of Republican Greg Sowards in the 2nd Congressional District contest. Sowards finished just behind candidates Monty Newman and Aubrey Dunn, Jr. who both trailed winner Ed Tinsley.
Sowards' television advertising and billboards directed people to his cleverly done Web site. It may be another indication of the Internet's influence on American politics.
Another surprise was Michelle Lujan Grisham who provided the only excitement in a dull 1st Congressional District primary. A poll 10 days before the election had her with 10 percent of the vote and former Secretary of State Rebecca Vigil-Giron at 23 percent.
On election day, Grisham picked up a big chunk of the undecided vote to finish only one percent behind Vigil-Giron.
FRI, 6-06-08

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



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