Inside the Capitol

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

5-11 Full Dem Field For Lt. Gov. Expected

Syndicated Columnist
SANTA FE -- If the field of Democratic lieutenant governor candidates is anywhere near the length of the list of hopefuls who expressed interest in being appointed to the post by Diane Denish last December, the size of the ballot will have to be increased.
Back when it appeared Denish would soon be our next governor, there was no scarcity of New Mexicans who thought they'd make a fine lieutenant governor.
Now that they have to run for the position, how many still will be interested? So far, only two have formally declared. And one of those likely was not on Denish's list of applicants.
First to declare was Santa Fe County Sheriff Greg Solano, who has been looking at the lieutenant governor's contest for a long time. To get some statewide notice, he started a blog several years ago, which he and his wife have developed into quite a production, complete with their own cartoons.
Two years ago, when U.S. Rep. Tom Udall vacated his seat to run for the U.S. Senate, Solano took a crack at that. In fact, the laundry list of candidates for that Democratic nomination may be a good clue to who we'll see in the lieutenant governor's race.
Conventional political wisdom tells us that a female candidate raised in Hobbs and who spent her first years of married life in Farmington would do well with an Hispanic male, preferably from the North. That was a good description of Denish's list of applicants.
The other declared candidate is state Sen. Linda Lopez of Albuquerque. She's Hispanic. Being from Albuquerque won't hurt, although that's where Denish has lived in recent years. But New Mexico may not be ready for two women on a ticket to head state government.
A few years ago Arizona celebrated the election of women to the state's top five offices. New Mexico hasn't gotten that far but some states considered more traditional than New Mexico in gender relations already have had women governors.
Lopez doesn't think a two-woman ticket would be a handicap but she wasn't mentioned as being a candidate for a Denish appointment last December.
Another reason Lopez may have stayed away from requesting a Denish appointment is that in 2002, both were lieutenant governor candidates until Denish successfully challenged the sufficiency of Lopez's nominating petition signatures and knocked her off the ballot.
Denish began immediate efforts to smooth out that relationship. Lopez is a popular politician in Albuquerque's South Valley, an area Democrats could not afford to lose.
State Auditor Hector Balderas headed the list of appointees it was thought Denish might choose. He already had experience winning a statewide race. Under the present circumstances, however, he will seek reelection to his present post.
Lawrence Rael was another top possibility for a Denish appointment. As executive director of the Mid-Region Council of Governments, he has been one of Gov. Bill Richardson's top go-to guys.
He heads the Rail Runner project. And when the Region III Housing Authority scandal arose Rael was asked to take that over too. Rael also has served in top staff positions for Sen. Jeff Bingaman and three Albuquerque mayors.
Others who have expressed interest or whose names have been suggested are state Rep. Lucky Varela of Santa Fe, Department of Veterans' Services executive director John Garcia, Espanola Mayor Joe Maestas, former Secretary of State Rebecca Vigil-Giron, former governor's chief counsel Geno Zamora and New Mexico State University regent Javier Gonzales of Santa Fe.
Joining this long list of Hispanic males from the north, are governors of two of New Mexico's most successful pueblos, George Rivera of Pojoaque Pueblo and Stuwart Paisano of Sandia Pueblo.
Some wise guy even suggested that if actor Val Kilmer wants to be New Mexico's governor, he should run for lieutenant governor this time and get some experience.
MON, 5-11-09

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



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