Inside the Capitol

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

5-8 GOP Gov Race May Draw Crowd

Syndicated Columnist
SANTA FE -- Assuming Lt. Gov. Diane Denish doesn't move to the top spot before next year's elections, 2010's gubernatorial race will not have an incumbent.
That usually brings out a number of candidates from both major parties. Richardson managed to scare everyone out in 2002. Denish is trying the same thing this year and appears to be doing a pretty good job.
But the Republican side of the ledger appears headed for a full house. Greg Zanetti, an Albuquerque financial adviser and National Guard brigadier general is the only candidate to officially form an exploratory committee but several hopefuls are sniffing around right behind him.
Former U.S. Reps. Steve Pearce and Heather Wilson gave up their seats to seek the GOP nomination for the post held by Republican Sen. Pete Domenici.
Pearce won that nomination but lost in the general election to Democrat Rep. Tom Udall. Very soon after his defeat, Pearce announced that he wasn't through with politics and would run either for governor or his former congressional seat in 2010.
Pearce says he has his eyes on the governor's race but that may not be where he ends up. He beat Wilson in a head-to-head senatorial primary last year and may be able to do so again next year for governor.
Wilson's battle cry in last year's primary was that, as a moderate. she stood a better chance of winning the general election than Pearce, an unwavering conservative.
Pearce likely would have an easier time winning his old seat back, which he had won by comfortable margins. Hints that he might continue this route are that he has kept both his Washington office and house.
Another consideration might be that any money he might have left over from his House or Senate campaigns can be used for another congressional run but he can't use the money for a gubernatorial race.
Money isn't a major problem for Pearce but he doesn't seem to like digging in his own pocket for campaign expenses. Rep. Harry Teague, the current 2nd Congressional District office holder didn't mind digging deeply for his two tough campaigns last year.
It's all a matter of preference for the moneyed. Both Pearce and Teague are in the oil business. Former Gov. Bruce King, a successful rancher, said if he couldn't raise enough campaign money from his friends, it meant he wasn't strong enough to win anyway.
Heather Wilson could have moved to Washington and done well in defense and intelligence consulting or lobbying. But she wanted to keep her family in Albuquerque. She has not mentioned running for her former seat again, but she is considering the governor's race.
Wilson was one of the moderate Republicans mentioned by Arlen Specter when he listed Republicans who had been abandoned by the GOP in party primaries last year.
Land Commissioner Patrick Lyons has also thought about the governor's race. He is the only Republican who has been able to win statewide in the last two elections. Party chairman Allen Weh also has been mentioned.
But for now Gen. Zanetti has it to himself on the GOP side. He's been making the best of it, traveling the state and setting up organizations.
Zanetti isn't new at this. Back in the early '90s, he was part of a group of conservative Christian Republicans who took over the Bernalillo County Party and threatened to rewrite the state GOP platform.
In talks with Sen. Pete Domenici and other party leaders, they proved to be reasonable and non-threatening, just interested in keeping Christian values in the forefront. It was a big disappointment to those of us in the media who wanted to cover a good fight.
Zanetti went on to run unsuccessfully for lieutenant governor in 1994 and later served as Bernalillo County GOP chairman. His wife, Theresa, was a member of the New Mexico House for three terms.
FRI, 5-08-09

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

We're leaving Fri. for two weeks in Hawaii with kids and grandkids. Will get several columns to you in next few days and will be sending from Maui also.


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