Inside the Capitol

Saturday, June 20, 2009

6-24 Political Maneuvering Beginning Already

Syndicated Columnist
SANTA FE -- The season for political maneuvering has arrived. It may seem early but that's the time to nip other possible candidacies in the bud.
The Democratic Governors' Association released survey results last week showing Lt. Gov. Diane Denish leading former U.S. Reps. Heather Wilson and Steve Pearce by healthy 22-point margins.
Wilson and Pearce are generally considered the two strongest potential GOP gubernatorial candidates. Both have run statewide races and have strong name recognition. Neither has declared so far.
Greg Zanetti and Allen Weh already have started their gubernatorial campaigns because they have a long way to go in building name recognition.
State Rep. Janice Arnold-Jones has put out the word that she may get into the race at any time. She was the lawmaker who got the ball rolling on Webcasting of legislative sessions. She also has played a major part in the scandal-plagued housing authority system.
The choice of Wilson and Pearce to poll Denish against seems an obvious attempt to keep both of them out of the gubernatorial race. Wilson is more likely than Pearce to get into the governor's race.
After Pearce's 61-39 loss to Tom Udall in last November's U.S. Senate race, he appears more likely to attempt to regain his former 2nd Congressional District seat back from Democratic Rep. Harry Teague.
Wilson, on the other hand, tried to convince Republicans last year that her more moderate positions on issues would make her the stronger candidate against a Democrat. She may want to try again to prove that point.
And that may be why the Democratic governors' news release announcing the poll results emphasized that Denish beat Wilson by a 53-40 margin in the 1st Congressional District, which Wilson previously represented.
It has been common wisdom to assume that Democrats would like to see an Hispanic male from the north paired with Denish who grew up in Hobbs.
But an interesting result of the polling shows Denish beating Wilson by a 70-25 margin and beating Pearce 70-24. That is considerably than Denish's 57-35 overall lead. It may be an indication that she doesn't really need help gaining Hispanic support.
The poll also didn't include Democratic Senate floor leader Michael Sanchez of Belen. He may not be seen as much of a threat to Denish. Republicans are expected to hammer away at Democrats for the corruption among Democratic public officials the past several years.
Sanchez appears vulnerable to such criticism because as majority floor leader, he has been instrumental in preventing many ethics measures from getting through the Senate.
His rationale has been that legislation isn't needed because public officials are basically honest. Every year it has become more difficult to take that stand.
This year, about midway through the legislative session, Sanchez explained that he had assumed everyone's basic honesty because he grew up in such an ethical family. That may not get him off the hook unless ethics bills suddenly start flying through the Senate.
The state GOP has responded to the governors' survey saying that any survey taken almost a year ahead of next year's primaries isn't going to have much meaning.
True, elections are a long way off but maneuvers made in the early months can have a major effect on those elections. It is only three months until candidates can pick up nominating petitions. Candidates don't like to be left behind in collecting all the signatures that are required.
Initial polling before the 2008 senatorial race between Tom Udall and Steve Pearce showed Udall leading by about a 60-40 margin. Those polls were dismissed by many who contended the polls were taken too far ahead of the general election and the race would tighten considerably.
Udall won by a little more than the 60-40 polling results. Looks as though it's never too early.
WED, 6-24-09

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



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