Inside the Capitol

Sunday, July 12, 2009

7-17 Political Contests Heating Up

Syndicated Columnist
SANTA FE -- The big political races have heated up. State GOP chairman Harvey Yates, of Artesia, has leveled the heavy artillery at Lt. Gov. Diane Denish and former Rep. Steve Pearce has announced he will take on Rep. Harry Teague for his old congressional seat.
In the gubernatorial contest, Yates decided it is time to get serious and not wait for the traditional Labor Day starting date. He led off with a salvo charging that Denish is unfit to be governor because she lacks the courage to speak vigorously against corruption.
Actually all good citizens are against corruption. It is the party not in power that speaks vigorously against it, usually without citing what they would do change other than being ethical themselves and appointing ethical subordinates.
Up to the time of Yates' barrage, Denish had not announced a platform of ethics measures designed to clean up government but she had championed several ethics measures during previous legislative sessions.
So Denish wrapped those measures into a package and shot them back at Yates along with a scathing attack from her campaign chairman, Ted Martinez, along with a strong denial that she has been a part of any misconduct. .
Yates countered that it is unbelievable to suggest that Denish has been unaware of the corruption in state government. The implication is that Denish is bound to have known about some of the pay-to-play arrangements about which Gov. Bill Richardson is accused.
But it is possible. Richardson and Denish worked closely during the early days of their administration. But before long that reverted back to the much more common relationship between a governor and lieutenant governor.
Former Gov. Gary Johnson and Lt. Gov. Walter Bradley communicated very seldom. Bradley pointed out to me once that a locked door separated his suite of offices from the governor's.
Bradley didn't have a key to that door so he had to walk all the way around the Capitol hallway to enter Johnson's reception area and ask to see the governor.
The situation was even worse during the administrations of Gov. Bruce King. Both of his lieutenant governors, Roberto Mondragon and Casey Luna, ended up running against King for governor.
It should be noted that the first candidate for statewide office to release an ethics reform plan was Santa Fe Sheriff Greg Solano who was the first candidate in the race for lieutenant governor. Solano is a Democrat.
Senate Majority Leader Michael Sanchez, of Belen, has announced he has formed an exploratory committee to evaluate whether he should make a run for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination.
My guess is that the committee will come back with a recommendation that Sanchez not run. Sanchez has been the major roadblock to passage of ethics legislation With Republicans making government corruption the cornerstone of their gubernatorial campaign, Sanchez would have problems defending himself.
Steve Pearce's decision to get into the 2nd Congressional District race was not unexpected. He did it earlier than the previously announced July 20-27 timetable, likely because he saw an opening for himself with Rep. Teague's vote on the climate bill.
With Pearce out of the gubernatorial race, former Rep. Heather Wilson looms as the only well known candidate. She has recent experience as a statewide candidate and should have much of her statewide organization from last year still intact.
Wilson has remained busy since ending her congressional term in January. If she decides she likes hopping around the world consulting on all sorts of matters, she can stay busy at that.
But if she decides she wants to make a run at governor, it is quite possible state GOP officials may want to try clearing the primary election field for her as they succeeded in doing last year for Bernalillo County Sheriff Darren White in the 1st Congressional District.
FRI, 7-17-09

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



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