Inside the Capitol

Saturday, August 22, 2009

8-28 Carpetbaggers and Home Town Face-Offs

Syndicated Columnist

SANTA FE -- Here he comes. There he goes. As quickly as Nathan Krekula, of Hobbs, got into the New Mexico gubernatorial race, he was out. Blogger Heath Haussamen was about the only person in the news business to catch a glimpse of him on the way by.
After taking a realistic look at his chances, Krekula decided he needed more time with his family -- and with the Republican Party. But sooner or later he will be back. If a Republican doesn't win next year, he'll be back in 2014.
Krekula is the second Republican governor candidate to decide to spend more time with his family. Gen. Greg Zanetti made the same decision after an exhaustive statewide tour last spring.
As someone who worked long hours and spent much time on the road, I have had many occasions to wish I had spent more time with my family so I'm always understanding of those who make the choice.
Cabinet Secretary of the trouble-plagued state Department of Workforce Solutions, Betty Sparrow-Doris, also will be getting more time to spend with her family.
Krekula has only been in the state for five years but if he works hard, there is no limit to his possibilities.
Bill Richardson had only been in the state two years when he almost beat longtime incumbent U.S. Rep. Manuel Lujan. Following redistricting two years later, Richardson was representing New Mexico in Congress with only four years of residency under his belt.
Richardson wasn't the only carpetbagger. Former Rep. Heather Wilson was here only about six years before going to Congress. Former Rep. Bill Redmond was here about 12 years. Rep. Ed Foreman lost his seat in Texas in 1964 and followed up by winning a congressional seat in New Mexico in 1968. But Foreman grew up in New Mexico.
Becoming governor soon after moving to a state is more difficult. David Cargo, governor from 1967-70, had only been in the state a little over 10 years. Gary Johnson had been in New Mexico around 25 years.
Krekula is finishing his doctorate in public health and hopes to be active in advising the Republican party on that issue. He teaches at the University of the Southwest, which bills itself as a Christian university. If Krekula can tap into the conservative Christian wing of the state Republican Party, he will have a good base with which to work.
If he and current Lt. Gov. Diane Denish ever were to find themselves running against each other, it would be somewhat novel to have two people with Hobbs connections opposing each other.
It would be novel but not unique. In 1982, Attorney General Jeff Bingaman challenged incumbent U.S. Sen. Harrison Schmitt. Both grew up in Silver City, went to the same schools and the same church.
Bingaman's father was on the faculty of Western New Mexico University. During part of that time, Schmitt's father was president of the university's board of regents.
Will Denish become New Mexico's next governor? One group of state employees certainly thinks so. Reports are that Richardson has appointed 460 people to exempt positions in state government. Those are positions not under the state personnel act. They are subject to removal at the governor's will.
When it appeared Richardson was on his way to Washington last November, Lt. Gov. Denish sent a letter to all holders of exempt positions thanking them for their work and advising that anyone with plans to continue in state government should submit an application.
The stampede to Denish's door was thunderous. And the stampede back to Richardson a month later was equally frantic. But the exempts didn't forget about Denish's letter.
Reportedly exempt employees within each department of state government have invited Denish to informal luncheons to let her know how invaluable they are to their department.
And what of the grand jury into pay-to-play in the Richardson administration? It is said to be finished and the papers now are on Attorney General Eric Holder's desk.
FRI, 8-28-09

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



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