Inside the Capitol

Thursday, September 17, 2009

9-25 Much Interest in Dem Lt Gov Race

Syndicated Columnist
SANTA FE -- While Republicans have a lively match for governor in progress, Democrats are turning to the lieutenant governor race for some excitement.
Current lieutenant governor, Diane Denish, has played a very cagey political game to scare off opposition from within the Democratic party.
She announced her gubernatorial intent as soon as she won reelection for lieutenant governor in 2006 and she immediately began raising money. By the time anyone else thought about running, she had almost $2 million in the bank. Game over.
At this point, she also looks strong in the general election. Little wonder so many Democrats are anxious to jump on her bandwagon. Conventional wisdom says she needs a male Hispanic to balance her ticket. Five of them have said they're ready.
But Denish hasn't yet said that's what she wants. So one female, Sen. Linda Lopez, and one male non-Hispanic, Tim Eichenberg, also have jumped in. They are smart to do so. In a sea of Hispanic males, they stand out.
Although Gov. Bill Richardson now says he wants to serve out his term and retire in New Mexico, the chance remains that a really nice offer might coax him out of his hole in the next several months.
That would make Denish governor and allow her to choose her lieutenant governor for the rest of the term. That would bring out a dozen more hopefuls who were expressing interest in an appointment last December.
If that were to happen now, however, the situation would be different. Denish likely would want to look at who is now running the strongest lieutenant governor campaign. That person would add the most to her ticket.
So let's take a look at the lieutenant governor possibilities.
In a previous column, I mentioned the advantages former GOP state chairman Allen Weh has in the Republican gubernatorial primary as a result of his chairmanship.
Those same advantages accrue to former state Democratic chairman Brian Colon who is now in the lieutenant governor race. He has contacts with Democratic leaders in every single county. He knows where the money is and is on a first name basis with the party's big donors.
Colon has seen good and bad campaigns. He knows what works and what doesn't. He also can point to highly successful 2008 general election results.
Also recently into the race is Lawrence Rael, current executive director of the Mid-Region Council of Governments. His current major project is the Rail Runner, which he got built and operating much more quickly than anticipated.
He has a ton of top-level governmental administrative experience, including having served over a decade as the chief administrative officer for the city of Albuquerque. He and Colon are sure to finish at or near the top of the lieutenant governor heap.
Also actively campaigning for lieutenant governor on the Democratic side of the ballot are Santa Fe County Sheriff Greg Solano, Sens. Linda Lopez, Jerry Ortiz y Pino and Tim Eichenberg and Rep. Jose Campos.
Greg Solano gave himself the same head start in the lieutenant governor race that Diane Denish did in the governor race but his fundraising hasn't been as robust.
Linda Lopez is campaigning hard but is encountering criticism of her reluctance about ethics reform. Jerry Ortiz y Pino, 67, is the only candidate promising not to use the lieutenant governor office as a stepping stone to higher office.
Tim Eichenberg, although late to get in the race, is said to have the time and money to invest in a spirited run. He could end up at least close to the top.
Rep. Jose Campos also is mayor of Santa Rosa. He is the only candidate from a rural area. His cousin, Sen. Pete Campos, also is a former Santa Rosa mayor who keeps himself in the news and makes the name Campos even more familiar in New Mexico politics. It can't hurt Jose.
FRI, 9-25-09

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



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