Inside the Capitol

Sunday, December 13, 2009

12-16 State Races JUst About Set

Syndicated Columnist

SANTA FE -- Time's a wastin' for candidates to decide whether they're in or out of statewide races. Most of the field got started last summer and visited the far corners of the state, lining up key supporters and raising money.
The field is now fairly well set except for late additions by political parties to fill blank spaces. Such candidates usually get some party help with nominating petitions and news releases but little else.
Lt. Gov. Diane Denish, the Democratic nominee for governor, appears to have scared all fellow Democrats out of the race with her announcement three years ago.
This could be the first time in history that Democrats have not had a lively race for the gubernatorial nomination when there is no incumbent.
Lieutenant governors usually do not have the political muscle that Denish has. Her huge, and highly successful, head start on fundraising is the primary reason she became invincible.
The GOP has a lively race underway for its gubernatorial nomination. Allen Weh, Susana Martinez, Janice Arnold-Jones and Doug Turner, in that order, have jumped into the race.
Although it is technically possible, all four are unlikely to get the required 20 percent of the nominating convention's vote next March.
This column continues to give former state party chairman Allen Weh the advantage for getting a sizable chunk of the convention votes due to his familiarity with every county party in the state.
Weh and Martinez are thought by political observers to be the most conservative of the group. Since GOP conservatives have proved to be very successful at winning delegate seats, it may mean that the battle for the third ballot spot will be between Arnold-Jones and Turner.
Don't count out the winner of that spot having a decent shot in the June primary.
Because of Gov. Bill Richardson's current slip from glory, the Republican gubernatorial field seems focused on running against Denish by attacking the Richardson/Denish administration.
Democrat leaders are decrying the tactic, conveniently forgetting that at this time two years ago all Democratic presidential candidates were running against President George Bush. It isn't a new tactic.
The Democratic action is focused on the lieutenant governors race. Brian Colon and Lawrence Rael have been the top fundraisers and likely will capture the top two spots on the primary election ballot. I'm giving Colon the nod for top ballot position because, like Weh, he is the former state party chairman.
The race for state land commissioner always attracts a crowd on both sides. Republicans have been relatively successful at winning the seat even when they're weak in the other races. It is a post that attracts the interests of ranching, mining, oil and gas, all traditional Republican constituencies.
Republican Pat Lyons has held the post the past eight years and now must move on. At this point, three Republicans -- Bob Cornelius, Errol Chavez and Matt Rush -- are seeking to replace him.
Democrats in the race are former Land Commissioner Ray Powell, Public Regulation Commission chairman Sandy Jones and Santa Fe County commissioners Mike Anaya and Harry Montoya. Powell should have the advantage among the Democrats.
The other state races all have Democratic incumbents running for a second term. Secretary of State Mary Herrera, Attorney General Gary King, Auditor Hector Balderas and Treasurer James Lewis all are seeking reelection and currently have no Democratic or Republican opposition.
In my 60 years of watching state politics, New Mexico has had one Republican attorney general, one Republican auditor, one Republican treasurer and no Republican secretaries of state elected to office.
Often GOP leaders will help a candidate get on the ballot just to fill the position. When no Republican files, the Green Party sometimes will put a candidate on the ballot in order to get some Republican vote that will help the party qualify as a major party.
WED, 12-16-09

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



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