Inside the Capitol

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

2-12 GOP Fills Statewide Slate

Syndicated Columnist
SANTA FE -- As predicted here, the state GOP has filled its slate of candidates for statewide office. On filing day, Feb. 9, Republican candidates for all statewide offices turned in the required number of nominating petition signatures to qualify their candidacies.
Republicans never have had difficulty finding candidates for governor, lieutenant governor and state land commissioner. This year's field features 13 candidates for those three positions.
But until very recently, no Republicans were interested in running for secretary of state, attorney general, auditor or treasurer. Minor parties, such as the Greens, sometimes have a better showing than that.
The lack of enthusiasm among GOP candidates about those offices is caused by Republicans' almost complete lack of success in winning those races over the last 80 years.
It is an interesting phenomenon. The GOP has been moderately successful at electing governors. If the voters who choose the Republican candidate for governor would stay in the same column for the down ballot races, they should be able to elect a moderate number of Republicans for those offices too.
Why do those voters switch over to the Democratic side of the ballot? It can't be due to those candidates always being so high quality.
Here's the list of recent GOP recruits. State Sen. Dianna Duran is running for secretary of state. That name will be familiar to some because Duran has filled that ballot slot before.
Running for attorney general is District Attorney Matt Chandler of Clovis. Chandler's father Caleb was a Democratic state senator and in the 1980s was the Democratic pick to take on U.S. Rep. Joe Skeen.
Errol Chavez, a former Drug Enforcement Administration agent will run for auditor and Jim Schoonover will run for state treasurer. Both Schoonover and Chavez are from Las Cruces, the largest city in the 2nd Congressional District, which could help Republican Steve Pearce in that race.
While some Democratic candidates for statewide office submitted several times the required number of nominating petition signatures, the next question will be whether the late-filing Republicans were able to collect sufficient valid signatures. Expect the Democratic incumbents in those four races to carefully check every signature.
Republican and Democratic candidates who got into their races early had a four-month head start over the late entries who only had one week to collect 1,060 valid signatures.
Democratic candidates for statewide office were required to collect 2,162 signatures. The amount depends on the parties' showings in the most recent gubernatorial election. Richardson piled up the largest victory margin ever.
One GOP candidacy turned out to be a surprise to most of us in the news business. Cliff R. Pirtle of Roswell will take on former U.S. Rep. Steve Pearce for the privilege of trying to unseat Rep. Harry Teague in the 2nd Congressional District.
Candidates don't normally like to have primary election opposition. But it isn't all bad. It is an opportunity to get one's name before the voters earlier than they otherwise would have done. And if Pearce wins a lop-sided victory, as expected, it provides momentum going into the general election.
The four Republican late-comers in the statewide races enter their campaigns with a fundraising disadvantage. Their opponents all are incumbents who likely have balances in their campaign war chests remaining from their 2006 victories. And they likely have been raising at least a little money ever since.
But the biggest disadvantage these four GOP candidates face is the low expectations that potential voters and donors have about their candidacies.
Unless Secretary of State Mary Herrera, Attorney General Gary King, Auditor Hector Balderas or Treasurer James Lewis falters badly in the next nine months, reelection is highly likely.
But it always could happen. Primary election problems, for instance, would hamper Herrera's chances. And if that happens, the GOP will have a candidate to take advantage of the situation.
FRI, 2-12-10

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



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