SANTA FE -- How does a political party go about putting together a winning ticket for governor and lieutenant governor? The answer is: it doesn't. At least not in New Mexico.
Under our present system, candidates for governor and lieutenant governor run separately in party primaries. The winners then run together as a ticket in the general election.
It is not a process designed to produce dream tickets. At the federal level, presidential primary elections end on the first Tuesday in June. The winning candidates then have nearly three months to pick a vice presidential running mate before the national conventions in late August.
That allows ample time to balance a ticket with someone who can draw votes from constituencies with which the presidential candidate is weak.
There's no such luck in New Mexico. Voters choose separately who they think would be the best governor and lieutenant governor. If they happen to be two white guys from Albuquerque, who live next door to each other, go to the same church and are both in the state Legislature, that's the breaks.
Political parties try to get the word out about advantageous pairings but it doesn't do much good since parties have policies about not taking sides in primary elections.
For a nicely balanced GOP ticket a pairing of Allen Weh with Kent Cravens wouldn't be considered as desirable as a pairing with John Sanchez or Brian Moore of Clayton. There are some worries about how New Mexicans would accept a Susana Martinez-John Sanchez ticket.
On the Democratic side of the ballot, it is likely no accident that all five lieutenant governor candidates are Hispanic. At least two Anglo candidates talked about getting in the race. When both chose not to enter, rumors flew about deals involving nice positions for them in a Denish administration.
The Democratic situation this year is unusual. Seldom has there been a lone Democrat or Republican in an open gubernatorial primary. This has led to talk from all five candidates about how much they could help Denish by being on the ballot with her.
The candidate with the most difficult claim of a good fit is state Sen. Linda Lopez. A team of two women from Albuquerque might be a difficult sale.
The candidate with the best ticket-balancing argument is Rep. Jose Campos of Santa Rosa. Denish likes to talk about her Hobbs roots but a running mate who has spent his life in rural New Mexico would be a help to her.
Campos has another advantage. He is not close to Gov. Bill Richardson. The Republican ticket's heaviest ammunition is going to be directed at tying the Democratic ticket as tightly to Richardson as possible.
Denish has been working hard at distancing herself from Richardson ever since the grand jury investigation kept the governor from going to Washington. And that is when GOP leaders started referring to the Richardson-Denish administration.
Actually governors and their lieutenant governors never are close. It always is a forced marriage. The situation worked reasonably well as long as lieutenant governors stayed home.
When the Legislature allowed the option of a full time lieutenant governor in 1971, it didn't specify any duties. Governors have come up with a handful of busywork items but never has a lieutenant governor really been a part of the governor's team.
Or as Denish puts it, "I've never been one of the good 'ol boys." But that doesn't matter, the GOP has been combing through everything it can find to join the two at the hip.
With pay to play such a major issue, contribution records of Richardson and Denish will be compared for donors to both campaigns.
If former state Democratic Chairman Brian Colon or RailRunner honcho Lawrence Rael runs with Denish, that will be another tie-in to the Richardson administration.
JAY MILLER, 3 La Tusa, Santa Fe, NM 87505
(ph) 982-2723, (fax) 984-0982, (e-mail) email@example.com