Inside the Capitol

Sunday, May 02, 2010

5-5 Races Heating Up

Syndicated Columnist
SANTA FE -- Finally, with a month left before the June primary elections, a few political races are starting to heat up on the airwaves.
The absence of any competition for Lt. Gov. Diane Denish in the Democratic gubernatorial primary has put a complete damper on any passion in that often hot contest.
Denish played her political cards perfectly in order to scare out any competition. She made it known when she took office eight years ago that she would be running for governor in 2010.
Soon after Denish won reelection four years ago, she began her gubernatorial campaign in earnest. Raising a quick million dollars sent a very loud message among fellow Democrats that any idle talk about possibly getting in the race was futile.
It was either get started immediately or convince oneself that running for lieutenant governor in 2010 was better than nothing. Then Denish raised another million and she became the presumed nominee three years before the Democratic primary.
On the GOP side, the situation was reversed. It was a wait and see game. Two former members of Congress were available after the 2008 elections to take on Denish.
Eventually neither accepted the challenge and Republicans were left with a state representative, a district attorney and three other candidates who never have run for office.
The long wait caused fundraising problems. Some candidates have lent their campaigns large amounts of money. Former state GOP chairman Allen Weh has used his deep pockets to finance a series of well-done, hard-hitting TV ads that make him appear to be the front-runner.
The lack of any independent polling in the race still has people guessing. The biggest surprise of the race has been a rousing 47 percent showing by Susana Martinez at the state Republican nominating convention.
Martinez does not have the personal money of some of the other candidates but her domination of the pre-primary convention has brought her six-figure donations from the oil and gas industry that have enabled her to buy significant TV time.
The other big surprise in the GOP contest was the entry of Pete Domenici, Jr. His name alone brought him much notice but his performance thus far has not lit any fires.
Domenici's only eye-catching moves to date have been his decision to shave his beard prior to announcing for office, followed by a return of the growth for his TV ad..
What does it mean? Has he given up? Has he decided he looks better or bolder? Personally I think he looks better. The partially graying moustache and goatee make him look more mature.
On television ads, former Dallas running back Emmitt Smith is warned that graybeards can't pick up chicks but Domenici, Jr. may have decided they can pick up votes.
But that reasoning runs counter to established philosophy. Abraham Lincoln made beards popular for Republican presidents in 1860. The style lasted for the rest of the century.
Teddy Roosevelt and Howard Taft had bushy moustaches in the early 1900s but they disappeared among Republican candidates until 1944 and 1948 when Tom Dewey sported a pencil-thin moustache. He thought it made him look dapper. Voters decided "shady" was a better term.
Although Weh appears to be the GOP front runner, none of his four opponents has gone after him. But that hasn't stopped Weh from going after Susana Martinez for having been a Democrat at one time and for never having a real job.
Republican voters will be left to decide whether being a district attorney is a real job. Defenders of law and order usually do well in GOP primaries.
Weh also has decided to go after Lt. Gov. Denish in his latest TV ads. The message seems to be that he is a sure bet to win the primary. Might Denish be strategizing whether to return the fire to Weh at this early date?
WED, 5-05-10

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



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