Inside the Capitol

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

6-18 Martinez Faces Challenges

Syndicated Columnist
SANTA FE -- It turns out Susana Martinez grew up in El Paso. That shouldn't be a political handicap. We native New Mexicans sometimes tend to be a little provincial but we have a record of electing governors who weren't born here.
Gov. Bill Richardson certainly wasn't from these parts. I'm not aware of him ever having been in the state until four years before we elected him to Congress. In fact he gave U.S. Rep. Manuel Lujan the closest race of his life only two years after arriving in our state.
Former Gov. Gary Johnson wasn't born in New Mexico and neither was Dave Cargo. And U.S. Sen. Jeff Bingaman was born in El Paso. So Martinez should be in decent shape with "birthers.".
Besides, Martinez is a good Northern New Mexico name. A great many families in the North trace their linage back to the original settlers who came here with Onate over 400 years ago.
The Santa Fe Fiesta Council has even compiled a history of the city's original family names. Martinez is in there. So is Sanchez, the surname of the GOP's lieutenant gubernatorial candidate, John Sanchez.
As for the novelty of being an Hispanic Republican, any family that has been in the state longer than a few generations knows Hispanic Republicans weren't a bit unusual until the 1930s.
Perhaps somewhat strangely, Colon, the surname of the Democrats' lieutenant gubernatorial candidate, Brian Colon, isn't an old New Mexico name, even though it was the name of the founder of the Americas, Cristobal Colon.
So all this puts the Martinez-Sanchez ticket in better shape to win some Hispanic vote that Republicans haven't been accustomed to winning for the past 80 years.
The ticket also may be in a position to get a lot more national help than state gubernatorial tickets normally get from Washington. If Martinez can keep her polling numbers up, she will attract some real national interest.
Some prominent Republicans insist she even attracted that interest in the GOP primary. That was the reason, reports indicate, that she got the last-minute $450,000 check from Texas developer Robert Perry and the endorsement from Sarah Palin.
Blogger Joe Monahan reports that Martinez already has been to Washington since the election to visit Republican heavyweights. The GOP hasn't fully recovered financially from the beatings it took in 2008 but it can get her hooked in with the right people.
Martinez and Sanchez still face a tough battle, however. Lt. Gov. Denish and Colon start with a big campaign cash advantage and they both are proven fundraisers.
Martinez, so far, has been essentially a one-issue candidate, about whom voters know very little. She has to quickly flesh all that out herself before Denish does that for her. With the money to do immediate advertising, Denish can start defining Martinez in ways that won't be flattering.
With a long background in politics, Denish knows the issues and can address them fluently. Martinez will have to study hard on those issues in order to catch up.
Another problem Martinez faces is that even though state GOP Chairman Harvey Yates has been a strong leader, the state party itself still faces the fractures it long has endured.
Second-place finisher Allen Weh did not provide the usual election-night endorsement of the winner. The state GOP election night party was attended by only one of the five gubernatorial candidates, fourth-place finisher Pete Domenici, Jr.
The unexpected action of the state GOP leadership announcing a week before the election that a Martinez television ad was truthful, while a Weh ad was dishonest is not a wound that will heal anytime soon.
Martinez is a fresh face in statewide politics. Voters in the 2008 presidential election and in this year's primaries throughout the nation have indicated they like that quality more than ever.
Can that overcome enough problems in order to win?
FRI, 6-18-10

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



Post a Comment

<< Home