Inside the Capitol

Thursday, October 14, 2010

10-20 Is GOP Missing a Good Bet?

Syndicated Columnist
SANTA FE -- Are New Mexico Republicans taking a pass on winning the secretary of state race? With the troubles incumbent Mary Herrera is having, an all-out GOP effort could win it for the first time in 80 years.
It's not that Republican leaders are ignoring the race. GOP challenger Sen. Dianna Duran is leading Herrera in fundraising, banking over $110,000. Of that amount, the state GOP chipped in $25,000 and state Republican chairman Harvey Yates' oil company tossed in another $5,000.
But four years ago, Republicans targeted the secretary of state campaign with $500,000. Former Albuquerque city councilor Vickie Perea was the GOP candidate then. She was a highly respected former Democrat and former mayoral candidate.
Duran doesn't have quite those credentials but she is a former Otero County clerk and current state Senator. And she has been the GOP secretary of state nominee previously.
Herrera ran the Bernalillo County Clerk's office smoothly after the previous clerk often had unexpected difficulties. She moved into the secretary of state's job four years ago and settled down the chaos in that office.
But then, her problems started. She's had five election directors in four years. The fourth director accused her of cronyism and possible violations of law. She then fired two other top employees who had gone to the FBI with complaints of possible criminal behavior.
Six Democratic county clerks from around the state have turned against her, joining the Democrats for Duran organization. Herrera has asked the state police to check her office for electronic bugs and has used the state public-records law to obtain emails between her staff and hostile county clerks.
With all that ammunition, Duran's campaign could have been pounding Herrera for months with television ads to make the public aware of Herrera's missteps. But as of this writing, the ads still haven't started.
So what's up with the state GOP? Blogger Joe Monahan thinks they want to let sleeping Democrats lie. If they bring in heavy artillery to shake things up, they likely will awaken sleeping donkeys and increase Democratic turnout, which is expected to be very low.
Monahan's theory also explains the questions I posed in a recent column about the third congressional district being ignored by GOP leaders despite a strong performance by their candidate Tom Mullins. Northern Democrats are expected to have a very low turnout.
As the theory goes, Republicans at the state and national levels are putting all their eggs in the New Mexico gubernatorial basket. That's because their candidate, Susana Martinez, can stop a Democratic Legislature from having their way with congressional and legislative redistricting next year.
A depressed turnout among Democrats coupled with an expected good year for Republicans might allow the GOP to pick up some unexpected victories. But an all-out push in any of those races might rattle enough Democratic cages to turn out the troops.
Four years ago, when Gov. Bill Richardson was on his way to winning almost every county in the state, the situation was far different. Republicans didn't have to worry about keeping quiet in the down-ballot races because Democrats already were energized.
Republicans won one of those statewide races that year when Patrick Lyons took the land commissioner race. This year, it appears Republicans will be happy with just getting their gubernatorial candidate into office.
Not long after the primary elections last June, defeated Republican gubernatorial candidates Allen Weh and Doug Turner announced they would be helping Duran raise money for her secretary of state contest.
The announcement was considered significant. It meant Martinez hadn't attracted them to her side and it signaled some significant financial help for Duran.
But the help hasn't appeared to be that significant. Could they have been called off the effort by GOP leaders?
WED, 10-20-10

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



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