Inside the Capitol

Monday, March 19, 2012

3-21 Political Craziness

32112 weird pols
SANTA FE – The year 2012 is turning out to be a very weird political year. It began with the GOP presidential contest. The race began in typical fashion for a party with no incumbent. A field of about eight potentially viable candidates went to Iowa.
Rep. Michelle Bachmann won the summer 2011 Iowa straw poll. Then Rick Santorum won the Iowa primary caucuses in January 2012. Gov. Romney won New Hampshire and Newt Gingrich won South Carolina.
That set a record for an even race. Usually by Super Tuesday in early March, the field had narrowed to one favorite. But this time four candidates remained. And now in late March, four candidates vow they are in all the way.
The weirdness continues with Gov. Romney having a commanding lead in delegates and money raised despite having little momentum. And Rep. Ron Paul says he's all in despite the likelihood he will finish with no wins.
But the weirdest of all campaigns is that of former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, who announced his interest a year ago, hired a campaign staff and then went on a Mediterranean cruise. Following his return, his staff quit, citing Gingrich's disinterest in the campaign.
Gingrich vowed he was smart enough to do it all on his own but the likelihood of winning any more states appears slim. It is former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum who has the enthusiastic following although he has little money and staff. The race may continue until the convention.
On the state level, Republicans have a primary race for the U.S. Senate that Lt. Gov. John Sanchez has entered and then departed. Former U.S. Rep. Heather Wilson appears ready to win it but Greg Sowards, a Las Cruces businessman, says he is still all in despite having fired his political advisers and not spending the big chunk of money he has lent his campaign. The big question now is whether Sowards will spend that money.
In the GOP contest for New Mexico's 1st Congressional District, former state Rep. Janice Arnold Jones boasted that she would take over 50 percent of the Republican convention vote over two candidates who have considerably outspent her.
Arnold-Jones not only made good on her boast at last Saturday's convention, she polled over 60 percent of the delegate vote, keeping one of her competitors off the ballot.
If candidates don't receive at least 20 percent of their convention vote, they can present additional petition signatures and still get on the primary election ballot. It is common for candidates to take that route but it never has resulted in a victory at the polls.
Lest you think that election craziness is limited to the GOP, the prize for weirdest behavior goes to Rep. David Chavez of Valencia County, who put out the word that he would not seek to retain his state House seat.
When blogger Joe Monahan included that information in his report, Chavez notified him that he most certainly was running. A few days later Chavez made a formal announcement that he would not be running for his seat again because it detracted him from his very successful law practice.
Service in the New Mexico Legislature does not carry a salary. The lack of a salary discourages many successful business people from legislative service so Chavez's announcement was not a great surprise. Business people often cannot afford it.
But now Chavez comes with the announcement that he will seek the state Senate seat held by Senate Democratic Leader Michael Sanchez. Chavez's action likely will cause some confusion among voters about how he could not afford to serve in the House but now evidently can afford to serve in the Senate. Neither position carries a salary.
It is known that Gov. Susana Martinez would like to unseat Sen. Sanchez who has been a major impediment to some of her legislative priorities. Might the governor and Rep. Chavez been talking lately?


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