Inside the Capitol

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

6-1 Political races tightening

60112 Close races

SANTA FE – As we approach the June 5 election, the close races look even closer. But there just aren't many of them.
The Democratic 1st Congressional District race appears to be tighter than ever between the top two contenders Bernalillo County Commissioner Michelle Lujan Grisham and state Sen. Eric Griego.
Former Albuquerque Mayor Marty Chavez also is in the race but his moderate politics just don't fit into a primary election for either party. Chavez did well in his runs for mayor, which is a non-partisan position. But put him in a party primary and he doesn't have a big enough base.
On the GOP side, political observers are all watching the state Senate election in Clovis. Actually the district goes far north and west of Clovis all the way to the Colorado border but Clovis is the population center.
And now, in Clovis we're watching a political standoff that will affect the entire state. It started 10 years ago when then-Lt. Gov. Walter Bradley, a former state senator from Clovis, ran for governor. He was beaten in a nasty GOP primary by John Sanchez, New Mexico's current lieutenant governor.
Sanchez didn't do any dirty work. That was done by his campaign manager Jay McCleskey. Bradley was accused of an unpardonable Republican sin – being a friend of then-Senate President Pro Tem Manny Aragon.
A few lines could be drawn between Bradley and Aragon but only in the natural course of Senate business.
But it worked. He lost to Sanchez who was being groomed as the heir apparent of party leadership back then.
Since then, Sanchez, who now is lieutenant governor has fallen out of grace with the GOP powers that be. When Sanchez announced for the U.S. Senate, Gov. Martinez stripped him of all his duties except those provided by the state constitution.
Now that Sanchez has withdrawn from the U.S. Senate campaign, we haven't heard of any duties that have been reinstated.
In the Clovis election, we'll get to see if a similar tactic will work against Pat Woods, an opponent of Angie Spears, who has been endorsed by Gov. Susanna Martinez.
During his time as a lobbyist for farmers, Woods gave campaign donations to both Republican and Democratic legislators whom he felt could help with farm matters.
The donations to Democrats were very small compared to his Republican donations but that doesn't matter in this bitter campaign. Woods is helping liberal Democrats, his detractors are saying.
Anyone who has lobbied knows that lobbyists typically make campaign donations to both parties, though not necessarily in equal amounts.
A previous column mentioned some tight legislative primaries around the state. One of them was the battle between incumbent John Arthur Smith of Deming and Larry Martinez of Lordsburg.
Now, freelance writer Christopher Schurtz has written a long analysis of the race for the Santa Fe Reporter weekly paper. In it, he describes Smith's toughest race in many years.
Smith's only other tough legislative race was against Deming's Nancy Stovall. Her campaign was run by Sen. Rod Adair of Roswell. As with most of Adair's campaigns, things got pretty negative. Smith's other tough campaign was against Rep. Steve Pearce in 2002. Smith is conservative but the Democrat label beat him in southeastern New Mexico.
In this race, residents of the state Senate district, which includes Hidalgo, Luna and Sierra counties and part of Dona Ana County, are being asked whether Smith might be too conservative.
A national SuperPAC and the American Federation of Teachers are going all out against him. The SuperPAC is called Progressive Kick and is specifically focusing on a handful of state legislative primary races that it feels are key to producing progressive leaders with real backbone. Smith definitely has a backbone but he isn't progressive enough for the PACs and unions that are opposing him.
The winner of the June 5 primary will face Las Cruces Republican Russell Allen.


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