Friday, July 17, 2009

Zanetti Departs GOP Guv Race: Some Analysis And Perspective From Our Alligators And Insiders 

Greg Zanetti
The 2010 race for the GOP nomination for Governor seems even more wide open in the wake of the Friday afternoon announcement from Greg Zanetti that he will pull the plug on his short-lived effort. Zanetti said he was getting out because the campaign was too much of a strain on his family. My inside sources said a key reason for Zanetti's departure from the political scene is that he has apparently been offered a sought after job in the business world or is in the process of securing such a position. Also, fund-raising has not been easy, but his spokesman said the campaign has raised about $100,000, much of which he said will now be refunded. Greg, 51, is a longtime ABQ financial adviser. His wife, Teresa, is a former ABQ GOP State Rep. who lost her seat in 2008. He is familiar to many New Mexicans, not as a political figure but as an experienced financial analyst for ABQ TV news. His spokesman insisted that it was family considerations that was the overriding reason for the decision to call it quits.

ABQ GOP State Rep. Janice Arnold-Jones, who has formed an exploratory committee for Governor, told me late Friday the development makes the GOP race "even more wide open." But Janice also said that would change rapidly if former ABQ GOP Congresswoman Heather Wilson gets in.

"That's the elephant in the room, but other candidates can't wait. We have to get started now. If she does decide to run, you could see fewer candidates."

Those "fewer candidates" would likely include Janice who cited Wilson's ability to raise money quickly and put together an organization.

One of our Senior Alligators speculated about the Zanetti withdrawal this way:

"This could be read as a sign that Heather may get into this thing. It's been pretty clear the last week or two that Republicans are trying to entice Heather into running. Zanetti probably weighed some of that in his decision. This could be read as an encouraging sign for Heather's supporters. Zanetti was the apparent front-runner in a field of also-rans and it makes you wonder if his getting out isn't related to her position."

But Wilson is in Africa and can take several more months to make up her mind. Party pros say pressure on her to get in or out will not start to mount in R circles until late October. Meantime, the tea leaf readers will be all over the map.

Zanetti was a true-blue conservative and his withdrawal leaves former GOP Chair Allen Weh as a possible beneficiary, but Weh's tumultuous tenure as chair has made it tough for him to make significant inroads as he explores a guv run.

Since Zanetti was an ABQ candidate, I told KOB-TV in a late Friday interview that you might speculate his withdrawal would help ABQ's Arnold-Jones or ABQ public relations executive Doug Turner who is seriously considering a run. Turner agreed with Janice that the GOP race remains a wide open affair, pending a Wilson decision.

Even as Zanetti was getting out, Dona Ana County GOP District Attorney Susana Martinez was getting in, making a formal announcement in Las Cruces Friday afternoon. Insiders are not going to count her or anyone else out as this unsettled enviornment dominates.

The upside of the Zanetti withdrawal and the Wilson uncertainty is that it creates interest in the downtrodden Republican Party. The not so good news is that Dem Diane Denish has $1.9 million in cash and is a strong front runner for her party's nod. Unless the remaining GOP candidates can somehow start raising big money and/or igniting excitement, the Dems will remain the favorites to keep the power that goes with the Fourth Floor of the storied Santa Fe Roundhouse.

Here is Greg Zanetti's complete withdrawal statement:

ALBUQUERQUE — Greg Zanetti announced today he no longer is seeking the Republican nomination for governor. Zanetti cited family concerns as the reason for his decision to withdraw.

“Last year I was deployed with the 75 New Mexico National Guardsmen to Guantanamo Bay. This deployment, as all Guard deployments, was more difficult for families than for the Guard members themselves, Zanetti said.

“I returned to New Mexico and immediately began exploring a run for governor. I traveled our state for the past six months, visiting all four corners and many communities. I met hundreds of New Mexicans and was greeted warmly. These travels only increased my love of New Mexico and my fellow citizens,” Zanetti said.

“But to myself and to my family these travels seemed like another deployment. I missed a number of important family events. I have concluded that another year away from my family is just not acceptable, so today I notified GOP Chairman Harvey Yates and other potential Republican candidates that I will not seek our party’s nomination,” Zanetti said.

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