Thursday, March 16, 2006

Our Pre-Primary Preview; We Set The Table For The Key Races, Plus: More On Mayor Marty & The Minimum Wage 

With no top of the ticket action hundreds of NM D's and R's who will flock to ABQ Saturday for their pre-primary conventions will have to look elsewhere for excitement. And they won't have to look far. There is plenty of it in the down ballot races that will keep the political junkies fixated.

Both parties--the Dems's at ABQ's Highland High School--and the GOP at the ABQ Marriott, will convene Saturday morning to nominate candidates for the June 6th primary ballot. To make it on a contender has to get 20 percent of the convention votes. If not, they will have to submit extra petition signatures to win a spot.

The race getting the most attention is the Dem battle for attorney general. It's a position from which many a political career has been launched so it's no wonder. Gary King, who says his polling shows him in front, will have to deliver Saturday or the race could be cracked open. Geno Zamora and Lem Martinez have been battling the perception that this one is King's to lose because they will split the important Hispanic delegate votes this weekend and again in June. Zamora and Martinez are hoping to break away from each other. If one of them doesn't, this one could have King written all over it come June 7th.

On the R side, political newcomer Jim Bibb and former Big Bill crime adviser Bob Schwartz are vying for the nomination. Schwartz has been under angry fire from the likes of ex-GOP chair Dendahl who calls the onetime prosecutor too liberal. Schwartz retorts that his R critics are the same folks who advocated drug legalization and who represent a fringe wing of the GOP. The onus is on the experienced Schwartz. If he doesn't come in first or a close second, Bibb will be given a big boost.


Both former Dem land commissioners Ray Powell and Jim Baca are expected to win approval for the June ballot. Political pros give Baca the edge for the June nomination because of high Hispanic turnout. This one is getting tenser by the day and we could see it go negative as we come out of the convention.

Incumbent Land Commissioner Patrick Lyons won four years ago because voters rejected his Dem opponents background which included drunk driving charges. But can Lyons win on his own against heavyweights Baca or Powell? Lyons is unopposed for renomination Saturday. But perception is starting to harden that the D's will be able to take this one back on the strength of traditional party line voting. Pat has his work cut out for him.

As we blogged yesterday, the R's have lost their candidate for state auditor, so the Dem nominee may get a free ride. That nominee is expected to be Jeff Armijo who has been working it, but some Dems are uncertain about him and trying to muster late support for Tom Buckner. Armijo is still the favorite.

Former Secretary of State Stephanie Gonzales is getting the pre-convention spin and will have to meet expectations. She should do so with a solid northern base. But Mary Herrera, Shirley Hooper and Lettita Montoya will try to slow the Gonzales train and at least win spots on the June ballot, but it is unlikely all of them will succeed.

R Vickie Perea, who switched from D to R in 04, is unopposed for the nomination.

Who comes in first at the pre-primary convention is not always an indicator of who will prevail on primary night. The most obvious example is the 94' GOP race for Governor. Gary Johnson squeaked on the ballot with just one delegate to spare. But he went on to stun the field and win the primary and later the November election.

I'll update on the action over the weekend and have a full analysis of the conventions on Monday so be sure to drop by.


ABQ Mayor Marty Chavez says he is willing to work a deal with the city council to try to come up with some kind of increase in the minimum wage in the state's largest city. The Dem Mayor says he does not want the "far left" to prevail in the next round in the minimum wage battle and hopes to craft an increase with the council that would come in below the $7.50 an hour that is being sought by ACORN, the group passing around petition signatures to again place the proposal on the city ballot. The ABQ Tribune's Erik Siemers has more on Marty and the minimum.

We blogged this week that a Democratic Hispanic mayor opposed to a boost in the minimum wage would face rough sledding if he was to seek statewide office in a Dem primary. His Trib statements make clear he is angling for a way out of the dilemma. If he doesn't get something done, he will likely be faced with a special election this summer on the $7.50 an hour rate, forcing him to either support the big boost and risk the wrath of his many conservative supporters, or reject it and further damage his prospects with many Dem voters.

And while the mayor may call those circulating the petitions members of the "far left," those signing them, as many as 20,000 registered voters, are anything but. They represent a political mainstream in a city saddled with a low-wage environment. Stay tuned.

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