Wednesday, June 07, 2006

King Of The Night; Gary Finally Grabs Glory; Takes AG Race, Plus: Baca's Rebirth And: More Race Results And Analysis From Primary 06' 

Gary King
It looked like the King machine of days of yore. Gary King stole the thunder and the night as he decisively defeated Santa Fe attorney Geno Zamora and District Attorney Lem Martinez in the contest for the Democratic Party's nomination for attorney general. The race failed to provide the suspense that the pre-election hype promised as the 52 year old King, son of legendary three term NM former Governor Bruce King, resurrected his political career by taking 47% of the vote to Geno's 32% and Lem's 21%.

It appeared to be a historic low voter turnout for a New Mexico primary election. For example, turnout crashed to 8% of the registered voters in Dona Ana County. But low turnout or high, this one was destined for King. Across the state he flexed his muscles impressively. In big Bernalillo County he even won a majority--52%. King broke across ethnic lines as he performed strong in the Spanish North, even keeping close to Zamora in Rio Arriba County and dominating the "Little Texas" counties of SE NM. Victory was especially sweet coming as it did after King's 04' congressional defeat and another one in 02' for the guv nomination.

In typical King fashion he immediately offered an olive branch to his opponents who promptly accepted. King's border- to-border dominance set him up as the favorite for November when he will face newcomer R Jim Bibb, son-in-law of former Governor Toney Anaya.

My analysts at KANW weighed in that a King victory could take some air out of the tires of the R's, who are hoping state ethics scandals will convince voters to turn to them for an attorney general. They said King's reputation for integrity means making the ethics case against him will be difficult. And they also noted that Gary, unlike Zamora, has an arms-length relationship with Governor Richardson and that the argument that he would be a tool of the powerful chief executive is also off the table.


Even though the AG's race fizzled, there was still plenty of suspense. And it came from two men with political ties to the King family. The Associated Press told me Jim Baca was clinging to a 1600 vote lead over Ray Powell at 3:00 a.m. Neither political veteran was ready to say who will be the next Dem nominee for land commissioner. (UPDATE: Baca has won the race by 2000 votes.) It was deja vu for the 60 year old former ABQ mayor who in 1982 sought the Dem primary land nod and went to bed behind by some 700 votes, only to awaken to victory as late votes came in.

It was the Hispanic north that rescued the Baca candidacy this time when it hit the skids early in the evening as former land boss Powell dominated Albuquerque, even winning Baca's home precinct. The experts started to lean toward Ray, but the tide turned when Baca blew the doors off in San Miguel County, scoring about a two to one win and carrying the city of Las
Vegas. The poor ABQ showing was a hangover from his days as mayor, an office he lost in a re-election bid in 01', but the more you traveled north the more forgiving the electorate was toward the environmentalist. If he hangs on he will face a well-funded incumbent Republican land commissioner in Patrick Lyons.


Its been along time since a Bernalillo County candidate captured the Dem nomination for secretary of state, but county clerk Mary Herrera did it in fine fashion, bringing it home with an impressive 40% of the vote to 29% for former Secretary of State Stephanie Gonzales. Shirley Hooper and Letitia Montoya trailed. Herrera did well in southern NM offsetting a fourth place finish in Santa Fe County. She came through with her necessary landslide in Bernalillo county, going over the 60% mark. The next secretary of state will come from NM's largest city as former ABQ City Councilor Vickie Perea ran unopposed for the R nomination.

Herrera is the favorite in November as the R's have not won the slot since 1929, but GOP Chair Allen Weh told the radio audience Perea is their strongest candidate in years and that election snafus that have plagued the state could convince D's to cross over to Perea. But it's a long shot and the 49 year old Herrera, who started in government as a typist, is positioned to take the leap to the statewide stage.


If Jeff Armijo's relationship with indicted ex-state Treasurer Robert Vigil was a big issue, you wouldn't know it last night. The native New Mexican trounced rival Tom Buckner in the race for state auditor, grabbing 62% to Tom's 38%. Bernalillo county results were not quite as impressive where the scandal coverage has been heaviest; Buckner held him below 60% here, but that was the only shadow on an otherwise bright night for the travel agency owner. The R's nominated Dan Alvarez, but he may withdraw and a new candidate, according to Republican sources, should be named later this month. It will take a major effort to stop Armijo now and whether the GOP will come with the necessary funds is the open question.

My analysts also thought that the unopposed nomination of Dem James Lewis for state Treasurer, an office he held in the 80's, also bodes well for the majority party as it tries to shed its ethical baggage. He's another candidate with a reputation for integrity, they said, giving him a strong advantage over the GOP's Demesia Padilla, an ABQ CPA.


The easy ouster of controversial politician E. Shirley Baca by State Expo Chair Sandy Jones for the Public Regulation Commission seat down south raised the expert eyebrows. Sandy shut the door on Shirley when he rolled over her in her home county of Dona Ana. Her pot bust in late 04' was no doubt a major reason for her defeat, even though she reminded voters the charge was dismissed. This is a D district and Jones is expected to take the seat in November.

We had a good night on the air, but there's always one race that gives you trouble. This time it was the PRC race for northwest NM. Derrith Watchman-Moore had the early lead, but it wasn't until very late that we noticed that McKinley County Clerk Carol Sloan had eased past her to claim the victory. Also losing out in this one was former Bernalillo County Commissioner Steve Gallegos. It's seen as an easy win for the D's in November.


The highlight of the Dem legislative contests was the four way race for the Dem nomination for the state House seat on ABQ's West Side being vacated by Harriet Ruiz. Antonio "Moe" Maestas raised the young, "progressive" Dem flag and coasted to victory over Pat Baca, Jr. Maestas took 34% of the vote to Baca's 27% with Dominic Aragon and Dan Serrano trailing. This is another heavy Dem district and Maestas should be sitting in the Roundhouse next year.

In the GOP's banner legislative race, the expensive duel for the state House seat being vacated by Avon Wilson in Roswell, educator Mike Kakuska, backed by oilman Mark Murphy, came up short as he was defeated by Nora Espinoza whose campaign was led by conservative State Senator "Lightning" Rod Adair.

Before the primary Murphy signaled that he is considering running for the state chairmanship of the GOP. The defeat could impact those plans. In another widely watched GOP primary battle, contractor Richard Berry won easily and is on his way to the Legislature as no Dem is running for the seat. Berry took out James White who was backed by state House Minority Leader Ted Hobbs and who is retiring.

The youngest member of the NM Legislature, 27 year old Justine Fox-Young, and a thorn in the side to the House Dem leadership, is positioned to continue giving them headaches. She dismissed a challenge from Bob White who she defeated in a GOP primary two years ago in her ABQ NE Heights district. She has a Dem opponent, John McWaters, who will try to make her road back to Santa Fe a bit rocky, but the district is heavy R.


Allen McCulloch has the financial resources to cause some headaches for U.S. Senator Jeff Bingaman. Will he? The Farmington urologist scored an impressive 51% of the vote to overcome ABQ State Senator Joe Carraro and ex-Santa Fe City Councilor David Pfeffer to become the GOP nominee for Bingaman's seat. McCulloch took some hits for a late attack on Carraro, but the fact that it did not backfire may encourage him to go rough on Jeff. Still, the senator remains the heavy favorite to secure a fifth, six year term when voters go back to the voting booths for the general election.


Thanks to all who tuned in to our broadcast last night and early this morning. The bottom line is that it is time to put this election to bed, and your blogger too.

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