Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Everybody's Happy: New Law Eases Road For Congress Candidates, Plus: Candidate Filing Day, And: The Santa Fe Circus & The Prez Vote Count Goes On 

Get ready for a congressional free-for-all. As candidates lined up in Santa Fe Tuesday to make their official declarations, over at the Roundhouse they made it easier for those hopefuls to get on the June primary ballot. Lawmakers passed a measure to allow contenders who don't get enough delegate support at their party's March pre-primary convention to go out and get additional petition signatures to win a spot on the ballot. The Guv has said he will sign the bill. More than a few candidates are expected to take advantage of that new law in this historic year when all three NM US House seats are open as well as a US Senate seat.

As for the candidates who filed, no big surprises, Minor US Senate contenders Dem Leland Lehrman of the north and R Tom Benavides of ABQ are gone. They failed to file declarations and needed petition signatures. Political newcomer Bob Cornelius dropped out of the GOP race for the southern congressional seat shortly before the 5 p.m. filing deadline. He endorsed Terry Marquardt.

The banner US Senate race will feature Republicans Steve Pearce and Heather Wilson, both US Reps who filed their paperwork Tuesday. The front-runner? GOP primaries generally favor the more conservative candidate which in this case is Pearce, but Wilson has more political experience. This will be a good one.

Democrat Tom Udall filed his papers for the Senate. He gets a free ride in the Democratic primary and enters the race as the fall favorite with early polling showing him beating either Wilson or Pearce. Still, either Pearce or Wilson will spend and attack heavily.


In the ABQ congressional seat we'll have two Republicans--Bernalillio County Sheriff Darren White and State Senator Joe Carraro--seeking their party's nomination. White starts as the favorite. Carraro will have to raise money to make the race competitive.

For the Dems, the ABQ situation has grown complicated. Former Secretary of State Rebecca Vigil-Giron is in the race threatening the bid of the other Hispanic female seeking the June nod--Michelle Lujan Grisham. Former ABQ City Councilor Martin Heinrich takes the role of favorite now that Vigil-Giron and Lujan Grisham will share votes. He also has a couple of hundred thousand in the bank. Newcomer and attorney Robert Pidcock is also in as is another newbie--28 year old Jessica Wolfe.

Insiders say Vigil-Giron, saddled with considerable baggage from her last stint as Secretary of State, nevertheless poses a threat to Heinrich, the darling of the Dem progressives. She has high name ID and will not need as much money to get her name out. Heinrich's camp is hoping the two Hispanic contenders will divide the vote leaving him to run up the middle. But there are no guarantees. Lujan Grisham was blindsided by Rebecca's entry and will have to fight to re-establish herself as a top contender.

The ABQ House seat is being vacated by Heather Wilson who is seeking the GOP nomination for the US Senate seat being vacated by Republican Pete Domenici.


Down south, former Hobbs County Commissioner Harry Teague filed for the US House seat as did Dona Ana County Commissioner Bill McCamley. They are your two leading candidates for the Dem June nod which also features Al Kissling of Las Cruces and Frank McKinnon of Roswell. The seat is being vacated by Steve Pearce who is seeking the GOP US Senate nomination. Teague starts ahead because of a big money advantage.

On the R side, we'll have six candidates now that Cornelius is gone. The frontrunner by money raised is rancher and restaurant owner Ed Tinsley, but the insiders say this one is pretty much wide open. Hobbs Mayor Monty Newman is another major player. Longtime T or C Republican Earl Greer is in as is Roswell area rancher Aubrey Dunn. Rounding out the field is Greg Sowards who has sought the seat before and former State Rep. Terry Marquardt of Alamogordo. Can Tinsley use his money to break this open. Can Dunn use his cash to make R's forget about his Dem ties? Can Marquardt overcome a humiliating '06 defeat for his NM House seat? Can Greer get over his losses for the state GOP chairmanship as well as a PRC seat? Can Newman secure the SE counties to become a frontrunner?


In the north, the Democratic front-runner is Ben Ray Lujan, son of state House Speaker Ben Lujan. He is being challenged by Santa Fe developer Don Wiviott, Santa Fe County Commissioner Harry Montoya, attorney Rudy Martin and former NM Indian Affairs cabinet secretary Benny Shendo. All filed papers Tuesday. Devloper Wiviott is self-financing and is seen as the major threat to Lujan's bid. On the R side attorney Marco Gonzales and contractor Bob East of Rio Rancho will go for the GOP nod. The Dems should hold this seat which is being vacated by Rep. Udall. But it could get nasty between Lujan and Wiviott. Attorney Jon Adams is also in this one after first seeking the ABQ seat.


It's only February but we already have our first November winner. He's NM Supreme Court Justice Charlie Daniels who was appointed to the high court in October. Daniels drew no Dem primary opponent Tuesday and no Republicans filed for the court seat. That means the former high-profile ABQ criminal defense lawyer will get to serve out the term of the late Pamela Minzner unopposed. That term runs until 2011. If Daniels wants to stay on the five member court after that, he will have to seek his own eight year term in 2010. All five justices are Democrats.


It is really Barnum & Bailey time at the Merry Roundhouse in Santa Fe. For Mr. & Mrs. New Mexico the circus is as entertaining as it is dismaying. The Guv and the Legislature are in open warfare over exactly when he can act on the capital outlay (pork) bill, and the fight has gotten so bad it could end up at the NM Supreme Court as soon as this evening. He is also, God help us, threatening a special session if his health care plan is not modified. When was the last time the Guv got anything substantial from a special? But that doesn't stop him from calling them.

Then there's the sideshow going on in the other tent as Light Guv Diane Denish and Bill squabble over her right to have security coverage. Denish told KOB-TV the Guv is being "disrespectful." Bill questions her version of the security story.

The session is slated to adjourn at noon Thursday. Things have gotten so bad up there, they're pulling out the Santos' and praying for it to happen.


The slow--some would say maddeningly slow--process of counting the votes from an election now over a week old continued at the NM Democratic Party Tuesday, with the vote-counting raising questions about the voter lists used. It appears a significant number of voters had to cast provisional ballots because when they went to their poling location, their names were not on the list of voters. The Democratic Party used the statewide voter list compiled by the Secretary of State to make lists of Dems for use at the 184 polling locations. What went wrong? That question will be one of many needing attention in the party's planned report on the botched election.

Another big reason there were so many provisional ballots--over 17,000---was a large number of unregistered people trying to vote. There were also a number of Republicans and Independents attempting to vote in the Democrats-only primary.

State Dem chair Brian Colòn said he could not say how many Democrats had problems voting last week because their names were not on the voter lists used at the polls. But he said no one was turned away. "That's why we have provisional balloting." He said.

As for the count, the party now says over 8,000 of the over 17,000 provisionals have been found valid, They also said that after a canvass of the regular votes Clinton's lead over Obama is now 1,074. It's Hill--68,084--Obama--67,010

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