Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Another Three Way In The North? Indy Candidacy Impact Weighed, Plus: Race Eases Up For County Clerk, And: Election Day Today In Rio Rancho & Santa Fe 

Carol Miller
It's unlikely that history will repeat itself and the Dems will be derailed this year in their bid to keep the northern congressional seat in their column, but with their longtime nemesis, Carol Miller, announcing she will run as an independent, it is a possibility they will have to live with.

Miller, many of you will recall, ran under the Green Party banner in 1997 when Bill Richardson vacated the northern seat. She upended the race by attracting nearly 17% of the vote, crippling Dem nominee Eric Serna and helping to elect Republican Bill Redmond to fill out what was left of Richardson's term. He was named UN Ambassador by President Clinton. Serna was saddled with a negative ethical reputation, so Miller's candidacy was planted on fallow ground. That, however, is not the case this time, argues politico Steve Cabiedes, himself a onetime Green.

"The Democrats are more united than they were in '97. Ben Ray Lujan is the leader in the race for the nomination and doesn't have the ethics baggage Serna had. Also, he is running on a liberal platform. It would take something major and unforeseen for 1997 to repeat in 2008," he analyzed.

The Dems have shown they can handle a Miller type candidacy when they are united. When she ran for the seat in '98, Miller managed only 4% of the vote as Dems rallied around Udall and ended Redmond's short, but historic congressional stint.

The intellectual foundation for Miller's candidacy does seem skimpier today. She justifies her independent candidacy by saying that, at 61, she has more experience in dealing with federal issues than the Dem contenders. She says experience is key because NM will be sending an all-freshman delegation to the US House next year.

Miller will need about 6,000 petition signatures to make the November ballot as an independent. Cabiedes says she will need to submit about 8,000 to ensure she collects enough valid names. Miller has until the day after the June 3rd primary election to get them.

Rumblings on the Santa Fe trail have Santa Fe developer Don Wiviott perhaps trying to link dem rival Lujan, chairman of the NM Public Regulatory Commission, to Eric Serna type politics. If Lujan were damaged by such charges but still won the Dem primary, it could give Miller the ethics opening she had in '97, but it is a stretch. Still, the subplot of a third party in the north is yet another angle in an election year that is giving us an endless supply of them.


They're talking in downtown ABQ about a possible free ride for the Dem nomination for Bernalillo County Clerk Maggie Toulouse Oliver. Kelli Fulgenzi, assistant city clerk, who planned to oppose Toulouse-Oliver, says to do so she would have to quit her city job. She's not willing to do that, and that could give Maggie a free nomination ride. It would be free ride #2 for her. Toulouse Oliver, who is married to Big Bill aide Allan Oliver, was appointed as county clerk to fill out the term of Mary Herrera who, in 2006, was elected secretary of state. While it remains to be seen if another Dem will surface to challenge the county clerk in the Dem primary, she will have Republican opposition in November. Rick Abraham has announced he will seek the job, but no man has been elected to the post in living memory and no Republican since the 1980's. Clerk Toulouse-Oliver will face her first major test when she oversees election results from the June primary.


Reaction to our Monday report on GOP chances for the US Senate seat. Politico Harold Morgan was among the e-mailers who were not buying the argument that Bingaman's liberalism is overlooked by the electorate. He says Jeff keeps getting re-elected because of "the power of incumbency and the quality of the Republican opponents." Perhaps. But it is hard to ignore that liberal Bingaman has such high favorables in a moderate state. There seems to be more to it than being in the office and having lousy opponents. Otherwise, the R's might be able to generate some high-quality opponents.

Other correspondents came with an argument that they thought could be used by the R's as they start their campaign against soon-to-be Dem Senate nominee Tom Udall. They said New Mexico should have a senator from each party in D.C. so we are tapped in to the political power no matter who controls the Presidency or Congress. It's a credible argument, but is it too esoteric for a general election audience?


Two of NM's larger cities--Rio Rancho and Santa Fe--hold elections today. Rio Rancho will get a new mayor and it could be Dem NM State Rep. Tom Swisstack. Rio Rancho will also vote on a tax to bring a branch of UNM to the city and three city councils seats. In Santa Fe, they will vote on four city council seats and a variety of charter amendments. We'll update the results tomorrow. And, of course, there's the big Texas and Dem Prez primaries today.

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