Tom Benavides

In an election year like 2008, when an unpopular president has termed out and the nation is almost universally calling for “change,” when voter registration is breaking all-time records and the ethnic and gender barriers to public office have all but collapsed, the desire for citizens to make their mark on posterity is only natural.

For the über-ambitious few, that means running for office, whether they have a Popsicle’s chance in hell or not.

Several hopefuls never saw their names offered up to citizens, in part because of their own inexperience but also because of internal party politics and New Mexico’s restrictive ballot-access laws.

If SFR issued runners-up awards in this category, Mekah Gordon, the feisty transgender educator, would deserve fond acknowledgment for her brief bid for retiring state Sen. John Grubesic’s, D-Santa Fe, seat. She tentatively switched her campaign to the House race when state Rep. Peter Wirth, D-Santa Fe, announced he was interested in succeeding Grubesic. But after discussions with party leaders, Gordon opted to let her opponent and fellow newcomer Brian Egolf run unchallenged.

Leland Lehrman, the grizzly bearded editor of The Sun News, also earns props for his failed bid for the US Senate. Lehrman announced his Democratic candidacy at the Roundhouse with a diatribe on 9.11 Truth. Lehrman tells SFR he dropped out due to family and personal conflicts, but he also faced challenging odds going up against US Rep. Tom Udall, D-NM, in the Democratic primary.

But in first place, SFR names Tom Benavides, the eye-patch-sporting Democrat-turned-Republican former state senator who aimed to rival Reps. Heather Wilson, R-NM, and Steve Pearce, R-NM, in the Republican race to replace conservative icon US Sen. Pete Domenici. Benavides allowed himself to be the subject of one of SFR’s first YouTube experiments (, even deigning to reveal, on camera, the football-cleat injury behind his eye-patch.

In the end, Benavides tells SFR he came up 30 signatures short of the candidate requirement. That was a disappointment, he says, though he was glad to see Pearce win the nomination over Wilson, who he described as a “liberal” and a “carpetbagger” throughout his short-lived campaign.

Benavides says he’ll be back in two years to run for governor and he won’t repeat his mistakes. For the record, the mistake was his signature count, not his candidacy.