Javier Gonzales sends a text at the appointed interview time: "Give me 5."
He calls from the road four minutes later.
The first question, of course, is what happened to the demands of being the single dad of an eighth-grade daughter in the months between September, when he decided not to run for a second term as mayor, and this week, when he announced his candidacy for lieutenant governor.
"Well, the family duties are still there; the constant reminder and awesomeness of being a dad," he says. "And I'm not just saying that because Cadence is here."
His daughter is silent.
"It was quite honestly a struggle," Gonzales tells SFR of his decision, using the same word he did when he described his decision not to run for mayor again. He was still searching for the what-next, post-mayoral job. And while he said in September that he was done with politics and "I've done everything I've wanted to do in the political arena," it seems that "done" is a word possessing the coveted political property of malleability.
Though there are other declared candidates for lieutenant governor, the departure of state Sen. Michael Padilla from the Democratic nomination process created space for him as a progressive.
While Gonzales seemed definitive this fall about his departure from politics, he anticipated staying active in the world of policy. The lieutenant governor's office, he says this week, gives him the chance "to advocate on a much broader landscape."
The job isn't well-defined, other than the duty of running the Senate when the Legislature is in session. If he wins in June and Democrats triumph in November—far from a guarantee—that nebulous job description may give him leeway to pursue his policy objectives, at least as long as they don't clash with the governor's.
For an example of how to do that effectively, Gonzales looks to Diane Denish, who advocated strongly in the lieutenant governor, he says, "for children and families and working to elevate policy that would have impact, especially on families living in poverty and who need more access to education." Denish spearheaded the effort to expand pre-kindergarten in New Mexico, an effort that's since achieved broad support from both Democrats and Republicans.
But anyone who's seen a tired, impatient Javier Gonzales running City Council meetings into the late-night hours on a Wednesday would be well within their right to question how he'll handle 42 senators with a penchant for speechifying and a lusty passion for parliamentary procedure.
"Being in a body where you have people from across New Mexico who all come to the Capitol with various points of views, it's an exciting thing to think about," he says optimistically. "Time will tell how I do at that part of the job if I'm successful [in getting the nomination and winning the election]."
There's a long way between declaring and winning, though. Gonzales says he'll have to put in extra work on the campaign, but still insists he can maintain his stated priority of being a father to Cadence (his other daughter, Cameron, is in college).
Once again, he says he brought his daughters in on the decision to run. "They asked me, 'Can you do what you love? Are you advocating for policy that affects something you care about?' It's actually a lot of the same questions we ask when there's a conversation about one of them taking on an extracurricular activity. It's nice to know that they've been listening."
Gonzales implies that being lieutenant governor might be take more mental energy than the ceremonial duties being mayor brings, and though he doesn't think that he'll have more time on his hands than he knows what to do with, he does think he'll be able to keep playing chauffeur to his daughter.
"My best job that I have right now is being able to pick up Cadence and to participate in school events," he says.
Can he keep cooking dinner? Maybe. He admits turning to frozen sweet potato fries in a pinch. The last meal he cooked? Cadence pipes up on the bluetooth microphone: Chicken alfredo. Was it any good?
"It was awesome," she says.