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The Early Birds

New Mexico politicians build momentum for 2010

July 27, 2009, 12:00 am

Lieutenant Governor
The lieutenant governor doesn’t have much executive power. The position has a budget to craft policy and form task forces. The lieutenant governor presides over the Senate (with a tie-breaker-only vote) and also assumes some of the governor’s duties when he’s out of state (for an extra $250 per day), which can happen quite frequently, as Richardson’s second term has proved. The “Guv Light” is typically a stepping-stone office and politicians who run for it frequently have higher ambitions. The lieutenant governor is paid $85,000 per year.

Lawrence Rael (D)
Status: 85% sure
Of the current pool of candidates, Rael has the most administrative experience, serving for more than a decade as the chief administrative officer for the city of Albuquerque. As the current executive director of the Mid-Region Council of Governments, Rael is well-known among government insiders in Bernalillo, Valencia, Torrance, Santa Fe and Sandoval counties, and is well-versed in water, development and transportation issues. MRCOG is a relatively obscure agency among the New Mexico public; its most prominent responsibility is the Rail Runner Express.

The War Chest: Rael will not make his first report until Oct. 13 if he forms a campaign or exploratory committee.

The Political Scale: 3.3 = Party Line. Democrats say they don’t know much about Rael but, based on his executive record working with a diverse group of officials on various elected bodies, believe he isn’t one to rock the boat.

Shady Percentile: 39.5% shady. Again, few journalists are familiar enough with Rael’s political record to rate his shadiness, but those who are give varying opinions. Some say he’s as clean as a politician gets, while others wonder how close his work with the New Mexico Department of Transportation brought him to pay-to-play allegations regarding certain state transportation projects.

On the Web: Facebook, Twitter (@lawrencerael)

Greg Solano (D)
Status: Announced
Solano is the ultimate early bird—he announced his candidacy in 2007. Formerly a gang unit officer with the Santa Fe Police Department, Solano is serving his second term as Santa Fe County sheriff. Highlights from his time as sheriff include his push to de-privatize the jail and to implement a DWI vehicle-seizure program. Term-limited, Solano has hopes of attaining higher office. Solano is net savvy (he’s known as the “Blogging Sheriff”) which may be one of his strongest assets but also an Achilles’ heel as critics questions how he has time to Tweet.
The War Chest: $3,000, Solano tells SFR. His first report is due Oct. 13.
The Political Scale: 3.3 = Party Line. A generally progressive candidate, Solano also is one of the few sheriffs nationwide to support a medical cannabis program and to call publicly for “compassionate” immigration reform.
Shady Percentile: 21.1% shady. Journalists appreciate Solano’s blogging and open relationship with the press, and note that he is the first lieutenant governor candidate to offer a position paper on ethics reform.
On the Web: Facebook, Twitter (@gregsolano),,

Linda Lopez (D)
Status: Announced
A single mother, Linda Lopez’ 12 years as a state senator have been marked by a focus on education and children’s issues, though that may be overshadowed by her recent sponsorship of a bill to create a $408 million tax increment development district to fund SunCal, New Mexico’s controversial 57,000-acre project in west Albuquerque. The bill narrowly failed in the House despite an enormous lobby effort by the developers. Lopez chairs the Senate Rules Committee, which was dubbed “where ethics bills go to die” by the nonprofit good-government website Clearly New Mexico.

The War Chest: $11,454, according to her May 2009 annual report. She raised only $1,000 in the previous months, all from the Realtors Association of New Mexico Political Action Committee.

The Political Scale: 2.6. = Party Line. Although Lopez is attempting to go round-for-round with state Sen. Gerald Ortiz y Pino on progressive issues, Democrats note that Lopez stood by conservative Democrat Senate President Pro Tem Tim Jennings when Senate progressives attempted to topple his reign.

Shady Percentile: 42.1% shady. The journalists polled blame Lopez’ leadership as Rules Committee chair for stalling ethics legislation.

On the Web: Facebook

Gerald Ortiz y Pino (D)
Status: Announced
Ortiz y Pino is an Albuquerque social worker, a columnist for the Alibi (and formerly for SFR) and one of the most liberal members of the state Senate. In policy and politics, he’s much like Denish in that he works on non-partisan family and children’s issues but has been very vocal with his far-left positions on renewable energy, LGBT rights and nuclear proliferation.
The War Chest: $3,500 according to his May 2009 annual report. He raised $1,000 in the previous year from the Realtors Association of New Mexico PAC and Motorola.
The Political Scale: 4 = True Progressive. Democrats say Ortiz y Pino is as liberal as it gets.
Shady Percentile: 19.4% shady. Journalists characterize Ortiz y Pino as a crusader for good governance—perhaps to the point of naivety.
On the Web: Facebook, Twitter (@jerryfornm),

JR Damron (R)
Status: 75 percent sure
A Santa Fe-based physician, Damron ran for governor in 2006 but quit unexpectedly shortly after he won the Republican primary. At the time, he told reporters he was convinced by party officials that he wasn’t aggressive enough for the race against Richardson and publicly denied rumors that “family issues” contributed to his dropping out. Damron is treasurer of the Santa Fe County Republican Party and was a delegate to the 2008 Republican National Convention, but he is still, overall, a relatively unknown figure in statewide politics.

The War Chest: $400 from his gubernatorial campaign, which has been inactive since 2006.

The Political Scale: 2.8 = Party Line. Damron was conservative enough to win the primary in 2006, but may be considered a moderate simply because he hails from Santa Fe.

Shady Percentile: 38.3% shady. Journalists say they are still suspicious of the conflicting stories behind Damron’s decision to drop out in 2006.

On the Web: No web presence as of deadline.

Pollster Prediction: “I think none of the
lieutenant governor prospective candidates are well-known enough,” Sanderoff says. “If it stays like this, look for an anglo name to get in there and perhaps have a very good chance of winning [in the primary].”

WEB EXTRA: SecState race on next page!

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