But given the Faustian arc of Gov. Bill Richardson’s scandal-plagued administration, and an economy that resembles a sewage reservoir, this year could be the Republicans’ best shot at the state’s top office since 1994, when former Gov. Gary Johnson won the first of two terms.
Lt. Gov. Diane Denish is the sole Democrat running to replace Richardson. Unfortunately for her, proximity to the Governor’s Office and a shared party affiliation with Barack Obama may no longer confer an advantage.
“Things are different now. The mood has changed,” Brian Sanderoff, president of Research & Polling, Inc. in Albuquerque, says.
Five Republicans are running. Four are widely unknown. The fifth? Let’s just say he gets mistaken for his father.
Polls disagree on which contender poses the greatest threat to Denish.
“In New Mexico, the only way Republicans win elections is by peeling off Democratic support,” Sanderoff says. “In the Republican primary, though, [the candidates] have to keep their message more conservative to appeal to the more homogenous nature of the primary electorate.”
Five out of six Santa Fe County voters—all those registered as Democrats, independents, Greens, communists, Tories, etc.—won’t have a say in the GOP primary. So, if New Mexico’s next governor is one of these five people, he or she could wind up occupying the old ruler’s mansion, surrounded by a hostile population and generally oblivious of local customs and taboos.
Sort of like the US position in Baghdad.
Only one-third of Republicans usually bother to vote in primaries, so it’s likely that roughly 113,000 of the most conservative New Mexicans will choose Denish’s challenger on June 1, Election Day.
Until then, the GOP candidates can’t ignore Santa Fe. With 15,000 registered Republicans, the county has more GOP votes than less populous but more conservative parts of the state.
Party activists like Barbara Damron tell SFR that Santa Fe Republicans have no clear favorite in the governor’s race. Likewise, business owner Charles Brewer says his conservative friends are split.
“Historically, we’re like-minded and would support the same candidate,” Brewer tells SFR. “I’m seeing people go all different directions on this.”
With that in mind, SFR grilled each candidate on a few issues we think matter to Santa Feans. We then placed their answers on a scale from 1 to 10, based on the nature and intensity of their views.
CRITICAL POSITIONS ARE RATED FROM 1 TO 10 FOR EACH CANDIDATE USING THE SCALES OF INJUSTICE KEY
Where do they stand on…
The new Arizona immigration law: 1=Former South African President Nelson Mandela; 10=Minuteman Project founder Jim Gilchrist
Abortion rights: 1=Feminist author Betty Friedan; 10=Scott Roeder, who killed Kansas abortion doctor George Tiller
Domestic partnerships for same-sex couples: 1=Sex columnist Dan Savage; 10=Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who claims there are no gay people in his country
Drill, baby, drill: 1=Earth First! co-founder David Foreman; 10=Former US Vice President and Halliburton CEO Dick Cheney
And, because we think candidates should be judged as individuals, not on their associations, we began each interview with the same question:
Without mentioning the name Bill Richardson, why shouldn’t Diane Denish be the next governor?
In a word: Auntie
Turf: Northeast Albuquerque contains state House District 24, which she has represented since 2002.
Favorite philosopher (excluding Jesus Christ, other religious figures and family members): “Wayne Gretzky...[who said]: ‘You are guaranteed not to score on 100 percent of the shots I don’t take.’”
First three things she’d cut from the state budget: 1. “Any board or commission that is ‘observe and report.’” 2. All vacant state positions. 3. Combinable agencies, for instance, Homeland Security and the Department of Public Safety; Cultural Affairs, Tourism and Economic Development; and the Public Education and Higher Education Departments.
Why not Denish? “For a number of reasons. The first is, her leadership style and much of the way the state government has run all the way to her being the chairman of the party is the same,” Arnold-Jones says. “Our politics and government are 40 years out of date...If you don’t know a politico, the chances are you don’t get your business done. We do not have a private sector sufficient to provide a revenue base for the services we need to provide. The reason people don’t come here, and the reason people don’t take a chance on setting up a business: if you don’t know the government, if you don’t know the folks in power, you’re put at a disadvantage.”
Top donor: FastBucks Management Co., LLC of Dallas, Texas ($25,000)
Top Santa Fe donor: Ralph Jones of Paseo De La Cuma ($250)
Primary election strengths: So far, Arnold-Jones remains untainted by scandal.
Primary election handicaps: Poor name recognition and lack of funds
General election strengths: Journalists like her; Arnold-Jones received New Mexico Foundation for Open Government’s 2010 William S Dixon First Amendment Freedom Award for successfully forcing webcasting on the state Legislature. Journalist Heath Haussamen of nmpolitics.net nominated Arnold-Jones for the award.
General election handicaps: Lack of polish, i.e. she may be insufficiently phony to win a statewide election. “I tend to be brutally honest,” Arnold-Jones says.
Any lessons from the last Republican governor, Gary Johnson? “The one thing he did was make sure he followed the budget. It’s not a floor, it’s a ceiling,” Arnold-Jones says. “He did do some things that troubled me…The private funding deal on the road to Farmington, it turned out, was not such a good deal for the state.”
Context-free quote: “Do I think any of [the other candidates] have any idea of what it’s going to take [to govern]? I stand with them all the time and I’m telling you, they don’t.”
SCALES OF INJUSTICE
AZ immigration: 7=Jack Bauer, unconstitutional terrorist hunter of 24
Arnold-Jones wouldn’t sign the Arizona bill into law here because it doesn’t “fit with our legal structure.” But she doesn’t believe it mandates racial profiling: “If you’re stopped for suspected criminal action, you’re going to be asked for documentation anyway. I think it’s a necessary step to stop the narco-terrorism.”
Abortion: 4=Hillary Clinton, who campaigned on reducing abortions but keeping them legal
Arnold-Jones believes women should have the option of abortion. “Life is sacred,” she says, but “abortion is law of the land.”
Domestic partnerships: 6=Bill Clinton, circa “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” and the Defense of Marriage Act
Arnold-Jones “probably” wouldn’t sign a DP bill, because of “structural problems,” but concedes that domestic partners “sometimes do better” than biological parents.
Drill, baby: 7=Oilman-cum-wind farmer T Boone Pickens
Her views on oil and gas industry regulation and taxes scarcely differ from her Republican competitors—she supports lower energy severance tax rates and the repeal of the “pit rule,” which governs the disposal of toxic wastes created during drilling. However, Arnold-Jones is the only candidate to admit concern about the potential influence of sizable industry contributions to other candidates.
“Make no mistake about it: I am a fan and supporter of the oil and gas industry,” she tells SFR. However, “When I take contributions, I’m careful. I worry, ‘What is the threshold for me, where I’d feel pressured to provide additional access?’”
In a word: Professorial
Turf: His law firm—specializing in natural resources and environmental law, as well as insurance and real estate—is in downtown Albuquerque, between the federal courthouse and Burt’s Tiki Lounge.
Favorite philosopher: “I would mention, say, an existential author,” Domenici says. “Probably over the course of my life, the two that have had the most impact would be Dostoyevsky and Faulkner.”
First three things he’d cut: 1. “The excess political appointees.” 2. Vacant jobs. 3. “The state plane…as a symbol.”
Why not Denish? “A couple reasons. One is, we as a state will be better off over the next eight years if we don’t have one-party rule like we’ve had the last eight years,” Domenici says. “It’s unlikely Republicans will take over either one of the houses, so the way to get checks and balances back into state government is to change the party that’s in the Governor’s Office. That means not having Diane Denish in that office. The second reason is, I think the state is going to have to turn itself in a different direction in order to survive…and that change in direction is to be a business-friendly state that welcomes business…and works with them to implement appropriate regulations.”
Top donor: Prakash Sundaram, Albuquerque hotelier ($25,000)
Top Santa Fe donor: Tie—attorney Sherri Sanders and Railyard Co. partner Marco Gonzales, who ran as a Republican for Democrat Tom Udall’s vacated US House seat when Udall joined the Senate ($500)
Primary election strengths: Kennedy, Bush, Udall—Domenici?
Primary election handicaps: Domenici has admitted his history of marijuana and cocaine use; he blamed it on having come of age in the 1970s and ’80s.
General election strengths: As was evidently the case with Public Regulation Commissioner Jerome Block Jr., voters might think they’re voting for Domenici’s dad.
General election handicaps: He talks like a natural resources lawyer, which is to say, he can be hard to follow.
Johnson’s lessons? “He delegated authority to cabinet-level people, with a policy message behind it, and allowed his cabinets to function without regular, direct involvement from the Governor’s Office. So you had a sort of a business model of state government. If ultimately they’re not doing what you want, you replace them, but you don’t micromanage them. I like that approach,” Domenici says. “His fiscal conservative approach, I like, and I think it’s even more necessary now than it was in his time.”
Context-free quote: “I have that bill in front of me.”
SCALES OF INJUSTICE
AZ immigration: 6=Dwight Eisenhower, whose policies led to the deportation of hundreds of thousands of braceros
In general, Domenici thinks Arizona’s law is “too broad.” He supports the provisions requiring municipal authorities to turn undocumented criminals over to federal immigration officers, and ending “sanctuary” cities; however, he “wouldn’t be prepared right now to say yes or no” to a provision requiring police officers to demand documentation from people they have a “reasonable suspicion” of being in the country illegally.
Abortion: 8=The Pope
“If states were to acquire that role [regulating abortion], then my position would be: The first thing to do would be to make abortion illegal across the board, without exceptions, and not deal with any exceptions until after the abortion—until the state has made the determination to make abortion illegal, and statistics and information can be developed on whether there’s a need for exceptions, whether there’s a justification for them and how they’d actually be implemented,” Domenici tells SFR.
In other words, Domenici would rather disallow abortion even in cases of rape or incest, unless advocates could convince lawmakers that such specific exceptions were justified.
Domestic partnerships: 9=Colorado pastor Ted Haggard
“I don’t support domestic partnership legislation, particularly when it’s designed to undermine traditional marriage,” Domenici says.
Drill, baby: 8=Former US Senate Energy Committee Chairman Pete Domenici Sr., R-NM
Though he’s campaigning on his experience as an “environmental lawyer,” Domenici generally works on the side of industry. He defends his call for new “incentives” for the oil and gas industry despite its recent record profits. “I don’t think it’s fair to compare ExxonMobil’s profit margin with…an individual [gas or oil] well,” he tells SFR. “New production of natural gas is extremely competitive in the United States. So the choice for a large operation—or more typically in New Mexico, an independent—to drill a new oil and gas well is a very difficult economic choice.”
In a word: Simpática
Turf: Since 1997, she’s occupied the 3rd Judicial District Attorney’s Office in Las Cruces. Her experience prosecuting a Democratic Doña Ana County clerk over election code violations helped convince her that “corruption is rooted in everything in New Mexico.”
Favorite philosopher: SFR was unable to secure a response to this question from Martinez or her campaign prior to press time.
First three things she’d cut: 1. “All exempt employees” would be asked to resign. 2. Vacant positions. 3. The “pit rule that’s currently crippling our oil and gas industry.” (Granted, that’s not a cut, but Martinez claims it would raise revenues by luring new business to the state.)
Why not Denish? “Because Diane Denish has not stood for
anything in the last seven years, particularly not against the waste and growth in government,” Martinez tells SFR. “Or against the corruption that has surrounded her every day of her administration.”
Top donor: Mack Energy Corp of Artesia, a large independent exploration company founded by Mack Chase, 79, a Texas-born, Pan-Western entrepreneur also involved in “charter air service, insurance, oil field supplies, restaurant health care and automotive” businesses ($117,500)
Top Santa Fe donor: Name left blank ($5,000); the listed address for this donation belongs to Santa Fe County Republican Party stalwarts Jim and Sheryl Bohlander. Sheryl tells SFR she’s not supporting any candidate in the primary and referred questions about Jim’s favored candidates to him; he did not return a
Johnson’s lessons? “He was very good with the veto pen, the Legislature trying to spend whenever there may be a surplus,” Martinez says. “By the same token, when he felt he couldn’t get certain things past the Legislature, such as changes in the tax system, he’d take it to the people.”
Primary election strengths: Her favored status among Republican insiders and activists—who believe she’s the strongest candidate to take on Denish—became clear when she swept the party’s pre-primary conventions across the state.
Primary election handicaps: Before running for district attorney, she was a Democrat. A Republican friend convinced her to switch, after a discussion of “issues.” Martinez says she realized that “people don’t mind switching parties, if they vote for the person.”
General election strengths: “I have a proven record of winning crossover votes in Doña Ana County over four elections—in a county where I’m outnumbered 3-to-1 [by Democrats],” she tells SFR. Oh, and there’s that whole she’s-a-Hispanic-woman-which-is-precisely-the-demographic-Republicans-need-to-win-in-November thing.
General election handicaps: Having held elected office for more than a decade, Martinez has a public record Democrats will be free to pick apart; her more conservative positions and clear oil-industry backing may not fly with swing voters.
Context-free quote: “Just make me look skinny!”
SCALES OF INJUSTICE
AZ immigration: 7=Jack Bauer
Martinez wouldn’t say whether she’d sign the Arizona bill or not, but says lawmakers there “did what they felt they needed to.” She favors banning so-called “sanctuary city” policies such as Santa Fe’s—which forbid local police from asking about a suspect or inmate’s immigration status—and not allowing the issuance of driver’s licenses or the award of state university scholarships to undocumented immigrants.
Abortion: 8=The Pope
“I am pro-life. And I do not believe we should be spending any taxpayer money to pay for abortions,” Martinez says. “Unfortunately, abortion has become in many ways a form of birth control.”
Domestic partnerships: 8=700 Club host Pat Robertson
Domestic partnerships are “not necessary,” according to Martinez. “First of all, marriage is between a man and a woman. Second of all, there are rights that are desired by couples that are not married—those rights can be legally acquired by preparing legal documents.”
Drill, baby: 9=British Petroleum lobbyist
Martinez tells SFR that her acceptance of huge contributions from oil companies while espousing policies that favor those companies’ financial interests is different from the pay-to-play type state corruption she’s been campaigning against. “I publicly made a statement [against the pit rule] back in September before I even knew who Mack Energy was,” Martinez tells SFR. “If there’s a regulation to be imposed—because it’s scientifically based—I’ll impose it.”
In a word: Clever
Turf: His global “public affairs” firm—don’t call it PR—has offices two blocks east of the Albuquerque Amtrak station.
Favorite philosopher: “I’m a big Ayn Rand fan, and I have been for a really long time. I do believe in the power and the ability of the individual to change things, and to create and work and succeed or fail.” (He once had a German Shepherd named Howard, after the bermensch protagonist of The Fountainhead.)
First three things he’d cut: 1. Consolidate agencies. 2. “Reducing the size of many boards and commissions.” 3. Cutting “politically appointed jobs” to 2003 levels.
Why not Denish? “I think you ought to be judged on your actions, and if I look at myself as a candidate, I’ve been talking about reforming public education; I’ve been talking about school choice; I’ve been talking about vouchers since I started this process in July [and] I’ve been an advocate for a better relationship between the energy and extractive industries and the state for a long time,” Turner says. “What I have found disingenuous and politically motivated in our lieutenant governor is her support of or opposition to various things, which are politically interesting and hot today [but] are not the things she has been engaged in or prepared to discuss in years past. Oil and gas. Education. The small-business environment or excessive regulation on industry. Those are things she’s only started talking about in the last six months or year. That speaks volumes about an individual. I don’t think she’s evil. I don’t think she’s a crook. I certainly think she could have, and should have, been more vocal about the issues…I didn’t say ‘Bill Richardson’ once.”
Top donor: Hughes Service, Inc. of Loco Hills, oil and gas field equipment supplier ($30,000)
Top Santa Fe donor: Charles Brewer of Brewer Oil Co. ($2,500)
Primary election strengths: Turner has built an extensive network through his work in political campaigns and corporate PR. His corporate clients have included Uranium Resources, Inc. and SunCal, the Albuquerque-area developers. As a political consultant, he worked for former presidential candidate Steve Forbes, as well as campaigns in Europe in Asia—most notably, the US-backed “Orange Revolution” in Ukraine.
Primary election handicaps: Turner’s ideological purity and motivations have been questioned by conspiracy theorists who fear his ties to the Council on Foreign Relations, for which he once worked as a fellow in Japan. “All this stuff is out there. Most of it is coming from the Martinez campaign,” Turner says. “Someone actually bothered to do the research and figure out what my wife’s PhD dissertation was on.” Well, what was it? “Abortion, dictatorship and democracy in Latin America,” he says. Scandalous!
General election strengths: He’s a charming, youngish man who creates political propaganda for a living. That can’t hurt his chances.
General election handicaps: Denish could justifiably point to Turner’s lack of experience—campaigning isn’t governing.
Johnson’s lessons? “From a fiscal policy perspective, Gary and I are probably very similar. I also believe that government should be run like a business,” Turner, who had leading roles in two of Johnson’s gubernatorial campaigns, says. “I don’t agree with Gary on drug legalization—or marijuana legalization, which is where he’s at now.”
Context-free quote: “I also got $1,000 from Pfizer; it doesn’t mean I’m going to support free Viagra.”
SCALES OF INJUSTICE
AZ immigration: 4=Jeb Bush, the first prominent Republican to oppose the law on racial-profiling grounds
“I do have concerns over any piece of legislation that might create an opportunity or validation of any kind of racial profiling. I’m Jewish…You look at the most extreme applications of those kinds of laws, and I worry. You look at what happened in Nazi Germany, or any country, [and] the outcomes are potentially bad.”
Abortion: 6=US Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts
“I believe in parental notification, but I’m not someone like Domenici Jr.: He will have abortion under no circumstances,” Turner says.
Domestic partnerships: 7=Fraternity brother
Turner opposed the last DP bill. “I’m not interested in legislating any definition of marriage,” he says.
Drill, baby: 8.5=BP flack
Turner says he views himself as “very pro-environment” despite his years of work promoting the interests of extractive industries. “I have been representing energy and natural resources clients for over a decade. I know these people,” Turner tells SFR. “But me taking a $10,000 contribution from a field services company is not going to change my position on oil and gas.”
In a word: Emphatic
Turf: Weh’s 31-year-old company, CSI Aviation Services, has offices on Northwest Rio Grande Boulevard in Albuquerque. The company ranks 72nd on a federal list of the top 100 Department of Homeland Security contractors, having done $43 million in work for that agency in the last fiscal year. Weh says the company has never received a sole-source contract. Asked by SFR about internet rumors that CSI carried out “extraordinary renditions” of terrorist suspects to foreign prisons
during the Bush years, Weh flatly denies involvement in any such work.
Favorite philosopher: “I was never big into philosophy,” Weh says. “But I will tell you my political hero, favorite president: George Washington.”
First three things he’d cut: Weh refuses to say. However, he says, “there’s probably some unnecessary boards and commissions.”
Why not Denish? “She doesn’t have the requisite qualifications,” Weh says. “She’s a career
politician who has never managed any large organization in her life, and has also exhibited at the very least an inability to know what’s going on in Santa Fe, to the extent that all these shenanigans have been taking place and you had to have known what was going on. Either you knew what was going on and you’re complicit, or you didn’t know what was going on and you’re incompetent. And either one of those makes you unqualified to be the governor of the state.”
Top donors: Tie—Los Ranchos lawyer Turner Branch; Socorro banker Holm Bursum; Albuquerque lawyer John Duhigg; and Albuquerque ophthalmologist Jerry Bettman ($10,000)
Top Santa Fe donor: Johnanna McLaughlin, artist ($1,000)
Primary election strengths: A tough-talking Vietnam vet should appeal to GOP loyalists of his own demographic.
Primary election handicaps: Weh says he upset some party insiders during his tenure as state party chairman by demanding some work out of the slackers. Opponents note that the GOP lost an unprecedented number of elected offices on Weh’s watch, a fact he blames on forces beyond his control—namely, Barack Obama. Weh’s association with the Bush administration may hurt him. As state party chairman, Weh reportedly asked Bush adviser Karl Rove to have US Attorney David Iglesias fired. The so-called “US attorneys scandal” was Rove’s purge of federal prosecutors who, like Iglesias, were reluctant to use their powers to harass Democrats.
General election strengths: Being independently wealthy, Weh won’t have to worry about depleting his cash stockpile in the primary.
General election handicaps: Weh comes off like John McCain, but without the self-deprecating sense of humor.
Johnson’s lessons? “Well, he governed with integrity. That, I would seek to emulate,” Weh tells SFR. “He did a wonderful job with our state highway system. The highway between Bernalillo and Farmington [NM 44, which was privately financed]…that was a marvel. Probably the most important thing: He certainly ran an austere state government.”
Context-free quote: “Worry is a wasted emotion.”
SCALES OF INJUSTICE
AZ immigration: 8=Maricopa County, Ariz. Sheriff Joe Arpaio, famous for his immigrant roundups
Weh refuses to consider a law he calls “Arizona-specific,” but supports an end to “sanctuary city” policies and believes when police apprehend someone “we have every right to remove that individual from this country—particularly when…one in every five illegals coming north today is a criminal.”
Abortion: 7=Ariz. Sen. John McCain, who’d like to reduce access to abortion
“I’m pro-life; however, in cases of rape or incest, I leave the decision to the woman,” Weh says, adding: “Roe v. Wade is the law of the land.”
Domestic partnerships: 8=Pat Robertson
Weh tells SFR he wouldn’t sign a DP bill; weighing in during the last legislative session, he said he would veto any laws that redefines “the union between one man and one woman.”
Drill, baby: 8=Domenici Sr.
Weh tells SFR “the jury’s not in on what caused the spill” in the Gulf of Mexico, and says tighter regulation “would be a knee-jerk reaction, to go after oil and gas—especially on the land. That was a very deep well. We’re talking several thousand feet down…It boggles your mind when you think about it.” SFR