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SANTA FE — New Mexico’s gubernatorial contest has become Susana Martinez’s race to lose. Lt. Gov. Diane Denish can still win it but unless Martinez stumbles over a pile of kryptonite, she’s the favorite.
Yes, I said kryptonite. I realize that is Superman’s nemesis but I can’t recall what weakens Wonder Woman. And Wonder Woman is what I am christening Susana Martinez.
Why? Because she’s faster than light, bulletproof and invisible. During the Republican primary election campaign she seemed to be in all places at once, lining up delegates in every county while still being district attorney out of her Las Cruces office.
All that time, former state GOP chairman Allen Weh was publicizing his travels to every county to line up delegates.
But when the state party convention came along, Martinez swamped Weh and her three other opponents, garnering as many delegate votes as the rest of her opponents combined.
It was the same story in the June primary as it had been at the GOP convention in March.
Martinez again licked the field with one arm tied behind her. The day after her primary election victory, Martinez took on the mighty lieutenant governor and her $2 million bankroll.
Lt. Gov. Denish immediately began a barrage of negative campaign ads aimed at Martinez. With her campaign account nearly depleted by a bruising primary, Martinez was at a sizeable disadvantage. But amazingly she rebounded and took on her adversary with a vengeance.
Martinez took hits for a sweetheart contract with an employee to supply office equipment and large raises to top staff paid from border security funds. But the shots bounced off her like bullets off Wonder Woman.
Then came word that Wonder Woman was not of this planet but had been born in the evil empire of Texas. Efforts to verify her background information seem to disappear into thin air.
Despite Lt. Gov. Denish’s overwhelming advantage in experience and resources, Martinez managed to pull ahead in internal polls conducted by other candidates throughout the state all summer long.
In more good news for Martinez, Rupert Murdock’s News Corp,, the parent company of Fox News, has just contributed $100 million to the Republican Governors Association. Martinez should get a generous chunk of that because the governors’ group is one of the primary forces said to be behind Martinez’s superhuman powers.
What a come-down it has been for the star-crossed lieutenant governor. Less than two years ago she was poised to prematurely enter the governor’s high office, thereby obtaining an overwhelming advantage on her journey to power.
But then Gov. Bill Richardson announced he wouldn’t be relinquishing his throne for a position in President Obama’s cabinet.
The situation still looked good for Lady Di, however. She had close to $2 million in her war chest. And potential Democratic opponents fell by the wayside until there were none left.
That was followed by the decision of the only two Republicans with experience in statewide campaigns to not run for governor.
That left five no-name GOP candidates to fight a bruising battle for the honor of opposing the lieutenant governor.
But then came more bad news. Republicans began tying the increasingly unpopular governor to his lieutenant governor.
They became like a hyphenated marriage — the Richardson-Denish administration.
So Denish is down. She’s not out.
She has been in many tough statewide battles before. But this time is different.
She has an opponent who is younger, peppier, more animated than any she has ever faced.
The Democratic Governors Association, knowing that the Republican Governors Association is deeply into the Martinez campaign, now has its own attack ad running against Martinez.
This will be one of the major battles in which those two giants will face off.
Both houses of Congress are up for grabs this year but gubernatorial races also are of extreme importance because governors can veto state and congressional redistricting plans.
Jay Miller is a syndicated columnist for New Mexico News Services.