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Lt. Gov. Diane Denish spent seven years building a $2 million war chest. It scared all Democratic candidates and the two major Republican possibilities out of the race, giving her what appeared to be an insurmountable lead.
Then along came Susana Martinez who raised $2 million in the past 10 weeks to basically wipe out her fundraising disadvantage.
How did she do it? Close to half of it was out-of-state money, mostly from four big donors. Even Bill Richardson would have trouble raising that much that quickly from within the state.
It demonstrates how heavily targeted the New Mexico gubernatorial race is. This year sees a large number of gubernatorial races nationally but New Mexico is especially important because it offers an opportunity for the GOP to prevent Democrats from having their way on congressional and legislative redistricting next year.
Martinez also is very capable of winning. The Republican Party has been hurt in some primary elections by independent candidacies and by Tea Party candidates whose views will make it difficult to win a general election.
So Martinez is going to get all the national assistance she needs. In early July, I wrote about Denish’s 7-1 advantage over Martinez in their campaign accounts.
Denish was pouring it on from her $2.2 million bankroll, filling the airwaves with television ads that Martinez couldn’t match with her $300,000 of leftovers from a bruising primary battle.
But Martinez found the money to keep pace and she’s sure to keep it up for the final six weeks. And most of that money will come from out of state.
Not only is Martinez running ahead in the polls but she will give the GOP a big boost with women and minorities nationally if she can become a female Hispanic governor and John Sanchez a Hispanic lieutenant governor.
Martinez is clicking with Northern New Mexico Hispanics. She’s not one of them but to many in that part of the state she feels like she is one of them. That is dangerous for the Democratic Party, which has to score big majorities in the North Central counties.
To rally the troops in those counties, Democratic leaders are pounding Martinez hard for being from out of state. Maybe it will work but the truth is that many New Mexico governors and members of Congress have been from out of state.
Bill Richardson had been in New Mexico for only four years when he was elected to Congress from the newly-created Northern District. And he not only grew up out of state but also out of the country.
Gov. Gary Johnson was born in North Dakota. Gov. Dave Cargo was born in Michigan and Gov. Jack Campbell was born in Kansas. Of course none of them were born in Texas. And that makes a difference.
Longtime Northern New Mexicans have some bad feeling about Texas. Texans invaded us twice.
They stole a half million acres from our joint border when we became a state. And they’ve managed to get more water than they deserve from the Rio Grande and Pecos, according to Nortenos.
The water rights issue is especially upsetting to many Northern New Mexicans because they feel a governor from El Paso or Las Cruces might possibly take advantage of the North on water rights issues.
Of course, New Mexico has had two governors from Las Cruces in the past 40 years and neither Jerry Apodaca nor Garrey Carruthers were ever accused of such favoritism.
The Martinez camp is itching to get on with the voting.
Denish is a fighter and she can claw her way back from her current deficit.
The GOP always has been good at turning out a big absentee vote and they have started an early voting campaign again.
But Democrats are ahead in that game. They started a door-to-door absentee voting campaign in early summer.
Jay Miller can be reached at