Colon, Sanchez set to spar for lieutenant governor

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By The Staff

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — Democrat Brian Colon and Republican John Sanchez are the survivors of crowded primary contests for New Mexico lieutenant governor.

Both won Tuesday's primary elections in each party. Colon will be paired on the Democratic ticket with gubernatorial candidate Diane Denish in the November general election, while Sanchez will run on the GOP side with Susana Martinez.

"I've always enjoyed working with Diane Denish," Colon said. "We worked together 10 years ago when she was chair of the New Mexico Democratic Party. I look forward to advocating for Diane Denish in her role as governor as we move New Mexico forward."

On the GOP side, Sanchez said he and Martinez make a strong ticket, "one that sends a clear message to the people of New Mexico."

"The Republican Party won't be divided by the color of people's skin," he said. "I will stand shoulder to shoulder with Susana Martinez in reforming New Mexico, ending government corruption."

Colon, former director of the New Mexico Democratic Party, beat retired governmental agency administrator Lawrence Rael of Albuquerque and three legislators — Jose Campos of Santa Rosa, Gerald Ortiz y Pino of Albuquerque and Linda Lopez of Albuquerque.

In unofficial returns, Colon received 29 percent of the vote with 95 percent of precincts reporting. Rael had 24 percent, Campos was at 20 percent, Lopez had 15 percent and Ortiz y Pino had 12 percent.

Colon said his goals, if elected, will be advocating for stronger ethics in government, rural economic development and investment in small businesses.

Sanchez, who lost the 2002 gubernatorial race to Democrat Bill Richardson, defeated former state Rep. Brian Moore of Clayton and state Sen. Kent Cravens of Albuquerque.

Sanchez had 40 percent of the vote with 95 percent of precincts reporting. Cravens had 31 percent and Moore 29 percent.

"We've heard from the people of New Mexico who want to take their state back," Sanchez said. "It's a new beginning, not just for the Republican Party but for New Mexico. It's a chance for people to get a state government they can believe in."

The seat opened because Denish, who currently holds the job, is pursuing the Democratic nomination for governor. She was elected twice as lieutenant governor on the Democratic ticket with Richardson, who is term-limited and can't seek re-election.

The crowded primary field featured the most lieutenant governor candidates on the ballot since 1990, when six Democrats and two Republicans ran.

Winners of the June 1 primary automatically become the running mates of their party's gubernatorial nominee.

Lieutenant governors are paid $85,000 a year. Despite a flurry of campaign broadcast advertisements where candidates promised to fight crime, improve education or take on other emotional issues, the powers of the office are limited.

The lieutenant governor presides over the state Senate when it's in session. Sanchez noted the next lieutenant governor has an important assignment in working with the Senate while legislative districts are reapportioned after the 2010 census.

When the governor leaves New Mexico, the lieutenant governor temporarily is in charge of the state. If a governor dies or resigns, the lieutenant governor moves up, but that has happened only three times since New Mexico became a state in 1912.

Otherwise, the lieutenant governor's job depends largely on assignments handed out by the governor.