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Delegates pick their favorites

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Pre-primary nominating conventions decide candidates for June 1 primary election

By Carol A. Clark

POJOAQUE PUEBLO — Two candidates walked away with solid support Saturday at the Democratic Pre-primary Nominating Convention at Buffalo Thunder Resort and Casino. While unopposed gubernatorial candidate Diane Denish’s win was no surprise, Brian Colon’s 34.3 percent lead in the five-way race for lieutenant governor was significant.

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“I’m honored by this nomination and humbled that so many Democrats from all corners of New Mexico are supporting our campaign because they share my belief that government should be in the business of helping people,” Colon said just after the results were posted. “Democratic values are much more than cheap campaign rhetoric. They make a difference in people’s lives. I know, because I’ve lived those values.”

Opponent Lawrence Rael of the Mid-Region Council of Governments garnered 21.9 percent of the vote from the nearly 2,000 delegates in attendance. Joe Campos received 19.9 percent. Party officials were recounting the ballots by hand to see whether he will get on the ballot. Jerry Ortiz y Pino got 18.6 percent of the votes and Linda Lopez earned

5 percent.

A similar upset occurred Saturday at the Republican Pre-primary Nominating Convention at the Hilton in Albuquerque. Gubernatorial candidate Susana Martinez raked in 46.65 percent of the vote in her five-way race. Allen Weh was the only opponent that topped the required 20 percent to secure a place in the June 1 primary election. Janice Arnold-Jones received 13.16 percent, Doug Turner got 9.23 percent and perhaps the most surprising, Pete Domenici Jr. pulled in just 4.61 percent.

Longtime Los Alamos GOP leader JoAnn Johnson doesn’t place a lot of stock in pre-primary conventions.

“There were some surprises as far as how the voting came out but I don’t think too much emphasis needs to be put on the pre-primary — it’s the June 1st primary that counts,” Johnson said.

Candidates not receiving 20 percent of the vote who submit additional petition signatures within 10 days can still get a place on the June ballot.

Former county councilor Jim Hall, who said he would file today for the current council race, was a first-time delegate to Saturday’s GOP event.

“As a first-time delegate, there’s the process of where to go next and what to do among the very large number of people in attendance. Then there was the fact that I got to see a lot of old friends from the governor’s office (Gary Johnson’s administration) and that was great,” Hall said. “I was also subject to some of the most intense politicking I’ve ever experienced. And fourth and most important, was it was very gratifying to see so many delegates and candidates who are good, thoughtful people deeply concerned about good government and doing the right thing. Delegates from all over the state were there who are committed to a better New Mexico for all citizens and it was great to see democracy in action.

“I recognize that the Democrats can say the same thing and that’s what’s great about this country.”

First-time delegate Helen Deaven shared her impressions from the floor of the ballroom where the Democrat’s pre-primary convention was held.

“I was out of town where I was disenchanted with the Democratic Party; angry that healthcare reform was not going through. I was angry that we didn’t do anything while we had the 60 vote majority,” Deaven said. “But then I decided I had no one to blame but myself because I wasn’t involved. I was expecting things to happen without my doing anything. Being at this convention, I feel overwhelmed by the real people of New Mexico — the different classes, different levels of education and the different cultures all coming together. I’m so happy I came — it’s really energized me — what a privilege it is to be here.”

County Councilor Michael Wheeler also served as a delegate and described the Democratic Party as really being engaged this year, adding that he is looking forward to the November general election because “Los Alamos has a good slate of candidates for the local offices.”

Los Alamos Democratic Party Chair Cathy Chapman agreed, saying the whole Democratic Party is animated and ready to work.

“The largest number ever or nearly largest number of delegates showed up at this convention,” Chapman said. “I think people are excited to get candidates elected who will do the people’s business.”