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This coming Friday evening, delegates to the 2014 state Democratic Party’s Pre-Primary Convention will gather at the ballroom of an Albuquerque area casino-hotel to schmooze, booze and politic until schmoozing, boozing and politicking have ground them to their knees.
The next day they convene in formal session and get down to the business of deciding which of the Democratic candidates seeking various offices up for grabs at the November election will top the party’s June 3 primary election ballot.
We’re talking serious business here. Political tacticians maintain that a candidate whose name comes first on a ballot has an edge over his/her opponents whose names appear further down the line.
It doesn’t guarantee victory for the person at No. 1, but it does means he/she will probably pick up a few extra votes simply by virtue of ballot position. Cynics will tell you it simply goes to show that some voters are given to mindless voting. Nonetheless, candidates routinely hanker for the top spot. Which, when all the speechifying and bombast are spent, is what Pre-Primary Conventions are all about in New Mexico.
The candidates who garner the most delegate votes at the convention for nomination to the sundry offices at the June 3 primary election will have their names listed first on the ballot.
There are a lot of elective offices to be filled this year in New Mexico — state auditor, state treasurer, secretary of state and, oh yes! governor.
And they’re all important, but it’s the race for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination that has attracted the greatest attention…and machinations.
Speaking of which, just last week one Democratic candidate for governor, Lawrence Rael, took another Democratic candidate for governor, Howie Morales, to court with accusations of irregularities in some of Morales’ petition signatures.
Rael, a former chief administrative officer at Albuquerque City Hall, ran for lt. governor four years ago. Morales is a state senator from Silver City. A judge will now decide whether he has the 2,168 valid petition signatures he needs to be a contender at his party’s convention on Saturday.
Three other gubernatorial hopefuls will vie for delegate votes at the convention this weekend: state Attorney General Gary King, former publisher Alan Webber and Albuquerque state Sen. Linda Lopez.
One of these five will win the Democratic primary in June and face off against incumbent Gov. Susana Martinez in the long haul to the Nov. 4 election.
Four incumbent governors have sought reelection to a second consecutive since New Mexicans amended their Constitution to make that possible. Between 1971 and 1990, New Mexico governors served only one four-year term and then they were out. If they wanted a second term they had to wait another four years before seeking it.
With constitutional changes that went into effect in 1991, however, consecutive terms were permissible for a sitting governor if the voters wanted to retain them a second term.
The first governor to be eligible for that provision was Gary King’s father, Bruce King, who was then winding down his third term, albeit non-consecutive. As things turned out, Bruce King lost his 1990 race to be the first New Mexico governor to serve two back-to-back four year terms.
That honor fell to Republican Gary Johnson and the practice continued under Democrat Bill Richardson.
This year Republican Susana Martinez would like to make the two consecutive terms a tradition.
Ironically, if Gary King ends up with this year’s Democratic nomination, he would theoretically be in a position to visit the same fate on Martinez as befell his father a quarter of a century earlier.