Denish running hard to become state's next governor

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By Carol A. Clark

Lt. Gov. Diane Denish didn’t mince words when saying she has no interest in working outside the state.

“I’m not job shopping – I want to be governor. I’m not interested in going to Congress or the Senate,” she told local Democrats Tuesday. “I want to be governor for eight years to do everything I can beyond my incumbency…because that’s really the job…the long term impact.”

Polls rank Denish the front runner to replace Gov. Richardson who term limits out at the end of 2010.

The Democratic Governor’s Association released a June 18 poll showing Denish leading both former U.S. Reps. Heather Wilson and Steve Pearce by a 57-35 margin. Neither Republican has announced that they are running for governor.

Wilson is reportedly weighing a run while Pearce is eyeing the 2nd congressional seat he gave up last year to run for the U.S. senate. He beat Wilson in the primary but lost in the general election to Democrat Tom Udall.

Denish has been traveling around the state in an effort to gain “more friends” willing not only to vote for her, but to help get her elected.

“Running a campaign – it’s a business plan,” she said during her afternoon meeting at Mesa Public Library. “The difference is you do have a start and finish and the start seems to get earlier and earlier.”

Denish told the group it now costs some $4-6 million to run a governor’s campaign in New Mexico, which she said is one of the cheapest states for campaigning. In California, it costs hundreds of millions of dollars to run for governor, she said.

“To date I’m the only declared candidate (Democrat) and I’d like to keep it that way,” Denish said.

Longtime Los Alamos Democratic leader and County Council Chair Michael Wheeler attended Tuesday’s meeting and spoke of Denish’s stature within the community.

“Locally from the party viewpoint, I think there’s a lot of support for Diane and for the governor,” Wheeler said. “I think there will be a lot of people in Los Alamos helping with her campaign.”

Los Alamos Democratic Party Chair Cathy Chapman shared her thoughts about Denish just prior to the lieutenant governor’s arrival Tuesday from a stop in Las Vegas, N.M.

“I’m very glad Diane is running for governor,” Chapman said. “She’s very capable of handling the job and has more experience than anyone. She’s able to cross party lines to get things done for the state.”

While she strongly supports Denish, Chapman said as party chair she won’t be able to endorse her should another Democrat decide to run.

Senate Majority Leader Michael Sanchez, D-Belen, has formed an exploratory committee to consider challenging Denish for the nomination but so far hasn’t been very active.

The GOP primary race for governor could be crowded even though Albuquerque financial adviser Greg Zanetti declared then pulled out recently citing more time with family.

Doña Ana County District Attorney Susana Martinez officially announced her GOP run for governor Friday in Las Cruces.

Wilson and DW Turner CEO Doug Turner of Albuquerque are both said to be seriously considering runs.

Also, state Rep. Janice Arnold-Jones, R-Albuquerque and former state GOP Chair Allen Weh have formed exploratory committees.

“My platform is the intersection between education and the economy,” Denish said Tuesday. “As you watch people campaign, it’s important to look at where they come from, how they think about things and how they campaign because the way they campaign is probably the way they’ll govern.”

For information about Denish’s background and her stance on the issues, access www.dianedenish.com/home.

Contact Carol A. Clark at lanews@lamonitor.com or (505) 662-4185 ext. 25. Read her newsblog at www.newsextras.wordpress.com.