Domenici adds a spice to the race

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By Jay Miller

SANTA FE — And the gubernatorial race is in full swing. With the somewhat surprising entry of Pete Domenici, Jr., candidates for governor moved into full campaign mode.

The four Republican candidates already in the race were reported to be none too pleased with the development, and even presumed Democratic nominee, Lt. Gov. Diane Denish, took a shot saying we can’t afford a governor who has a name but no ideas.

Denish didn’t mention names but she appeared to be crowning Domenici as the GOP nominee. No polls have been conducted yet, but Domenici, Jr. appears to be the pick of insiders based almost completely on his father’s influence and out-of-state fundraising ability.

Pete, Jr.’s announcement couldn’t be described as exciting but his answers to questions revealed some mental agility and understanding of issues.

Despite Denish’s allusion to Domenici’s candidacy, it is expected that the two will stay off each other’s backs, at least for the time being. They’ll leave that to the state party chairmen..

GOP state chairman Harvey Yates has been pounding Denish for quite awhile, insisting she has ties to Richardson’s big spending and pay-to-play allegations.

Democratic state chairman Javier Gonzalez spent a week researching articles from the past decade in the Albuquerque Journal and Associated Press concerning Domenici’s law clients. Then he issued a scathing news release.

The articles Gonzalez cites indicate Domenici represents business clients charged with environmental violations and calls him a special interest corporate lawyer. Gonzalez also asks that Domenici disclose the identities of all his clients, past and present.

The Albuquerque Journal also got into the fray recently editorializing against Domenici’s representation of a client in a $10,000 suit against a neighbor for smoking in her back yard.

Then the Journal took out after both Richardson and Denish for using state aircraft for non-essential trips when the governor had announced the planes would be used only for emergency services.

Since Denish will be presiding over the Senate during the next month, she is bound to be high profile. But she will be even more so because she has announced packages of governmental and ethics reforms she plans to back during the session.

And almost surely she also will be even higher profile by being maneuvered into tie-breaking votes in the Senate. Unlike the House’s electronic voting, the Senate still uses a roll call system which allows members to change their votes in order to create ties on controversial measures.

Some of the big questions surrounding Pete, Jr.’s late entry into the race center around how it came about. Did GOP leaders feel they didn’t have any candidates capable of winning? Did Pete, Sr. not like any of the four candidates already running?

For his part, Pete, Sr. says he counseled his son on the pitfalls of running but after the decision was made, he was in full support.

This probably has nothing to do with Pete, Sr.’s thought process, but 40 years ago he ran for governor and narrowly lost to Bruce King. It was Pete’s only political loss. Is it possible he would finally like to see a Domenici as governor?

According to the four candidates already in the Republican gubernatorial race, Pete, Jr.’s entry into the race is not going to chase them out. And it may not even make Domenici the favorite.

It will, however, produce a lively primary race among conservatives Allen Weh and Susana Martinez and moderates Janice Arnold-Jones, Doug Turner and Domenici.

Will the five-way battle fracture the state GOP? No way. The last two Republican governors Gary Johnson and Garrey Carruthers both battled large fields in their primary elections and still won in the general.

The GOP preprimary nominating convention relegated Johnson to third on the ballot. Nonetheless, Johnson won the primary election, beating the party favorite and went on to win the general election.

E-mail Jay Miller at insidethecapitol@hotmail.com