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GOP candidates jostle with the ethics issues

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By Jay Miller

SANTA FE — This column has often declared that the Grand Old Party is not dead in New Mexico or nationally. Although Republicans had some major defeats in 2006 and 2008, reports of their demise have been greatly exaggerated.

Victories back East in off-year elections last November gave the national party reason for hope. And in New Mexico, a surprise October mayoral win in Albuquerque has given the state party a dose of adrenalin.

Analysis of state Rep. R.J. Berry’s Albuquerque victory over longtime incumbent Marty Chavez, indicates it was tried and true GOP campaign methods which won the mayoral race. The party had only one candidate in the contest, contacted its members often and produced a large absentee voter turnout.

City elections in much of the rest of the state will be held in March. There will be an opportunity to try the same tactics again in areas where Republicans don’t already hold the mayoral posts.

Statewide, the GOP has an opportunity to win the governor’s race and some legislative seats by focusing on scandals of the current and past Democratic administrations.

They are working now to tie major contributors to Gov. Bill Richardson around the neck of Lt. Gov. Diane Denish. Although Denish claims no connections to any of the alleged Richardson pay-to-play charges, Republicans will try to show a similarity in their contribution lists.

Denish has worked hard at heading off such a campaign by developing and publicizing an ethics reform legislative initiative and by challenging GOP gubernatorial candidates to release contribution reports quarterly.

Republican Rep. Janice Arnold-Jones has gone Denish one better by announcing she will post contributions on her website as they come in. Other GOP gubernatorial candidates have been slow about responding to Denish’s challenge. Susana Martinez of Las Cruces now says she soon will release her contributors as of the end of 2009.

Allen Weh, thought by many analysts to be the GOP frontrunner, has not addressed ethics reform publicly except to say he plans to clean up corruption in Santa Fe with a baseball bat. Weh reportedly is self-financing much of his campaign so maybe he doesn’t have many contributions to report.

It will be interesting to see if any of the Republican gubernatorial candidates support ethics reform legislation during the current session.

National GOP fundraising committees are reported to not be doing well raising money at this point. Much of the party’s help to candidates may be in non-cash form. That could mean that New Mexico Republican congressional candidates won’t be able to expect much.

Former Rep. Steve Pearce in the 2nd Congressional District might have to finance more of his campaign than he would have liked. Adam Kokesh, in the 3rd Congressional District has built himself an independent funding source with the help of Texas U.S. Rep. Ron Paul. But first, Kokesh has Republican opposition.

GOP fundraising ability could cause some changes in the party’s gubernatorial efforts. Alan Weh is reported to be able to finance his own campaign. How far that might go hasn’t been revealed but in 1994, Gary Johnson financed most of his successful campaign against incumbent Bruce King.

GOP fundraising problems also could be a reason that Pete Domenici, Jr. jumping into the race. Young Domenici never has run a campaign but reportedly some Republicans think his name might loosen some Republican pocketbooks.

Blogger Joe Monahan reports that Domenici, Jr. is an attorney who has done work on some federal projects. You can bet that Democrats will be looking to see whether Pete, Sr. might have had anything to do with any of those contracts.

In New Mexico, we’ve seen the King dynasty plus several smaller ones. Maybe we are in for a Domenici dynasty.

E-mail Jay Miller at insidethecapitol@hotmail.com.