Money - big money - still rules

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By Ralph Damiani

As the race for governor gets going (it is still mid-2009 right?) the key will be who gets the most montey fastest.

Lt. Gov. Diane Denish is off to a good start.

The Associated Press reports that she has raised more than a half-million dollars during the past three months for her front-running campaign for the Democratic nomination for governor next year.

Denish had a cash balance of nearly $1.9 million in her campaign account at the end of June, according to a report released Wednesday by the campaign.

State law does not require gubernatorial candidates to file a campaign finance report until next year, but Denish voluntarily issues quarterly fundraising disclosures.

Bill Richardson is term-limited and cannot seek re-election in 2010. Denish was Richardson’s running mate in 2002 and 2006.

Denish collected $512,374 in monetary contributions and $18,327 worth of in-kind contributions of goods and services. Her campaign spent $239,066, including nearly $52,000 on consulting.

Labor unions and gambling interests were among Denish’s largest contributors.

The Southwest Regional Council of Carpenters contributed $25,200 and the New Mexico Building and Construction Trades Council gave $11,500.

Three New Mexico Indian tribes with casinos contributed a total of $14,000, with $10,000 of that from Sandia Pueblo. Horse racing tracks and casinos gave $13,466, with $10,000 of that coming from a track at Farmington.

This week the state Republican Party starting airing a television advertisement that criticized Denish for pro-gambling tie-breaking votes when she presided over the state Senate in 2005 and contributions she has received from race tracks. And the GOP does not even have a person who can challenge her or anyone yet.

Oh, Denish has called the television ad “slimy.”

Other large contributors to Denish included $11,500 from Southwest Investment Trust Inc., an Albuquerque real estate developer; and $10,000 from Sundance Services, a company in Eunice that recycles oil sludge.

Richardson’s gubernatorial campaign contributed $1,000 to Denish.

Denish has said since early 2007 that she would run for governor and that has kept many potential Democratic challengers out of the race.

Senate Majority Michael Sanchez of Belen is considering a bid for the Democratic nomination and has formed an exploratory committee.

On the Republican side, Albuquerque financial adviser Greg Zanetti has pulled out of the race for governor and Doña Ana County District Attorney Susana Martinez has announced her candidacy on Friday.

Several other Republicans have formed exploratory committees or said they are considering the race, including former state GOP chairman Allen Weh, state Rep. Janice Arnold-Jones of Albuquerque and Doug Turner, who runs an Albuquerque public relations firm and managed former Gov. Gary Johnson’s re-election campaign in 1988.

Former Congresswoman Heather Wilson said earlier this year she was considering a GOP gubernatorial bid but has remained quiet on her intentions as others such as Weh, who has been her political ally, launched exploratory campaigns.

Candidates do not formally file for state offices until early next year.

Currently, there is no limit on how much individuals or businesses can give to candidates for state offices such as governor and the Legislature. However, that will change after the 2010 elections when a new ethics law takes effect to limit contributions.

November 2010 is a long, painful way away.

Sign of the times

Aztec city officials have announced they have cut $1.8 million from the budget for the coming year, largely in capital improvements, travel expenses and supplies.

Interim City Manager Ken George says officials took a hard look at capital improvements and decided to wait to replace a control system at the city water plant and repair a reservoir tower.

Officials also cut about $800,000 from Aztec’s general operating fund, including reducing travel expenses and supplies.

George says most employees will not receive cost-of-living raises this year.

He says city officials made cuts to be able to present a balanced budget to the City Commission on July 28. Commissioners approved a preliminary budget in May.

Times are tough all over and will not get better any time soon.

Hold on to your wallet.