State candidate list grows

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By The Staff


Syndicated Columnist

SANTA FE -- As predicted, additional candidates are announcing their commitment or interest in running for top-of-the-ballot offices next year.

Shortly after I listed possible candidates a month ago, former state GOP chairman Allen Weh announced he has formed a gubernatorial exploratory committee to take a long, hard look at the race.

Weh is the chief executive officer of CSI Aviation services in Albuquerque and a retired U.S. Marine Corps colonel. A primary focus of Weh, 66, will be recent corruption cases involving state Democratic officials.

Also announced in the GOP gubernatorial primary is Greg Zanetti, an Albuquerque financial adviser and New Mexico National Guard brigadier general.

Seriously considering the GOP gubernatorial race is former U.S. Rep. Heather Wilson, a former Air Force officer with a strong intelligence background.

That may complete the GOP gubernatorial field. Former Rep. Steve Pearce, a former Air Force pilot, is talking about the race, but many of his actions indicate that an attempt to recapture his 2nd Congressional District from current incumbent Harry Teague is a more likely possibility.

Notice the amount of military brass among these for possible candidates. They'd all be an even pick on that basis. But one advantage Wilson might have is that all three men are strong conservatives while Wilson is more moderate. That could help her in both the primary and general election.

State Land Commissioner Patrick Lyon and state Rep. Janice Arnold-Jones also have expressed some interest in the GOP gubernatorial race,

On the Democratic side, Lt. Gov. Diane Denish may have it all to herself. She's now raised over $2 million, and latecomers are putting themselves in an increasingly difficult position in terms of fund raising and familiarity with voters.

The word in state office buildings is that something will happen soon in the grand jury pay-to-play investigation. Disagreement still exists about whether it will be good or bad for Gov. Bill Richardson. Either way, it could mean that he may be gone before the end of his term a year from December. If that happens, Denish will be running as an incumbent.

The 2010 elections will be especially important to both parties. The governor and Legislature elected then will determine congressional and legislative redistricting. Many changes could be made to affect either party's numbers in either direction.

The lineup of Democrats wanting to run for lieutenant governor on a ticket with Diane Denish continues to grow. Nearly all of them are male Hispanics from Albuquerque and north. Conventional wisdom says that would be a well-balanced ticket.

The exceptions are state Sen. Linda Lopez, of Albuquerque, who already has started her campaign and former Secretary of State Rebecca Vigil-Girón who talked early on about a run.

Only two males have officially announced for lieutenant governor. Santa Fe County Sheriff Greg Solano has been running for lieutenant governor as long as Diane Denish has been running for governor. That means ever since the 2006 elections ended.

The other male Democrat is state Sen. Jerry Ortiz y Piño of Albuquerque. He finds himself in an interesting situation. Although he has been involved for decades with advocacy groups, charities and governmental agencies that deal with the Legislature, he never ran for the Legislature until 2004 when he was elected to the Senate.

Now in his second term, he sees it will be many years before he has the seniority to make an impact. So, at 67, Ortiz y Piño has set his sights on the lieutenant governor's office to make that impact. He says he has no ambitions to move up farther than that.

Others who have expressed interest are longtime top government chief executive Lawrence Rael, state Auditor Hector Balderas, state Rep. Lucky Varela, state Veterans Department Secretary John Garcia, Espanola Mayor Joe Maestas, Pojoaque Pueblo Gov. George Rivera, Sandia Pueblo Gov. Stuwart Paisano and former chief counsel to Gov. Richardson, Geno Zamora.