Conventions reveal delegate favorites

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By The Staff

RIO RANCHO/ALBUQUERQUE — Democrat and Republican delegates cast ballots Saturday at their state party pre-primary nominating conventions for those candidates they hope will prevail in New Mexico’s June 3 primary election.

Pearce comes out on top for GOP

Emerging with the largest GOP lead for the Senate seat held by retiring Sen. Pete Domenici, R-N.M., Steve Pearce outdistanced Heather Wilson by nearly 10 percent. “I’m excited,” Pearce said immediately following the announcement. “It takes my breath away.”Wilson also rejoiced, stating enthusiastically, “This is great. The fact that he only got 54 percent of the vote instead of the 70 percent expected in such a conservative environment – the fact that we came this close is fantastic.”Pearce garnered 54.51 percent of the delegate vote to Wilson’s 45.49 percent. Democrat Tom Udall is running unopposed for the same Senate seat and received 100 percent of his party’s vote.In Congressional District 3, which includes Los Alamos County, Santa Fe Attorney Marco Gonzales won 67.9 percent of the GOP vote to Rio Rancho construction business owner Dan East’s 32.1 percent. The Republicans are battling each other and six Democrats for the seat Udall is vacating.“We can ill afford to send somebody to Washington who is not prepared on the first day to represent New Mexico,” Gonzales said. “We need more TNT in Washington – ‘Today Not Tomorrow’ philosophy.”East represents himself as the small-business champion. “I will not support or defend any kind of universal health care that takes money from small business,” he said. “Small business is the backbone of this country … Make the tax cuts of ’01 and ’03 permanent.”Some 437 GOP delegates attended the Republican convention at the Marriott Uptown in Albuquerque. Candidates who received at least 20 percent of the convention votes will be placed on the June 3 primary ballot. A new law passed during this year’s 30-day legislative session allows candidates with less than 20 percent to get their names placed on the ballot by obtaining additional signatures.With Domenici retiring, Rep. Jeannette Wallace, R-Los Alamos, Sandoval and Santa Fe, said, “I’m most interested in the Senate race, with only two candidates. Each race is a big concern for all of us, as there will obviously be a new representative in congressional districts 1, 2 and 3.”Wallace described Domenici as a great supporter of the national labs and said “the whole state crossed parties to vote for him.”Many GOP delegates and party officials greeted retired Los Alamos delegate Sen. Steve Stoddard throughout the Republican convention. “One of the best things about this convention is seeing all my old friends from around the state,” Stoddard said.The Los Alamos delegation also included former U.S. Rep. Bill Redmond, County Assessor JoAnn Johnson, Domenici aide Veronica Rodriguez and party activists Francine Mendoza and Lawry Mann.

Lujan emerges as Democrat to beat

In Rio Rancho, 1,919 Democratic delegates filled the Santa Ana Star Center. Gov. Bill Richardson is vacationing in the Caribbean, but Lt. Gov. Diane Denish addressed the massive crowd and later mingled with delegates. “It’s an exciting year for Democrats,” Denish said. “We have the opportunity to change the face of the New Mexico delegation. With 14 Democrats running, we have an embarrassment of riches. From the national down to the state level, it’s a historic year.”Democratic congressional candidates Ben Ray Lujan, who currently chairs the Public Regulation Commission, and Santa Fe developer Don Wiviott led the crowded District 3 field. Lujan, son of House Speaker Ben Lujan, received 40.21 percent of the vote and was introduced by PRC member Jason Marks. Former Ambassador Joe Wilson introduced Wiviott, who garnered 29.6 percent.Española attorney Rudy Martin also is running in Congressional District 3. “I’m not used to politicians, and this process is very foreign to me,” Martin said regarding the convention. He continued, “I’m uncomfortable with the amount of money they’re spending (on campaigns and at the convention) when people are suffering. There were 202,000 foreclosures in the country.”Martin received 0.30 percent of the delegate vote Saturday and indicated that despite the outcome, he has enough signatures to appear on the ballot.Jon Adams received 2.37 percent and also said he has enough signatures. “It’s great to see so many Democrats coming together,” Adams said at the convention. “It really shows that people in this country are coming together and are serious about changing the direction of the country.”Los Alamos Democratic delegates Randy Roberts and Bun Ryan were each attending their second convention and expressed their excitement. Nathan Hjelm, 27, said, “It’s overwhelming” in describing a delegate’s responsibilities. Sean Stimmel, at 19, is Los Alamos County’s youngest delegate. As local Barack Obama campaign co-chair, he hopes to be a delegate to the Democratic National Convention this summer in Denver. “I’m hoping to change the way this country’s run,” Stimmel said.