Pondering Gary King

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By Hal Rhodes

Front-runners don’t finish last. They may finish second in an initial trial run or straw poll. They might even come in third in a crowded field of candidates. But they simply do not finish last.
So what is Gary King thinking?
Just over a week ago, New Mexico’s attorney general finished dead last at the state Democratic Party’s preprimary convention where five Democrats seeking their party’s 2014 gubernatorial nomination battled it out for a place on the June 3 primary ballot.
Despite that drubbing, two days later King let it be known that he intends to stay in the race.
By law (if not always in practice) a candidate must emerge from one of these preprimary conventions with at least 20 percent of the delegates’ votes if he or she is to make it into his or her party’s primary election. Failing that, the candidate must go out and gather additional petition signatures to run in the primary.
But, according to the attorney general, since he went into the Democrats’ recent convention with more than enough petition signatures to get his name on the June ballot to begin with, he’s in the race to stay.
Fair enough. Other back-in-the-pack candidates have made the same argument after a poor convention showing and other New Mexico secretaries of state have yielded to their contention by allowing them a place on the ballot.
But the question for Gary King at this point is: Why? Why press on with a quest that has already been effectively lost?
Both King and his campaign manager have disingenuously dismissed the preprimary convention as being basically an “insiders’ contest.” Come on now. If there was anyone going into this recent “contest” even remotely qualified to be considered an “insider,” it most certainly would have been Gary King.
His critics, no less than his admirers, grant his intelligence, his integrity, kindness and decency. He is a fine man, a gentleman. He served in the Legislature with distinction. He has won the office of state attorney general twice, each time by comfortable and convincing margins.
He is also the scion of a family whose very name was for decades a veritable synonym for Democratic Party “insider” in New Mexico.
And if conventions of the sort at which he fared poorly are “insiders’ contests,” how does one explain the first place finish of a relatively obscure state senator from Silver City, Howie Morales, who walked away with nearly 30 percent of the delegate vote?
Even more remarkable was the second top vote-getter at the convention, Alan Webber, easily the outsiders’ outsider among the five candidates, a political newcomer whose name identification among rank-and-file New Mexico voters is still barely above zero.
Indeed, a case can be made for the proposition that Mr. Webber just might be the most impressive of all five of them, if only because he came out of nowhere by organizing his supporters and pumping flesh of the delegates with sufficient skill to, well, come from out of nowhere.
It’s downright refreshing.
Had Gary King demonstrated half the energy and determination displayed by Alan Webber in the weeks preceding their party’s preprimary convention, he might well have emerged on top and bewildered onlookers might not now be scratching their heads and asking why he has decided to press on in his dubious quest.
Whole gobs of pundits and editorialists have already taken note of the fact that no candidate in either party has ever garnered less than 20 percent of a preprimary convention vote in New Mexico and gone on to win their party’s gubernatorial nomination.
Gary King may become the exception to that rule. But the odds are against it.