Dona Ana County District Attorney Susana Martinez won a decisive victory over her competitors to win first place on the GOP ballot for governor in the June primary election. After a quiet effort that went under the radar screen of most observers, some of whom did not take her campaign seriously, Martinez won fully 47% of the delegates to the convention, in a field of five candidates. Coming in second was Allen Weh, with 26 percent of the vote, the only other candidate to reach the 20% quota needed to get an automatic spot on the ballot. Biggest surprise at the GOP pre-primary convention was the poor showing of Pete Domenici, Jr., who received less than 5% of the vote, in spite of having the highest name recognition among the candidates, and in spite of grabbing an early lead among Republicans in polling. (See my posting on Feb. 21, for results of a poll I took with my students).
Candidates who do not receive 20% of the pre-primary vote may still get on the ballot in inferior positions by going out and getting additional petitions signed.
Being first on the ballot carries a number of advantages, not the least of which is increased credibility and access to potential donors. In this case it is probably also a commentary on who Republican leaders believe to be the most electable person to go mano a mano against Diane Denish, who will receive the Democratic nomination in June.
At the Buffalo Thunder Casino in Pojoaque Diane Denish, of course, received the only position on the ballot, since she is the only candidate. Democrats placed Brian Colon first on the ballot and Lawrence Rael second, for Lt. Governor. The job of Lt. Governor carries few responsibilities in New Mexico and the candidate for this position rarely makes a difference in the outcome of a gubernatorial race. Colon is said to be the choice of Governor Bill Richardson, having served as his handpicked Party Chairman. Rael is said to be the favorite of Diane Denish. If this is true the outcome in Pojoaque might indicate that Richardson backers still have more influence in the party than Denish's backers. On the other hand it may mean only that Colon used his contacts with party leaders to gain support for his candidacy, a natural advantage he enjoyed over Lawrence Rael, who was not as active in party affairs.