Thursday, November 25, 2004


As published in The Santa Fe New Mexican
November 25, 2004

Now that the presidential election is history, one of the most burning political questions is who will challenge Democrat Bill Richardson for governor.

Actually, to be honest, “burning” is overstating it a little. In fact, the most common reaction I got from folks I asked this week was along the lines of, “Dang, we just got done with this election ...” Obviously most were dreaming of Thanksgiving turkeys instead of focusing a political race nearly two years away.

Richardson has stated many times that he plans to seek re-election.

Although the governor was embarrassed in not winning the state for Democrat John Kerry, that little black eye is likely to have long faded by the next election. He’s got a well-oiled political machine, the national networks still love to interview the guy, and if he truly is seeking national office in 2008 as most assume, Richardson is going to pour every fiber of his being to winning re-election.

So who will the Republicans put up against him?

The only name that a handful of prominent Republicans could come up with was John Sanchez, the former state legislator who ran against Richardson in 2002.

Contacted Wednesday, Sanchez was coy when asked if he was considering another race. “Are we on the record or off?” he said.

I wanted to stay on the record.

“Well, I’m just enjoying the re-election of President Bush, especially here in New Mexico” he said. “And we’re making plans to celebrate in Washington, D.C. in January.”

Sanchez was Southwestern regional chairman of the Bush-Cheney campaign. His territory included this state, Arizona, Colorado, Utah and Texas — all of which went to Bush. “It was tough, because New Mexico, Arizona and Colorado were all in play,” Sanchez said.

But is he running for governor?

“We’re grateful to still have a very supportive statewide organization,” Sanchez said. “We’ll continue to work to grow the party and to elect Republicans.”

But is he running for governor?

When pressed, all Sanchez would say was “No comment.”

But he said to keep in touch.

In 2002, Richardson whomped Sanchez 56 to 39 percent of the vote. Richardson, who had more than $8 million in campaign funds vastly outspent Sanchez, who had less than $3 million.

One question that will be batted around in the next 11 months from now is whether the national GOP will pour in money in the governor’s race to try to stop Richardson in his tracks or whether they will assume it’s a lost cause and put their campaign cash elsewhere.

A shot from the sheriff

One Republican I spoke with Wednesday was Darren White, Bernalillo County sheriff and former state Public Safety secretary.

A couple of folks I talked to this week thought that White might be logical GOP candidate. He’s young, he was a very visible spokesman in the Bush campaign, he has a good political base in Albuquerque and has some state government experience.

Plus, he served a stint as a television reporter, so he knows how to look good on t.v.

However, both the people who had mentioned White as a possible candidate were fellow journalists and what do we know?

White flatly denied any interest in the 2006 governor’s race.

Exact quote: “No, no, no.”

So who will the Republicans run for governor?

“I would argue that the only one trying to run as a Republican now is Bill Richardson,” White said. “Underscore the word ‘trying.’ ”

Rooster lovers

First there was Pamela Anderson. Then there was The Golden Girls, or at least Rue McClanahan.

And now a politically-oriented comic apparently has joined the list of celebrities trying to convince the state to outlaw cockfighting.

According to MSNBC gossip columnist Jeanette Walls, comedian Bill Maher, who created the television show Politically Incorrect, recently wrote to the governor, asking Richardson to support a ban cockfighting in that state.

Walls quoted Maher’s letter: “You want to see real bloodshed? Put Ralph Nader and Ann Coulter in a room together. Now that’s entertainment.”

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