Wednesday, June 07, 2006


Three of the four races I was covering for The New Mexican last night turned out to be nail biters.

Only Lucky Varela's legislative race turned out to be a blowout.

In the Democratic race for state land commissioner, Jim Baca held on to his lead, surviving Ray Powell's good showing in Albuquerque. The final unoffical result, posted on the Secretary of State's Web site show Baca with 52.6 percent to Powell's 47.4.

Even more frustrating were the two Rio Arriba County races I was watching.

At 8 a.m., with 43 of 43 precincts reporting, it looks like Debbie Rodella won with 51.1 percent to Moises Morales' 48.9 percent.

And it looks like Tommy Rodella took the magistrate judge's race with 24 percent. Marlo Martinez came in second with 21 percent.

Antonio Manzanares, who was leading when the paper went to bed last night, fell into 4th place.

What to watch now is what Gov. Richardson does about the vacancy in the judge's seat.

Normally a governor appoints the winner of the primary to fill a vacancy. However, several months ago Richardson told a room full of reporters and editors that he would not appoint Rodella.

If he keeps to that, he'll either have to appoint a temporary judge who will serve until the end of the year or keep the position empty for another 6 months. It's been vacant since Rodella resigned last July.

Somehow, my land commission story didn't make it on The New Mexican's Web site. I'll reprint it here:

A version of this was published in The Santa Fe New Mexican
June 7, 2006

The two candidates in the Democratic primary for state land commissioner were locked in a tight race Tuesday night with the contest too close to call.

As midnight approached, Jim Baca had 51 percent of the vote and Ray Powell Jr. 49 percent with 90 precincts reporting, but neither candidate was ready to declare victory or concede.

Even before election day, Powell and Baca — both former land commissioners — were making nice with each other in a campaign that, in contrast to some primary contests, avoided personal nastiness and overheated criticisms of each other.

In fact, both Democrats made public statements indicating party unity.

“My hat is off to my opponent, Ray Powell, for running a positive campaign,” Baca wrote on his personal blog Monday. “If he vanquishes me, I will be fully supporting him in the general election.”

“Whoever wins, there’s going to be a united Democratic effort to take back the Land Office,” Powell said Tuesday.

This means, at least in this race, that the Democrats won’t be saddled with leftover primary bitterness in a contest where the incumbent has a staggering financial edge.

According to campaign-finance reports filed with the state last week, Lyons, who faced no primary opponent, had more than $469,000 in contributions for his race.

By comparison, Baca had only $769 in the bank June 1 and more than $11,000 in unpaid campaign debts, while Powell had about $50,000 and some $45,000 in unpaid campaign debts.

Lyons already has spent about $200,000 in his campaign during the past year.

The contest between Powell and Baca centered on differences between the candidates’ management styles and temperaments.

Baca portrayed himself as aggressive and unafraid of confrontation with big-money interests and the federal government to protect the land. Powell emphasized consensus building and diplomacy.

Both were highly critical of Lyons, whom they portrayed as being more interested in helping big business than protecting the land.

Earlier this year, Baca blasted Lyons for producing television spots at state expense that featured Lyons. The state paid television stations to run these as commercials. Both Democrats criticized Lyons for using campaign funds to buy a pickup registered in his name.

Some of the criticism has put Lyons on the defensive. He stopped the commercials and sold the truck.

This week, his office released a statement pointing out that so far during his tenure, Lyons has spent $5 million on 144 land-management projects on nearly 17,000 acres of state trust land.
The statement says Lyons has hired an additional biologist, an environmental specialist and a land-management analyst.

UPDATE: Well, actually this story is on the New Mexican site. I'll leave it here anyway.

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