Thursday, April 15, 2004

ROUNDHOUSE ROUND-UP: GOVERNORS IN A HURRY

As published in The Santa Fe New Mexican

Gov. Bill Richardson can no longer be singled out as a governor who likes to speed.

According to the April 3 issue of National Journal, Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell — who has earned the nickname “Fast Eddie” — also likes to order the pedal put to the metal.

Pennsylvania state police who operate the state turnpikes have clocked Rendell’s car at 100 mph-plus nine times since November, the magazine reported. “They’ve repeatedly caught the Democratic governor’s state-owned Cadillac limo speeding in the left lane with its emergency lights flashing and sirens wailing.”

But the Keystone State cops have never ticketed the governor’s drivers — who, as in New Mexico, are state police officers.

“State troopers who work on Rendell’s detail say the governor usually sits in the front passenger seats and orders them to drive faster,” the National Journal said.

Sound familiar?

For those of you who weren’t following New Mexico news last fall, here’s a paragraph from a Washington Post profile on Richardson, describing a drive to a political function in Albuquerque:

“Hurry up,” Richardson says as the driver, trailing a car with flashing lights, guns it onto Interstate 40. The two-car caravan hits 95 mph, then 100, then 110, weaving in and out of traffic, making strategic use of sirens.

But unlike our governor, Rendell didn’t claim “security” as a reason for his speeding. After his high-speed habits were made public, a comparatively contrite Rendell released a statement saying, “I will begin to monitor the speed that I am being driven.”

Poll vaulting: New Mexico is one of five “battleground” states the New Hampshire-based American Research Group has polled in the past month or so concerning the presidential race. Nobody should be surprised that the race is extremely close.

According to the telephone poll of 600 likely New Mexico voters, conducted March 28 through April 1, President Bush leads Sen. John Kerry 46 percent to 45 percent. Ralph Nader attracts three percent of the vote, while six percent are undecided. The margin of error is four percent.

Nader, who is running as an independent this year, has not secured a spot on the state ballot. With Nader out of the race, Bush and Kerry are tied at 47 percent each, according to the poll.

The poll indicates that Kerry has some work to do in shoring up support in his own party here. Only 60 percent of Democrats who responded said they have a favorable opinion of the presumptive Democratic candidate. This compares with 90 percent of state Republicans who have a favorable opinion of Bush.

(Of course you have to keep in mind that in New Mexico there are pockets of very conservative Democrats, especially in the southern part of the state, who rarely like or vote for Democratic candidates.)

Dick Bennett, president of ARG, said Wednesday the group is independent and non-partisan. He said he’s not sure when, but he’ll be polling in New Mexico again.

What’s it all about, Ralphie?: Speaking of Nader, according to his website, there is still no state coordinator for the campaign in New Mexico.

However state Green Party co-chair Carol Miller said Wednesday she’s appointed herself “interim convener’’ for Nader. Miller — who is running as a “favorite daughter” presidential candidate at the Green convention in Milwaukee, said she probably won’t end up as Nader’s state coordinator herself, but she’s helping the national Nader organization identify possible candidates for that job.

To get on the ballot as an independent, Nader would have to gather 14,527 signatures of registered voters in the state by Sept. 7.

However if the national Green Party chooses Nader as its presidential candidate — which is a real possibility according to Miller — those signatures wouldn’t be necessary.

By the way, according to the ARG poll, Nader leads both Bush and Kerry in one important area — unfavorability. According to those results, 62 percent of New Mexico voters have an unfavorable opinion of Nader. Bush is a distant second with 45 percent and Kerry even further back with 19 percent.

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