Thursday, September 16, 2004


As published in The Santa Fe New Mexican
Sept. 16, 2004

Back in December when North Carolina Sen. John Edwards was campaigning for president in Santa Fe, he spoke fondly of Attorney General Patricia Madrid, who endorsed Edwards early in the game — the most prominent New Mexico politician to do so — and was running his campaign for the New Mexico Democratic caucus.

“Patsy’s our rock star,” Edwards told me.

It’s obvious Edwards holds Madrid in high regard. She stood in for him at a candidate debate in Arizona. And just a couple of months ago at the Democratic National Convention in Boston, Edwards — by then the vice presidential nominee — invited Madrid and her husband, Mike Messina, to join the Edwards family in their box seat to watch John Kerry's acceptance speech.

So it’s somewhat surprising when Edwards came to Museum Hill for a campaign stop Monday, the “rock star” was nowhere to be seen.

Not only that, Madrid didn’t make it to Edwards’ previous New Mexico appearance, a rally in Las Cruces last month.

Some have speculated that the conflict between Madrid and Gov. Bill Richardson — who introduced Edwards Monday and stayed on stage for the entire event — might have something to do with Madrid’s absences.

(Richardson seemed sort of like a “rock star” Monday as he took the stage to a loud version of Diana Ross & The Supremes’ “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough.”)

In recent months the governor and the attorney general have wrangled over a number of issues — especially Madrid’s opinions that Richardson’s attempt to purchase a plane with state highway funds and his policy of requiring advance undated letters of resignation from board members violate the state constitution.

But the rivalry with Richardson isn't why madrid stayed away, the Madrid camp insists.

“It was just a scheduling conflict,” Madrid spokeswoman Caroline Buerkle said of Monday’s visit.

Something official? “No it was a personal scheduling conflict,” she said.

Another scheduling conflict kept Madrid away from the Las Cruces event, Buerkle said.

“Sen. Edwards called her when he was in Las Cruces,” Buerkle said.

For his part, at Monday’s event Richardson paid a compliment to Madrid — without mentioning her name — saying Edwards had a good organization for last February’s caucus. (Edwards came in a distant fourth in that contest, behind Kerry, Wesley Clark and Howard Dean.)

The governor’s assessment was the opposite of Lt. Gov. Diane Denish, another Madrid rival, who in July told a reporter, “You didn't see much of an (Edwards) organization here, just a few people out front.”

Vanity of vanities: National publicity for the governor has slowed down since the July convention in Boston. But a recent article in about New Mexico as a swing state ended with a discussion of Richardson.

Slate’s associate editor Bryan Curtis quoted an unnamed “Democratic lobbyist” saying that many Democrats view Richardson “with suspicion and dread.”

According to that lobbyist, “He’s not one of us — not a plebe. He’s not from here, wasn’t raised here. [Richardson was born in California and spent part of his childhood in Mexico City.] He came here for one reason: running for office.”

The article states that the governor thinks “he’s destined to be the first minority candidate to run on a national ticket. (When it became obvious Kerry was leaning another way for vice president this summer, Richardson dramatically withdrew his name from consideration.) A Kerry collapse in New Mexico could effectively snuff out Richardson’s big plans ...”

After quoting Richardson spokesman Billy Sparks expressing optimism about Kerry’s chances in New Mexico, the article concludes, “I have no doubt George Bush can beat John Kerry in New Mexico. It’s less clear whether he can overcome Bill Richardson’s vanity.”

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