You might have heard there is an election next Tuesday. Then again, you may have a life. With the lack of primary opposition to most of the “bigger” races, including governor and U.S. Senate, voter turnout in next Tuesday’s primary could be as bad as that for the latest Jean Claude Van Damme movie.
While this year’s election is shaping up to be as exciting as watching cheap stucco on a subdivision house dry, there are a couple of races that might be worth staying awake for.
Attorney General: This will be the race to watch election night. The Republican candidate, Jim Bibb, is unopposed in the primary and will face one of the three Democratic candidates--Gary King, Lem Martinez or Geno Zamora--left standing after some eleventh-hour mudslinging. Right now the race is between King and Zamora, with a Martinez upset an outside possibility. King is the oldest candidate in the race with experience as a former state legislator. What he lacks in charisma he makes up for in hard work, honesty and intelligence. Martinez has the most direct experience serving as an elected district attorney for the last several years. He has positioned himself as the “toughest on crime” moderate in the race. Zamora has put together the strongest statewide operation, including raising the most money and has won over key supporters with his affable personality. As the youngest candidate in the race, he has tried to convince voters that he has the experience to do the job, having served as the governor’s general counsel and former assistant attorney general.
State Land Commissioner: Incumbent Republican Pat Lyons will face whoever emerges in the Democratic primary between Jim Baca and Ray Powell. This one is too close to call and will provide some much needed election night drama. Both men have held the office previously and both have strong support from key Democratic constituencies. Since most Democratic voters are Hispanic, Hispanic-surnamed candidates like Baca tend to have an advantage in the primary. However, Powell has strong name I.D. and has won key Democratic endorsements, including the Sierra Club and AFSCME. Either will be a good steward of the office, but in the general race Powell may have more appeal to swing voters in more rural parts of the state.
Secretary of State: The winner of the Democratic primary will take on recently converted (from Democrat to Republican) Vickie Perea, a conservative former Albuquerque city councilwoman. Given the importance of the office in monitoring (some would say determining) the outcome of most elections in the state, both parties realize this is a must-win. Bernalillo County Clerk Mary Herrera is well-liked among the Democratic party faithful, but earned some detractors in the “good government” wing of the party with her controversial opposition to using voting machines with more of a paper trail. Former two-term Secretary of State Stephanie Gonzales is a strong candidate and has lined up support from key progressives in the Democratic party. The Santa Fe native and Democratic party activist Letitia Montoya has earned the support of the largest labor union, AFSCME, which may be decisive. Shirley Hooper, another former secretary of state and county clerk, has one of the best résumés in the race. She may also benefit from being the only Anglo in the race. All four ladies will be making sure all the votes are counted Tuesday night.
State Auditor: Before deciding between the two Democratic candidates for this office, you will probably ask yourself--what the hell is a state auditor? Good question. In the past, it has been a largely pro-forma office that made sure state financial management rules were followed. However, with the ethics scandals plaguing the state this year it could be one of the most important races on the ballot. The state auditor is the closest thing New Mexico has to an elected good government watchdog. The two Democrats vying to take on Republican Dan Alvarez in the general election couldn’t be more different. Westside Democratic party insider, TVI boardmember and travel agent Jeff Armijo seems to be the favorite. He is young, charismatic, good-looking and has made all the right connections (not counting his mentor-protégé relationship with Robert Vigil). His opponent, Tom Buckner, is eminently better qualified for the position, but also has the appeal of a, well, an auditor. He is matter-of-fact, monotone and verbose when he talks about the many ways he would reform the auditing process. If elections are about experience, then Buckner would win in a landslide. Sadly, they are not.
Other Races: The less-watched Bernalillo county assesor’s race is coming down to community planner Moises Gonzales and Karen Montoya, an employee of the New Mexico State Property Tax Division. Both are very qualified, but Gonzales seems to be gaining the support of those favoring better county planning. Montoya is being backed by the real estate and development industry. The Public Regulation Commission oversees the state’s public utilities, telecommunications and insurance industries, which God knows need it. The race for the seat representing part of the Albuquerque area and most of northwestern New Mexico will come down to former County Commissioner Steve Gallegos and former state Deputy Environment Secretary Derrith Watchman-Moore. Watchman-Moore would be the only Native American member of the PRC if elected in the district that includes the Navajo Nation.
Regardless of who emerges victorious on Tuesday, the real show will be in November. But, for the love of God and democracy, please vote Tuesday anyway!