An election is just past and summer is here in full force, but before we fully shift our focus to the wildfires blazing around the state and stories about the Rio Grande running dry, a postmortem is appropriate. Following are a few thoughts on the winners, losers and in-betweens from the June 1 primary election.
Miles Nelson—Who would've thought a political no-name could give a seasoned pro like Richard Romero a scare? But that's exactly what Nelson did. Taking a page out of Howard Dean's pre-implosion playbook, Nelson came out swinging, but not against Romero—he went after incumbent Congresswoman Heather Wilson the same way Dean ignored his primary opposition to zero in on President Bush. Romero didn't engage Nelson until the very end of the primary, offering the rationale that he wanted to conserve money for his expected race against Wilson. But, in the immortal words of MasterCard, there are things money can't buy—like energy and enthusiasm for a candidate. Nelson had it and Romero—as the Democrat nominee—should have.
Mickey Barnett and Bill Richardson—Patron politics is as entrenched in our state as green chile and, well, patron politics. From right and left of center, these two politicos are playing at the top of their respective games. While Richardson operates on a larger level than the Republican National Committeeman, the principle is still the same: Organize your team and win—and their guys won big.
County government—For the past few years, the Bernalillo County Commission has been a good ol' boys club. Democrat primary winners (in predominantly Democratic areas) Teresa Cordova and Diane Archuleta-Loeser offer a striking contrast to the incumbents they are replacing—Steve Gallegos and Tom Rutherford, respectively. Gallegos and Rutherford might have been idealists a long time ago. With any luck, Cordova and Archuleta-Loeser still are.
JoeMonahan.com—For political junkies, Monahan's blog has become the equivalent of a morning espresso hit. While the mainstream print media tend to focus on superficialities and screw-ups when covering politics, Monahan gets at what's going on behind the scenes. For anyone seriously following the past primary, the site was mandatory reading.
Tina Cummins—When a sitting elected official comes in third place in a three-way race for the PRC and fails to carry her own City Council district in the process, you know there's a disconnect between the constituents and their elected official. Cummins is saying she will not seek re-election in 2005, which is probably a smart move. Karl Rove doesn't do races that far down the ballot and it's doubtful even he could pull this one off.
Bill Richardson and the Democratic Party of New Mexico—How'd Richardson make it in the winners and the losers column? That's the good and bad of patron politics. Yes, Richard Romero was a team player in Santa Fe and wanted another shot at the title, but Nelson would have made the Congressional District 1 race interesting—for awhile anyway. Nelson had the momentum, organization and fire in the belly. A primary win on election night would have electrified the Democratic base. Instead, with the help of the governor, you've got a very gentlemanly, genuinely nice guy in Romero who will have a tough time generating the kind of dogged determination to get into office that Wilson supporters have for keeping her there. There's an upside and a downside to patron politics. This is the downside.
The Albuquerque Journal and Albuquerque Tribune—In four contested Republican primaries in the Albuquerque area, the thinking class at both papers just happened to endorse the same four candidates. Unfortunately, only one of their candidates managed to win. The world might look lush and green when surrounded by the water-soaked lawns of the Journal Center, but most people live in a different New Mexico—and they vote that way.
Tim Cummins—A number of folks (myself included) worked hard to defeat the incumbent County Commissioner, but Cummins won decisively. If the dynamics on the Commission were unchanged, he'd be in the "winners" column. But the question now is how Cummins will interact with the two new progressives on the Commission. They just may take a different view of the government support Cummins receives for his land deals than the incumbents they're replacing.
Heather Wilson—Why Wilson got involved in primary battles (directly or indirectly) between Larry Larranga/Rob Burpo and Tim Cummins/Bill Davis is a mystery. Yes, the right honorable congresswoman picked the winners but the losers may not soon forget. Wilson should still defeat Richard Romero fairly easily to retain her congressional seat. Any potential fallout will likely come down the road in a Republican primary fight.
The Republican Party of New Mexico—Bitter primary battles and on-going internecine warfare continue as President Bush's poll numbers soften in New Mexico. The analogy has been made that the inter-party battle is reminiscent of the Scottish nobles in Braveheart—squabbling amongst each other for meaningless titles and position while a powerful king runs roughshod. Donde está William Wallace when you need him?