February 5, 2009
It's not that unusual to see Hollywood celebrities at the state Capitol during a Legislative session. Ali MacGraw, Shirley MacLaine and Marsha Mason — all of whom have homes in or around Santa Fe — have been spotted here in recent years.
But none of them are rumored to be running for governor in 2010. And Val Kilmer, who paid a visit to the state House of Representatives on Wednesday, is.
Kilmer, who owns a ranch near Pecos, sat on the rostrum of the House for a few minutes before he was introduced by House Speaker Ben Luján moments before the House adjourned for the day.
A few minutes before that, Kilmer was spotted by a television reporter, then me, outside the House Chambers.
What was the actor doing at the Legislature? "Just saying hi to some friends," he said.
Kilmer — who has portrayed Batman, Jim Morrison, Billy the Kid, Doc Holiday and "Big" John Holmes in the movies — would neither confirm nor deny that he's auditioning to play governor in a couple of years.
"No, I just don't have any plans. I'm looking to be more active in the many concerns I have and that we all do," he said.
"My kids are in high school now," Kilmer said, "and so I'm more available. I'm available to serve."
So how about that report by The Associated Press last year — when the Val for Gov rumors started surfacing — that Kilmer had never voted in New Mexico, at least not before the 2008 election?
He said the AP story wasn't exactly true. But, he admitted, "like a lot of Americans in this year's election, I've realized I need to be more responsible. I've done a lot of substantial work in a lot of areas, but it's true I haven't voted much, which I regret."
Wouldn't that hurt in a gubernatorial campaign?
"No, I think we're a forgiving people," Kilmer said. "But (we're) also very serious about the need to be more active. I think it's an invitation by President Obama in this new administration to be more responsible, and that's going to become a demand."
Then he got even more philosophical. In an almost New Agey way, Kilmer said New Mexico "already has a jump on the whole country, (in) working out race issues 100 years in advance." Kilmer said the state has an appreciation for the arts and "you've got a really strong acceptance of different lifestyles and spiritual outlooks. It's very real to us."
Summoned by the Lt. Gov.: Kilmer later went up to the Fourth Floor and spoke with Eric Witt, Gov. Bill Richardson's point man for the movie industry.
"What do I look like, The Riddler?" Witt joked when first asked about his meeting with Kilmer.
"We just talked about the movie industry and a couple of economic-development project ideas he has," Witt said. He said the projects deal with the arts, but he couldn't discuss details. Kilmer didn't meet with Richardson, Witt said.
At one point Wednesday afternoon, there was a page for Kilmer over the Capitol public address system, saying he was wanted in the lieutenant governor's office.
Some who heard the announcement assumed it was a prank page. Lt. Gov. Diane Denish is running for governor as a Democrat next election.
But, according to a spokeswoman for Denish, the lieutenant governor really did page her possible opponent.
Denish spokeswoman Danielle Montoya said her boss wanted to thank the actor for serving on Denish's short-lived transition team — put into place in December when Obama chose Richardson as his nominee for commerce secretary and dismantled after Richardson withdrew his nomination. Kilmer was on the Economic Stability Team, Montoya said.
But apparently by that time, Batman had left the building. The meeting didn't happen.
How does Denish feel about the possibility of running against Kilmer in the 2010 Democratic primary? Through Montoya, Denish sent in a prepared statement.
"I am committed to running for governor in 2010, and I'm focused on fighting for New Mexicans during tough economic times. I think that voters are smart and that they will elect someone into office who is clearly committed to New Mexico. I'm not going to speculate on opponents right now."
Here's an audio clip from our short talk with Val Kilmer Wednesday.