Thursday, June 3, 2010

Roundhouse Roundup: Primary Tidbits

A version of this was published in The Santa Fe New Mexican
June 3, 2010

Republicans did a big favor for three incumbent Democratic legislators right before the election.

New Mexico Turnaround, a conservative political committee run by leaders in the state GOP, contributed $4,000 each to the campaigns of three Democrats who were running against incumbents Richard Vigil of Las Vegas and Miguel Garcia and Eleanor Chavez of Albuquerque.

OK, the group isn't officially Republican. But Ryan Cangiolosi, executive director of the state GOP, is the executive director of Turnaround. State Republican Party Chairman Harvey Yates was on its board when Turnaround was founded in 2001.

All three incumbents handily won their primaries. Chances are that all three would have won anyway, but it seems to me that a contribution from a Republican group likely is the kiss of death in a Democratic primary — and indeed it caused a big stink in the liberal blogosphere right before the election. Were these Democrats and their GOP benefactors just hoping that nobody would notice?

Garcia and Chavez have no general election opponents. Vigil still has to get by Republican Mel Root in November. Had Vigil's opponent, Barbara Case, won, who would Turnaround have supported in the fall?

Roundhouse Changes: Assuming House Speaker Ben Luján hangs on to his slim lead over challenger Carl Trujillo (which was up to a whopping 80-vote margin last time I checked the Secretary of State's Office website), despite all the talk about a great anti-incumbent wave, only two incumbents went down in Tuesday's primary.

Down in Valencia County, Democrat Elias Barela of Belen, a two-term lawmaker, lost to challenger Julian Luna, who is executive director of the state Racing Commission. Luna will face Republican Alonzo Baldonado in the general election.

And in Alamogordo, 15-year state Rep. Gloria Vaughn lost in the Republican primary to Yvette Herrell. Democrat Susan Medina is running for the seat in the general election.

More conventional wisdom down the drain. Alabama Congressman Parker Griffith, a former Democrat who switched to the Republican Party, was defeated for re-election in the GOP primary down in the Heart of Dixie on Tuesday.

This followed the saga of U.S. Sen. Arlen Specter, a former Republican who switched to the Dems, only to be rejected last month by Pennsylvania Democratic primary voters.

"By golly, a trend!" the pundits exclaimed collectively Tuesday morning.

However, as often happens in Northern New Mexico, that trend has already been bucked.

Former Republican Glenn Ellington, who has worked as a district judge, court of appeals judge and secretary of Taxation and Revenue under former Gov. Gary Johnson, won in the Democratic primary, unseating incumbent David Thomson, who recently had been appointed to the bench by Gov. Bill Richardson.

Just wondering ... Do you think Don Wiviott is sending a sympathy card to Allen Weh? Weh spent at least $1.6 million of his own money only to come in a distant second to Susana Martinez in the Republican primary. In 2008, Wiviott spent nearly that much in his unsuccessful Democratic primary run for Congress against Ben Ray Luján.

Similarly, I wonder if former President George W. Bush feels any special kinship for Gov. Bill Richardson. If Tuesday night is any indication, the governor is keeping as low a profile in this campaign as Bush did in 2008. Of course, nobody will forget Richardson's name. The Republicans will see to that.

A little history: My old boss Larry Calloway commented on his website Wednesday about the significance of New Mexico Republicans nominating an all-Hispanic governor ticket, Susana Martinez and John Sanchez.

"The last time New Mexico had a 'two-taco ticket' as it was called without rancor was 1968. Democrat Fabian Chavez and his running mate Michael Alarid came within about 3,000 votes of defeating incumbent Gov. David F. Cargo, a Republican who was popular among Hispanic voters."