Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Roundhouse Roundup: Bingaman Endorse Javier

A version of this was published in The Santa Fe New Mexican
April 14, 2011

Javier Gonzales' effort to win another term as state Democratic Party chairman received a huge boost Wednesday when he was endorsed by retiring U.S. Sen. Jeff Bingaman.

At Democratic Party election night gathering Hotel Andaluz, Albuquerque"I will cast my vote for Javier Gonzales for state party chair," Bingaman said in a statement emailed by a spokesman. "Javier has the state party on the right track, laying the groundwork for candidate recruitment, fundraising and party building to make sure New Mexico helps re-elect President Obama, elects great Democratic candidates in both open U.S. Senate and House seats, and equally capable Democrats up and down the ballot in 2012."

Gonzales, a former Santa Fe County commissioner, is seeking a second term despite huge Democratic losses in last year's general election. He's facing an aggressive challenge from lawyer and former Albuquerque City Councilor Sam Bregman. Letitia Montoya of Santa Fe also is running for the position.

Endorsements don't always mean a whole lot in political races, but this one's a big deal.

The low-key Bingaman probably is the most respected Democratic leader in the state. When he announced earlier this year that he wouldn't be seeking a sixth term, Democrats from all factions showered him with praise.

Not surprisingly, Gonzales was ecstatic about the endorsement.

"Jeff Bingaman set the bar high for public service in New Mexico with more than 30 years of dignified, honorable and ethical leadership," Gonzales said in a statement. "Working with him to build a stronger Democratic Party has been a privilege and I am honored to have his support. With Sen. Bingaman's wise counsel, I remain focused on Democratic victory across New Mexico in 2012 and on taking the fight to Governor Martinez and her anti-working-families agenda."

Bregman, in a telephone interview Wednesday, admitted he was disappointed in not getting Bingaman's support. "I certainly respect the senator," he said. "But I'm more excited about the 406 state Central Committee members," he said.

The challenger said he's known for some time that Bingaman is supporting Gonzales. "What's interesting is the timing," he said. According to Bregman, Gonzales recently conducted a "robo poll" of Central Committee members. "They're losing. The train has left the station."

Bregman has won the endorsements of a couple of unions: the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union, as well as the International Association of Firefighters and Paramedics. "I think more will be coming," he said.

The green chile revolution: That's what some Rio Arriba County Democrats are calling the big win of the Democrats for Progress faction of the county Democratic Party last week in electing its officers. As a result of the elections, the old guard associated with the late political jefe Emilio Naranjo is out and a new crew is in.

Lucia Sanchez, who works in the Rio Arriba County Planning Department, was elected county Democratic chairwoman. She replaces state Sen. Richard Martinez, who didn't run for another term. Martinez, who considered Naranjo a mentor, was first elected to the party post in 2009, succeeding his ex-wife Theresa Martinez.

Richard Martinez has hardly lost all his political power. Earlier this year, he became chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee.

The Rio Grande Sun pointed out this week that Democrats for Progress has controlled major positions in Rio Arriba County for the last couple of decades, though the faction has stayed out of county party contests.