Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Sanchez: "We Still Haven't Decided" on Senate Seat.

Is Lt.Gov. John Sanchez really going to challenge former Congresswoman Heather Wilson in the upcoming race for U.S. Senate?

Sanchez, who just spoke to The Friends of Capitalism, a conservative pro-business Santa Fe group, at the Rio Chama Steakhouse a few minutes ago, still isn't saying.

Sanchez's short speech to the group dealt mainly with the 2010 election and the recent Legislative session, although he did stress his belief that New Mexico should elect strong fiscal conservatives to federal positions.

When asked about a possible run for the Senate, Sanchez. as he's told others before, said he's considering running for the retiring Jeff Bingaman's seat. He said he's spoken with groups of people both from in the state and outside who have encouraged him to run.

The Republicans, he said, need a candidate who not only can win the primary but the general election as well. Pointing out that he and Gov. Susana Martinez won nearly 40 percent of the state's Hispanic vote last November, Sanchez said conservative Republicans can appeal to independent and Hispanic voters in the state.

"I like to call conservative Hispanics `closet Republicans,' " he said.

He pointed out that that he's won two Republican primaries: Last year's contest for lieutenant governor and the 2002 gubernatorial race against Lt. Gov. Walter Bradley.

He declined to say when he'd make a final decision. "It's still 14 months before the primary," he said.

What would prevent him from running? "It's a personal decision," he told reporters after his speech. He said he'd have to weight the effect of a campaign -- and assumedly, the possibility of moving to Washington, D.C. -- on his marriage and his two young daughters, as well as his business. Sanchez owns an Albuquerque roofing business.

Is the $300,000-plus that Wilson raised in 24 days last month daunting to a possible opponent? No, said Sanchez. "It's still very early." He said he's proven in past races that he can raise campaign funds.

Asked about the importance of avoiding a bloody primary like Wilson's senatorial primary against Steve Pearce in 2008, Sanchez said a primary doesn't have to be destructive. He noted the three-man GOP primary for lieutenant governor, in which Sanchez bested state Sen. Kent Cravens and former state Rep. Brian Moore never got acrimonious.

However, he didn't mention his 2002 primary against Bradley, which left so many hard feelings that both Bradley and then Gov. Gary Johnson waited weeks before endorsing Sanchez in his race against Bill Richardson.

When asked to name differences between himself and Wilson, Sanchez declined.