A version of this was published in The Santa Fe New Mexican
May 1, 2011
In what turned out to be a much closer race than either of the top candidates had predicted, Javier Gonzales of Santa Fe held on to his job as state Democratic Party chairman, edging out challenger Sam Bregman.
In declaring victory at the meeting of the state Democratic Central Committee, Gonzales said the party was unified and ready to go forward to defeat Republicans in the 2012 elections.
“We’re coming together and moving forward,” Gonzales said as he called Bregman and his other opponent Letitia Montoya to the stage. They hugged and raised each others’ arms in a show of unity.
“Today marked the day we go forward as a unified party,” Gonzales told a reporter after the vote. “Today really showed the energy and commitment of the grassroots.”
But only a couple of hours before, both Bregman and Montoya were harshly critical of Gonzales, saying he’d not done enough last year to help the Democratic ticket, which suffered major losses in the November election — and that Gonzales had not done enough to counter Republican Gov. Susana Martinez and her supporters during this year’s legislative session.
“We have leadership who lost the election,” Bregman said during his speech to the Central committee. He said 2010 — in which Democrats lost the governor’s race, a seat in Congress, the Office of Secretary of State and eight seats in the state Legislature — was the worst defeat for New Mexico Democrats in 80 years.
Montoya in her speech said, “I think it’s time for a woman to take over to clean up the mess the men have made.”
Former Lt. Gov. Diane Denish, last year’s Democratic candidate for governor, defended Gonzales’ work in the 2010 election. “Javier did everything we asked him to,” Denish said in her speech nominating Gonzales for his new two-year term.
The four-month campaign for the chairmanship often became bitter and personal. Some of Gonzales’ supporters criticized Bregman, an Albuquerque lawyer, for representing several figures who have been central in corruption scandals in the past five years, including former state Treasurer Robert Vigil, who went to prison after being implicated in a kickback scheme.
But Bregman after the vote, downplayed the intensity of the battle, saying Democrats were a family that could fight but in the end unite for a common purpose.
Gonzales, 44, is a business consultant, a former Santa Fe County Commissioner and son of former Santa Fe Mayor George Gonzales.
He also serves on the New Mexico State University board of regents. Before he decided to enter the race, Gonzales told The New Mexican that if he got named chairman of the NMSU regents there might be a conflict of interest if he stayed on as Democratic state chairman. He might be in a position of blasting the governor one day and asking for funds for NMSU the next, he said.
However last week in an interview he said he was not going to become chairman of the regents so he wasn’t worried about a conflict of interest.
The central committee meeting attracted most of the candidates and those considering running for U.S. House or Senate seats next year. Both U.S. Rep. Martin Heinrich and state Auditor Hector Balderas — both of whom are running for retiring U.S. Sen. Jeff Bingaman’s seat — spoke at the event as votes were being counted, as did longshot contender Andres Valdez, an Albuquerque activist.
U.S. Rep. Ben Ray Lujan, who is seeking re-election in the northern 3rd Congressional District, said he hasn’t decided whether to endorse one of the Senate candidates. Both Heinrich and Balderas mentioned Lujan in their speeches.
|Eric Griego decides whether to take this call|
Two possible candidates in the southern 2nd Congressional District — currently held by Republican Steve Pearce — emerged Saturday. One was Martin Resendiz, the mayor of Sunland Park, who said he plans to run. Meanwhile, former state Rep. Nate Cote, D-Las Cruces, told The New Mexican that he’s also considering the race. Cote lost his legislative seat to Republican Rick Little last year.
Check out my snapshots of the DEmocratic event today. CLICK HERE