Monday, July 16, 2012

Roundhouse Roundup: 2014 Gets Closer

A version of this was published in The Santa Fe New Mexican
July 15, 2012 

 We’ve hardly had time to get sick of the 2012 election — and last week, the 2014 campaign came bucking out of the chute.

Gary King
Well, that rodeo metaphor probably is overstating it. But the fact is, Attorney General Gary King announced — well, admitted — that he’s running for governor of the great state of New Mexico. He wants to be the Democratic Party nominee to run against Republican incumbent Gov. Susana Martinez.

Some pundits basically have said that that King blew it by announcing his candidacy the way he did — during a radio interview (a public radio station, no less) during July, a time when only the most severe political junkies are paying attention. I’ll give him a pass on this, however. King told me Tuesday that he wasn’t planning to announce that day. He said KANW radio reporter Mark Bentley asked him whether he was going to run, and he just told the truth.

I guess King could have done the coy dance with Bentley — and every other reporter who asked during the next several months — and later announced with a big speech in front of cheering supporters, balloons and streamers. But don’t we all say that we like when a politician just tells us what’s going on instead of leading us on?

Some of her critics would say that even though Martinez hasn’t formally announced she’s seeking re-election, in reality she’s been running since she was inaugurated. In fact, last year, just a couple of months after she was sworn in, her campaign committee argued that it was now serving as Martinez’s re-election committee. This came about during the controversy about her 2010 campaign paying for radio ads about driver’s licenses for illegal immigrants.

But, speaking of pundits, King’s announcement, however it was made, was not exactly met with “glory hallelujahs,” being that King, at least at this faraway point, is a long shot when it comes to defeating Martinez. Part of that is that Martinez still is a popular governor. But another factor is King’s tenure as attorney general.

Even a couple of popular state bloggers, who often don’t agree on much, seem to agree on this.

Joe Monahan, probably after consulting his alligators, wrote last week, “King, frowned at by his critics who view him as forlorn and foundering, is the only state Dem leader showing the least bit of intestinal fortitude in publicly taking on an ever more controversial GOP administration. That matters.”

However, Monahan added, “King has been severely damaged by his AG performance and left for political roadkill by the chattering classes. It is essential that he show them that he has learned something and that there is more to him than a folksy personality.”

Heath Haussamen, an online journalist in Las Cruces, was even more harsh. “King certainly has his supporters. But, time and again, King has disappointed those in the Democratic Party who believe it needs reform. Many Democrats see a candidate who isn’t electable. … With his record — or lack thereof — as AG, King has handed Republican Gov. Susana Martinez and her political adviser, Jay McCleskey, lots to hammer him with in TV ads.”

My prediction is that if Martinez’s approval numbers stay high through the next year or so, King’s chances of getting the Democratic nomination will increase — simply because other well-known Democrats will back away from the governor’s race. The last two times an incumbent ran — I’m talking about Bill Richardson and Gary Johnson — they were re-elected by big margins.

So, someone like State Auditor Hector Balderas, who has been mentioned as a possible gubernatorial contender, might decide that he’d have a much better chance going for attorney general and wait until 2018 to make his move for governor.

But wait a minute, we haven’t even had time to get sick of the 2014 election, and here I am talking about 2018.