Sunday, September 29, 2013

ROUNDHOUSE ROUNDUP: My Prediction for the House District 50 Seat

A version of this was published in The Santa Fe New Mexican 
Sept. 29, 2013

At a Monday forum sponsored by the Santa Fe County Democratic Party, voters can get their first look at the people who have applied with the county to be appointed to the District 50 state House seat held by the late Stephen Easley of Eldorado.

That number keeps changing, but candidates from both parties will attend, county Democratic Party Chairman Richard Ellenberg said.

However, my instincts tell me that while one of these applicants, obviously, will get the nomination from the Santa Fe County Commission, none will be the next state representative. In fact, this entire process probably is just the first step to see who will run for the seat in the 2014 election.

Let me explain:

Leroy Candelaria
The sprawling District 50 includes parts of four counties: Santa Fe, Bernalillo, Torrance and Valencia. As per the state constitution, the county commissions in each county will make nominations for the appointment by the governor.

Torrance County last week nominated its own County Commission Chairman LeRoy Candelaria. He’s a Republican.

The Santa Fe and Bernalillo county commissions are controlled by Democrats, while the governing bodies of Torrance and Valencia are controlled by Republicans.

Vicki Perea
Valencia County already has nominated Vicki Perea, a former Albuquerque City Councilor who is a Republican. Perea ran for state Senate last year, but lost to Democrat Clemente Sanchez. She also ran for secretary of state in 2008, losing to Democrat Mary Herrera.

Gov. Susana Martinez — in case you haven’t heard — is a Republican. Although she’s shown she doesn’t always appoint members of her own party, with a closely divided House — currently it’s 37-32 — it’s hard to imagine Martinez going with a Dem. I’d have to predict that Martinez is likely to go with Perea or Candelaria.

Yes, it’s possible that the Santa Fe County Commission could choose one of the Republicans who applied, Billy Peterson, Richard Rogers or Debbie Ortiz.

But I wouldn’t count on it. Just like I expect the governor to appoint someone from her own party, I expect the commission to nominate someone from their own party.

If I’m right, however, and Martinez appoints Perea or Candelaria, any of the applicants serious about a career in the Legislature should start gearing up for 2014.

In District 50, Democrats outnumber Republicans by about 46 percent to 33 percent in voter registration as of July 31, according to the Secretary of State’s Office. Easley in 2012 won the seat with nearly 56 percent of the vote. And more than half the votes cast in the district came from Santa Fe County.

The applicants: None of the candidates has ever run for public office before — except filmmaker Cynthia Lukas, who was on the Scottsdale, Ariz., City Council a decade ago. Lukas will not be at the forum because her mother is ill.

The other candidates are Ann Jenkins, a former board member of the Vista Grande Library in Eldorado; Dr. Ann McCampbell, a medical consultant specializing in chemical sensitivity and other environmentally related illnesses; Matthew McQueen, a lawyer and former member of the Santa Fe River Commission and the County Open Land and Trails Planning and Advisory Committee; Peterson, who owns a local frame business; Rogers, a lawyer and executive editor of Santa Fe Monthly, a free-distribution paper; and Ortiz, with the Chamber of Commerce in Edgewood.

Pam Cordova of Valencia County, who originally had applied, has since taken her name out of consideration.

The forum is planned for 6:30 p.m. Monday at the Performance Space at La Tienda, 7 Caliente Road, Eldorado. State Sen. Peter Wirth will moderate.