The turnout wasn’t great in San Miguel County or statewide, but there’s still plenty of interesting tidbits to consider, given the results from last week’s elections. Here are a few:
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Money may be an integral part of winning elections, but here’s an example of how it doesn’t always work. Viola Vigil ran for county treasurer with $40,000 to spend — thanks to leftover money her husband, former state treasurer and convicted felon Robert Vigil, had given her campaign. When he went to jail several years ago, he had thousands of dollar in his campaign war chest, and since he can’t run for public office again, all that money had nowhere to go — so he gave a significant chunk of it to his wife’s campaign for county treasurer.
She was running against four other candidates, and had more campaign money than all her opponents combined, but that still wasn’t enough. She came in a distant third, with 19 percent of the vote.
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In another race that drew attention because of the money thrown at it, a race in eastern New Mexico, Republican Gov. Susana Martinez was left holding the bag, so to speak. Curry County rancher and Democrat Bob Woods defeated Angie Spears, a fellow Dem who the governor campaigned for and provided financial support.
Some viewed the race as a test of the governor’s political clout — she even sent in one of her top political advisers to work for Spears — but Woods won anyway.
That didn’t go unnoticed among Democratic Party operatives who are already setting their sights on the governor’s re-election bid in 2014.
Interestingly, the governor fared better in the Democratic Party races where she and the Super PAC that backs her dropped some money, and that includes two local races: Reform New Mexico Now funneled money into efforts to help state Sens. Pete Campos and Phil Griego win their party nominations. Griego faces a Republican in the general election in November; Campos does not.
At least one of the Super PAC’s direct mailings made its way to my house.
“Thomas Garcia voted to protect violent criminals,” said the 6-by-11 inch notecard. It went on to explain Katie’s Law, which requires that people arrested for felonies submit DNA samples, and points out that Garcia, Campos’ opponent, was one of only six legislators to vote against it. Nowhere on the card does it mention Campos, but it’s easy to understand the suggestion, especially with the kicker being, “Vote NO on Thomas Garcia. He protects violent criminals, not us.”
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I don’t know how much that hurt Garcia, but he garnered only 38 percent of the vote districtwide. Interestingly in Mora County, where he lives and serves as superintendent of the Mora Independent School District, his percentage was even less: 34 percent.
Garcia has been embroiled in a number of school-related issues during his tenure as superintendent. Perhaps that had an effect on his bid for the state Senate seat.
Now, one has to wonder: Will the district’s school board decide that Garcia is more of a liability than an asset next year when his tenure as state representative expires? We’ll see.
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Here’s another example of the impact of not having runoff elections: Phil Griego won the Democratic nod for his District 39 Senate seat with a 43 percent win. His two opponents, Nicole Castellano and Jack Sullivan, collectively took the other 56 percent.
Both Castellano and Sullivan are from Santa Fe, while Griego is from San Juan. Do you think he would have won if only one Santa Fe candidate had been in the race?
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State Auditor Hector Balderas may not have lost after all. True enough, U.S. Rep. Martin Heinrich beat him soundly for the Democratic nomination to the U.S. Senate, but Balderas ran a respectable race and strengthened his statewide campaign abilities.
Add some solid credentials to the mix — including some real successes as state auditor — and Balderas is arguably the strongest Democratic alternative for the 2014 governor’s race. Whether this young up-and-comer opts to take on an incumbent governor or wait it out for a better shot later remains to be seen, but I’d wager that, sooner or later, Balderas will be in the running for governor.
In fact, I predict he’ll be New Mexico’s next Democratic governor, either sooner or later.
Tom McDonald is editor and publisher of the Las Vegas Optic. He may be reached at 505-425-6796, ext. 237, or firstname.lastname@example.org