A Richardson factor

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By David Giuliani

People are sick of Gov. Bill Richardson. And that’s largely why Republican Susana Martinez did so well in last week’s gubernatorial election. 


The Democrat, Diane Denish, was inextricably tied to Richardson because she served as lieutenant governor. 


Richardson’s approval ratings in the last few months have been around 25 percent — which made it tough for Denish, try as she may have, to distance herself from Richardson. 


Right after the June primary election, it seemed as if Denish had a good chance of winning the general election. She had a lot of money in the bank, and few ever heard of Martinez, the district attorney in Las Cruces. 


On the Friday after the primary election, both Martinez and Denish made appearances at Spic & Span on Douglas Avenue. Martinez was first. Her crowd was much smaller, but you could feel greater energy.

She took questions from the audience and even gave an interview to the Optic. Her event was informal. She and her lieutenant governor candidate, John Sanchez, spoke, but no other officials did. 


Denish’s event, by contrast, was stodgy and establishment-oriented. The local Democratic Party chief, Marty Suazo, gave a speech, as did state Rep. Richard Vigil and Mayor Alfonso Ortiz. 


Denish took no questions. There were a lot of people holding government jobs in the audience, probably hoping to get face time with the presumptive next governor. 


The event’s message was simple: More of the same. 


But that’s not what people wanted. While Richardson has done some good things — combatting DWI is one of them — his administration reeked of cronyism  and favoritism. Richardson greased the levers of government for his campaign contributors — not so much for the rest of us.


At the edges, Denish criticized some of Richardson’s actions in that regard. But she never gave the full-throated denunciation that many wanted. 


Even if she had, she may well have lost, but probably not by nearly as much. 


• • •


What will the Republican victories mean to the Democratic Party locally?


Marty Suazo has led the party for a decade. But he’s received more criticism as of late. 


For example, at one point, KFUN owner and talk show host Joseph Baca took aim at Suazo’s leadership. 


Meanwhile, Suazo was investing the local party’s radio advertising dollars into Baca’s rival, KNMX, not KFUN. What’s funny is that KNMX is owned by a longtime Republican, Matias Martinez.


Of course, Democrats argue that they’re the more populist of the two parties. But a couple of years ago, local activist Lorenzo Flores called the local party under Suazo “elitist.”


Yet Suazo keeps winning chairmanship elections every two years. Like him or not, he knows how to play the political game. 


Two years ago, he told the Washington Post that the local party helps give its members an edge in getting government jobs. 


That shows he’s a proud practitioner of old-style politics. 


Will the people stand for it any longer?


 David Giuliani is managing editor of the Las Vegas Optic. He may be reached at 425-6796 or dgiuliani@lasvegasoptic.com.