By Kevin Wilson: CNJ staff writer
For a position that many candidates say doesn’t really do anything, plenty of people seem to want it.
The lieutenant governor’s race has five Democrats vying to be the next Diane Denish, and three Republicans ready to serve who they hope will be the next Republican governor.
The field will start thinning out after June 1, primary election day in the state. Voters can cast ballots as early as Tuesday, but must be a declared party member at least 28 days prior to cast a ballot.
Denish, the current lieutenant governor, is alone on the Democratic ballot for governor, and will face one of five Republicans — Allen Weh, Doug Turner, Janice Arnold-Jones, Susana Martinez or Pete Domenici Jr.
Democrats looking to replace her are Jose Campos, Gerald Ortiz Y Pino, Lawrence Rael, Brian Colon and Linda Lopez.
“I really like the template that Diane Denish has created for the job,” said Ortiz Y Pino, who believes New Mexico voters are more progressive than elected officials give them credit for. “Officially, there’s not a whole lot of substance to the job of lieutenant governor, but she’s made the job a real opportunity to advocate for important changes to policy.”
Republicans in the race, all current or former legislators, are Brian Moore, Kent Cravens and John Sanchez. Cravens, a 10-year veteran of the senate, said a lieutenant governor with legislative experience helps the new governor hit the ground running because the office’s main duty is to serve as president of the senate.
But he thinks changes are needed.
“We’ve gone in to a special session recently where the Legislature found it upon itself to raise taxes,” Cravens said. “I suppose if you have to, you have to. But it was done without consideration of reducing expenses, which is wrong. We need to take a bunch of steps back, find out what’s wrong with state government, find out what we’re paying that we shouldn’t be paying for and give the people a break.”
Elsewhere in Santa Fe, five are vying to be the next land commissioner — Harry Montoya and Sandy Jones take on former land commissioner Ray Powell in the Democratic primary, while Matt Rush and Bob Cornelius battle for the GOP bid.
The office deals with nearly 13 million state-owned acres of land, and raises revenue for the state by working with energy production, agriculture and economic development on those lands.
“It’s a business office,” Jones said. “It’s not an office where you look for consensus with other legislators. It’s a revenue-generating business office of state agencies. It is the largest revenue producer to the state of New Mexico.”
The winner of the eventual general election will replace the term-limited Patrick Lyons, who is running for the Public Regulation Commission against Robert Corn of Roswell in the Republican primary. Stephanie DuBois of Tularosa is alone on the Democratic ticket.
Both GOP candidates for the land office — like Lyons, a Clovis High graduate — have eastern New Mexico roots. Rush is a fourth-generation Roosevelt County resident.
“ Both sides of my family are from eastern New Mexico, this is home,” Rush said. “It’s where I live, it’s where I choose to live. I’m proud of our family’s heritage.”
Cornelius, a Tatum native, is a former student body president at Eastern New Mexico University.
“I went to college at ENMU, have held political positions such as Vice Chairman of the Roosevelt County Republican Party,” Cornelius said, “and am currently working on a $38 million biogas project that we hope to place just outside of Clovis that will create hundreds of jobs and provide several million dollars to the local economy annually.”
Clovis native and Eastern New Mexico University graduate Matt Chandler, the current Ninth Judicial District Attorney, is running unopposed for attorney general and will take on Democrat Gary King, who is also in an unopposed primary — in the general election.