NOB HILL--Who will be the Democratic candidate to face Governor Susana Martinez in the fall of 2014? With her polling numbers still around a 60% approval rating, one might ask, "Who would want to?" Taking Martinez on in November, 2014 certainly is a gamble. Even getting through the Democratic primary is a wide open contest, requiring a lot of effort, organization, and money.
New Mexico Attorney General Gary King has already tossed his hat into the ring. State Senator Linda Lopez of Albuquerque's south valley is about to announce her candidacy. State Senator Joe Cervantes of Las Cruces is considering running. And State Senator Tim Keller of SE Albuquerque says he has been approached about it as well.
I feel the Democratic primary will come down to a three-person race between King, Lopez, and Keller. On the surface, it would be easy to say there really isn't much room for Senator Keller to carve out enough votes to win the nomination. But I think he WILL run, and I see him as a winner, both in the primary and the general election. Here are my six reasons why:
1. Smarter Is Better.
He is the perfect candidate for the Democrats against Governor Martinez. He's smarter, better educated, more imaginative, and has a better heart. This will come through any time they share a stage. He is a whole different kind of person than the governor, and on that issue he wins.
2. This IS the Time; This IS the Race.
Timing isn't everything. You can't always pick your own time and race. Look at Martin Heinrich. Sometimes a person just has to take a chance. There is no denying Tim Keller is primed for a statewide race. I think he is just wondering if this is the time and race. After all, his chances might be less than 50/50 and his wife is expecting a child. But in the end, for a Democrat with ambitions at the state level, this IS the time and the race. I feel Keller will step up to the plate.
3. Big Headlines & Big Bucks.
This race for governor of New Mexico will attract a hell of a lot of national money and attention. Why? Because Susana Martinez is already on the national radar as being a possible Veep or Presidential candidate in 2016. This will attract Democratic money and attention as well as Republican. This race will be HUGE nationally…no matter who wins. It will be a make or break moment on the national scene.
4. Winning Might Be Worse Than Losing.
But what if he loses? Won't that be fatal? Maybe Senator Keller would be better off running for something else first, like State Auditor or Treasurer. The field is less crowded and his chances of winning are high. That's true enough. But maybe winning auditor or treasurer is worse than losing a race for governor. Getting elected auditor sure didn't do much for Hector Balderas. The governor's race may get so much attention that the statewide publicity alone might make even losing a worthwhile proposition. And what about winning one of those state down-ballot positions. Talk about disappearing into the hinterlands! I don't see any future in it.
5. The Logjam
The Democratic Party has a logjam at the top of the ticket and it isn't going away. Senators Udall and Heinrich, in all probability, will both be there for a long, long time. Representative Grisham is in the same position. They all just got elected. Their seats seem safe. There is no room at the top…except for Governor. Even if the Democrat loses to Martinez in 2014, nothing will open up until the next governor's race in 2018. In other words, this is the only statewide game there is, and it will remain so for as far as I can see.
6. He Might Win
Well, yes…there is always that to consider. He just might win. The stakes are high, very high. The risk of losing is not to be taken lightly, but in the end, it can be managed. But winning...why winning would change everything!