Brian Colon and Lieutenant Governor Diane Denish share a minute July 25th
at a Bernalillo County Democrat Pancake Breakfast. (Photo Credit: Mary Ellen Broderick)
Word came this weekend that 39-year-old New Mexico Democratic Party Chairman Brian Colón, who led the party to sweeping election victories in 2008, will resign his position by the end of this week clearing the way for him to run for Lieutenant Governor. The announcement could come as early as Wednesday during a regularly scheduled telephone conference call with all 33 county chairs. Update: Colon's announcement will be made on Saturday August 8th.
The scramble to fill his state leadership post began last week, soon after Barbara Wold at Democracy for New Mexico reported that Colón had all but made up his mind to enter the 2010 race.
First Vice Chair Annadelle Sanchez will become the interim chair and will call for a special election within 60 days as required by state party rules. Sanchez, who has been involved in politics since she was 5 years old, has worked 36 years for National Education Association of New Mexico as the director of Political Affairs.
While it's still unclear where the state central committee will meet to select Colón's replacement several names are already floating to the surface.
Sandoval County Chair David Montoya, who was encouraged to run for the county position by Lieutenant Governor Diane Denish, has emerged as one of the front runners, along with Javier Gonzales.
Montoya could prove valuable to Denish (a Democrat with long ties to Southern New Mexico), he is also longtime supporter of House Speaker Ben Lujan, and was a big fundraiser for freshman U.S. Representative Ben Ray Lujan, Jr. We've learned Speaker Lujan has already begun making phone calls urging committee members to support Montoya.
Update: This morning we learned that Gonzales, a New Mexico State University Regent, is also seriously considering jumping into the chairman's race. As a Former Santa Fe County commissioner, Javier M. Gonzales was elected the youngest President of the National Association of Counties and was the first Hispanic to serve in that organization's 66-year history.
Both Montoya and Gonzales have worked for the state's senior U.S. Senator Jeff Bingaman, so it is likely Bingaman will stay out of the fray.
Two other names have been mentioned as possible successors to Colón, including Martin Suazo, a popular Las Vegas, New Mexico democrat, and Victor Raigoza.
Suazo is the San Miguel County Chairman and First Vice Chairman of the 3rd Congressional District another Northern New Mexico Hispanic would also be able to help both gubernatorial and lieutenant governor nominees.
Raigoza, who currently services the party as the 1st vice chair in Bernalillo County is a rising star, but sources in the Party say they don't believe he has the name recognition needed across the state yet. As an investment advisor at Edwards Jones, Raigoza has proven his ability to raise money for the party, but must still overcome his narrow loss to Republican John Ryan in District 10 state senate seat last year.
Robert Aragon, who was recently removed from his position as a ward chair after backing Republican Congressional Candidate Jon Barela will not be running. Instead, a source tells us Aragon, who retained his position on the state central committee, has a coalition of centrist/conservative democrats, which includes ABQ Mayor Martin Chavez supporters, who will throw their support behind Montoya.
Governor Bill Richardson will retain his role as the titular head of the state's Democratic Party through December 2010, but Denish, who has been building a broad based level of support across the state with community activists, will have a voice in selecting the new chair as she raises money and prepares to run for a new office on the 4th floor of the Round House in Santa Fe. Denish will clearly want a person in the chairmanship that can build coalitions and raise money for her statewide campaign. But Richardson, always a power player in selecting leaders for state party positions, may be tempted to influence the state central committee.
Colón, who was re-elected to a second term as chairman this past April, will enter a crowded field for the Democratic nomination for lieutenant governor. State Senators Linda Lopez and Gerald Ortiz y Pinó have already begun campaiging along with Santa Fe County Sheriff Greg Solano. State Senator Tim Eichenberg and Mid Region Council of Government Executive Direct Lawrence Rael are still considering running for the office. Rael has even started raising money and was on Denish's short list of candidates to be Lieutenant Governor when Governor Richardson appeared to be headed to the U.S. Commerce Department. Last week, former naval officer Matthew Padilla announced he was planning to seek the post. Candidates will have to get 20% of the vote at a pre-primary nominating convention to be put on the ballot.
As Colón prepares for his new journey the question about State Auditor Hector Baledera’s plans for 2010 seem to becoming clearer. The word is he'll announce his own relection plans for State Auditor before Colón announces his plans.
Update: 12:14pm - As expected, Balderas announced his intentions to seek re-election this morning. Democracy for New Mexico has the story.