Pete Domenici Jr is joined on stage by his mother, Nancy, and father retired U.S. Sen. Pete Domenici (Photos: Peter St. Cyr)
On Sunday afternoon, Pete Domenici Jr confirmed political speculation and announced his decision to run for governor of New Mexico in 2010.
Domenici told a handful of invited supporters, family, and reporters he's entering the GOP gubernatorial primary because he believes the state is "on the verge of economic and ethical bankruptcy."
"Continuous revelations of budgetary disaster and public corruption at the highest levels of our state's government demand that we not only need a new governor we need a new direction," Domenici said. "Helping New Mexicans and New Mexico is the sole basis and motivation for my candidacy for governor.
"I am an ordinary citizen, who like most New Mexicans, is frustrated and fed up with the unprecedented budgetary and corruption crises our state now faces," Domenici said. "I have a deep concern for our state."
Domenici, 50, who never mentioned his own primary opponent's names during his speech, was quick to criticize the likely Democrat Party nominee Lt. Gov. Diane Denish.
"As just one glaring example of the mismanagement and corruption at the top, this governor and lieutenant governor have increased the numbers of political appointees by the hundreds," Domenici said. "As a result, they have created a special "upper class" of state employees, accountable to no one, who are selected based on whom they know or how much they contributed rather than their qualifications and how they can help the people."
Domenici, an environmental attorney who has never run for public office before, said that he's not a "professional politician" and blamed state worker furloughs on a "rash of other terrible financial and spending decisions."
"Now the people are forced to bail New Mexico out of a mess the professional politicians got us into," Domenici said. "Hard working state employees must take time off without pay."
He said the first step he'll take to resolve the budget deficits is to "permanently furlough this administration."
"I will reduce the number of appointments to only those positions the Governor must rely on to effectively implement policies necessary to help the people, not the incumbent."
'I am my own man'
Born and raised in New Mexico, Domenici, a single father, has three grown children and a 9-year old daughter. He is the oldest son of retired six-term Sen. Pete Domenici, but says he's his "own man" who has "developed his own roots, deep and strong, in common sense conservatism."
"This mean limited government that removes necessary impediments to attracting businesses and creating jobs," Domenici said.
New Mexico Democratic Party Chairman Javier Gonzales said it appears to him that "Republican insiders have been unable to find a candidate for Governor with an actual record of fighting for New Mexico families."
And, Democrats were quick to post a blog critical of Domenici's record as an environmental attorney and listed some of the clients he has represented.
To listen to audio from the news conference -- including an introduction from Sen. Domenici, click the play button the bar below, or listen online here.
Despite efforts to separate himself from his father, Domenici may have to tap the senior statesman's political network to catch up to four other candidates who announced last year and have been collecting political contributions since last May.
Domenici faces Albuquerque businessmen Allen Weh and Doug Turner, Doña Ana County District Attorney Susana Martinez, and Rep. Janice Arnold-Jones in the Republican primary.
Turner was the first opponent to welcome Domenici to the race.
“There are so many good Republicans running because New Mexicans are desperate for a change from the policies and corruption they have endured for far too long," Turner said in a written statement. "...This is going to be an exciting year for Republicans and I look forward to the debate and presenting my vision for New Mexico’s future and becoming our party’s nominee for Governor.”
“This election for Governor isn’t about political connections or surname; it’s about who has the experience to create jobs and get New Mexico back on the right track — I believe I have that experience, and the ability to lead this state forward. I look forward to the debate” Weh said.
A source close to the campaign told us that "we expect to have $500,000 very soon." But the contact would not tell us if Domenici would agree to monthly reporting listing the names of contributors.
"I chose this time to enter the race because it's the right time," Domenici said. "Voters get worn out over campaigns that stretch on for well over a year and dominate the news and their mailboxes for far too long."
He'll need at least 20% of the party's state pre-primary delegates votes at the state convention, which is scheduled on March 13th, to appear on the June 7th primary ballot.
Domenici is quickly assembling his campaign team, which includes Attorney and political strategist Doug Antoon, who managed two successful Albuquerque City Council campaigns for Republicans Dan Lewis and Michael Cook, in the 2009 municipal election.
In 2007, Antoon also coordinated the campaign that saved City Councilor Don Harris from a recall election, and then in 2008 coordinated the re-election campaign of State Senator Sue Wilson Beffort.
Domenici's aunt, Thelma Domenici, and Larry Monte were picked to be co-finance chairs.
Councilor Lewis has been picked to the co-chairman of the campaign in the first congressional district, which includes Albuquerque. Domenici said he will announce other co-chairs for the campaign at "news events in their respective districts."
ABQ City Councilor Dan Lewis
Domenici pointed to Lewis' Republican victory, in the most populated district of Albuquerque, as an example of the Republican Party "revitalizing in many parts of our nation."
He said New Mexico needs "a strong Republican governor to continue this renewal, and I want to be that Governor."
'He loves to solve problems'
The elder Pete Domenici, who still lives in Washington,D.C. flew into town for his son’s announcement. He told reporters he’s introduced a lot of politicans, but never his son.
After we originally published our blog we received an email from campaign coordinator Doug Antoon, who clarified the campaign's plan for financial reporting.
"I would like to shoot for semi-monthly or bi-weekly if we can handle the paperwork and have the people available to post everything on that timetable. But monthly is just no problem," Antoon wrote. "We want more transparency into campaign contributions, not less."