Political newcomer Alan Webber, a wealthy Santa Fe businessman, joined the race for governor of New Mexico on Monday, becoming the fourth Democratic candidate to take on Republican incumbent Susana Martinez.
Webber, who co-founded the business magazine Fast Company in the 1990s and along with his co-founder sold it for more than $300 million, reshapes the gubernatorial race by running as a political outsider with a successful track record in the private sector. He describes himself as “an entrepreneur and a guy who makes things happen – an innovator.”
“It has the potential to shake things up in a Democratic primary if he is willing to spend a significant amount of his personal wealth in this race,” said Brian Sanderoff, an Albuquerque pollster who doesn’t work for any candidate.
The other Democratic candidates – Attorney General Gary King, and state Sens. Linda Lopez of Albuquerque and Howie Morales of Silver City – have years of experience in state government but have yet to demonstrate their fundraising can keep pace with Martinez. The first-term governor had nearly $3.3 million stockpiled in her re-election account as of earlier this month – 20 times more than King and Lopez combined. Morales announced his candidacy last week, after the latest deadline for disclosing fundraising.
Webber, who has lived in New Mexico for about a decade, said he would use personal money to jump-start his campaign.
“I do not believe in self-funded political campaigns. I don’t think it’s good for democracy. I don’t think it’s a good way to get elected,” Webber said in an interview. “So this is not going to be and never was intended to be a self-funded political campaign.”
He said he entered the race because “our state is in serious trouble.”
“We are at a standstill when it comes to creating good jobs and our schools aren’t giving the kids the education they need. I think it’s going to take new leadership in the Governor’s Office to turn those things around,” he said.
Webber contends that New Mexican voters are looking for a fresh face in politics.
“I do believe that there is kind of a thirst for trying some new possibilities and I think I represent new possibilities,” he said.
Martinez campaign spokesman Danny Diaz said Webber “represents the extreme fringe of the Democratic Party and his radical ideology, which has even included attempts to eliminate car use, is way out of step with mainstream New Mexicans.”
Diaz pointed to a more than 40-year-old memo that Webber prepared on the transportation system in Portland, Ore., when he worked in city government for Neil Goldschmidt, who became the city’s mayor and later transportation secretary under then-President Jimmy Carter. The memo outlined incentives for mass transit and other alternatives to cars. In the late 1970s, Webber also was an editor for an alternative weekly newspaper in Portland.
Sanderoff said Webber needs to appeal beyond liberal Democratic voters in Santa Fe.
“To be credible, he’s going to have to get out and demonstrate to people in rural New Mexico and people in some of the counties that run counter to Santa Fe that he understands their concerns and needs,” said Sanderoff. “He doesn’t want to be painted as a rich guy from Santa Fe.”