LAGUNA PUEBLO – State Sen. Howie Morales of Silver City was the top choice for governor among New Mexico Democratic Party delegates voting in Saturday’s pre-primary convention, while Sen. Linda Lopez of Albuquerque and Attorney General Gary King trailed in the five-candidate field.
The convention votes cast Saturday by party delegates at Route 66 Casino Hotel at Laguna Pueblo set the ballot order for the party’s June 3 primary election. Candidates who fail to win 20 percent of the delegate vote at the convention are required to submit a larger number of voter petition signatures if they still want to qualify for the ballot.
Lopez and King both fell short of the 20 percent threshold Saturday.
Morales lead the field of Democrats vying to challenge Republican Gov. Susana Martinez with about 29 percent of the vote. Santa Fe entrepreneur Alan Webber came in second with nearly 22 percent. Former Albuquerque administrator Lawrence Rael finished third with 20 percent.
Lopez, with about 18 percent of the vote, declined to comment on whether she will seek additional signatures to qualify for the ballot.
King won about 11 percent of the vote. King has said he submitted enough petitions to the secretary of state in February to qualify for the ballot regardless of his convention showing.
Morales said the convention win strengthens his momentum.
“But we also know we can’t just rest and say we’re going to have an easy path the rest of the way,” Morales said. “… I think we had a great starting point today.”
Webber called his second place finish “an astounding showing for the least-known candidate.”
Making their case to convention delegates Saturday, several candidates focused on distinguishing themselves from Martinez and made a case for being the best challenger to the popular Republican governor.
Morales charged that New Mexico is on the wrong track under the governor’s leadership.
“We cannot afford four more years of Susana Martinez and, if we don’t act now, nothing will change,” Morales said. “We’ll have four more years of stagnation, four more years of oppression, four more years of corruption and four more years in which the people of our great state of New Mexico will suffer because of the mistakes of the governor we have.”
Susana Martinez campaign spokesman Danny Diaz, in an email sent before delegates began casting ballots on Saturday, charged the field of Democrats is looking to return to an agenda established by former Gov. Bill Richardson.
“In one way or another, they are all promising to return to the failed policies of Bill Richardson,” Diaz said. “The contrast between an optimistic governor seeking to build on a record of achievement and move New Mexico forward versus the shrill voices of extreme politicians seeking to advance their own standing with out-of-the-mainstream rhetoric and dishonest attacks could not be more stark.”
In the Democratic 2nd Congressional District race to challenge Republican Rep. Steve Pearce, Carlsbad lawyer Roxanne “Rocky” Lara won nearly 85 percent of the delegate vote over opponent Leslie Endean-Singh, an Alamogordo lawyer.
In the 3rd Congressional District, Rep. Ben Ray Luján cruised to victory, winning more than 98 percent of the delegate vote over Democratic challenger Robert Blanch, an assistant district attorney in Albuquerque.
Central New Mexico 1st Congressional District Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham is unopposed in the primary election.
In the state treasurer’s race, former Albuquerque state senator Tim Eichenberg, won nearly 53 percent of the delegate vote, beating out former party chairman John Wertheim, who received 40 percent of the vote, and former Bernalillo County Treasurer Patrick Padilla, with 7 percent.