The head of the Democratic Governors Association indicated in an interview with a national political website this week that a Democrat can’t win New Mexico’s governor’s race.
Five New Mexico Democrats are seeking the party’s June 3 primary election to challenge Republican Gov. Susana Martinez in November.
The governors association chairman, Vermont Gov. Peter Shumlin, said in an interview with the political website Real Clear Politics that his national organization can only afford to support candidates in states the DGA thinks are winnable by Democrats.
Shumlin listed 10 of 19 states in which Republican governors are up for election this year and where the DGA thinks Democrats can win with the group’s help.
But New Mexico – where Martinez has demonstrated strong polling numbers and reported more than $4.2 million in the bank to fund her re-election campaign – was not among the winnable states listed.
“I wish that we could spend money for Democrats in all 50 states,” Shumlin said in the website interview. “My job is not to promote governors’ races in states where we can’t win.”
The Journal attempted to reach Shumlin for comment through the DGA, but the group did not respond.
New Mexico Democratic Party Chairman Sam Bregman disagreed with Shumlin’s assessment.
“I think what we’ve seen in the last month or so is that the luster is coming off this governor,” Bregman told the Journal. “And when we get our nominee, we’re going to be in a great race. I think we have an excellent chance.”
In 2010, the DGA chipped in at least $250,000 to help elect Democratic gubernatorial nominee Diane Denish, then the state’s lieutenant governor who lost to Martinez.
New Mexico political analyst Brian Sanderoff said the lack of support from the DGA would be a significant setback for Democrats – whose prospective nominees are Gary King, Linda Lopez, Howie Morales, Lawrence Rael and Alan Webber.
“They (the DGA) do their polling, they have their ears to the ground. When they assess candidly that New Mexico is a long shot at best, it does give the Democrats a moment of pause,” Sanderoff said.
However, polling data is likely to be ambiguous with voters split among the five Democratic candidates. After a candidate is nominated, the polling might shift and cause the DGA to reassess New Mexico, Sanderoff said.
Martinez campaign spokesman Chris Sanchez said the DGA assessment is evidence that Democrats face an “uphill climb” in New Mexico.
“Gov. Martinez has earned bipartisan support for her record of moving New Mexico forward during challenging times, and most observers recognize that the Democratic politicians running for governor face an uphill climb trying to convince voters to return to the failed policies of Bill Richardson,” Sanchez said in a statement.
Meanwhile on Wednesday, gubernatorial candidate Lawrence Rael announced plans to air the first TV ad of the Democratic primary race.
The ad highlights “a very different New Mexico” under Rael that prioritizes education and economic growth. The ad promises a state “where poverty is transformed to prosperity and the life we all deserve.”
The first TV ad for a Democratic candidate comes nearly a month after Martinez took to the airwaves with commercials highlighting her first term achievements although Martinez is unopposed in the Republican primary.