Subscribe to the Journal, call 505-823-4400

          Front Page

Candidates No Strangers To Concealed Carry

By Deborah Baker
Copyright © 2010 Albuquerque Journal
Journal Staff Writer

          Ah, the good old days, when candidates' campaign arsenals contained nothing more lethal than bad speeches, palm cards and personalized emery boards.
        But, in 2010, that barely perceptible bulge in your favorite politico's pocket or jacket might be a gun.
        Turns out the Republican nominee for governor, Susana Martinez, is already packing heat, and the Democratic nominee, Lt. Gov. Diane Denish, could soon be licensed to do so.
        The security item in Martinez's case is a .380 pistol, which campaign spokesman Raj Shah says she "often carries ... for her personal protection, particularly when she is traveling alone, or at night."
        Martinez is the district attorney in the Doña Ana County-based 3rd Judicial District; her husband, Chuck Franco, is the undersheriff; and they "both take on dangerous and violent criminals as part of their careers," Shah said.
        Denish has taken a concealed carry course and is in the application process for a license, although she doesn't plan to carry a weapon, according to her campaign.
        "With all the debate around the concealed carry issue, she believes the best way to truly understand the issues was to go through the training and see for herself," said spokesman Chris Cervini.
        New Mexico legalized the concealed carry of handguns in 2003, when Gov. Bill Richardson signed it into law. Licenses were issued beginning the next year — Richardson got one in 2006 — with applicants required to complete firearms training and pass background checks.
        Today, about 17,000 people have valid concealed carry licenses, according to the Department of Public Safety. Their names aren't a matter of public record; the law specifically says that information is confidential.
        Carrying appears to be a bipartisan affair and more the habit of officials involved in law enforcement.
        Democratic Attorney General Gary King is a concealed carry licensee, as is his GOP challenger, Matthew Chandler.
        King's office wouldn't provide more detail, citing security concerns.
        Chandler, the district attorney in Clovis for the 9th Judicial District, says he carries because of threats from gang members and others he has prosecuted.
        "As a licensed carrier, I frequently have a firearm within reach," he said, declining to be more specific.
        The Republican candidate for state auditor, Errol Chavez, spent 31 years with the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, including eight years overseas, before his retirement in 2004.
        He carried a gun his entire career, and now he's licensed for concealed carry.
        "I have, in the past, received threats against my life. ... I've had threats from cartel leaders," he said.
        The current auditor, Democrat Hector Balderas, who is seeking re-election, has a gun for home protection but isn't a concealed carry licensee, according to a spokeswoman.
        The candidates for state treasurer figure they can take care of themselves.
        "I feel pretty safe," said GOP nominee Jim Schoonover, a former Doña Ana County treasurer now working for the village of Hatch, who's not licensed for concealed carry.
        And current state Treasurer James Lewis, a Democrat seeking re-election, said he hasn't carried in years, since he was an investigator with the Bernalillo County District Attorney's Office.
        "I'm a big guy. I feel like I can protect myself," said Lewis, a former military policeman. "I've just never felt there was a reason for me to carry."
        Secretary of State Mary Herrera, running for re-election, doesn't carry a handgun, and neither does her opponent, Republican Dianna Duran, a state senator from Otero County.
        "I wish I did, but I don't," said Duran. She said she hasn't found the time to qualify for a license, although an incident a few years ago convinced her it would be a good idea.
        Driving into Tularosa, she was tailed by a guy — "high on drugs," she said — who kept bumping the rear of her car, even as she sped up to try to lose him. She called police, and he was apprehended.
        "There are those instances where you may need to be prepared to protect yourself," Duran said.
        The current land commissioner, Republican Pat Lyons, who's running for a seat on the Public Regulation Commission, carries a concealed handgun and said he particularly feels the need for one because of his active role in the State Investment Council shake-up.
        "You've got to be careful. I'm out in the middle of nowhere a lot of times," said Lyons, who helped push the law through when he was a state senator.
        "I own a gun, but it would be a little hard to pack it," said his Democratic opponent in the PRC race, Stephanie DuBois, who uses her lightweight shotgun mainly to shoo coyotes away from her horse.
        Matt Rush, the Republican nominee for land commissioner, doesn't have a concealed carry permit, although he keeps a firearm in his pickup truck — "a .22 revolver, a real John Wayne gun."
        "I'm old-school," added Rush, a Roosevelt County cattle rancher, farmer and motivational speaker.
        "I don't figure there are that many people that are after me," he said. "I'm sure when you get into politics, there's a whole lot more."
        The Democratic candidate for land commissioner, Ray Powell, a veterinarian running to regain the post he held from 1993 to 2002, says about all he's packing is Dentyne.
        "I've inherited lots of guns from family members, but I'd be hard-pressed to find them quickly," he said.

Call 505-823-4400 to subscribe
Submit a news tip | E-mail reporter