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Top Race Hopefuls Wading Into 2010

By Sean Olson
Journal Staff Writer
       New Mexico's 2010 election is more than a year away, but potential candidates are floating their names and testing the waters for some of the state's top races.
    The Governor's Office, lieutenant governor and the Albuquerque-based 1st Congressional District all are targets early on.
    Gov. Bill Richardson and Lt. Gov. Diane Denish are subject to term limits — although Denish hopes to move up to the top job — and it appears Republicans are gearing up early to challenge first-term Democrat Martin Heinrich in the Albuquerque-based 1st Congressional District.
    Although Denish has quasi-incumbent status and a fat campaign war chest, she might not get a free ride in the Democratic primary.
    Senate Majority Leader Michael S. Sanchez, D-Belen, said Monday that he might seek Democratic nomination for governor.
    A couple other new names have emerged to add to a growing list of aspiring politicians: Albuquerque Republican Jon Barela is considering a bid for Heinrich's seat and Democrat Sen. Gerald Ortiz y Pino of Albuquerque says he's looking at a bid for lieutenant governor.
    Governor
    Sanchez said he wants to make a decision on running in a few weeks and is putting together an exploratory committee.
    "I think I can be a good governor," Sanchez said in an interview. "I think I have some good, positive ideas."
    Sanchez, a Los Lunas lawyer and the younger brother of former state House Speaker Raymond Sanchez, has served in the state Senate since 1993.
    Already lining up on the Republican side for the governor's race — although not formally announced — are former state Republican Party Chairman Allen Weh, financial adviser and New Mexico National Guard Brig. Gen. Greg Zanetti and former 1st Congressional District Rep. Heather Wilson. All are from the Albuquerque area.
    1st District
    Heinrich has been in office less than six months, but Barela, an Albuquerque businessman with long ties to the Republican Party, said Monday that he's putting together a committee for a possible run.
    Terms in the U.S. House are two years, and even incumbents have to start planning for re-election early, mostly because of the cost. Heinrich recently said he's already begun his second-term fundraising efforts.
    Barela has been first vice chairman of the state Republican Party and served as an appointee on the Albuquerque Public Schools board.
    "I, like many Americans, am concerned about jobs and the gluttonous spending in Washington right now," Barela said in an interview.
    Barela said he has been encouraged by public response and expects to make an announcement "very soon."
    Lieutenant governor
    Three Democrats have confirmed they want to have a go at the lieutenant governor post that will be vacated by Denish.
    Ortiz y Pino, one of the Senate's most liberal members, is the latest addition to the mix, telling the Journal on Monday of his intention to run.
    Ortiz y Pino, who just started his second term in the Legislature, said he would represent the progressive wing of the Democratic Party in New Mexico. He predicts the lieutenant governor race could lure as many as 12 Democrats, but most will be aligned more to the center.
    "Once again, the progressive wing of the party would not be well-served by that (candidate) list," he said.
    Santa Fe County Sheriff Greg Solano and Sen. Linda Lopez, D-Albuquerque, are the two other Democrats who have already announced plans to run for lieutenant governor. State Auditor Hector Balderas, another Democrat, is considering the race, a spokeswoman said.

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