February, 27th 2010

Pete Domenici, Jr. raises money-- and eyebrows and questions, too

– Liz Mair

Pete Domenici, Jr., jumped into the New Mexico gubernatorial race just a few weeks ago, and it looks like he’s in it to win it.  According to Campaign Director Doug Antoon, Domenici’s team will release information about its fundraising to-date on Monday, at 6PM.  The amount raised reportedly exceeds $200,000, all brought in, in about 5 weeks of campaigning.

But in addition to raising money, Domenici has raised some eyebrows as well—mainly Democratic ones—by virtue of a comment he apparently made in an interview with Jim Villanucci a little over a week ago (it was during CPAC, so I missed it).  Here’s the soundbyte that made people, er, wonder:

How so, you ask?  Well, maybe, for one thing, Domenici and his Republican opponents Janice Arnold-Jones, Doug Turner and Allen Weh are not Hispanic, whereas his other Republican opponent, Susana Martinez, the one who he’s being asked about, is. 

Was that what Domenici was getting at?  The New Mexico Democratic Party asked what he meant in a release, while also noting that in the same interview Domenici admitted to using cocaine, describing it as a “recreational drug.”  That, to me, would seem a bit of a daft comment for a Republican candidate to make in the context of a primary, but depending on what Domenici was trying to say with his remark about Martinez, it could be the lesser of two worries for him.  According to the US Census Bureau, in 2008, New Mexico’s population was 44.9 percent Hispanic or Latino.  So this is a pretty big chunk of voters to potentially risk alienating by virtue of a remark whose meaning is, at best, unclear (and which could, in any event, be perceived badly by a lot of Hispanic voters who don’t exactly tend to instinctively see the best in Republicans when commenting on, er, “demographics”).

I emailed the Domenici campaign for a response/clarification several hours ago, and I’ll update if and when I get something from them.

In the meantime, it’s worth noting a few data points on this race.  First, per Heath Haussamen, someone in Domenici’s camp originally set the fundraising bar high enough to take some of the shine off that $200,000 figure.  Second, Martinez raised $143,000 in the fourth quarter of 2009, and recently won a straw poll following a candidate forum in Clovis.  Third, a PPP poll shows Lt. Gov. Diane Denish leading Domenici 45-40, Janice Arnold-Jones 47-33, Martinez and Turner 46-32 and Alan Weh 48-30. [intro]




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