SANCHEZ, SĂ?Â, RICHARDSON, NO?
So far this year, three of the four alumni of Bill Clintons Cabinet who were seeking governorships have fallen flat: former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Andrew Cuomo, who abandoned the Democratic primary in New York on the eve of the balloting; former Atty. Gen. Janet Reno, who was upset for nomination in Florida; and former Secretary of Labor Robert Reich, who was beaten in the Democratic primary in Massachusetts.
Now, it may be a case of "0 for 4" for the "Clintonistas" when it comes to statehouses. The former Cabinet secretary long rated the best bet to become a governor has found himself in a race that polls show is increasingly tightening and will almost surely go down to the wire November 5. Bill Richardson, UN ambassador and secretary of energy under the 42nd President, is losing ground to conservative Republican John Sanchez, a one-term state representative who runs a roofing contracting business.
While not revealing what the campaigns latest Public Opinion Strategies poll showed, Sanchez Press Secretary Whitney Cheshire told me last week that "were within striking distance" of Richardson, who had worked almost fulltime last year to shore up political and financial support for the gubernatorial race. A poll earlier this month conducted for the Santa Fe New Mexican and KOB-TV showed Richardson with an uncomfortably close lead of 46% to 37% over Sanchez.
Beside the Clinton factor, there is historical significance in the first race for governor in 80 years in which both major party candidates are Latino. While Democrats have nearly twice as many registered voters as does the GOP and hold far more elective offices in the Land of Enchantment, there is a rich history of Democratic crossover votes that works to Republicans advantage. Six-term Sen. Pete Domenici and lame-duck Gov. Gary Johnson are two prominent examples of Republicans who have won easily without trimming their political sails-and have done so in a state in which Latinos account for about 45% of the population. In addition, this is a state Al Gore carried by a microscopic and still-disputed 366 votes and one White House political operative Karl Rove wants to put in the Bush column in 04. Thus, both the President and Vice President Dick Cheney have made campaign appearances on behalf of Sanchez.
ACTION, NOT WORDS
The 54-year-old Richardson has been bilingual since childhood and, in fact, has mastered the rapid-fire "hot Spanish" way of speaking favored by politicians throughout Latin America. Sanchez spokeswoman Cheshire told me her candidate is "conversational" in Spanish. But the Republican candidate, who was raised in a household in which English-speaking was strongly emphasized, refused his opponents challenge to debate him in Spanish. "John doesnt have a problem with Spanish, but just felt English was the national language," State Republican Chairman John Dendahl told me.
But, Cheshire quickly added, "we challenged our opponent to 33 debates in every manner and format and he has so far accepted only four such opportunities." In cases where Richardson is a no-show, Cheshire explained, Sanchez almost always shows up and speaks across from an empty podium.
Sanchezs vision of a conservative opportunity society in New Mexico is based on lowering and eliminating taxes across the board, giving parents more choice as to where they send children to school, and being unabashedly pro-life. A signer of the "No Taxes" pledge of Grover Norquists Americans for Tax Reform, the GOP nominee calls for eliminating the gross receipts tax on food and doctors visits, slashing the state income tax from 8.2% to 3.8% over a five-year period, and drastically cutting the state capital gains tax. "You name the tax, and John will cut it or get rid of it," said spokeswoman Cheshire, noting that an economic climate with lower taxes would surely attract more jobs and thus more people to pay taxes in a state with no Fortune 500 company in it. (Although Richardson has promised to lower the top rate for personal income tax and create tax incentives for business, Sanchez repeatedly questions his commitment. In 1993 the then-Rep. Richardson, as a member of the House Democratic leadership in 1993, helped enact the record-high Clinton tax increase and has since strongly defended that vote.)
The inventive GOP nominee has also unveiled a pilot program for what he calls "equal opportunity scholarships" to help lower- and middle-income families have greater choice of schools. Sanchez is also strongly pro-life, while Richardson-repeatedly taking the Mario Cuomo line of being "personally opposed" to abortion but not applying that to his public role-has a record of more than a decade in the House of voting for tax dollars for abortion and against a ban on even partial-birth abortion.
Does Richardsons record of offering Monica Lewinsky a job while UN ambassador or his oversight as secretary of energy of what turned out to be porous national security at the Los Alamos Nuclear Laboratory in New Mexico ever get brought up in the campaign? "Everyone talks about it," replied spokeswoman Cheshire. "Everyone except Bill, that is."
(John Sanchez for Governor, 300 San Mateo Blvd. #101, Albuquerque, N.M. 87108; 505-242-3860)
When Georgia was still largely in the Democratic column, Manchester lawyer Tryon Elliott took on some thankless jobs for the Republican Party-serving as GOP county chairman and running for Congress and losing badly to Democrat Richard Ray in 1982. A decade later, longtime HUMAN EVENTS subscriber Elliott dropped by my office shortly after the elections to inform me that Ray had been unseated by Republican Mac Collins, that the GOP had made major gains at the legislative and local level in his part of Georgia, and that Republican Paul Coverdell had forced Democratic Sen. Wyche Fowler into a December run-off. "And Paul will win," Elliott predicted. (He did.)
Now, a decade after that and his hair a little grayer, Elliott is a candidate himself. He is the GOP nominee against 12-year State Sen. George Hooks, chairman of the Appropriations Committee. The point man for liberal Gov. Roy Barnes in the Senate, Hooks has pushed Barnes unpopular education package and has pressed to have the states Civil War flag removed-"both of which are unpopular stands with voters who are strongly conservative," says Elliott. Still a hard-driving campaigner, Elliott has widespread grass-roots support among activists in the party he helped to build.
(Elliott for State Senate, P.O. Box 389, Manchester, Ga. 31816)
DENISON KITCHEL, R.I.P.
"Barry and I did not spend much time discussing what we would do in the unlikely event of a Republican victory," Denison Kitchel revealed years later about his best friend Barry Goldwater and the 1964 campaign. "But there was a tentative agreement about some key figures in a Goldwater Cabinet. The secretary of state was to be Richard Nixon, the secretary of the treasury [retired GE Board Chairman] Ralph Cordiner, and I was to be the attorney general."
Whatever office he would have held had there been a "President Goldwater," Phoenix "superlawyer" Kitchel would undoubtedly have served as its Robert Kennedy, Paul Laxalt or James Baker-the First Friend to the man with whom he had been the closest of friends since moving to Phoenix in 1935. That was how Kitchel was largely remembered when he died last week after a long illness.
The son of a Wall Street lawyer and himself a graduate of Yale University and Harvard Law School, young Kitchel set up a practice in Depression-era Phoenix ("To represent cows?" his father asked him) and soon had copper giant Phelps Dodge as his chief client. In a landmark case that was decided by the Supreme Court in 1941, Kitchels argument that Phelps Dodge had the right to fire workers who joined a union was dismissed in a ruling written by his onetime law professor, Felix Frankfurter.
Attorney Kitchel and merchant Goldwater became fast friends and were soon leaders in Phoenix political and social life. Kitchel worked in all of Goldwaters winning campaigns for city council and U.S. senator and in 1964 was asked to run his friends campaign-either for re-election or for President. The White House was eventually their goal and Kitchel was chairman of the race that launched the modern conservative movement.
Freely admitting that he was an "issues man" who knew little about the mechanics of politics, Kitchel and fellow members of what was known as the campaigns "Arizona Mafia" clashed with grass-roots activists and movement conservatives such as full-time campaign manager F. Clifton White. But Kitchel also plugged Goldwater to members of his conservative "brain trust"-among them, William Baroody of the American Enterprise Institute, foreign policy expert Robert Straus-HupĂ?Â©, and another Phoenix lawyer, William Rehnquist (who advised Goldwater that the 1964 Civil Rights Act was in all likelihood unconstitutional and helped bring about his vote against it).
Although Kitchel dabbled in politics a bit after 1964 by chairing the conservative Free Society Association, his interests were primarily in the law and community he loved and adopted. He was 94.