New Mexico And Arizona Are Not The Same

For example, they have different governors

February 20, 2004 in New Mexico Politics | Comments (0)

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Congress in a statehood compromise of 1906 enabled New Mexico and Arizona to be admitted to the Union as one Texas-size state called Arizona with the capital in Santa Fe, subject to approval by the voters of each territory separately.

New Mexico, which had been waiting for statehood for about half a century, went for the deal by a vote of 26,195 to 14,735. Arizona killed it, 16,265 to 3,141. Good thing.
On Feb. 3, 2004, Democratic voters of the nation’s 47th and 48th states declared their presidential preferences. Sen. John Kerry was the decisive winner in both states, followed by Wesley Clark, John Edwards and Howard Dean, in that order.

But no matter how the two big arid squares on the border blur together in the heat waves as seen through the media’s New York telescopes, they are not really the same.
Two things about the twin Southwest primaries set New Mexico apart from Arizona: the high energy of Bill Richardson and the low energy of the New Mexico vote counters.

The second difference was undoubtedly detrimental in terms the national attention that Richardson had promised for New Mexico. Kerry was the runaway winner here, but this was not evident until two hours after the 7 p.m. closing of the polls. Unlike other states, the New Mexico vote totals were unavailable.

CNN, providing the only continuous live coverage on election night, was able to declare winners in five of the states and to determine the dead heat in Oklahoma before the first word from New Mexico.

Wolf Blitzer, at the 8:20 p.m. commercial break, said, “We’re still waiting to hear what the story is in New Mexico.” At the 8:45 break, he said, “Still no determination in New Mexico.”

What was “the story?” Is there something about absentee ballots that blurs the vision and slows the left brain? Did the Democrats catch some bug in the office of the Bernalillo County Clerk?

Election night was contrary to everything the governor seems to be promoting: that New Mexico, like him, is decisive, efficient and in a hurry to get things done. It must have been an embarrassment.

The other point is more complicated in distinguishing New Mexico and Arizona. To begin with, our politicians are cross migrating. The Udall family of Arizona now lives mostly in New Mexico. Gov. Janet Napolitano of Arizona grew up in Albuquerque.

Now, Democrat Napolitano does not begin to receive the attention that the media give to Democrat Richardson. As he gains from the exposure personally, so does New Mexico. Maybe it’s our way of getting even with Arizona for having Major League baseball and NFL football.
By contrast Napolitano wrote a characteristic commentary, published the day before the election by the New York Times, in which she portrayed Arizona as an independent state where no party and no favorite personality is in charge. She argued that Arizona’s issues are America’s issues.

Arizonans, she said, are concerned about health care, particularly drug costs affecting the sizable population of retired people. She said Arizonans care about the economy, particularly improvement of what she called “dead-end, low-wage jobs with few if any benefits.” And she said they care about “an immigration policy that is fair and enforceable.”

Arizona went for Bill Clinton in 1996 and George W. Bush in 2000, she noted, arguing that a strong showing in Arizona, based on issues and not some favorite personality, would be a “powerful demonstration of electability in November.”

There is no comparable op-ed piece from Richardson. (His last Times piece was in August, about the power failure from the viewpoint of a former U.S. secretary of energy.) But generally, by contrast with Napolitano, he deliberately presents himself as a personification of his state.

His famous Wall Street Journal ad on his tax cut a year ago said, “Hey, we’ve been telling you it’s different in New Mexico.” And during the runup to the primary he promoted New Mexico as a Hispanic bellwether unlike other states. He brought the first Democratic presidential debate to Albuquerque and defined it as a debate on Hispanic issues.

Richardson’s image of New Mexico as “different” might be the truth. Al Gore, for instance, barely won the 2000 presidential electors here, setting New Mexico apart as a “blue” state in the all-red field of interior states that went for George W. Bush. Of course, Gore actually did win the popular vote nationally. So it can be argued that New Mexico continued its record of voting for the “winner” in almost every presidential election since statehood.

The 2000 presidential election, unfortunately, also was marked by seesaw tallies from New Mexico that were a miniature of the confusion in Florida. And on Feb. 3 it all seemed to be happening again.

The “Hey. It’s different in New Mexico” strategy might be the way to go. But in a state characterized by big scientific laboratories and super computers and Intel, and so forth, they at least ought to learn how to count votes like the others.