GOP change suggests bloody campaign

By Ned Cantwell: State Columnist

After winning the primary election as the Republican nominee to face Gov. Bill Richardson in November, Santa Fe physician Dr. J. P. Damron was fired by his party.

Check that. He wasn’t fired. He voluntarily resigned as a candidate. Dr. Damron’s resignation so surprised New Mexico Republicans who did not fire him that it took them all of 34 seconds to name his replacement.

That honor goes to veteran political warrior John Dendahl who is more comfortable with the gutter sniping that is endemic to the modern day political scene.

Dr. Damron was not working out as a candidate. His campaign had less spark than a soggy box of matches on a windy day. Too, there was the money angle. Richardson has amassed a campaign fund totaling almost $6 million. Damron held two bake sales after church services.

The heart of the matter, one might surmise, is that Dr. Damron was gently persuaded to reconsider his candidacy and jumped at the chance. The New Mexico political arena is no place for those of refined temperament. Barbara Damron best articulated her husband’s dilemma when she told the Albuquerque Journal, “In this campaign, we came to realize it’s going to take (someone) … who is willing to get bloodier than we would be.”

Truth is, the Santa Fe radiologist thought he had some answers for the state, but as the campaign got under way he felt like the lead tenor from the Santa Fe Opera suddenly handed a guitar and thrust onto the stage of a Silver City cowboy bar.

The soundtrack of politics is not easy listening. Political debate is to refined discourse what punk rock is to music. Dendahl vs. Richardson won’t be Lincoln vs. Douglas.

It will be Riff Raugh vs. Snicker Bar Strongman on Friday Night SmackDown. It will be Johnny Jim Bob Hotwire pedal to the metal against Big Billy Smoothshift in the “Momma Hide the Money Jar Daddy’s Gone to Drinkin’ 500.”

Richardson and Dendahl have never dined from the same political buffet, but they are about to engage in the most riotous food fight in New Mexico political history. It won’t be pretty, but it will be interesting. Be ready to duck flying mashed potatoes.

Their personalities have little in common but the somewhat eerie trait that what you see is not necessarily what you get.

John Dendahl appears rather clean cut and dignified but is capable of unleashing a barrage of meanspeak at any moment. Think Pat Boone talking dirty.

Bill Richardson looks like the Bulldog Beer mascot but is a sweet talker. With an ingratiating sense of humor and disarming self-deprecation, the governor is a crowd pleaser. But don’t cross old fuzzy-wuzzy unless your idea of fun is being run over by an 18-wheeler.

One of the more intriguing theories dancing around the political pundit stage is that the New Mexico GOP deleted Dr. Damron and downloaded John Dendahl at the behest of Washington D.C. Big Boys who seek only to tarnish the governor’s national reputation.

The theory holds that Dendahl can’t win but will have Big Bill frantically looking to his tag team partner for relief before this SmackDown is over.
This corner says Big Bill takes a unanimous decision. Pure Polish trumps Belligerent Bravado every time.

The columnist is grateful to the Don Imus Show, whose idea for assigning spoof names to car races he appropriated. Contact Cantwell at: