Candidates log thousands of miles on road to state office

By Kevin Wilson: CNJ staff writer

Since Roosevelt County rancher Matt Rush filed for the state land office race, he’s logged 30,000 miles on his truck, with only one trip to Lubbock and the rest across New Mexico.

“My one piece of advice to anyone who’s considering running for a statewide office,” Rush said, while en route to Albuquerque Saturday, “is to move to Rhode Island.”

Rush, like others who entered New Mexico’s 2010 campaign season, has logged plenty of miles, with many more on the horizon.

For example, once Rush gets back from Albuquerque, where he’ll have an opportunity to meet former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, he’ll travel to Roswell Monday before a Tuesday appearance back home in Portales for a gubernatorial forum. That’s a small rest before he hits towns like Crown and Quemado to find those last few dollars and voters before the June 1 primary elections.

But another area candidate, Joe Campos — who is, like Rush, in his first statewide race — the cross-state journeys are invigorating.

“It’s been an education,” said Campos, a state legislator seeking the Democratic nomination for lieutenant governor. “I’ve never run a state-wide race, having the opportunity to meet (so many) people who have the same goals as we do.”

Early on, Campos said his main message was economic development. He said the country’s tough economic times have done nothing to dissuade him from that message.

“You just see how critical the job issue is,” Campos said, noting he wants to push renewable energy as a revenue and job source. “We do see a lot of people in New Mexico that are having a hard time.”

Rush, who unsuccessfully ran against Campos for a state House of Representatives seat in 2008, said the state land office race required a different approach.

“My main campaign message was explaining the office,” Rush said. “Outside the governor’s office, this is the most important office in the state, and not a lot of people know about it.”

The office manages New Mexico’s 13 million acres of state land, and Rush said it requires knowledge of the oil and gas industry, which provides most of the office’s revenue, along with agriculture and education.

“When you run for state representative, you have to know something about a lot of things,” Rush said. “When you’re running for the state land office, it is very specific in what you can and can’t do.”

Rush is running against Tatum native Bob Cornelius, a former student body president at Eastern New Mexico University, for the Republican nomination. Other GOP candidates dropped out after Rush claimed a decisive win in March’s Republican pre-primary meeting in Albuquerque.

Campos, meanwhile, is in a five-way race with Linda Lopez, Gerald Ortiz Y Pino, Lawrence Rael and Brian Colon. Following the Democratic pre-primary convention, Campos needed a party ruling to round up his 19.69 percent vote to the 20 percent minimum needed to stay on the ballot.

“Being the only legislator that had enough delegates to get on the ballot without having to go through the petition process was a big boost,” Campos said. “It allowed us to get to work right away. From that point, the campaign was better organized and our message started to resonate through the state.”