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Chavez Consolidating Democratic Establishment Support in New Mexico

Albuquerque Mayor Martin Chavez, a leading Democratic candidate to replace retiring Sen. Pete Domenici (R-N.M.), is set Thursday to unveil a cadre of supporters, which suggests that both Gov. Bill Richardson (D) and Lt. Gov. Diane Denish (D) will take a pass on the 2008 Senate race in New Mexico.

Chavez, who also will reveal in an appearance Thursday in New Mexico that he has received $560,000 in fundraising pledges since announcing his candidacy earlier this month, has formed a finance committee that consists of some key Richardson and Denish allies and leaders of the state Democratic establishment. Chavez’s finance team is composed of many individuals from outside the mayor’s Albuquerque base.

“The New Mexicans for Marty Finance Committee is a diverse, all-star cast of notable New Mexicans,” Chavez campaign manager Mark Fleisher said in a statement.

Chavez’s announcement comes as some Democratic leaders continue to look longingly at Richardson and Denish as stronger potential candidates for Senate than the mayor. But Richardson is immersed in his White House bid, and Denish, while not completely ruling out a Senate run, already is preparing to run for governor in 2010, when Richardson will be term-limited.

Chavez’s finance team includes Richardson allies Edward Romero, the former ambassador to Spain; Jamie Koch, the finance chairman of Richardson’s first gubernatorial bid in 2002; and Paul Blanchard, who serves on Richardson’s presidential campaign finance committee.

Koch also is the finance co-chairman of Denish’s 2010 gubernatorial campaign committee and is a former business partner of the lieutenant governor’s late father, Jack Daniels — who was the Democratic Senate nominee against Domenici in 1972.

Also on Chavez’s finance committee is Denish ally Johnny Cope, a wealthy oil and gas executive and a heavyweight fundraiser for statewide Democratic candidates.

Other big names committed to raise money for Chavez are Javier Gonzales, a former Santa Fe County commissioner who is a favorite to replace Rep. Tom Udall (D-N.M.) whenever Udall should choose to vacate his seat; insurance executive and prominent Republican fundraiser Bud Dziak; and Mike Anaya, a former chairman of the New Mexico Democratic Party and the brother of ex-Gov. Toney Anaya (D).

“Our finance team will help us get on track to raise enough money to win the Democratic nomination and to be competitive in the general election,” Fleisher said.

Meanwhile, Chavez’s political team also is shaping up.

For general consulting he has hired McMahon Squier Lapp and Associates; to handle polling he has brought on Celinda Lake of Lake Research Partners; and for media consulting he is poised to sign Murphy Putnam Media LLC.

Should Denish in fact choose not to run for Senate, it would be another blow to Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee Chairman Charles Schumer (N.Y.), who has seen two other recruits rebuff his entreaties this week. On Tuesday wealthy attorney Mikal Watts (D) dropped out of the Senate race in Texas, and on Wednesday former Sen. Bob Kerrey (D) said he would not run for Senate in Nebraska.

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