Republican ending legislative career says Democrat Cervantes would be strong candidate for governor
Republican state Rep. Dennis Kintigh, down to his last month in office, handed out kudos Thursday to a member of the rival party.
Kintigh said Rep. Joseph Cervantes, D-Las Cruces, taught him more than anybody else in his four years in Santa Fe. During a committee meeting, Kintigh publicly thanked Cervantes for his help.
In a later interview, Kintigh said that Cervantes, right, would be a formidable candidate for governor if he decides to run in two years.
"He's articulate. He's smart. He's Hispanic," Kintigh said of Cervantes' attributes for a statewide campaign.
"If Joseph Cervantes runs in 2014, he will give the Republicans a run for their money. You can quote me on that," Kintigh said.
Perhaps one knock against Cervantes running for governor would be his lack of name recognition in Albuquerque and Santa Fe.
Kintigh dismissed that as a small hurdle for a politician of Cervantes' quality.
"Who outside Las Cruces knew Susana Martinez when she ran for governor?" Kintigh asked.
Martinez, 53, was the district attorney of Dona Ana County when she won the governor's office in 2010. She probably will seek a second term in 2014.
Thus far, state Attorney General Gary King is the only Democrat who has announced that he will run for governor in 2014. He is the son of the late Bruce King, a three-term governor.
A matchup between Cervantes and Martinez might be the greatest competition between southern New Mexico politicians since 1982.
That was the year two heavyweights -- Republican U.S. Sen. Harrison Schmitt and Democrat Jeff Bingaman -- went head to head. Bingman unseated Schmitt and remained in the Senate for 30 years. Both men had roots in Silver City.
Cervantes, 51, is an attorney and businessman. He won election to the state Senate this month after serving 12 years in the House of Representatives.
After the committee meeting, Cervantes said he appreciated Kintigh's kind words, though he said his friend and colleague might have been feeling "melancholy" as his service in the Legislature winds down.
Kintigh, 60, of Roswell, lost his bid for re-election to a third term in the House.