Republican governor hopeful tests political waters across state

By Thomas Garcia: Freedom New Mexico

It may be a year off, but the New Mexico Gubernatorial race already has candidates out and about.

In a swing through eastern new Mexico, Republican hopeful Doug Turner of Albuquerque met Curry County, Roosevelt County and Quay County Republican party members Wednesday to talk issues.

He is traveling across the state, meeting with party faithful and voters as part of his exploratory campaign, said Carri Phillis, his campaign director.

In Clovis, Turner met with Curry Republican Chairman Rube Render, former Lt. Gov. Walter Bradley and business leaders. He was scheduled to visit Portales later in the day and Roswell and Las Cruces today.

“I am traveling around hitting as many places as I can and speaking with the people,” Turner said. “People have a deep desire for something different when it comes to politics.”

Turner, 40, said many of the issues are the same across the state — corruption, health care and education.

“It is no secret there is corruption in the government,” Turner said. “People are looking for someone…(who) is going to do the job right. Someone…not afraid to say ‘no’ when it is needed.”

Turner said many residents have come to expect government corruption.

“People are annoyed by this,” Turner said. “Having an honest government means you need to have honest leadership — someone with vision, and (who) does not behold to special interest groups.”

Turner said he has a passion to reform the public education system.

“The state graduation rate is 54 percent,” Turner said. “That is too low by any standard. … I do not think the solution is to throw more money at the problem.”

Phillis said Turner’s goal is to hit all 33 counties in the he state with the next two weeks. The election isn’t until November 2010, but Phillis said Turner is hardly getting a jump on campaigning.

“If you look back (on past elections) this is usually about the time people start coming out,” she said. “With everything going on in this state right now there’s a lot of people already on the ground.”

The only other declared Republican candidate is former state party leader Alan Weh, 66, a colonel in the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve and chief executive officer of CSI Aviation Services Inc.

Turner is also no stranger to politics. He was the campaign manager for former New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson and worked as a consultant during Johnson’s administrations.

Turner is founder and CEO of a public relations firm based in Albuquerque.

“He’s a little young, but I’m impressed,” said Bill Menges, chairman of the Quay County Republicans. “He has a good hold on how governments work and should work.”