Solano drops bid for state's No. 2 job

Greg Solano

Dennis J. Carroll Santa Fe County Sheriff Greg Solano dropped out of the Democratic race for lieutenant governor Sunday evening, citing fundraising difficulties.

Solano made the announcement on his blog, sheriffgregsolano.blogspot.com.

In an interview, the two-term sheriff said raising money "was the biggest roadblock I ran into."

Solano wasn't among the heavy hitters in the race, raising $11,865 and spending $7,192 for the last reporting period from May to early October.

That amount paled in comparison to amounts raised by at least three of the six Democratic hopefuls. Former party chairman Brian Colón, for example, topped the fundraising, garnering $264,203 in cash with no loans and $2,700 in contributions from himself and his wife.

Mid-Regional Council of Governments Director Lawrence Rael and Rep. Jose Campos reported raising $127,885 and $148,368, respectively.

Solano said when he saw where he stood financially with the others, it was "clear that we were doomed," and he stopped trying to raise money in October. By Thanksgiving, he said, he had decided to withdraw, but he wanted to wait until after the holidays to announce it.

He also said it was apparent that some potential donors had been told by key players "within the Roundhouse" to hold off on their donations until the race shook out with a clearer picture of who the leading contenders would be.

"I don't have a lot of rich donors, so when the donors I do have (stopped giving), it created major problems for me," Solano said.

In his blog, Solano said "some of these donors had given thousands to me in the past (in the county elections) and had held fundraisers for me, but they were not willing to get involved in the race at this time."

Solano said the larger donors, especially business interests, "who needed to keep; a good relationship with the upper levels of state government ... feared making a mistake in their donations" and backing the wrong candidate.

The sheriff said in the early days of his campaign, and before Gov. Bill Richardson turned down a Cabinet position in the Obama administration, he had sought but failed to attract the attentions of Lt. Gov. Diane Denish, who would have succeeded Richardson and then appointed a lieutenant governor.

"That was the first of many roadblocks I began to encounter," Solano said.

He also noted that he had reached out to state convention delegates to assess their support, but it became clear that as a former party chairman, Colón had the decided advantage on that front.

"I expect him to take well over the 20 percent of delegates (needed to get on the ballot) in the convention, leaving the rest of the candidates to fight over what remains," Solano said in his blog.

Solano said two candidates, whom he declined to name, have asked for his support, but he is still waiting to see which contender has "a similar vision" for the office and the state.

Solano expects more requests for endorsements because he is a Hispanic from the northern part of the state.

The sheriff's departure leaves five Democratic candidates for lieutenant governor. They are Rael, Colón, Campos and Sens. Jerry Ortiz y Pino and Linda Lopez.

The Republican lieutenant governor candidates are former state Rep. Brian Moore, Santa Fe radiologist J.R. Damron, Sen. Kent Cravens and John Sanchez, who sought the gubernatorial nomination in 2002.

As for his future, Solano noted that term limits prevent him from running for a third term as sheriff. He said he will be keeping all options open and meanwhile will work as a volunteer on behalf of current Undersheriff Robert Garcia, who is running for Solano's job.

He said it would "not be my intentions" to swap jobs with Garcia, if the undersheriff wins.

Solano also said he has applied to the Obama administration to be appointed the U.S. marshal for New Mexico, a position now held by Republican appointee Gordon Eden.

Solano said he interviewed for the post in March, but has heard nothing since.

In his blog, Solano said: "I can honestly say I learned a whole lot from my attempt to become the states next Lieutenant Governor. I have no regrets and the lessons learned will only help me in anything I do in the future. ... The great thing about life is you never know where the road will take you."

New Mexican reporter Kate Nash contributed to this report.

Contact Dennis Carroll at 986-3091 or dcarroll@sfnewmexican.com. Contact Kate Nash at 986-3036 or knash@sfnewmexican.com.