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Federal Deputy Gastón Luken, at the tail end of his final report on his activities in Congress, announced Wednesday night that he will run for governor of Baja California in 2013.
That drew his biggest applause of the night.
Although Luken has been representing the National Action Party in Congress, he is not a member of the PAN. He said it has been a great honor to represent the PAN, and lauded the convictions and principles of those in the party and the PAN's "great contribution to democracy."
There has been talk within the party of running a joint gubernatorial candidate with the state's left-of-center parties in order to defeat the Institutional Revolutionary Party, which won seven of the state's eight directly elected seats in the lower house of Congress on July 1. Luken might be considered to be the ideal crossover candidate, as he previously served in the 1997-2000 Democratic Revolution Party government of Cuauhtémoc Cárdenas when Cárdenas was mayor of Mexico City. A video Luken showed Wednesday night highlighting his accomplishments showed Cárdenas praising Luken.
On July 1, the PAN only won congressional District 5, which Luken represents. There is no re-election in Mexico; the PAN's Manuel Gastelum eked out a narrow victory in the District 5 race. The PRI also took the presidential vote in the state and might have finished first in Senate voting save for voter confusion. The PRI also won all five municipal mayoral races in the state in 2010 and dominated voting for the state legislature.
The PAN's Ernesto Ruffo, elected senator July 1, became the first elected opposition governor in the country's modern history in 1989, and the PAN also won the state's gubernatorial elections in 1995, 2001 and 2007.
Some PANistas are not excited about fielding a joint candidate with the left of center coalition, although it is a strategy that the PAN and PRD-aligned parties have been using, sometimes with great success, against the power of the PRI in recent years. When asked what he thought of the joint candidacy idea when it surfaced after the July 1 election, former Tijuana Mayor Héctor Osuna Jaime would only answer that such a decision was up to the national party. Osuna Jaime and another former mayor, Francisco Vega, both would like the PAN nod for governor, as would outgoing federal Deputy Oscar Arce. At Arce's state-of-Congress address last week, he showed his own bipartisan credentials by bringing in top Democratic Revolution Party officials. Cuauhtémoc Cardona, a former top state official who attended Luken's address on Wednesday night, resigned in July to run for governor; he refused to answer a question Wednesday as to what he thought Luken's chances were.
Luken delivered his address Wednesday night to a capacity crowd at El Cubo in the Tijuana Cultural Center. Among those attending were Mayor Carlos Bustamante's daughter, Carolina, who heads the city's social services agency, and Bustamante's ex-wife, Carolina Aubanel. Bustamante may run for the PRI nomination for governor next year. Other potential PRI candidates are former Mayor Jorge Hank Rhon and Sen. Fernando Castro Trenti, who was elected to an at-large federal deputy's post July 1. Castro Trenti will be heading the PRI's Baja California Chamber of Deputies delegation in the new Congress that takes office this week.
Update, Sept. 5: Pepe Aguirre Lomelí says the possibility of having a joint PAN-leftist candidate for governor next year elevates the chances of Luken and of Francisco Vega. Aguirre said Vega also has good relations with the left. Aguirre also said President-elect Enrique Peña Nieto's first trial by fire will be deciding the PRI's gubernatorial candidate.