Inside the Capitol

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

10-30 Carla Aragon Is My Choice

Syndicated Columnist

SANTA FE -- My vote goes to Carla Aragon. Unfortunately, the KOB-TV anchorwoman will not be on my ballot on Nov. 7, but if I were in the 1st Congressional District, I'd write her in.
The much awaited debate between Rep. Heather Wilson and her Democratic challenger Patricia Madrid finally came about last Tuesday night. I managed to sacrifice an hour of World Series watching to see how they did.
The debate wasn't comfortable to watch because both candidates were stiff, uneasy and mean. Little wonder, since the stakes were so high. This is one of the 25, or so, pivotal races that will decide control of our next Congress.
Madrid only wanted one televised debate and this was it. Her reasons for doing so seemed obvious. Wilson was more assured and in command. As the incumbent, she likely had to devote less time to preparing.
Madrid stuck close to her scripted message, careful not to make any missteps. Both candidates got in a few zingers and had to dance around a few difficult questions.
Neither candidate ever smiled or said anything indicating even the slightest sense of humor. Such behavior does not come naturally to Wilson, a former starched-shirt Air Force officer.
Humor and smiling do come naturally to Madrid but part of the GOP strategy seems to be that smiling is a negative for Madrid. The first attack ads aired against her showed candid shots of her smiling at campaign rallies. Eventually they were replaced by more solemn shots, possibly because focus groups thought they were flattering to Madrid.
GOP gubernatorial candidate John Dendahl also took a shot at Madrid in one of the campaign blurbs on his Web site. While speaking about corruption in the state treasurer's office, instead of saying that the attorney general did not investigate, he said, "Madrid smiled."
Maybe I'm too hung up on humor, but I think it would help a lot of campaigns. The Bill Richardson ad in which he plays a milk-drinking cowboy is a breath of fresh air.
California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger uses humor to an advantage also. In a recent debate, when it came time for the candidates to ask each other a question, Ahnold's question was "What is the funniest thing that has happened to you in this campaign."
His Democrat opponent was thrown so far off balance by the question that he had great trouble recovering. The audience loved it.
The stakes were high for KOB-TV too as the only station to carry a debate. The production was very professional and the moderators, Tom Joles and Carla Aragon performed their jobs well.
But the only times I felt truly comfortable were during the questions from Aragon, who is genuinely nice. It got me to thinking how much more I would like her to be representing New Mexico in Washington. If Larry Ahrens, from KKOB radio can run for governor, maybe Carla should think about running for Congress.
For now, 1st Congressional District voters are stuck with a choice between Wilson and Madrid. This appears to be the first time we will see a significant Democratic challenge in this district since it was created in 1982.
Madrid may not be the best of the challengers, but she came along at the right time. She may also be the most heavily recruited Democratic challenger ever to run in the district. National Democrats knew there might be an opportunity this year for some major gains and possibly even a shift of power in the U.S. House.
Madrid is ending two terms as attorney general. She has good name recognition because she has run for statewide office often and is known as a tough campaigner, win or lose.
Reportedly, Madrid wasn't excited about taking on Rep. Wilson who has a record of trouncing opponents. But Democratic leaders knew this year might be different and they needed a candidate who has proven she can win.
MON, 10-30-06

JAY MILLER, 3 La Tusa, Santa Fe, NM 87505
(ph) 982-2723, (fax) 984-0982, (e-mail)



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