Inside the Capitol

Thursday, October 05, 2006

10-9 Can Heather Pull This One Out?

MON. 10-09-06

SANTA FE -- Election days are here. Absentee ballots are being mailed out as of October 10 to those who have requested them. Early voting starts Oct. 21.
Republicans traditionally have done very well getting their absentee ballots requested and mailed. Those votes are what are expected to rescue Rep. Heather Wilson one more time, despite her current low poll numbers in the 1st Congressional District race against Attorney General Patricia Madrid.
Granted, Wilson's numbers are lower this year than they ever have been. One national poll has her 10 points down to Madrid. But Wilson, and Steve Schiff before her, has always been able to make up any deficits at the polls, once the absentee numbers begin coming in. They always have ended with comfortable margins.
What probably has to be said this time is that if Wilson does win again, her margin will not be nearly as comfortable as in the past.
At this point, the momentum is with Madrid and it could increase if the congressional page sex scandal of GOP Rep. Foley continues. There seem to be new revelations daily
Wilson's lack of knowledge or action on the Foley situation, despite her seat on the congressional page oversight committee has somewhat blunted her charge about Madrid's lack of action in the state Treasurer scandal.
The state treasurer situation has been argued to death and it will continue to be. But here are some facts about the congressional page program you likely haven't seen or heard.
No one connected with the page program or with Congress can claim to be unaware of the danger to 17-year-old boys and girls who win a spot in the program. Ever since the page sex scandal of the early '80s, and probably long before, pages have been warned that they will be working around a group of powerful adults whose sexual urges are no lower and no less diverse, that those of any group of people.
Pages attend school on the top floor of the Library of Congress early in the morning, when members of Congress are in committee meetings. By the time floor sessions begin, they are on the floor of the chamber to which they are assigned; ready to be of whatever help is needed.
In the Senate, pages sit at the front of the chamber, so female pages are required to wear pants. That enables senators to concentrate on affairs of state rather than other affairs that might enter their minds. House pages sit in the rear of their chamber and may wear dresses.
One of the rotating page assignments are the capitol cloak rooms, the House and Senate lounges containing a snack bar, restrooms, easy chairs and meeting tables. Pages are warned that their presence will not be noted by lawmakers and that they can expect to hear locker room language sometimes.
So everyone understands, this isn't a church social. Problems usually aren't reported. If they are, it's typically to the lawmaker who nominated them for the program, rather than to the page director.
So Wilson, as a member of the page oversight committee, wasn't likely to hear of problems. They more often are reported to the leadership of the lawmaker's party and the offending member is quietly told to back off.
The big political problem comes when the member of Congress continues his bad behavior until caught and it is learned that his party leadership covered it up.
Voters, who begin receiving their absentee ballots this week, may want to hold onto them for a few weeks awaiting further developments in this congressional race.
There aren't many other close races to watch. The state Land Commission race could be a cliffhanger. Republican incumbent Patrick Lyons is outspending Democrat Jim Baca in a big way. But Baca has won despite being outspent before. He was elected mayor of Albuquerque despite being outspent by three opponents.



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