Inside the Capitol

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

5-26 Fed Races Ranked by Excitement

Syndicated Columnist
SANTA FE -- Finally, excitement is building in some of New Mexico's eight congressional primaries on June 3. Action slowed following the party conventions in March that decided ballot rankings.
The battles gained momentum in early May when television ads began appearing and many now are in full swing. When covering New Mexico's eight congressional primaries, we've always begun with the Senate races and then moved through districts 1, 2 and 3.
This time, for a change, we'll rank eight races in terms of the excitement they have generated.
The hands-down winner is the Republican race in the 2nd Congressional District. It has been exciting since candidates began filing for office. This is the only district in which we can't be sure who is leading either the Republican or Democratic contest.
But it is the Republicans who are having the biggest donnybrook. Even though the district has 33 percent more Democrats than Republicans, Harold Runnels, the only Democrat to ever represent the district since its creation in 1968, voted Republican often enough that the GOP never bothered running anyone against him.
This race offers the best Republican opportunity for a seat in Congress and five candidates are fighting hard to be the GOP nominee. The state convention put Aubrey Dunn, Jr. at the top of the ballot, followed by Earl Greer, Ed Tinsley, Monty Newman and Greg Sowards.
The odds of them ending up anywhere near that order are small. Tremendous amounts of money are being spent on the race, both from personal checking accounts and from special interests.
Second on the excitement list goes to the Democratic race in the 3rd Congressional District. This is the most likely Democratic congressional win and six of them want opportunity. The race appears to be between the two top names on the ballot.
The state Democratic convention voted to list Ben Ray Lujan first and Don Wiviott second and that likely is the way it will turn out. The two have been firing at each other since early in the race and now Benny Shendo, who is third on the ballot has joined in.
The third most exciting race is the Republican contest for the U.S. Senate, with two members of the U.S. House, Steve Pearce and Heather Wilson, giving up their seats to try for the big prize, membership in the world's most exclusive club.
The two have been getting down and dirty about who voted for or against what in the House. Pearce has come up with the unkindest cut of all by comparing Wilson with Sen. Hillary Clinton and Rep. Nancy Pelosi.
Number four on the excitement list is back down in the 2nd Congressional District. Bill McCamley, of Las Cruces, is first on the ballot, with Harry Teague of Hobbs breathing down his neck -- or leading him --depending on whose polls you accept. Teague is putting big money in the race. McCamley is putting boundless energy.
Number five is the first Congressional District Democratic race. Martin Heinrich is first on the ballot and Robert Pidcock is last. The excitement is in between, with Michelle Lujan Grisham and Rebecca Vigil-Giron duking it out on everything but the issues.
Number six, and we're getting to the mild amusement level. The GOP nominating convention put only Bernalillo County Sheriff Darren White on the ballot but state Sen. Joe Carraro submitted extra signatures. Carraro is always good for a few laughs.
Number seven isn't even a race. Rep. Tom Udall is unopposed in the Democrat contest for U.S. Senate but Steve Pearce is linking him with Heather Wilson in a campaign ad. If he wins the primary, Pearce won't have to change the ad much for the general election.
And the "huh, whoozat?" award goes to Republicans Marco Gonzales and Daniel East in the heavily-Democratic 3rd Congressional District We just don't hear much from them.
MON. 5-26-08

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



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