Inside the Capitol

Thursday, May 29, 2008

6-02 2008 Primary Election Wrap up

Syndicated Columnist
SANTA FE -- Who will be tomorrow's big winners? That's right, primary election time is here. New Mexicans have their widest choice of congressional candidates ever. So don't blow the opportunity to have your say in this one.
Four months of intensive campaigning comes to an end tomorrow. That also means a temporary cease fire in the bombardment of television ads for and against the many candidates. But who's going to win? Herewith are some observations.
In the U.S. Senate primary, Democrat Tom Udall is unopposed but you wouldn't know it from watching TV. Republican Senate candidate Steve Pearce has been running against both his primary opponent Heather Wilson and Udall.
Pearce has been tying them together in his TV ads. And for his part, Udall has been running TV spots even though he is unopposed.
Pearce says Wilson isn't conservative enough for New Mexicans to send to Washington. Wilson says Pearce is too conservative for New Mexicans to elect to Congress.
Wilson says if Pearce wins the primary, Udall will beat him in the general because the only Republicans who ever win statewide office in New Mexico are moderates. Pearce is running ahead by a few points in the few polls that have been taken.
In the 1st Congressional District, Bernalillo County Sheriff Darren White figured he had a safe enough lead that he chose not to spend money on TV ads for the primary. White already has the GOP endorsement even though parties don't normally do that in primary races. He also has Sen. Domenici's endorsement.
On the Democrat side, Martin Heinrich has it sewed up. Former Secretary of State Rebecca Vigil-Giron thought she might be able to use her name recognition to overtake Heinrich but it didn't work.
Part of her problem was getting into the race too late. Her main difficulty, however, was that she couldn't raise enough money to buy even one TV spot. This, after being on TV almost constantly in 2006 encouraging voters to the polls. But that was taxpayer money.
The 2nd Congressional District still is way up in the air. The GOP preprimary nominating convention put Aubrey Dunn, Jr. at the top of the ballot but Ed Tinsley and Monty Newman are pushing him hard in a contest to get the most commercials on the air.
On the Democrat side, Bill McCamley and Harry Teague are fighting it out. Teague's personal wealth has given him a big edge in TV time, but McCamley's energy has kept him in the race.
I had picked McCamley as the surprise winner of the primary season but a late dump of $80,000 more from Teague's pocket and a surprise endorsement by Gov. Bill Richardson tilts the race back to Teague.
In the 3rd Congressional District, Democrat Ben Ray Lujan has a somewhat comfortable lead Don Wiviott, who has now put $1.3 million of his own money into the campaign.
On the Republican side, former Domenici aide Marco Gonzales should win easily over Rio Rancho contractor Daniel East.
Some of our best financed candidates haven't given us much opportunity to get to know them. Aubrey Dunn, Jr. and Harry Teague, in the 2nd Congressional District, have not have not appeared on their television commercials except for the required disclosure that they approved the message.
Don Wiviott, in the 3rd Congressional District, makes some appearances on his ads but has had scheduling conflicts preventing him from appearing at joint forums of all candidates in the race.
One race missing from this June 3 primary is the Democratic presidential contest. New Mexico Democrats chose to move it up four months to the first Tuesday in February so they could attract more visibility.
But they wound up getting lost in a super-duper primary and missing the chance to be one of the crucial states to decide the outcome between Sens. Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton. The absence of the presidential race on the ballot will considerably reduce Democratic turnout.
MON. 6-02-08

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



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