Inside the Capitol

Saturday, August 09, 2008

8-13 Can NM Elect an Unwavering Conservative?

Syndicated Columnist
SANTA FE -- Not only are New Mexico voters presented with a completely new slate of candidates for federal offices this year, we will have the opportunity to express our feelings about some devoted liberals and conservatives.
In our U.S. Senate contest, Rep. Steve Pearce assures us he is an unwavering conservative and proud of it. He says we can always count on him to vote conservative.
That kind of talk gets a candidate elected in the 2nd Congressional District, which Pearce currently represents. And his victory over moderate Rep. Heather Wilson in the June primary is an indication that a steadfast conservative also can win a statewide Republican primary.
But can a true blue conservative win a statewide general election? That is still to be determined. Republicans who win statewide races for major offices in New Mexico tend to be moderates.
Sen. Pete Domenici calls himself a conservative and has called his Democrat opponents liberals. But New Mexicans have always known from Pete's voting record that he is a moderate.
Back when Pete was chairman of the Albuquerque City Commission, a nonpartisan office, state Democratic officials even tried to recruit him to their side.
Likewise, Republican governors Gary Johnson, Garrey Carruthers and Dave Cargo were not hard line conservatives. Johnson called himself philosophically a libertarian. Many Republicans called Cargo a liberal.
Pearce's Democratic opponent, Rep. Tom Udall, has about as liberal a voting record in Congress as Pearce's is conservative. But Udall makes no promises about being an unwavering liberal if elected to the U.S. Senate.
Pearce calls Udall a liberal but then he called his primary opponent, Rep. Heather Wilson, a liberal also. Might that mean that Republicans who voted for Wilson in the primary might want to take a look at Udall?
Wilson's 1st Congressional District is another contest that it takes a moderate Republican to win. Wilson had a very moderate record as did her predecessor Rep. Steve Schiff and his predecessor Manuel Lujan.
The word I'm getting out of Albuquerque is that Republican Sheriff Darren White is being advised that he should moderate his views in his quest to succeed Rep. Heather Wilson in the 1st Congressional District.
But some are wondering whether White will be willing to do that. We haven't heard much from him yet to enable an assessment of his political stance. White has been busy trying to raise money.
Sen. Domenici has sent out a fundraising letter for him and one for Senate candidate Steve Pearce, who is lagging behind Rep. Udall in fundraising.
One piece of good news for White is that the injury to his back he suffered while falling off a treadmill will not require surgery. The injury put him in the hospital for a week but surgery would have put him out of commission for another month.
In the 2nd Congressional District, both Republican Ed Tinsley and Democrat Harry Teague have good conservative credentials but neither seem inclined to pledge to never vote otherwise.
Teague was by far the more conservative candidate in the Democratic primary and received much support from top Democratic officials.
It appears the national Democratic strategy is going to be to find and support conservative Democrats in districts normally won by Republicans. That strategy worked well in 2006, when Democrats took both houses of Congress from the GOP.
Illinois Rep. Raum Emanuel. The architect of the 2006 House Democratic victories was in the state this past week visiting the Democratic candidates in all three of New Mexico's congressional districts.
Of course, it isn't necessary to find a conservative to run in the 3rd Congressional District. It is about as liberal as the 2nd district is conservative. It is the 1st Congressional District that decides the balance and makes New Mexico a very purple state overall.
WED, 8-13-08

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



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