Inside the Capitol

Thursday, September 04, 2008

9-10 Congressional Races Liven a Little

Syndicated Columnist

SANTA FE -- New Mexico's three congressional races finally are off and running. Albuquerque's 1st Congressional District usually features the hottest races in the state but except for a couple of mishaps to Republican candidate Darren White, we've heard nothing.
The first mishap occurred when University of New Mexico basketball coach Steve Alford announced he had not agreed to pose for $1,000 photos at a White fundraiser.
Alford explained that he had agreed to stop by the reception but was unaware he was the main attraction. We might have expected Democrat Martin Heinrich to make a big deal out of the flub but he let it pass.
White's second mishap was a fall off a frisky treadmill that injured his back enough to put him in the hospital for a few days. The state Democratic Party made an issue of Sheriff White, as a public employee, having good medical coverage but questioned his commitment to giving the currently uninsured that opportunity.
Heinrich didn't take the bait on that one either. He is now up with television ads, as of a week ago. White hasn't started. Heinrich has been slated for $1.3 million of advertising money by the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee so expect his ads to be up for the duration of the campaign.
Down south, the 2nd Congressional District has provided the most excitement since the beginning of primary election activity almost a year ago.
National Democrats have pledged $1.2 million for advertising in this campaign so Democrat Harry Teague was the first House candidate out of the chute. His ads began in August and feature Teague in a speaking role and doing quite well for himself.
Republican Ed Tinsley garnered some publicity when he organized restaurants throughout the Ruidoso area to help feed those affected by the flooding in late August. Tinsley has a ranch in northern Lincoln County.
Tinsley has had to defend his residency in the 2nd Congressional District on numerous occasions since the beginning of his primary campaign. He also owns a house in a gated community outside Santa Fe. In an effort to lend Teague a hand, Santa Fe Mayor David Coss, a strong Democrat, recently recognized Tinsley as "Santa Fe Citizen of the Month."
Would you be surprised to know that Santa Fe never has made such an award before and that Tinsley wasn't invited to the presentation on Santa Fe's plaza?
Residency is always an issue when it appears someone may be living out of district because of the possibility a person may have divided loyalties. But as I understand, it isn't unlawful in congressional races to live outside one's district. I seem to remember Rep. Adam Clayton Powell being allowed to run, in the late '60s, from his new home in Bimini to retain his seat in Harlem.
New Mexico's law seems a little stricter but the only time I can remember an effort to enforce it, a Santa Fe District Court judge ruled that residency is a state of mind. Doesn't that sound like a Santa Fe decision?
The New Mexico constitution requires statewide elected officials to live in Santa Fe but many have lived in Albuquerque or various other communities without question. The one exception is the lieutenant governor who, until 1971, was not a full time government employee. That lets Lt. Gov. Diane Denish off the hook.
Even if Teague spends more money, it's difficult to bet against a Republican in the south.
And it's even harder to bet against a Democrat in the north. No matter what Ben Ray Lujan does, he's a pretty sure bet. Although the national GOP won't be able to do much in any races, it at least congratulated Darren White and Ed Tinsley for winning their primary elections. Dan East wasn't mentioned.
The independents in this race, Carol Miller and Ron Simmons, have received considerable press. Simmons now has dropped out. Miller may run East a good race.
WED, 9-10-08

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



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