Inside the Capitol

Sunday, June 21, 2009

6-26 GOP Will Give Rep. Heinrich a Battle

Syndicated Columnist
SANTA FE -- The survey done for Lt. Gov. Diane Denish showing her demolishing former Reps. Heather Wilson and Steve Pearce in the gubernatorial race wasn't the only interesting political maneuver last week.
Albuquerque Republican Jon Barela has announced his candidacy for the 1st Congressional District seat currently held by Rep. Martin Heinrich.
Also present for Barela's announcement was Robert Aragon, a Democratic ward chairman and state central committee member who enthusiastically endorsed Barela.
Such surprises aren't new for Aragon. In fact, they're not even surprises anymore. He has sided with Republicans anytime he felt it might be to his advantage.
The surprise was that Barela evidently figures that Aragon's endorsement will be to his advantage. The chances appear good that Barela will face Republican opposition in next year's primary election.
Funeral home owner Kevin Daniels is said to be about ready to get into that GOP race, in which he is expected to be a strong candidate. Might Barela's warm relationship with Aragon be fodder for Daniels to use in strong Republican areas?
Barela obviously wants to show he can attract Democrat votes in the general election. But is this the time to demonstrate that? The argument didn't work for former U.S. Rep. Heather Wilson in her Senate primary election battle with conservative Steve Pearce last year.
There appear to be some ties between Barela and Wilson. Barela has been endorsed by Bernalillo County Sheriff Darren White who also is a supporter of Wilson. And Barela is using the campaign manager White used in his unsuccessful contest with U.S. Rep. Martin Heinrich last year.
Blogger Joe Monahan says if Kevin Daniels does get in the GOP congressional primary, it will be another face-off between the two party factions still battling for power within the GOP.
If Barela makes it through the primary election, it isn't clear how many Democrats Aragon can attract for him in the general election. Aragon's support of Darren White last year didn't prevent a trouncing by Martin Heinrich. Aragon also supported Sen. John McCain.
Blogger Heath Haussamen quotes Aragon as saying he is a lifelong Democrat but always puts New Mexico first. Actually Aragon always puts himself first. Anyone who watched him while he was a state legislator or a regent of Eastern New Mexico University knows that.
Aragon's tenure in both positions was not lengthy. His actions in the state Legislature were such that he was beaten twice as an incumbent. He never was the powerhouse that his first cousin Manny Aragon was.
Barela held his news conference in Albuquerque's South Valley, saying that his deep roots in the area will help him attract the crossover votes necessary to beat Heinrich, whom he painted as a liberal.
Heinrich may be a liberal but his congressional voting record doesn't necessarily show it. He has voted against his party on some economic and budget issues and on gun control.
He may have gotten passes from party leaders on those votes since his district can swing either way. He also may have gotten party help when the Armed Services Committee, on which he serves, voted to keep the 1,000 jobs associated with the 150th Air National Guard unit at Albuquerque's Kirtland Air Force Base.
The effort to keep the "Tacos" still has a long way to go but the final decision could have much to do with whether Heinrich keeps his seat. Probably a lot more than an endorsement by Bobby Aragon.
* * *
Last month, I wrote about Gov. Bill Richardson being dubbed the "king of pocket vetoes." I observed that former Gov. Ed Mechem was no slouch in that field either. Pocket vetoes occur when a governor takes no action on a bill. I mentioned that some people thought Big Ed might have just been too lazy to go through all the bills sent him.
Mechem's daughter, Martha Vigil of Espanola, called recently to note that Gov. Mechem had four employees compared to Gov. Richardson's 40-some employees.
FRI, 6-26-09

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



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