Inside the Capitol

Thursday, November 04, 2010

11-8 This May Have Been Wilson's Year

Syndicated Columnist
SANTA FE -- Exactly two years ago, we told you the Republican Party would not die despite many pundit predictions to the contrary. Some of those predictions by prestigious news organizations continued for over a year.
We're here to tell you once more that the "shellacking" national Democrats just received does not signal an upcoming death for that party either.
It doesn't work that way. Both parties have strong internal structures that don't break down because of one loss. Heck, some people even say the New Mexico Lobos and Dallas Cowboys will be back. But don't bet on it just yet. Democrats will be back sooner.
One item both parties may need to work on is the national consultants who come out to help candidates. Consultants for both gubernatorial candidates were widely panned for not knowing New Mexicans.
During the past few months, Jeanette and I have had the opportunity to travel to some of our neighboring states and heard the same political ads as we did at home. Only the names were changed.
These guys get paid a ton of money but they're just using a national template. Diane Denish wasn't the only one "fighting for families." So was every major Democratic candidate in every state we visited.
And all Republican candidates wanted "our government back." Interestingly, that stock phrase changed from wanting their "country" back a few months ago. At least Republicans have some flexibility.
Denish's consultants came in for the most criticism, probably because she lost -- and by a significant margin. It was thought that she helped Bill Richardson in eastern New Mexico. In their first election, he won Lea County, where Denish grew up, by one vote. He bragged often about that accomplishment.
Four years later, they carried every county but Catron. Richardson's strength in the Southeast was again credited to Denish. So it is little wonder that despite Denish's lack of involvement in Richardson's administration, the two were very much tied together when it benefited Richardson.
And that likely hurt Denish most. This year, she only won seven of 32 counties, including losing Lea County by a 3-1 margin. It just wasn't her year.
But this might have been the year for either Steve Pearce or Heather Wilson. Both gave up their U.S. House seats to run for the U.S. Senate after Sen. Pete Domenici's retirement two years ago.
After failing in that bid, both were considered the top Republican gubernatorial prospects for this year. The only problem was that Lt. Gov. Denish looked pretty unbeatable at the time. She already had a bankroll of $2 million and the GOP was in shambles.
Pearce decided early to run for his former U.S. House seat but Wilson delayed a decision for months. When she finally decided not to run, she was criticized by GOP leaders for delaying the campaigns of a group of virtually unknown candidates who needed more time to introduce themselves to voters.
As it turned out, one of those unknown candidates waltzed to a rather easy victory.
Wilson says her political career isn't over. If the GOP is still looking strong a year from now, might she challenge Sen. Jeff Bingaman? Or might Sen. Bingaman, who has hinted at retirement previously, decide to hang up his running shoes? He doesn't need the work.
Last Tuesday's election results signaled some strong showings by several candidates who just may be considering a future candidacy. Republican Jon Barela threw a scare into 1st Congressional District Rep. Martin Heinrich.
In fact, all Republicans ran strong statewide races. The amount of advertising from attorney general candidate Matt Chandler, of Clovis, signals his interest in future tries. His father, former state Sen. Caleb Chandler, has taught him well.
On the Democratic side, Gary King and Patricia Madrid are always looking. And state auditor Hector Balderas is frequently mentioned.
MON, 11-8-10

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



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