Inside the Capitol

Sunday, July 03, 2011

7-8 Who is conservative enough?

Syndicated Columnist
SANTA FE -- Three years ago, four of our five-member congressional delegation gave up their seats to retirement or a run for higher office.
An 80 percent turnover in any state's congressional delegation is most unusual. It is almost a total loss of seniority. Sen. Jeff Bingaman, with his 26 years of experience was the only seniority the delegation had
Four years later, New Mexico will lose Bingaman's seniority and that of House member Martin Heinrich who is running for Bingaman's open Senate seat. .That will put New Mexico even farther down the seniority ladder.
But it will give us two very exciting congressional races in both the primary and general elections.
The U.S. Senate race features a Republican battle between former U.S. Rep. Heather Wilson and Lt. Gov. John Sanchez. Also in the race are Las Cruces Businessman Greg Sowards and William English of Alamogordo.
The biggest point of contention will be whether Wilson is conservative enough to win the primary and whether Sanchez really is as conservative as he says he is.
Wilson's 10-year record in Congress and Sanchez's two years in the state Legislature indicate they both are somewhat moderate, with Sanchez being the more moderate of the two.
National conservative leaders say they will have a strong conservative in the race. But they haven't named one yet. Meanwhile Sowards is standing on the sideline yelling for attention to his strictly conservative stands.
Also in Sowards' favor is the amount of personal money he already has been willing to put into his campaign. If the national GOP sees a chance to pick up a senate seat in New Mexico from the Democrats, it won't have difficulty finding whatever money it takes to make it happen.
So Sowards' money isn't that big a factor but his unwavering conservatism could weigh heavily in his favor. For my money, however, Republicans would rather see another woman or minority in the U.S. Senate to help change their image as a white man's party.
The Democratic race for the U.S. Senate has two major contenders in U.S. Rep. Martin Heinrich and state Auditor Hector Balderas. Both are running hard but they aren't sniping at each other.
Balderas' only difficulty has been a feud with Attorney General Gary King over production of some records. Balderas says the matter is settled. King says it isn't settled until he says so.
King yearns for higher office when his term ends in 2014 but he has been in increasingly hot water lately and hasn't handled it particularly well. He needs better advice.
The race for the Albuquerque U.S. House seat being vacated by Rep. Martin Heinrich still is waiting for its full complement of candidates.
Democrat Eric Griego jumped in early and has been picking up numerous endorsements. He is a state senator and former Albuquerque city councilor.
Former Albuquerque Mayor Martin Chavez recently declared. Since he lost his bid for a fourth mayoral term, he has been heading an international nonprofit that works with local governments for environmental sustainability.
Chavez and Griego have a history of clashing from their mayor-city councilor days. Griego unsuccessfully challenged Chavez for mayor in 2005. Expect sparks to fly.
But the race will get more contestants. We could see Bernalillo County Commissioner Michelle Lujan Grisham, state Treasurer James Lewis, federal officeholder Terry Brunner or former Sandia Pueblo Gov. Stuart Paisano get in on the Democratic side.
Albuquerque City Councilor Dan Lewis is the only declared candidate on the Republican side. Other possibilities include state Economic Development Director Jon Barela and former state Rep. Janice Arnold-Jones.
FRI, 7-8-11

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



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