Inside the Capitol

Monday, April 30, 2012

5-4 What should Hector do?

50412 Hector

SANTA FE – What should Hector do?

State Auditor Hector Balderas is a Democratic candidate for the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by retiring Sen. Jeff Bingaman. Also in the race is U.S. Rep. Martin Heinrich. Balderas is trailing Heinrich in the polls and in fundraising.
Heinrich's lead probably isn't so large that Balderas has no chance of catching him. Hector's problem is that a strong negative campaign probably is the only one way of doing it.
So does Balderas unleash the negatives? It really isn't in his character. Balderas and Heinrich, another nice guy, have pledged to keep it clean but political observers have been waiting for the dam to break.
It probably won't happen. Balderas is young and can have a bright future ahead of him. The same is true for Heinrich. Both have taken a big first step in politics. Balderas has won two statewide races for auditor and has well-established contacts in every county.
Heinrich has won two races in the first Congressional District. The second of those contests was in a year when Republicans swept to many new victories in Congress. Heinrich also is young with a great future possibly ahead of him. He also has national fundraising sources that Balderas doesn't have.
So how do they handle it? If Balderas goes negative, Heinrich may have to also and the Republican senatorial candidate, presumably Heather Wilson, has a bagful of negative comments the two Democrats have left lying on the table for her.
If Balderas loses the Democratic primary anyway, he is tarnished. But if he stays positive, is a good loser and campaigns for Heinrich in the general election, he looks good to party leaders and has a leg up for a future race, likely a run for governor in 2014.
That is a very nice scenario for Democratic leaders. They would have two fresh, young faces who could be in office for a long time. Under our governmental seniority system, it helps a state to have members of Congress with time to build seniority. Pete Domenici and Jeff Bingaman did it for 36 and 30 years respectively.
One effort that Balderas is making, as noted by Santa Fe New Mexican reporter Steve Terrell, is to emphasize that it has been a long time since New Mexico has had a Hispanic in the U.S. Senate. Sen. Joe Montoya, 36 years ago was the last.
At one time, New Mexicans thought that our state needed a Spanish-American, as they were called in those days, and an Anglo in both the U.S. House and Senate. Sens. Dennis Chavez and Clinton Anderson were highly influential at getting and keeping national labs and military bases in New Mexico.
There are plenty of young Hispanic politicians, especially in our state Legislature ready to fulfill that role but Balderas may be positioning himself well for future stardom if he plays his hand right.
New Mexico no longer is a swing state. We've said it before but it keeps popping up in the news. Barack Obama won New Mexico in 2008 by 15 points. His margin still is about the same.
He is beating presumed GOP candidate Mitt Romney 54-40 in the latest poll. If New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez is tossed in the equation as a vice-presidential running mate, the margin barely switches to 53-42.
Gov. Martinez won't do him much good even in New Mexico.
The latest CNN poll didn't even include her. Was that because she said she definitely wouldn't consider it? If so, why are all those other candidates who have said they will refuse the nomination still in the poll?
In another listing, Martinez is listed 10th out of the 10 top contenders.
Former top George W. Bush official Condoleezza Rice now is showing up as the public favorite for vice president. But she's not a Romney favorite. She would steal the limelight from him.


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