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Monday, July 17, 2006

The Heat is On: Political Temp Rises As Heather Hits & Dendahl Slips; You're On The Frontlines Of A Sizzlin' Summer Blog 

What ever happened to the Dog Days of Summer when everyone lolled in hammocks and cooled their toes at the local swimming hole? Looks like they have gone the way of typewriters and eight track tapes as Campaign 06' heats up as hot as your car's sun-drenched interior. And it's not just here. World events are spinning crazily, with out-of-control pump prices, Middle East war, an Iraq civil war and North Korea joining the party. It makes you want to be a kid again selling lemonade for a nickel a shot.

Not that anyone didn't expect the campaign to devolve into the usual hyper-negativity, but they could have given us reason to hope. Not to be. Friday night ABQ GOP Congresswoman Heather Wilson signaled the all-out war to come against Dem challenger Patricia Madrid as she launched the first negative TV of the election season. The content was utterly predictable. The timing, a mild surprise.

Reciting copy from a couple of ABQ Journal editorials, the spot accuses the attorney general of having "let us down" and that she "ignored corruption for years," as it prominently mentions the infamous case of ex-Treasurer Robert Vigil.

There is a method to the mid-summer madness, say the never-on-vacation and always salivating Alligators.

"Wilson is framing this race and forcing Patsy to start spending money to defend herself. She is saying the campaign starts when I say it starts. But it also says she is not above the 50% mark and, as with her past races, she needs to work to seal the deal," weighed in a Dem Gator.

And while Madrid, to the consternation of some supporters, has done no paid advertising, she will now.

"Patricia Madrid has never shied away from a fight and she won't this time," telegraphed a campaign operative to the Heatherites.

THE HEAT OF THE DAY


For now, the state Democratic Party is carrying the campaign water. "Wilson has turned the other cheek and stayed silent as the culture of corruption and cronyism has flourished in our nation's capitol, accepting campaign contributions from indicted and convicted Republicans...," scored the D's.

Wilson's relatively mild ethics hit is sure to be followed by more with the same theme and in more detail. By going early, she gets a heads-up on how Patsy plans to handle the hot potato and, as our Gator noted, forces her to spend campaign money she may not want to. Heather also comes with the ethics charges before possible federal indictments concerning the construction of Bernalillo county courthouses, an prospective event that could further supersize the ethics issue.

But Heather's hit is not without risk. It is a matter of opinion, not fact, that Madrid should have been more aggressive on the ethics front. And the editorial page Heather cites as her Bible will soon endorse her candidacy. Also, Heather's own numbers may take a dip for going negative and as the counterpunches are delivered.

The intriguing question is this: What if the ethics issue fizzles? If Madrid is not taken down by it, what can they take her down with? The pickings look slim. But that's later. First, Madrid must jump the hurdle the early-racing Wilson has erected. Stay tuned.

BIG MONEY FOR MADRID

Madrid may be on defense this week. But don't look for this campaign to be a one way street. Top media sources tell me that the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has purchased over a million dollars of TV (a half million on KOB-TV alone) and it will start in mid-September. I am sure they will use all that time just to say nice things about Patsy and nothing bad about Heather. Sure, and Kim Jong-Il isn't crazy. It's another good reason Heather has for her early start.

DENDAHL'S HEAT STROKE


While Heather is out of the gate, her fellow Republican, GOP Guv candidate John Dendahl, appears to need some political veterinarians. Foot-in the-mouth disease is the culprit and it's a whopper. He took to the airwaves of ABQ's 770 KKOB-AM late last week and accused the Democratic Legislature of going soft on repeat DWI offenders because most of the offenders and many of the lawmakers are Hispanic.

Not what the doctor ordered, John. And it had the Big Bill camp jumping on it like a free jet ride from a corporate donor.

"Dendahl has a history of sticking his foot into his mouth by making insensitive comments and alienating whole classes of people," blasted campaign honcho Dave Contarino.

The Dendahl radio misstep came on the heels of news that his stepson had been busted for cocaine possession, resurrecting the issue of Dendahl's past advocacy of drug legalization. When it rains, it pours. Forget the Monsoon. This was a Dendahl Deluge.

MY BOTTOM LINES

The radio incident created a sense of unease that the "race card" is going to be a mainstay of this campaign. Not good for the future of our politics. One Gator asked why the Guv could not have left the Dendahl rebuttal to Hispanic organizations, rather than getting directly involved. They could have if they were not obsessed with going over the 60% mark. But the prospect of rallying the Dem Hispanic base was apparently too tempting.

The Governor is still the Governor, not just a political candidate. With a huge lead, he has the luxury (and the responsibility?) to keep the temperature from getting too high when his less experienced opponent can't bite his tongue or steers the debate toward racial combat. But self-restraint isn't the way of the world these days, including our little corner of it.

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(c)NM POLITICS WITH JOE MONAHAN 2006
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