Thursday, July 13, 2006

On The Wilson Watch; We Eye Her TV Debut; See It Here, Plus: What Is She Really Saying? And: Manny Vs. The Feds; A Show Soon To Open? 

Rep. Wilson
We said we would learn where ABQ GOP Congresswoman Heather Wilson thought her race stood with Dem challenger Patricia Madrid when she aired her first TV ad. And we have. Her 30 second Campaign 06' opener debuted Wednesday, heavy with verbal references to her "independence" and visual emphasis of Heather connecting with Hispanic males.

The analysts were all over it, pointing out that Hispanic men have been a source of comfort for the U.S. Rep in her majority Dem district; that they have shown signs of coolness to Madrid and that the ad is aimed at keeping a fair share of them in the Heather camp. By doing so, she prevents Madrid from consolidating the Hispanic vote and breaking away.

The ad also takes on the current climate of corruption, if only subtly. "Heather Wilson: independent, honest, effective," narrates a soothing baritone announcer.

As for her self-touted independence, no surprise there. It has had a featured role in all her campaigns since 98' and especially the past year as she has cast several critical votes with the D's to avoid being pigeonholed as a hard-right, Bush-backing R in the moderate ABQ district.

"Sometimes I am working with people who are in my party; sometimes they are not in my party, but that's OK. People have sent us there to get things done on problems that matter to them....New Mexicans are independent people. They want somebody to stand up for them. They want somebody to fight for New Mexico," declares Wilson.

She has several wardrobe changes in the brief spot, opening and closing in a bright fuschia shirt. She takes her close-ups well and narrates her script with no signs of the defensiveness that she sometimes brings to the table.

NM Dem Party chair John Wertheim, himself a onetime candidate for the ABQ congressional seat, was quick with the counter spin.

"She is not fighting for us; she’s fighting to distract New Mexicans from her record of rubber stamping the Republican special interest agenda. Her early ads highlight a fear that New Mexicans will reject her for losing sight of our values,” argued the chairman.


Wilson will have the airwaves to herself for the rest of the month (if you don't count Big Bill's big ad buy) and that can't hurt. She gets a chance to frame her candidacy without the worry of having Patsy counterpunching as the Madrid campaign gives no signs of going up early as Heather has.

We are not privy to Heather's June poll, but one can assume that she is not trailing as she came with a positive, soft ad. She is addressing potential vulnerabilites, that if taken advantage of by Madrid, could cost her the seat.

The American flag makes a more than casual appearance in the ad, perhaps sending a message to conservative R's that she is also still one of them. (Hey, not that the libs are flag-burners.)

Being many things to many voters is never easy. In addition, the Wilson personality, lacking the warmth and connecting quality (at least in the media) of predecessors Manuel Lujan and Steve Schiff, forces her every two years to make her case. Also, as a female congressperson some analysts believe she is scrutinized more, especially by male voters, keeping her on pins and needles at the start of all her efforts.

Still, this is a proven performer who has overcome initial voter hesitancy time and again. Her double digit margins of victory attest to her ability to start low and finish high.


Wilson's opening spot reflects her political character; it's studiously done, doesn't have much flash and pizzazz and exudes a certain confidence, but keeps in check any of the mild arrogance that has occasionally surfaced in her public life.

Unlike the rest of the state's congressional delegation, Wilson is forced to walk an ideological tight rope and it has scented her with a hint of inauthenticity. Where does she really stand? What does she truly believe in? It is these questions that the Democrats and Madrid will pose as they work to define her as too conservative and paint her as a pretender to the throne.

Heather's decision to go up on TV earlier than ever could, as the Dems argue, signal a "scared" Heather. If so, isn't it fair to ask, "Where's the opposition?" If Heather is freaked out over bad poll numbers, why are they not out there driving the stake through her heart?

No one hands you the power of the United States government, you have to take it. Wilson has come early to say she is ready to take it. Are the Democrats?


Thanks to some solid journalism from the ABQ Tribune, the trials and travails of NM Highlands University President Manny Aragon are brought into better focus as the saga over his future at the school plays out in the white-hot heat of campus controversy. Yes, the Feds confirm that a grand jury is looking into the construction of courthouses in Bernalillo county and what role, if any, the former senate powerhouse played. Of course, that has nothing to do with his loss of political support among the school's regents. Right. And Hatch chile is really mild.

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