Monday, February 12, 2007

Pete Sets "Campaign Kick-Off" Amid A Swirl Of Speculation; Could There Be A Heather Hand-Off? We have The Scoop, Plus: Obama And Bill 

Sen. Domenici
Amid intense speculation about his health along the banks of both the Potomac and the Rio Grande, New Mexico GOP U.S. Senator Pete Domenici forges ahead with his re-election plans to an unprecedented seventh six year term, setting an ABQ "campaign kick-off" for February 20.

Since 1978, the last year he received a serious challenge, Pete's re-elect bids have been yawners. While no Democratic opponents have emerged to battle him in 2008, Father Time, a formidable foe for all of us, has surfaced as Domenici's chief obstacle.

But when friends and longtime supporters gather at the Hotel Albuquerque in Old Town for a $100 per person and $1000 per co-host event reception, the assessments of the legendary lawmaker's health will be set aside and the push will begin in earnest to keep him in the senate where he now ranks higher in seniority than any other NM senator in history.

The ranks of the Domenici devoted, listed on the fund-raising invitation as the co-host committee, include familiar GOP names such as former Congressman Lujan and his brother Edward; auto dealers Ken Zangara and Don Chalmers; longtime R donator Anna Muller and '02 GOP Guv candidate and contractor John Sanchez. Topping off the list as "Honorary Chair" is the woman who owes her political career to Pete--ABQ GOP Congresswoman Heather Wilson.

The senator spent nearly $5 million in his '02 re-elect in which he landlslided Dem Gloria Tristani, winning 65% of the vote. The popular Domenici will probably raise that and more this time out. He has about $260,000 in the bank.


Yes, it's a tad ghoulish, this health watch on Senator Pete, but he more than anyone realizes it's a part of the process. Political power is not a personal possession. Some of the Alligators are already speculating that if Domenici, who turns 75 in May, has any second thoughts about taking on another term, there could be a move to hand off the seat to Rep. Wilson. Their scenario would seem outlandish, if something similar had not recently occurred. Here's how it was described to me by a seasoned politico.

"Pete could secure the GOP nomination for the senate in the June 2008 primary and then withdraw. That would mean the Republican party central committee would select a candidate to replace him and that candidate could be Heather Wilson."

Of course, that's similar to what happened in the '06 GOP Governor race when Santa Fe's J.R. Damron won the June primary only to resign the ticket and be replaced by the central committee with John Dendahl. If it happened in the senate race, it could leave the Democrats unarmed if they had failed to recruit a strong candidate. It would also open up a battle royale for the ABQ congressional seat which would also feature a central committee chosen candidate.

The prospect of this conspiracy unfolding certainly sends shivers down the spine of southern NM GOP Congressman Steve Pearce whose associates have let it be known that they don't take kindly to assumptions that the Senate seat can be passed off to Heather like a family heirloom. Would voters feel the same way?

And the Democrats, now under pressure to field a candidate to start raising the millions necessary for a serious run or else cede the race to Pete, have this new factor to consider. If they don't and the unlikely becomes the likely, they could set the GOP up for the seat for even more decades.

While this sub rosa murmuring plays in the background, (Don't you love a good conspiracy!) the Old Warrior Domenici remains engaged and passionate about the job he first assumed in 1973, qualities that can serve well in the oldest battle of them all--the one against Father Time.

Sen. Obama
Whether you're D, R or Green, the emergence of Barack Obama is an exciting political event. It's his eloquence that grabs you by the collar. He announced his Prez candidacy over the weekend during which he neatly summed up the major issues facing the USA:

"All of us know what those challenges are today--a war with no end, a dependence on oil that threatens our future, schools where too many children aren't learning, and families struggling paycheck to paycheck despite working as hard as they can. We know the challenges. We've heard them. We've talked about them for years."

Before Obama announced, Big Bill was out with a news release touting a "political insiders" poll from the National Journal as the "long-shot candidate with the most potential to emerge as a serious contender." One wonders, observed the New Mexican's Steve Terrell, if Big Bill wouldn't prefer the "insiders" to pick the nominee, an oblique reference to his low-standings in the public opinion polls.

As for Obama, he has already "emerged." The chattering classes may be saying he's peaked; that he's a comet trailing off quick. Don't believe it, and don't say we didn't tell you.


Leave it to the inimitable former GOP NM Governor Dave Cargo to contribute this pithy comment on the Big Bill Prez run and the press coverage it has received thus far in the Guv's home state: "I feel like I'm reading the obituaries. There's nothing critical!"

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