Thursday, October 11, 2007
Darren's Debut: Iraq Hangs In Air As Probable GOP Nominee Announces, Plus: Updating Pearce's Senate Power Play, And: Even More From NM's Blog
GOP Bernalillo County Sheriff Darren White, the prohibitive favorite to take the 2008 GOP nomination for the ABQ congressional seat, made progress toward sealing the deal when he made it official Wednesday, but he also handed the Democrats a gift horse when he opined on the unpopular and no-end-in-sight Iraq war, prompting insiders to predict a hard-fought battle for the chair being vacated by Heather Wilson who is seeking the senate seat Pete Domenici is retiring from,.
Here is the money graph that had the D's breathing a sigh of relief, even as they worried about his overal appeal:
"Unfortunately, mistakes have been made by those in Washington. And the Iraqi government has not stepped up like they need to. They must be pushed harder...We all want to bring our troops home. And I will work to do just that. But our troops must return in victory, because Al Qaeda must be denied a sanctuary in Iraq. We can't give terrorists a safe haven to launch attacks against America."
It was White's call for "victory" in a war that polling shows most Americans believe can't be won that Dem consultants will seize upon as they work to distract voters from the crime and public safety issues that break in White's favor.
"He had the opportunity to take a more moderate stance--to call for bringing the troops home in a timely manner. Something along the lines of Senator Domenici's July statement, but when he called for victory that was right-wing boilerplate. The Democrats will work to hang Bush and the war around Darren's neck, and his initial statement improved their chances of doing so," offered one of our Alligators with long congressional experience.
State D's didn't wait long to start the branding. After White's remarks at the ABQ Marriott, party chairman Brian Colón unloaded:
"Darren White served as the 2004 Bernalillo County Chairman for the Bush-Cheney reelection Campaign...White carried water for an administration that has spent half-a-trillion dollars fighting an endless civil war in Iraq that has led to the deaths of 3,800 brave American soldiers. The people of New Mexico have had enough of the failures of the Bush-Cheney Administration and will reject this Bush-Cheney insider..."
The "V" word is inflammatory in the moderate and Democratic dominated ABQ District because it gives no indication of when the war will end. The issue nearly cost R Heather Wilson the seat in '06, until Patricia Madrid's last minute campaign flub.
THE WHITE FILE
White, a native of New York, has been in NM law enforcement for 20 years, starting with the ABQ police department and becoming sheriff in 2002. He started out as a member of the Houston police department and also held down a job as an ABQ TV news reporter. In addition, he is an Army veteran, a strong selling point in the district. He has a reputation for integrity, has an affable personality, is a hard worker and knows how to handle the media.
White entered the public consciousness of most New Mexicans when he was named head of the NM Department of Public Safety by GOP Governor Johnson, but later resigned when Johnson advocated the legalization of drugs.
White cited the drug controversy which tore the Republican Party apart, saying his resignation supports his reputation as a man of integrity.
He also mentioned the word "independent" several times, as Heather Wilson often does, in an effort to appeal to Democrats as well as Republicans in his own party who are disaffected. Some of them say White believe he has been anointed by the party leadership, a particular sore point with State Rep. Janice Arnold-Jones who has toyed with getting in the race and says Republicans should not be denied a choice.
White's management of the sheriff's department will also be a focus of the anti-White forces, as well as the burgeoning crime rate in the county. There is also a psychological hurdle for Sheriff White if he makes it to the fall classic. Will voters go for promoting a sheriff, a relatively low-elected office, to the much higher terrain occupied by a congressman? And can White articulate his stands on a wide range of issues, not just crime and punishment? We shall see.
But for now formidable and firm opposition to White's nomination has not yet surfaced. Arnold-Jones and State Senator Mark Boitano are both looking at the race, but money is a major obstacle. State Senator Joe Carraro is circulating word that he may get in the race. But White has the support of the GOP establishment who have been positioning him for this moment.
Still, Carraro hit White for his Iraq stance Wednesday saying Republicans should be looking for leaders who can get America out of Iraq. "Just what is meant by victory? What exactly is that? We need a diplomatic plan to end this war and get our troops home," the ABQ West side senator argued.
While the R's have held the ABQ seat since its creation in 1968, it is not a birthright. With the state of the nation being what it is the local lawman who hopes to advance is already finding that enforcing law and order is much more black and white than the nuances involved in the tricky and treacherous politics of New Mexico's First Congressional District.
THE DEMS DANCE
While White was tossing the proverbial hat into the ring, former Big Bill cabinet secretary Michelle Lujan Grisham was preparing to throw her bonnet into the Democratic race. She confirmed our Alligator report from last week that she will announce her candidacy for the ABQ seat today, joining City Councilor Martin Heinrich and attorney Jon Adams on the campaign trail. State Treasurer James B. Lewis is also about to make a final decision. 2006 Dem standard-bearer Patsy Madrid also will be heard from. After all that's done we will have the main field, unless we get a wealthy businessman or woman to come forward.
Political newcomer Lujan Grisham, an attorney, will be challenged to raise enough money to stay in the race before the mid-March pre-primary convention. Heinrich has raised about $300,000. She said former state Dem Party chairman John Wertheim, himself a one time congressional candidate, will be one of the co-chairs of her money committee. Wertheim's wife, Bianca, is now working for the ABQ Mayor Chavez administration.
ABQ Dem State Rep, Al Park called in Wednesday to say he has decided not to get in the congressional battle because of "family considerations." In other words, there may be some planning for some "little Al's." It also means Park gets to do analysis on KANW-FM with us on Primary Election Night '08. With that kind of future, who needs a lousy seat in the US House of Representatives?
Unlike the R nomination race, the Dem one is still too much of a jumble to designate front runners. Let's wait until all those sombreros are in the ring.
THE TORTURE CHAMBER
Welcome to Steve Pearce's torture chamber. We're only half kidding. The decision by the southern NM GOP congressman to form an exploratory committee to consider his position for the GOP nod for the open US Senate seat has candidate Heather Wilson wondering just how long this Pearce power play is going to last. We can't say, but we can tell you about the latest scenario.
Top political minds in Washington and elsewhere inform us that Pearce might consider keeping that committee going for a long time--like all the way to January when the first round of Dem presidential primaries are held. Why? Because then Pearce could see how Big Bill is faring and get a better fix on whether the NM Governor will make a run for the seat being left vacant by the retirement of GOP Senator Domenici .
If Bill turns out to have presidential staying power and the NM senate race falls by the wayside, that could pave the path for a Steve primary challenge of Heather. If Bill goes south in Iowa and New Hampshire reviving the chance he would run for senate, Pearce could say, "knock yourself out, Heather, it's all yours." He would then seek reelection to his southern NM House seat.
MORE PLAYING WITH PEARCE
Meantime, Pearce is going to raise money so he can do some senatorial exploring things like conducting polls and consulting consultants. Political operative Josh Giese, however, corrects some information we originally put up about that exploratory committee.
"Pearce has to aggregate the contributions from individuals to each of the committees--his exploratory and his House committee. Any donations in excess of $2,300 would have to be refunded. If that wasn't the case, every U.S. House candidate in the country would also run for senate each year and drop out."
As for Heather she is hitting the phones--heavy. But my insiders say some R's are holding back on promising support and money until they figure out where this thing is going. Heather is in more of a money fix than Pearce because if push comes to shove the multimillionaire could tap his own bank account, especially if he knows Big Bill is not going to play.
This could get gruesome. Pearce holding up the flow of money to Heather? That's not torture, that's political hell. But we wouldn't take it too seriously. Our gal Heather has shown she can talk the green off a leaf.
So, Will Pearce run? The above scenario keeping that committee alive is quite clever, if he can stand the pressure to stop torturing Heather. An Alligator wondered aloud Wednesday whether Pearce hasn't already heard from President Bush or VP Cheney whose Republican National Committee is known to be in Heather's corner. We wonder too.
Former political operative Tom Carroll, now a honcho with DW Turner PR in ABQ, called in from New York City to tell us of the news that he and Doug Turner have formed an investors group to ponder a purchase of the ABQ Tribune. The newspaper announced it will be going out of business soon unless a buyer is found. The afternoon daily's circulation has plunged to around 10,000.
Carroll and Turner are both Republicans. Would they start a local version of the conservative Washington Times, and if it doesn't work out, maybe the investor group could finance a congressional run by the thirtysomething Turner? If they like gambling, either option would get the adrenaline pumping.
THE BOTTOM LINES
Some of our emailers are crying in their beer that we haven't mentioned controversial State Rep. Dan Foley of Roswell as a possible GOP contender for Pearce's congressional seat if Pearce were to give it up to run for senate. The beer is now tear free: Foley for Congress! Now it's really getting wild...
This is the home of the exclusives and the home of New Mexico politics. Thanks to Mark Bralley for the photos. I’m Joe Monahan reporting from Albuquerque..Email your news and comments
(c)NM POLITICS WITH JOE MONAHAN 2007
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