Monday, October 15, 2007

For The Love Of Cheney; First Skirmish In GOP Senate Positioning, Pearce Camp Answers Heather, Plus: Dems Still Unhappy With Senate Situation: 

Pearce & Cheney
The crazy quilt patterns of politics are no better illustrated than by the wooing of Vice-President Dick Cheney by NM US Reps Heather Wilson and Steve Pearce. Cheney, polling below cellar level, can barely find a welcome mat in his home state of Wyoming, but here in our Enchanted Land a little tussle has actually broken out between Heather and Steve over winning Cheney's love.

Heather appeared to launch a preemptive strike against Pearce for the small, but heavy voting contingent of NM R's who still carry the flame for the Veep by announcing Cheney would be doing a D.C. fundraiser for her. That left the impression that Cheney was endorsing her senate bid. Not so.

Pearce is still weighing whether to get in the race for the 2008 GOP senate nomination while Heather is already in. It turns out that the Cheney fundraiser was set up for Heather's US House re-election bid and well before she became a senate candidate. That was not stated when the "news" was first leaked.

After the report attributed to a "knowledgable source" hit the streets, Heather later explained to the AP that she had asked Cheney if he would still appear at the fundraiser now that she is seeking the Domenici senate seat. He agreed, but did not issue a public endorsement.

Now, sources close to the Pearce camp say they have been assured that the White House will take part in an event for their man featuring the Veep, or maybe even the Prez, thereby leveling the playing field, if there is going to be any playing between our two GOP reps.

Whether the event Cheney does for Pearce will be for a senate run or for his House re-elect is unclear as Steve remains undecided on whether to join Heather in the nomination battle, but this first tussle between the two highlights what's to come if we do have a contested senate primary.


The Cheney tug-of-war also showcases the advantage Heather currently has as the only announced candidate. Pearce is in a defensive posture until he makes a decision. Of course, the irony is lost on no one that self-described "moderate" Republican Heather wants to embrace arch-conservative Cheney. Politics makes strange bedfellows indeed.

Heather's critics say she has been acting a bit spastic. They accuse her of dancing on Senator Domenici's political grave by holding her senate announcement only 24 hours after he announced he would retire, and then launching a missile over the Cheney deal.

After talking with the polling mavens one can understand why Heather is at least nervous, if not spastic. In a head-to-head GOP senate contest with Pearce, she has to worry about an impassioned turnout among southern and eastside conservatives that could offset her advantage in ABQ. Voter motivation is key in primaries and those with the strongest views tend to turn out in the strongest numbers.

Pearce simply appeals more to hard-core conservative Republicans than Wilson because there's no ifs, ands or buts about his orthodoxy. However, to survive in her moderate ABQ district, Heather has had to become a hybrid. Half the time she runs on conservative fuel; the other half she uses "moderate" petrol to keep her campaign car moving.

The effort by Wilson's campaign--or an unauthorized zealous insider--to leave the impression that conservative Cheney was immediately endorsing her candidacy grew out of her perplexing problem with hard-right conservatives. The way the incident came about is also a reminder that it won't only be issues that decide a contested GOP senate primary, but also the character of the candidates and the conduct of their respective campaigns.

Pat Lyons
The threat of a possible third GOP senate candidate---state Land Commissioner Lyons--drew intense interest when he floated the idea because he could draw some of those conservative R's from Pearce, giving Heather a boost. But Lyons' entry is unlikely, according to insiders. Among the roadblocks: Could he muster 20% of the March pre-primary convention vote needed to make it on the June ballot with Pearce and Wilson scrapping for every delegate? And does he want to risk screwing Pearce and the consequences that could result?

Friends of Lyons' say he is ruling out a run for the Pearce House seat if it becomes vacant. Lyons does not live in the district, but he is still legally eligible. They say he is more interested in the '10 Guv's race.


The Cheney affair may remind some of you of an unprecedented endorsement in a contested GOP race for the US House in 1998. It came from Senator Domenici for Heather Wilson who was seeking the GOP nomination in a multi-candidate field for the US House vacancy created by the death of GOP Congressman Steve Schiff.

Pete's endorsement played a key role in clearing the field for the then unknown Wilson, but it also left a bad taste in the mouths of a number of Republicans that lingers to this day. Now the question is back: Will Pete endorse Heather again, even if Pearce challenges her? And if he did, what impact would it have on the campaign?


If Pearce decides against a senate run, he will have a reasonable excuse. As we reported last week, the House GOP leadership is urging him to stay put for fear that his southern seat could go to the Dems, further weakening the party's standing in the lower chamber. The New York Times Sunday came with confirmation:

"Worried about increasing departures, the House leadership has been encouraging Representative Steve Pearce of New Mexico to forgo a run for the Senate and avoid opening a second Republican-held House seat in a state where Democrats are gaining strength."

Whether Pearce will be persuaded by that argument remains to be seen. After all, the R's are already in the minority and very likely to stay that way. If you're going to bolt, the time may be now.

(The Times also hit with a weekend piece on Big Bill's Iowa Prez campaign that details his fight to place third in the Iowa caucuses.)


Reports from D.C. over the weekend say nothing has changed. National D's are still on an anti-Marty Chavez crusade, convinced he can't take the Domenici seat and working over Light Guv Diane Denish to get in the race for the Dem senate nod and push Marty aside.

If she did enter, would the ABQ mayor give up his just announced bid ? For what? A promise that Lady Di would not run for Guv in 2010 if she lost the senate race? Who would be in charge of enforcing that deal?

All the political pros and Alligators say Diane stays put and waits for the Guv's job. With such unanimity, maybe the opposite happens and she goes the other way. We should know this week.


Our Legal Beagles check in with the news that today Big Bill will interview the seven finalists for the opening on the NM Supreme Court created by the passing of Justice Pamela Minzner. The Beagles say ABQ District Court Judge Linda Vanzi and ABQ criminal defense attorney Charlie Daniels are two of the top finalists, but the Guv could choose a dark horse. They expect the decision not long after the interview process, possibly this week.


Here's a deal where everyone walks away happy. Santa Fe attorney Brian Egolf, 31, announced over the weekend that he will drop his bid for the Dem nomination for the state senate seat being vacated by Sen. Grubesic. He has opted instead to run for the state House seat being vacated by Rep. Wirth who is now seeking the Grubesic seat.

That means no Dem fight between Egolf and Wirth. While they no longer have to worry about each other, they still have to worry about other candidates getting into the race for the open seats. Insiders say former Santa Fe Mayor Larry Delgado is finding the Grubesic seek quite tempting.

Egolf, who hails from a well-off family, has raised $85,000--that's for a legislative seat, not a congressional seat. If he wins Wirth's House position, Speaker Ben Lujan will tell him exactly what to do for the first two years.

Why pay $85,000 for that, when your husband or wife will do it for free?

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