Saturday, October 06, 2007

Heather's In: Should Pearce Let Her Have It? Plus: Chavez Set For Senate Run; Denish Pressured To Get In, Plus: White Heads To D.C. In ABQ House Race 

Wilson & Family
Heather has taken her shot, now the ball is in Steve's court. Betting among the top analysts in the highest stakes poker game in recent state political history was all over the map with a tendency toward saying Pearce should stay put in his southern congressional seat and not follow Heather into the race for the GOP '08 US Senate nomination, but nothing is certain until Pearce shows his hand next week.

At a hastily called news conference (Complete transcript.) at the ABQ Nativo Lodge hotel at 4 p.m. Thursday, the 46 year old five term ABQ Congresswoman launched her bid to beat the odds and retain for her Republican Party the seat Senator Domenici is retiring from. If she pulls it off, she would become the first female US Senator in New Mexico history.

Her brief announcement speech was platitudinous. Clearly, the point was just to get in the race as quickly possible. And quick it was, coming exactly 24 hours after Domenici announced he would not seek a seventh term in 2008. Unlike her first US House race in 1998, she begins this contest for the GOP nomination without Pete's public endorsement--at least not yet--and she said she has not yet sought his nod.

"There will be time for that." She said.

That Heather's event was hastily arranged was made clear by her decision to limit questions to just three. She said she had not spoken to Pearce about her decision, defended that famous phone call to US Attorney David Iglesias as "entirely appropriate" and made the comments about the Domenici endorsement.

The announcement made it live on the 4 p.m. news of KOB-TV and KRQE-TV, but KRQE bailed out after a couple of minutes as Heather delayed saying the magic words: "I am running for the United States Senate."

If the speech was written with the needs of live television in mind, it didn't show. Later, she won decent coverage on other newscasts.

"She didn't have much to say and it was thrown together quickly. But she was smart to go early. Being first on the field is an advantage and gives Pearce something to think about," analyzed one of our Dem insiders.

Pearce is fielding advice from across the spectrum. He is in the House minority, not the greatest future, but giving it up and getting nothing is not a pleasant alternative.

The problem the R's face, say the pros, is their exposure.

"They have now vacated a US Senate seat and the ABQ House seat. That's two they have to defend. If Pearce gives his up that will be three. The odds dictate they're going to lose at least one of them and maybe all three. They are out on the limb, with the threat that New Mexico could turn into virtually a one party state come November of next year," explained another of our veteran analysts.

Wilson retained her seat by the narrowest of margins in 2006--under 900 votes--and has the least to lose. Her House seat was already at risk and the shot at the Senate, even if it starts with long odds, could turn in her direction depending on events. Her ability to make a quick and firm decision highlights the inner strength that has helped her survive in a largely Dem district. She is to be underestimated by only the foolhardy.

The New Hampshire native has also worked hard for a decade to appeal to Hispanic voters. At her announcement was famed New Mexican musician Al Hurricane, obviously there to send a message to a key voting block.

Wilson is a racehorse with blinders on. She can hear the footsteps of Big Bill and his possible entry into the race, but she isn't going to look. If he gets in, she's a probable show horse who
takes a nice paying lobbying gig. If he doesn't, she could take the race in a down to wire run against a lesser Dem.

Complicating things for Pearce is GOP State Land Commissioner Pat Lyons who is toying with a GOP senate run. If he got in, he could steal Republican votes from Pearce on the south and east sides, handing the nomination to Wilson. Pearce, like Dem Rep. Tom Udall up north, has a sure thing. And like Udall, Pearce could decide to fold when it comes to playing a hand for the Senate.


On the Dem side of the Senate fence, as stunning as it seems, there are very few obvious candidates with statewide stature that the Dems can go to and feel confident of picking up the Pete seat.

My media and political sources were telling me late Friday that there has been a new twist in the thinking at the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, headed up by New York Senator Chuck Schumer and charged with finding good Dem Senate contenders.

"The pressure is now being cranked up on Lieutenant Governor Diane Denish to get in the race. They see her as the strongest candidate and (ABQ Mayor) Marty Chavez as second best. They think her ability to perform particularly well in SE NM is especially important, and the numbers crunchers feel she has the best chance to also easily win the Dem primary," revealed one of our informed sources.

But this is a real longshot. Denish is still seen as resisting the notion of a senate run, but if she got in and lost she would still be Light Guv, although running for Governor in 2010 and winning would be much more problematic. Analysts I ran this scenario by pointed out that the DSCC is 3,000 miles away from here. They may not see how close Denish is to the coveted governorship in 2010, but she does.

Meanwhile. ABQ Mayor Chavez was preparing to go all-in. He has already told intimates as much. And like Heather, it's the smart move. If Big Bill Richardson does get in late in the game, Marty could always bow out and still be Mayor. Meantime, he starts raising money and healing the open wounds he has with the liberal wing of his party. Marty will be joining Santa Fe's Don Wiviott and Jim Hannan when he announces his candidacy next week.


The race for that open ABQ Congressional seat was also twisting and turning on the final weekday of this most historic week in state politics. Insiders said former Attorney General Patricia Madrid who told me she would be doing polling to help her weigh her options for a senate run is now also contemplating a second run at the Wilson congressional seat, but her husband told the Journal that is not the case.

Martin Heinrich and lawyer Jon Adams are already in; State Rep. Al Park is looking at it hard. Still, there is no major league Hispanic contender and some Dems think despite Madrid's meltdown during the final days of her '06 bout with Heather, she retains enough support to win, especially in a Dem leaning year. But there are many skeptics, some who guffawed when hearing of the scenario. Madrid's polling, if objective, should settle the question.

If Patsy stays on the bench, former Big Bill cabinet secretary Michelle Lujan Grisham would be the sole Hispanic in the Dem contest. Would more emerge?


On the Republican side, Bernalillo County Sheriff Darren White confirmed late Friday that he will fly to D.C. Monday to meet with the political heavies at the Republican National Congressional Committee and elsewhere.

White will make it official next week, and is already preparing to shed some potential baggage. He recently signed up as head of Mayor Rudy Giuliani's NM Presidential campaign, but said when he becomes an official candidate he will give up that position. Giuliani's liberal views on social issues have not been popular with conservatives, some of whom are ready to hang them around the Sheriff's neck. There's an upside even to the downside for White. If he loses, he still gets to stay on as Sheriff, having been re-elected in 2006.

ABQ State Representative Janice Arnold-Jones is starting to make some noise about joining White in the race for the GOP nod. She is on the money hunt now and will know if she can come up with enough to do the trick in a week or two. How White will fare in the money department is also the topic of speculation.


We are going to be seeing bluffs, trial balloons, smoke screens and all kinds of maneuvers in the weeks ahead as a large cast of assorted political wannabes and those already in power positions go for the big prizes at stake. It should be a lot of fun, but be careful giving too much credence to a candidacy until they show you the money and the commitment needed in these big time races.

Thanks to KKOB-AM's Peter St. Cyr and photog Mark Bralley for helping to produce today's special edition blog. Email your latest news and comments from the link at the top of the page.

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