Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Here Comes Harry: Dem Oilman To Ante Up Six Figures To Play For Southern Congressional Seat, Plus: Sen. Rawson Won't Run For Congress 

Harry Teague
The muscle of New Mexico oil money will be flexed in the Democratic race for the southern congressional seat with Lea County's Harry Teague telling me he will soon personally commit a minimum of $100,000 to his primary campaign kitty and $200,000 if that's what he thinks it takes. With that cash the former two-term Lea county commissioner and owner of Eunice Well Servicing Co. in Hobbs will break open the race, putting immense pressure on Doña Ana Dem State Rep. Joe Cervantes who continues to weigh a run and cause hopeful Bill McCamley to rethink his strategy. Dem Al Kissing is also running.

Teague is a low-key player, but a sure-footed one who immediately entered the race when his Hobbs neighbor and friend, GOP US Rep. Steve Pearce, announced he would leave the seat to seek the R nomination for the US Senate seat being vacated by Pete Domenici.

Now Teague says he is about to make the big play. With one stroke of the pen he could equal what McCamley has raised all year and force Cervantes, who has wealth from a family chile growing business, to decide just how much he wants the Dem prize.


Teague may be underestimated in some Dem circles. He should not be. He is cut from the same cloth as Harold "Mud" Runnels, another self-made millionaire oilman from Lea county who was the last Dem to capture the congressional seat, serving from 1970 until his death in 1980. Veteran Dems are not concerned about Teague being media savvy. The district likes the home grown approach ala Runnels, Joe Skeen and Pearce.

Teague has nurtured his political connections. In the past few years, he and his company have donated over $60,000 to Governor Big Bill and Light Guv Denish and thousands more to other state Dem office seekers. Members of his family have also donated heavily and Teague says he has given the maximum allowed to Big Bill's Prez effort.

He goes back to the old days with Denish. She's a Hobbs native and went to school with Teague, 58, in the early 60's. She recently named Teague chairman of her transportation task force.

"In the seventh grade, I had four or five classes with her. Half the boys in school, including me, had a crush on her," He joked.


Teague describes himself as a conservative Democrat. He has also donated to the campaigns of his Republican friend and fellow oil services executive Pearce. That is not going to hurt him if he makes it to the general election.

With Republicans still without a formally announced contender and with Teague flashing his checkbook, Democratic hearts are beating faster as they ponder their southern prospects.

Rep. Cervantes is assumed to be polling. He would be a formidable challenger to Teague, but the race would be no sure thing, particularly with Teague spending heavily. Teague says he is being advised that a contested primary battle could cost in the area of $500,000 to $700,000. He will have the funds to stay in the game until the final buzzer.

Teague says he came to Hobbs from Texas with his family in 1959 and "they had nothing." He brings to the political poker game the gambler's instinct honed in the topsy-turvy oil biz and a big enough bankroll to go all night. The other players will need the same because now we're really gambling.


Ed Tinsley
Meanwhile, fans of State Senate minority whip Lee Rawson of Dona Ana county were expressing disappointment Tuesday night as word spread across the southern congressional district that he will not seek the Pearce House seat but opt to run for re-election to the senate next year. He is expected to make an official announcement later today.

The highly regarded Rawson, who has been in the senate for twenty years, was seen as a strong player for the R's, but he is one domino the Pearce decision will apparently not tip. That leaves my Alligators looking more closely at K-Bob's restaurant chain owner Ed Tinsley.

They think Tinsley may have an inside track with the leadership of the state and national GOP. He placed second in a primary for the seat in 2002 when Joe Skeen retired, but Pearce beat Tinsley after Tinsley's residency became an issue. At the time, he had a home outside the district on Rio Grande Boulevard in Albuquerque. Still, Ed carried most of the counties, getting beat in the SE.

This time there is no incumbent and national R's may be especially warm to Tinsley because he has personal money and the coffers of the GOP congressional committee are nearly bare. Tinsley must be hoping for the luck of the draw--that no other wealthy Republicans get in the race and he could run on the cheap.


Phelps Anderson of Roswell also ran in the '02 GOP primary and has personal wealth, but has made little noise about another run. Aubrey Dunn III, 51, a retired banker and rancher in Chaves county, has resources but an Alligator who spoke to him Tuesday said Aubrey is a registered independent who has to switch back to the Republicans to make the run. He plans on doing so. Whether he is willing to come with the cash is unknown. Earl Greer also ran in '02, but doesn't have big bucks.

That takes the Gators back to Tinsley who says he will make a decision in a couple of weeks. He maintains a ranch in Capitan, but has a second home in Santa Fe so the residency issue could come back. But the national spotlight in which the decisions of war and peace are made has a price. All who enter must be willing to defend themselves to prove they can and will defend this great country.


Even seasoned Alligators are submerged under a shower of intense political speculation and positioning. We've been unable to nail down initial reports that State Rep. "Dub" Williams is retiring, but the R who told us he wanted to replace him in the Lincoln-Otero district, realtor Dan Power, now says he is not running and isn't sure Williams is getting out. Williams could not be reached, but if he is retiring, he may try to keep it quiet and try to hand the seat off to someone in his circle. Power now says he is thinking about running for the Pearce House seat even though he has no money to throw at the race and no name ID! We forgive you Dan, but...

Suffice it to say, we are putting a moat up around your blog. Pretenders, wanna-bes and assorted hangers-on are not getting across that moat as we deal with the unprecedented opening of two US House seats, a US Senate seat as well as all the Legislative seats. I know everyone wants to play, but there's an admission fee to the game, or at least have a bat and ball.

Finally, what happened to Sen. Pete Campos who a northern Alligator in training said would be on the finalist list for president of this community college? Pete's name didn't make the list. It's a shame, but a Gator in training only gets one shot and if they are wrong, they get shot. Bang!

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