Friday, October 12, 2007

Steve Says: Two Weeks To Think; Heather Tries To Keep Heat On, Plus: Patsy Says No Rerun; Lewis Out; Michelle Is In; Mania In La Politica! 

Pearce and Wilson
Before the kids go trick or treating, we should know whether we'll have an historic primary fight for the 2008 Republican US senate nomination. GOP southern NM Congressman Steve Pearce has told the D.C. insider publication "Congress Daily" he will take two weeks to mull over whether to join ABQ GOP Congresswoman Heather Wilson in seeking the right to succeed Pete Domenici, the state's longest ever serving senator who announced his retirement last Thursday, setting off political pandemonium never before seen in the history of New Mexico politics.

Since Heather announced her senate candidacy 24 hours after Pete's good-bye, speculation has centered on Pearce and how long he would keep the ball in the air. Conjecture here Thursday said that he could go as long as January before deciding so he could get a handle on whether Democratic Guv Big Bill Richardson would join the senate battle if his Prez bid sputtered. But the Congress Daily interview indicates otherwise.

Read this and read this closely:

Pearce said he would spend the next two weeks considering whether to challenge Wilson in the GOP primary.

"It's just a gut check. We'll listen to everyone," Pearce said, noting that the decision comes down to one thing: "Do you have the heart for the fight?"

He added that he has been discussing his political future with his wife and family, staff and supporters. He also..predicted he and Wilson would have a civil discourse if he runs.

"Each of us will talk about our pluses," he said.

He described his leadership style as inclusive, allowing him to appeal to the broader electorate.

"I'm very conservative, but I'm not limited," he said.

Wow! Is that Pearce actually looking like he's ready to announce for the GOP nomination and also preparing to veer to the center for a general election contest? Sure does. Trouble is there are a lot of conservative votes (think the Iraq war) that will get in the way of him moving the steering wheel. But that's a November issue, not a primary one where the R's like their red meat rare and bloody--Pearce style.


Pearce's interview will dampen speculation, but not extinguish it entirely, that he could keep his exploratory committee going longer than a couple of weeks. But a late entry with Heather already pounding the pavement could have a downside, reports one Potomac Alligator.

"You can't wait until the end of January on a what if. There's a lot of NM and national players that would back Steve but at some point soon they will feel forced to align with Heather if the alternative is not announced. Lots of people holding their cards but you know how it works, those that align early are remembered and those that don't aren't. Nobody ever wants to be left behind."

Meanwhile, Heather is on the move, too. Congress Daily reports former US House Speaker Hastert will hold a D.C. fundraiser for her and reports have Vice-President Cheney attending a D.C. fundraiser for her as well. That is a play for conservative support and keeps the pressure on Pearce, but it probably doesn't scare him. Sources close to the Pearce camp say the Cheney event was planned weeks ago and has nothing to do with the Veep showing a favorite in any Pearce-Wilson contest.

The Wilson camp is trying to spin that the current GOP establishment is behind Heather, but if Pearce runs they could have an insurgency on their hands that will rob them, their consultants and their favored lobbyists of power and position.


Being a fiscal conservative, it isn't surprising that Pearce would not like to have to dip into his sizable pocketbook to finance a senate run. The Alligators checking in here said Pearce was quietly putting out feelers to hire an ABQ based fundraiser, sending speculation into a fever-pitch that he is getting closer to running. As of the end of September, Pearce has about $600,000 in the bank; Heather about $750,000. Estimated cost of a primary battle could be in the $1.5 to $2 million range.

Our Capitol Hill operatives also report GOP House leader Boehner and GOP Congressional Campaign Committee head Cole are not encouraging Pearce to go for the senate. They fear, like many NM R's, a GOP rout that could leave the state with an all Dem congressional delegation. Keeping Pearce in place protects at least one House seat in the event of a Democratic Tsunami.

But Pearce, who my pros say would start as the favorite in the primary, seems to be inching in the opposite direction, forcing Wilson's hand.

"Heather must keep all the pressure she can on Steve to keep him out. She can't let up. Showing him the money is one way; getting solid commitments is the other. As you have reported, Pearce has a more than decent chance of winning a Republican primary featuring a heavy turnout of conservatives. She is starting her effort ot peel them away," commented another analyst,

Polls of GOP primary voters may not detect the conservative current beneath the political surface that would make a Pearce victory possible.

Another Pearce hole card is his money and the conservative support he can call on to reshape the race at a moments notice, ala Barry Goldwater. That may not be a winning recipe for a general election, but for a primary it would be potent.

If Pearce is serious. He must not hesitate. He must be prepared, if necessary, to write the check, and take the offensive.

Polling and praying are now at the top of the agenda for both Steve and Heather as they face the days that will shape the rest of their lives, and have no small impact on those in the state they serve.


In Donkey Land, the word was still whether Light Guv Diane Denish would take the mother of all gambles and join arch-rival ABQ Mayor Marty Chavez in a race for the Dem senate nod. The speculation was driving the Chavezistas crazy as polling shows she wins such a battle. They are also hearing that that Santa Fe's Don Wiviott, who appeals to liberals, would get out of the senate race if Lady Di decided to don the crown. Don has said he is in to stay, but anything can and will happen when you enter uncharted waters.

Chavez jumped quickly into the senate race, not waiting for polling or for the counsel of the Dem heavies in Washington who wanted to have input. Now that he is in, he can only spend time in the sweat box wondering what Diane will do, and perhaps later on, Big Bill. Denish could drag out her decision, like Pearce with Heather, inflicting further pain on her rival. But she is much too nice to do that. Isn't she?


I caught up with former NM Attorney General Patricia Madrid Thursday as she was boarding a plane in Denver headed for ABQ and then on to see her mom and dad in Las Cruces.

Madrid told me she definitely will not seek the 2008 Dem nomination for the ABQ congressional seat, but she left the door open a crack for a run at the senate seat.

She will talk about it with her parents in Las Cruces, but is enjoying a new high- powered legal job and her time with husband Michael Messina. She has done polling, but is not sharing it yet.


The Madrid news was good news indeed for the latest entrant into the Dem race for the ABQ congressional seat, former Big Bill Health Secretary Michelle Lujan Grisham. So far, She is the only female and Hispanic in the race, joining ABQ City Councilor Martin Heinrich and attorney Jon Adams.

She made a good impression on the reporters that I spoke with who covered her afternoon announcement attended by about 60 supporters. She is 47, photogenic and a definite threat to early starter Heinrich who reported yesterday that he has about $200,000 in cash on hand, a respectable amount, but definitely not enough to scare anyone with determination.

Can Lujan Grisham, a native New Mexican, appeal to South Valley Hispanics? She started a play for the large Democratic female vote Thursday citing her concern that domestic issues such as health care and the needs of seniors are being neglected because of the all consuming Iraq war.

Attorney Lujan Grisham is already being criticized for micromanaging the Health department, but it's unclear how big a deal that will be in a congressional race in which how you vote and how you debate are much more of a litmus test than how you manage personnel.

And how about prominent Republican Edward Lujan sitting on the podium with Michelle? He's the brother of former GOP NM Congressman Manuel Lujan and a well-known businessman and community philanthropist. The Lujan's are cousins to Michelle on her mother's side. Lujan Grisham told me Edward Lujan was there as part of her family's support and has not offered an explicit public endorsement, but his presence spoke volumes.

Longtime Alligators were quick to point out that Edward ran for the ABQ US House seat in 1988 when it was vacated by brother Manuel. Edward lost the GOP nomination that year to Steve Schiff. Lujan Grisham will use her Lujan connection to appeal to Hispanic voters and also as a means to persuade Dems that she can appeal to moderate Republicans in a general election.

Remember, ABQ has had a female congresswoman for nearly ten years and it was an Hispanic woman, Patricia Madrid, who nearly toppled incumbent Heather Wilson in '06.

Yes, questions remain about Lujan Grisham's ability to raise money and her campaign experience, but her foes aren't brimming with cash and experience either.

What this means is that there is no front runner yet in the Democratic race to replace Heather Wilson. Don't touch that dial.


I hope James B. Lewis sticks to his decision to not seek the Dem nomination for the ABQ congressional seat. Now, I have nothing against James--I've know the state Treasurer for years--but when you see this reader's e-mail you will understand my position.

"Joe, I owe you lunch! James B. Lewis called a few minutes ago to tell me that he would not be a candidate for the open congressional seat."

Yes, I bet James would not get in, and it appears I am in for a nice plate full of enchiladas at the Barelas Coffee House for my daring wager. So James, rest assured, you did the right thing. So don't go changin'.

Waitress, could I have some sopaipillas too?


A worthy battle is shaping up in State Senate District 25 in Santa Fe. Dem State Rep. Peter Wirth says he will try to move up now that Senator Grubesic has announced he will not seek another term. Attorney Brian Egolf is also seeking the Democratic nomination and he welcomed Wirth into the race by saying he looks forward to a "spirited debate."

That will happen. Insider Dems say both these guys are "Grade A' candidates. And there could be more. I don't see a Hispanic name on that list yet.


What if Mayor Marty gets himself elected to the US senate? Who becomes mayor? The ABQ Tribune's Gene Grant points out it would be whoever is city council president on December 1, 2008, and that could cause a lot of hysterics. And if 2008 is a big Dem year, what is the future of the state GOP? Heath Haussamen, also writing in the Trib, kicks that can around.

The political events since last week have been so earth shaking that the New Mexican's Steve Terrell says reporters and bloggers risk running out of superlatives.

What do you mean, Steve?

The pandemonium, mayhem and chaos that has engulfed state politics is sure to be followed by tumult, confusion, commotion and a big hubbub. An uproar is predicted after further turmoil and anarchy.

There, that ought to last you guys a while.


Many of you have emailed saying that we're probably having the time of our life blogging the aforementioned political pandemonium. Of course, we are. But the candidates are also enjoying themselves, at least some of the time as they play cat and mouse with the pundits and bloggers.

For example, I emailed Light Guv Denish asking for a timetable on when she might announce her intentions for the open US Senate seat. I joked that I would like to know because I was planning a trip to Paris. Her response?

"When do you leave?"

Well, I set myself up for that one and had my timetable probe deep sixed. The way New Mexico politics is going, I won't be seeing Paris, Texas in the foreseeable future, never mind Paris, France.

But who needs Paris when you have the fall colors painting our Enchanted Land, not to mention politics for the ages?

If any craziness breaks out today, I will be here for you. Otherwise, see you Monday.

Keep us posted Email your latest news, political gossip and comments.

Home of the exclusives. Home of New Mexico politics. I'm Joe Monahan, reporting from Albuquerque...

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