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Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Cash Counting Congressional Candidates Flex Financial Muscle; How Far Will It Take Them? Plus: More On The Pearce Millions, And: Happy Thanksgiving! 

Two of the congressional candidates who have healthy personal bank accounts are trumpeting their money totals. That could have a major impact on one of the races, but probably not as much on the other. Down south, restaurant chain owner Ed Tinsley, 55, seeking the GOP nomination for the 2nd CD seat, says he has raised $221,000 since getting into the race earlier this month. He also says he is prepared to put a couple of hundred thousand of his own funds into the primary campaign.

Tinsley has a ranch in Capitan in Lincoln County and a second home in Santa Fe. He came in second in the GOP 2002 primary when the seat was last open. Steve Pearce won that primary and the general election. He is now leaving the House to seek a Senate seat.

Tinsley's first run is a six man field didn't do much for his name ID, according to insider polling, and he could be vulnerable to a well-financed primary challenge. A line of attack against Tinsley could sound familiar. His potential foes question how much time he spends in that Santa Fe home and out of the 2nd district. Tinsley ran into trouble in '02 when it was pointed out that he had a home on Rio Grande Blvd in ABQ. He says he spends most of his time at the ranch.

Because no other well-known or well-financed rivals have emerged, Tinsley is the default front-runner for the GOP nod. The window is still open for other hopefuls, but Tinsley hopes to give them second thoughts by showing some early money muscle. So far, it appears to be working.

HEADING NORTH

In the northern congressional district, it appears Santa Fe's Don Wiviott has taken $75,000 off the table as he switches from running for the Democratic nod for US senate to the Dem race for the 3rd congressional district. Tom Udall is giving up the seat to run for US Senate. Wiviott had put up $400,000 for the Senate bid. He now says he will personally commit $325,000 to his US House run. That's still a ton of money, but unlike Tinsley's race Wiviott faces well-known and stiff competition and his money will not get them to rethink the run. The key question is whether it will help Wiviott garner 20% of the March pre-primary Democratic convention vote that he needs to win a spot on the June ballot.

If Wiviott is the sole Anglo liberal in the heavily Hispanic and Native American district, he could have a shot at making it, but he has a lot of work to do to persuade party insiders. Money will help get their attention and return his phone calls, but money will be no substitute for building the important personal relationships with potential convention delegates.

The early front-runner in Northern contest is Ben Ray Lujan, Public Regulation Commissioner and the son of the NM House Speaker. Will Ben Ray's longtime friend, former Santa Fe County commissioner Javier Gonzales, emerge as his toughest foe? Gonzales has hired the polling firm Greenberg Quinlan Rossner--also used by Big Bill--to help guide him. Lujan is already making phone calls to party insiders, lining up support for the pre-primary. Gonzales has no district wide name ID and faces the prospect of running a negative campaign against Ben Ray, a touchy subject in the La Familia atmosphere of the Spanish North.

THE PEARCE MILLIONS


We blogged Monday that GOP US Rep. Steve Pearce has an ace in the hole when it comes to his contest for the R's US Senate nomination--his personal fortune. Like any candidate, Pearce hopes he doesn't have to tape his own money, but if he does, several readers pointed out that a new federal rule would give Heather a bit of protection, We dug this up from a Utah news report on the "millionaire exemption." It kicks in if a candidate like Pearce comes with big personal dollars

Under a complicated FEC rule, after any candidate gives his own campaign more than $350,000 in a defined "election cycle," that triggers special FEC reporting requirements and, experts say, can also allow his competitors to take individual donations of up to $6,300.


As we said, that's a bit of protection for challengers of wealthy candidates, but not much. What if the millionaire comes with a huge TV buy a couple of weeks before the election and triggers the exemption? That wouldn't give his foe much time to start collecting donations above the normally allowed amount.

THE BOTTOM LINES


Peter St. Cyr of KKOB-AM radio checks in with the news that Mayor Marty has donated $5,000 to the Bernalillo County Democratic Party from the funds he collected for a possible Guv race. Chavez raised well over $150,000 while preparing a 2010 Dem Guv run, but that money can't be transferred to his federal US Senate campaign...Big Bill takes a Thanksgiving break until Saturday when he returns to the campaign trail in Iowa. The latest CNN poll in New Hampshire shows him in a near tie for third with John Edwards. Hillary leads there with 36%....

Happy Thanksgiving to you. We're thankful for your interest in what we do around here. Your emailed news and comments are always welcome.

(c)NM POLITICS WITH JOE MONAHAN 2007
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