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Monday, November 19, 2007

What's The Ace In The Hole In The Wilson-Pearce Primary? Plus: The Sheriff And His Party, And: More Cool Stuff To Start Your Thanksgiving Week 

It's not as bad as playing poker with Bill Gates, but Heather Wilson is at a clear disadvantage when it comes to the money chase in her contest for the GOP US Senate nomination with fellow US House member Steve Pearce. It's not because his fund-raising prowess necessarily surpasses her; it is his personal fortune accumulated in the oil field services business in Lea County and one we presume he is willing to tap into if money becomes an impediment to success.

After reviewing Pearce's financial disclosure records and discussing the matter with various Alligators, we estimate conservatively that Pearce has liquid assets of probably at least $10 million. This is a significant advantage over Wilson who is far from being a pauper but who along with husband Jay Hone has a decidedly more modest portfolio than Pearce with much of their investments in ABQ area rental properties and retirement savings accounts.

Wilson says she raised $110,000 Thursday night at a Capitol Hill fund-raiser featuring Vice President Cheney. She should be approaching the million dollar level in her campaign coffers as she already had over $800,000 in her account giong into the Cheney event. But consider this. Pearce sold his Lea County oil field services business--Lea Fishing Tools--in 2003 to Key Energy in exchange for 542,477 shares of that company's stock. Assuming Pearce hasn't sold any and using Friday's closing price. That asset alone would now be worth $7.513 million.

It doesn't stop there. The 60 year old and his wife Cynthia list at least $1 million in stock in privately held Lea County Bancshares. Other assets get us to our $10 million estimate and more.

A Senate primary where you are going after the attention of perhaps 100,000 voters should not cost millions and probably won't, but Pearce's personal wealth is a hole card he can call on if Heather is able to raise the betting.

CHENEY ENVY

Wilson's $110,000 from the Cheney reception was not an overwhelming number, but this is a US Senate primary and many R's and their allies who would give would rather stay on the sidelines. If that's not the case, we should find out soon enough. One of my insiders reports Cheney's event for Pearce has now been set for January 23 in D.C.

DIALING WITH DOMENICI

Our southern sources say the name of GOP Senator Pete Domenici has been subtly entered into the Pearce-Wilson contest. "Heather has called prominent Republicans asking hem to join her campaign saying, 'Senator Domenici and his staff recommended that I call you.' Reports an in-the-know R.

Domenici, whose retirement announcement set off the epic political events we are in the middle of, has not endorsed Wilson, and she doesn't say he does in her phone calls, but what's that that say about first impressions?

THE R'S AND WHITE
McCleskey
The Republican who would replace Wilson in her ABQ congressional seat, Bernalillo County Sheriff Darren White, is heading to conservative Chaves County to raise money. He will attend a $100 a person fund-raiser November 30 hosted by Pat Greenwade and Jess and Sherry Eckel. As we told you last week, insiders say White has hit the $100,000 mark in his fund-raising. We won't know for sure until formal reports are filed in January. But much is going to be expected because national R's have been working furiously to clear the field of any primary opposition for White.

Among those in White's corner is the wing of the GOP that ousted Ramsay Gorham as state chair in 2004. They include Jay McCleskey, a regional operative for the national R's whose wife, Nicole McCleskey, is a White pollster. Also aboard are lawyer-lobbyist Mickey Barnett and attorney Pat Rogers who with Domenici and Wilson also played a key role in the ouster of GOP US Attorney David Iglesias. Former Domenici operatives Sara Lister and Heidi Fuller are also working with the Sheriff.

ABQ State Senator Joe Carraro, among others, has talked of a primary challenge against White, in part, because they want to see a change in the direction of the state party. If Pearce succeeds Domenici as the titular head of the GOP, major changes are anticipated in the lineup of personalities and consultants who have dominated GOP politics here. If it is Heather Wilson or Darren White, current operatives are seen holding on. There are potentially lucrative contracts and associations at stake. If the Dems pull off the minor miracle of a congressional delegation sweep, the GOP would have no evident leadership in the immediate aftermath. Think of the angles on that.

The post-Bush, post-Domenici era will offer the state GOP an opportunity to build a bigger tent or descend into further recrimination. The individual character of the eventual leader will largely determine the outcome.

NATIONAL DIAGNOSIS

The conventional wisdom in the national press on the Udall-Chavez square-off isn't much different from here in the state--Udall is favored. The WaPo's political blogger puts it this way:

Democrats should be thrilled. Polling released by Udall's campaign showed him over 50 percent against both Reps. Heather Wilson and Steve Pearce and with a 20-point margin over Chavez in a hypothetical Democratic primary. Chavez is angry about being passed over by national Democrats and could make things uncomfortable for Udall. But it's hard to see Chavez raising the money to really make Udall nervous in a primary, and it's clear that the national party establishment is firmly behind the congressman.


We would add that Chavez should not need as much money as Udall if he benefits from ethnic voting. He also has a better opportunity at getting "free media" from his perch as ABQ mayor. The TV stations here cover about 85% of the state.

THE BOTTOM LINES

This Mayor Marty broadside delivered against Congressman Tom last week in the Politico-- “You take a tough-charging mayor against a congressman who is not known for having done anything"--are fighting' words. Some e-mail reaction:

"Wasn't Udall voting against the war doing something courageous? According to about 65% of New Mexicans and a greater number of Democratic voters, this is as important as any other credential in this federal race." wrote one well-known Dem...

Get this. Leland Lehrman, the Taos publisher, who is also seeking the Dem US Senate nod, doesn't think Udall is liberal enough:

Udall's recent vote to table Dennis Kucinich's resolution (HR 799) to impeach Vice-President Cheney is a prime example of why he would not make a good Senator for New Mexico. Although his votes on the environment and civil liberties make us all proud, his Washingtonian willingness to avoid tough issues means that he cannot be trusted with the leadership role a US Senator must take.

Hearing from anyone that he is not liberal enough must be music to Udall's ears. If he gets the nomination next June, the R's are going to try to make him look like Leland's twin brother.

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(c)NM POLITICS WITH JOE MONAHAN 2007
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