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Monday, March 17, 2008

Pre-Primary '08; The Post-Game Show; Heather's Loss; Udall's Wait; Ben Ray's Sunshine; It's All On Your Monday Blog 

Heather Wilson
It took a Republican to do what Democrats have been obsessed with for ten years--defeating US Rep. Heather Wilson. Lost in the waves of weekend spin following the Democratic and Republican party pre-primary nominating conventions was this bit of history--Wilson, now a candidate for US Senate, suffered just her second loss of her ten year political career. Ever since 1998, when she was anointed by Senator Pete Domenici as his choice to succeed Steve Schiff in the ABQ congressional seat, Wilson has toted up victory after victory, starting with the June '98 election in which she turned away Democrat Phil Maloof. Her only loss was when State Sen. Bill Davis came out ahead of her at a GOP convention held prior to the special June 1998 election. That pre-primary was held for candidates seeking to run in a June primary for the full two year House term at stake in November '98. After that loss, Wilson's winning streak continued every two years with GOP pre-primary and primary victories followed by general election wins. That all ended Saturday when US Rep. Steve Pearce topped her at the pre-primary convention and won the top ballot spot for the June 3rd primary election. (This is a corrected version. Our first posting said Saturday was Wilson's first political loss.)

Granted, Heather's weekend loss was at a party convention and not at the ballot box, but it produced the headlines the Pearce camp wanted. In the Sunday Journal it was front-paged as: "Pearce Tops Wilson On Ballot." In the Las Cruces Sun-News: "U.S. Senate candidate Pearce beats Wilson at GOP convention."

Pearce's braggadocio before the Saturday pre-primary in which he predicted "a huge victory" made his 54.51% to Wilson's 45.49%win seem smaller than it should have, but those Sunday headlines noting Wilson's first ever political loss will be the lasting memory of Pre-Primary 2008.

WHAT NOW?

With her pre-primary loss and a mid-January state GOP poll showing Pearce leading 38% to 35%, the pros will peg Wilson as the underdog for the June 3rd primary. Her campaign hopes that primary voters are not as conservative as those who attended the weekend pre-primary, but there are very few "moderates" left in the GOP. That's why after years of labeling herself an "independent" voice, she is now calling herself the "common sense conservative." How Wilson can crack into Pearce's conservative base is her conundrum. Going more negative will be the likely response. Meantime, Pearce, strong in the South and doing well in the North, can now focus where he needs to--on ABQ. If, in the coming weeks, he looks as if he is running for Mayor of the city, he's doing the right thing.

UDALL'S WAIT


Just a few months ago it looked as though we were headed for a bloody Democratic US Senate primary battle between Rep. Tom Udall and ABQ Mayor Marty Chavez. but Chavez dropped his bid in the face of long odds, giving Udall a free ride. But that doesn't mean there isn't work to do. Udall might want to spend the next couple of months concentrating on the East side. If Pearce is the GOP nominee, it is there that Udall could be vulnerable to landslide totals that could offset his Northern strength.

BECKY'S POWER

Three term NM Secretary of State Rebecca Vigil-Giron only received 11% of the delegate support at the Dem pre-primary convention, prompting the Alligators to ask whether Becky will stay in the ABQ congressional battle. Her power now may be as a spoiler to the other female Hispanic in the race--Michelle Lujan Grisham. Grisham garnered 28% at the pre-primary to win the second spot on the ballot. Martin Heinrich took first with 56% and will get the top ballot slot. Vigil-Giron will have to file petition signatures by March 25th to get on the ballot.

Can Grisham or her supporters somehow persuade Vigil-Giron to quit the race and give Grisham a chance at consolidating Hispanic support? Also, can Grisham steer her ship towards the unclaimed seniors and Reagan Democrats that have yet to find a home? As for Martin, he would probably like to lock Becky up in a mountain cabin where Michelle couldn't get at her until after June 3rd. Stay tuned.

A $30,000 BIRTHDAY

29 year old Dona Ana County Commissioner Bill McCamley is trying to parlay his Saturday pre-primary win (49%) into something more than good press. He says he now is challenging his supporters to raise $30,000 for him to celebrate his 30th birthday April 1st. While McCamley scored a big win over Southern Dem congressional rival Harry Teague (36%), the Hobbs oilman has deep pockets. He also is a former two term Lea County commissioner. Teague's old friend, Lt. Governor Diane Denish, was working the convention on his behalf Saturday. Teague's camp says McCamley worked most of last year lining up delegates while Teague entered the race much later. But McCamley says his "compelling message," not Teague's money will carry the day.

BEN RAY'S SUNSHINE

If there was any chance of early bleeding, Ben Ray Lujan stopped it Saturday. The Northern Dem congressional contender, son of State House Speaker Ben Lujan, scored a 40% win at the Dem pre-primary. But almost as important was a little noticed endorsement he received on the eve of the convention from the League of Conservation Voters. The environmental group attracts liberal Anglo voters, the mainstay of Lujan's chief rival, Don Wiviott. The endorsement was particularly useful to Lujan because Wiviott, who came in second with a 30% pre-primary showing, has defined himself as the choice of environmentalists. He calls himself a "green developer" and drives the district in a campaign van that runs on cooking grease.

Wiviott has fueled his campaign with nearly $600,000 in personal cash. Lujan's camp is holding a blizzard of fundraisers this month and will probably not spend as much as Wiviott, but will be competitive. Lujan is also expected to get the nod from the Conservation Voters NM.

HISTORY LESSON
No candidate who has failed to get 20% delegate support at their party's pre-primary has ever gone on to win in the June 3rd primary. Judging from the weekend results, we expect that axiom to hold up in 2008....

FILING DAY TUESDAY


Another big political day for New Mexico comes Tuesday when all the legislative candidates file their paperwork with the secretary of state. County Commission, judge hopefuls and Public Regulation Commission candidates also file Tuesday. Look for some surprise primaries to develop...

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(c)NM POLITICS WITH JOE MONAHAN 2008
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