Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Domenici's Decision: To Endorse Or Not?, Plus: Heather's TV; What Will It Be, And: Our Latest Updates From The Statewide Campaign Trail 

Wilson & Domenici
One of the more intriguing questions of Campaign '08 is what Pete Domenici will do when it comes to Heather Wilson. The conventional wisdom is that the state's senior senator will endorse the ABQ congresswoman in her fierce campaign with Southern NM GOP US Rep. Steve Pearce for the US Senate nomination. But in some quarters that wisdom is being questioned. Is it possible Domenici will stay neutral in the hotly contested race, despite having made no secret that Wilson is his preferred choice to succeed him?

Pearce sympathizers would like to keep Pete on the bench, or at least have any endorsement of Wilson play out in a low-key manner. They point out that the Senator has never been one to go out on a limb in backing a candidate. He likes as sure of a thing as possible and does not like to be associated with a loser. Since Pearce beat Wilson at the GOP pre-primary and a state GOP January poll showed him leading her by three points, Wilson is anything but a sure thing.

There is also the question of Domenici's legacy. Does the longest-serving NM US Senator want to back a losing horse as his last dramatic political act? When he made his unprecedented move to endorse Wilson in a competitive US House primary in 1998, circumstances were much different. Wilson had lesser competition and Pete's muscles were at their peak. But as with any lame duck, Domenici has suffered some atrophy. A bold endorsement with a news conference and/or TV ads could turn some R's off and make Domenici's involvement a campaign issue. That's the last thing he wants. If polling shows Wilson breaking away, Pete's decision would be easy, but such polling seems unlikely.

With uncertainly surrounding how much a Domenici endorsement is worth to Wilson and what it would mean for his own standing in history, it's no wonder Pete's positioning is being watched almost as closely as the campaign.


In his first meaty comments on the Wilson-Pearce race, Pete on Monday echoed the thoughts of many state R's and regretted the contested GOP Senate primary:

(Wilson and Pearce) may think it's a very good thing...Frankly, it's not the greatest thing when you have a party that is in the minority and means the general election will be less well-funded. They chose to do it anyway...They are in the middle of a real fight.

The Senator did not comment on Wilson's charge that Pearce voted to "mothball" Cannon Air Force Base in Clovis, but in his interview with radio reporters he didn't sound happy about the course the campaign has taken. Domenici said the base issue may "come back around" to him. Does that mean he will endorse Heather? Or not? Stay tuned.


This is a fun year because we don't know the answer to many questions. For example, what will Heather Wilson take to TV against Pearce? She has been hammering him over a vote that she said supported "mothballing" Cannon Air Force Base in Clovis. It is a complicated matter and could be difficult to translate into a thirty second TV spot. It also does little to tug at the heartstrings of state R's. Emotional impact is the strength of TV. I've asked a number of strategists what they would do and none of them could come up with an obvious attack ad they thought would move the numbers Wilson's way. In the end, maybe it will be Cannon, presented in a way that confounds our expectations. The answer will be coming soon.


The rush by NM national and party leaders to endorse Bernalillo County Sheriff Darren White over his ABQ GOP US House primary challenger, ABQ West Side State Senator Joe Carraro, may be more of a net negative than a positive. Former NM GOP Chair John Lattuzio is now on the list of those who say the endorsement could violate party rules. Lattuzio fires the guns:

I am calling on Darren White, the Republican Party of New Mexico and the Republican National Committee not to spend any funds or distribute any research relating to this waiver until after the primary has concluded. I also believe that it is in Republicans’ interest statewide to see all the documentation behind this decision, including the letter sent to the RNC and the agreement signed between the RNC and Sheriff White and the RPNM.

Even though White is an odds-on favorite, party chair Weh and others felt a need to use the heavy hand and perhaps fuel even more division. White is obviously concerned with winning the congressional seat and is going to take any support he can get. But what if White broke out of the party cocoon and said he understands the hard feelings and believes the party should stay neutral in his race? Would it cost anything?


Here is a political road report for you from one of our traveling Gators:

I visited Southeastern NM the past few days....I traveled all through the tri-county area (Lea, Eddy and Chaves) and there were 4' X 8' signs for (Dem congressional candidate) Harry Teague everywhere. No other candidates had signs up in the tri-county area. (GOP US Senate candidate) Steve Pearce is up with at least two huge billboards on the Interstates. I have seen the one on the westbound side of I-40 at Moriarty and one on the southbound of I-25 in Socorro.

Appreciate that. E-mail in your road reports and help keep us posted.


Back to the ABQ South Valley we go to check in on the Dem primary action between State Senator Linda Lopez and her challenger and businessman Michael Padilla. Our insider reports there is some major cash going into this one:

"Padilla has bought 250 4X8" and 400 2X4 signs. He has also bought 1500 yard signs, plus 2000 t-shirts, and is doing 17 mail pieces."

Seventeen mail pieces? Michael, only the bloggers have that much to say. Padilla made his money setting up phone rooms for businesses. Padilla told me he might spend as much as $200,000 on the race.Lopez is not a favorite of Big Bill's, but she has managed a couple of elections to her district. Will the big money mean a big upset? We'll see.

Sen. Garcia
Our insider at Sunday's ABQ fund-raiser for Hillary Clinton, or our hearing of him, had us for a time Monday engaging in the popular political pastime of confusing State Rep. Mary Helen Garcia with State Senator Mary Jane Garcia. It really was a comedy of blogging error. Both Garcia's are from Dona Aña County, but it was Senator Garcia spotted at the party, not Rep. Garcia, who later this month will challenge Mary Gail Gwaltney for the position of NM Democratic national committeewoman. According to this list, neither Garcia is a superdelegate to the Dem national convention. Gwaltney is.

Gracias to the Garcias for their indulgence. But please, no more Legislature in April!

OK. One more. GOP State Senator "Lightning" Rod Adair today will be the recipient of some munificence from a major patron of Big Bill. Santa Fe developer Gerald Peters will host a fund-raiser for Adair at the Rio Chama Steakhouse. Rod is in a hot primary race in Chaves County with former county commissioner Rory McMinn. Tickets are $500 a pop. What is a prominent Richardson Democrat doing supporting Rod? Remember, in Santa Fe the biggest party of them all is the "Lobbycrats."

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