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Saturday, April 26, 2008

Republican Battle Joined; Heather Hits, Plus: Vigil-Giron Stays On Ballot, Also: Pete Gets Slap From Senate Ethics; Our Updated Weekend Blog 

Democrats are getting what they dreamed of in the race for the GOP US Senate nomination--a hot and heavy negative campaign between US Reps Heather Wilson and Steve Pearce. ABQ's Wilson wastes no time unloading on her southern NM rival in her first TV spot. It hit the screens Friday night and it hits Pearce between the eyes.



Steve has been lambasting Heather for missing 22 House votes in a week's time while she's been out on the campaign trail. Now she turns the tables and cites him for missing an Iraq funding vote. It is all rather jolly good fun for politics watchers, but depressing to national and local GOP leaders who now face the prospect of a bloodied nominee and perhaps a divided party facing off against Dem US Rep Tom Udall in the fall.

As for Wilson's ad, there's a question how effective it will be to imply that Vietnam veteran and longtime Iraq war supporter Pearce somehow does not support the troops. Same goes for his border position which is well-known in his district. The ad does best presenting Pearce as a menacing presence (note how they put him in motion) and the clarity of the copy stands out. This is, as one would expect from a longtime practitioner of the black arts, solid Wilson negative.

With the negative genie out of the bottle from both contenders, it's hard to see this war not escalating, but we have a feeling it will be the Democrats watching wide-eyed, while depressed Republicans will be grabbing for the blindfolds.

COURT WIN FOR REBECCA

She's on. Late Friday the NM Supreme Court ruled that former NM Secretary of State Rebecca Vigil-Giron will stay on the Democratic primary ballot for the ABQ area congressional seat. That word from Vigil-Giron lawyer Jon Adams. Supporters of Michelle Lujan Grisham had appealed a district court ruling to the high court. Grisham argued Vigil-Giron did not have enough valid petition signatures to be awarded a ballot slot. The courts disagreed. Attorney Adams called the case against Vigil-Giron "nonsense" and "a politically motivated smear campaign."

Politically, this could strengthen the hand of former ABQ City Councilor Martin Heinrich. Vigil-Giron and Grisham may split heavily Hispanic wards, especially in the South and North Valleys of ABQ. The other candidate in the race is attorney Robert Pidcock.

PETE'S CASE

The first question the Alligators asked upon hearing that the Senate Ethics Committee had administered a slap on the wrist to NM GOP US Senator Pete Domenici over the US attorney scandal was: "What about Heather?" ABQ GOP Congresswoman and GOP US Senate candidate Heather Wilson is also reportedly under scrutiny for her role in the scandal, but by the US House ethics committee. Nothing has been heard from it for months. As for Pete, Senate Ethics sent him an "admonition" letter, but said there was no criminal action when Domenici called then NM US Attorney David Iglesias during the 2006 campaign to inquire about the status of a corruption probe into former State Senator Manny Aragon and others. The committee did say that he should have known that the call "would create an appearance of impropriety."

Even though he was essentially cleared of wrongdoing, it had to be a sad day for the state's longest serving US Senator, now fragile, suffering from irreversible dementia and about to turn 76. He came with this statement:

I am gratified the Senate Ethics Committee has concluded its inquiry favorably without a formal adjudicatory review, confirming what I have always maintained: I did not attempt to improperly influence an ongoing investigation when I telephoned the former United States Attorney...Nevertheless, as I said publicly last March...I regret the distraction this controversy has caused my colleagues, my staff, my family and, most importantly, my constituents.

When the scandal broke Domenici's approval rating plunged below 50% for the first time in memory. The bad polling, the Senate Ethics probe and his illness combined to deliver the end of his political career.

Domenici has one other major controversy to face before he leaves office. Will he or won't he deliver a vigorous and high-profile endorsement of Heather Wilson over Steve Pearce to succeed him in the Senate? If he endorses and she loses, his legacy, already tarnished by the US attorney scandal, would take another severe hit.

As for House action on Heather, do you think that might surface more forcefully in the Democratic-controlled House if she defeats Pearce and becomes the GOP Senate nominee?

And what of Iglesias? Well, he has a book coming out in mid-May, but the conclusion of the part of the drama involving Domenici isn't likely to help sales.

HILLARY AND CHELSEA HERE?

The National Federation of Democratic Women will hold their national convention in ABQ May 28 thru June 1 and our insiders report Hillary and Chelsea Clinton have been invited to attend. Hillary, who did an ABQ fund-raiser earlier this month, will probably still be on the Prez campaign trail then, but the group is crossing its fingers that the two famous females will be able to break free.

MAC IN MAY?

Rumblings are circulating that John McCain, the soon to be GOP Prez nominee will visit our Enchanted Land in early May. Do you wonder if he will make an endorsement in the GOP US Senate Race? Probably not, but McCain did do a campaign appearance for Heather Wilson in that contest she ran for her US House set against Patricia Madrid in 2006. A Pearce supporter checks in that McCain also campaigned for Pearce in 2006. But insiders say the Arizona senator is more sympatico with Wilson's politics.

HEATHER TV

She let GOP Senate rival Pearce have the airwaves to himself for two nights, but apparently that will be all. We are being told by reliables that Rep. Wilson will be on the air sometime today with her first spot of Campaign '08.

BILL AND HUGO

Big Bill is headed to Venezuela for another hostage rescue attempt. KKOB-AM radio's Peter St. Cyr has an interview with the Guv.

GETTING THEM OUT

It's busy season for NM Secretary of State Mary Herrera. Among her projects is improving state polling locations to ensure that voters with disabilities have the option of voting in-person at their neighborhood polling location as well as by absentee ballot. Here she is at the capitol promoting an outreach effort aimed at the disabled.

What a batch of exclusives here this week! If you haven't had the chance, take a look at the postings and enjoy. Thanks for the company. Later, Gators.


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