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Monday, April 28, 2008

Wilson Wins In Los Alamos; Will It Matter? Plus: Heinrich's Blue Collar Pitch, And: Lopez Vs. Padilla, Also: Big Bill's Back; Hear Him Here 

Pearce & Wilson-Happier Times
Heather Wilson easily won her debate with GOP US Senate rival Steve Pearce in Los Alamos Friday night, but her prize for the victory may be akin to the five dollar stuffed animal you win at the fair after spending twenty bucks going after it. (See it here.)

It was the second clash between the two hopefuls, but the first major one because live streaming on KRQE-TV gave voters their first look at the two contestants together. Wilson moved early to establish the story line that would be picked up by the AP and major papers and hand her the win. Pearce, she charged, had voted to cut the budget of Los Alamos Labs and he doesn't have a very good explanation. In return, the southern NM congressman failed to deliver a spirited defense of the Labs and seemed caught flat-footed.

Despite Wilson's win, there appeared to be no major damage inflicted on frontrunner Pearce. He will lose Los Alamos County to Wilson, who is closely tied to Senator Domenici, the financial godfather of the nuclear facility. But Democrat Marty Chavez tried to make the Los Alamos a statewide issue in his short-lived campaign for the Dem US Senate nomination against Tom Udall and it went nowhere. Voters know that all members of the congressional delegation, including Pearce, have, in the main, worked to pump big money into the labs. While Wilson won the "gotcha" game with Pearce, it's unlikely there was much collateral damage. She needs something more relatable to voters at large to move the numbers her way. (See my special Saturday update for analysis of Wilson's first TV ad of the campaign.)

While putting away Los Alamos, Wilson may have done a favor for Udall, who has taken considerable heat for going along with the Dem congressional leadership in slashing the labs budget and prompting hundreds of layoffs. If Pearce is the nominee and questions Udall's effectiveness over lab funding, he better have a more convincing answer about his own votes.

DEBATE NOTES

News reports spoke of a "sparsely attended" debate, which is not good for Wilson who may need a larger turnout to counter the hard-core conservatives who are determined to vote for Pearce.

Wilson was at her most convincing when citing a particular vote and then sticking the knife in. She was at her worst when over emoting. Think Susan Hayward. Pearce was most persuasive detailing his down-the-line support for conservative causes like right to life. (He picked up the national right to life endorsement on the day of the debate.) His gruff and unapproachable TV personality is his downside. Think of the uncle you were afraid of. Pearce is going to have to work to become likable to voters, a quality not to be an underestimated in the epic battle to come this fall.

PROBE OR NO PROBE?

The New Mexican's Steve Terrell did a little legwork on whether there is an investigation into Heather Wilson's role in the US attorney scandal. We blogged last week of the House ethics committee questioning of former US Attorney David Iglesias about the 2006 phone call Wilson placed to him asking about the status of a corruption investigation against prominent Democrats. Reports Terrell:

Wilson also called Iglesias during that period to ask about the case. Iglesias said last year that he had been questioned about Wilson's call by the House Committee on Standards of Official Conduct. A spokesman for the committee said Friday that he couldn't comment on or verify the existence of a similar investigation of Wilson's call to Iglesias.

GOP Senator Pete Domenici was given a slap on the wrist last week by the Senate Ethics Committee for a similar phone call he made to Iglesias.

The ABQ Journal's Michael Coleman also looked at the issue of whether there is an House investigation of Wilson who says she has not been notified of any probe. If she gets the GOP Senate nod, the majority Dems in the House could move to make it a lot clearer whether Heather will be subjected to additional scrutiny.

COLLARING BLUE COLLARS

ABQ Dem congressional candidate Martin Heinrich, already the love-child of the Chardonnay sippers and the left wing of his party, made a swerve to where the election will be decided when he interviewed for the Sunday Journal's candidate profiles. Said the former city councilor of his Missouri parents:

"(They're) middle class, blue collar. They were the people who took a shower when they came home from work at night, not before they went to work."

Heinrich can capture his party's nomination by consolidating the Obama liberals, but it is working class (read Reagan) Democrats who have kept the GOP in control of the ABQ seat for 40 years.

Heinrich isn't the only one, however, with a personal narrative that could connect with key swing voters. His likely GOP opponent, Bernalillo County Sheriff Darren White, said in his profile, that he once drove a taxi and that "every politician" should drive one to learn of people's problems.

THE LIBERAL QUESTION
Heinrich
Another interesting twist in the Journal Q and A for the ABQ congress candidates was how Michelle Lujan Grisham gave a more liberal answer on the Iraq war than Heinrich. She said she would vote to cut off money to the war even if there was no specific timetable for bringing the troops home. Heinrich said he would not cast such a vote, but said "we must immediately set a timeline and bring our troops home." That may be a smallish opening for Grisham with hard-core anti-Iraq Dems, but it doesn't get her where she needs to go--to moderate and conservative D's--the ones Heinrich made a pitch for with that slightly toned down Iraq answer. Candidate Robert Pidcock agreed with Grisham. Rebecca Vigil-Giron agreed with Heinrich.

LOPEZ VS. PADILLA


Supporters of ABQ South Valley State Senator Linda Lopez think they have some ammo for her spirited primary contest with businessman Michael Padilla. Two women who worked at the city of ABQ's 911 center have filed a federal civil rights lawsuit claiming they were transferred out of the city's Emergency Communication Center and relocated after they complained Padilla subjected them to sexual harassment. Padilla was the the call center manager. Padilla resigned from the city amid allegations of making insulting comments toward women. He told me the charges are completely false, but that he expected them to surface in the campaign. The timing of the federal suit does just that. Padilla says he could spend upwards of $100,000 to oust Lopez, chair of the Senate Rules Committee who has often clashed with Big Bill.

HE'S BACK

Big Bill arrived back from his hostage-freeing message to Venezuela late Sunday, saying he "sees some hope." How about talking baseball with dictator Hugo Chavez? "We both like baseball. He's an old pitcher. I told him I thought my curve ball was better than his. He disagreed." Well, it's all in a day's work. Here's complete audio coverage of his news conference at ABQ International.

WHO IS SHE FOR, REALLY?

Is that "unpledged" delegate picked by state Dems Saturday to go to the national convention really neutral in the race between Obama and Clinton? If she isn't for Obama, why did the Clintonistas take the gloves off in trying to stop her from being selected? You don't need a Larry Barker investigation to figure that one out.

E-mail your latest news and comments, and thanks for tuning in.

(c)NM POLITICS WITH JOE MONAHAN 2008
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