Wednesday, June 04, 2008

The Prize Goes To Pearce; Fells Wilson For Senate Nod; Ben Ray Smiles; Tinsley & Teague Make It; Heinrich Scores; Incumbent Legislators Surprised 

ABQ Journal photo
Steve Pearce carried his home county of Lea in southeastern NM with an astounding 91.4% of the vote. And that said it all. Heather Wilson simply could not overcome Pearce's outsized strength in the out of Albuquerque counties and he narrowly won the GOP US Senate nomination and the right to face off with Tom Udall in the November election. It was roughly 51.4% to 48.6% in the GOP duel between two US House members that headlined the 2008 primary election and ended on a divisive note when retiring US Senator Pete Domenici endorsed Wilson in the final hours of the campaign. It was not enough and the ten year congressional career of Wilson will end at the end of the year.

The AP called the race for Wilson shortly before 2 a.m. Pearce told me and our KANW-FM listening audience close to midnight that Wilson and he had not yet spoken. Both of the lawmakers were up early for flights back to Washington where you wonder if someone there can hold peace talks to heal the rift that their primary race created in the state GOP.


Wilson performed well in Bernalillo County, garnering over 66% of the vote. It would have been enough to offset Pearce's rural strength if only turnout was better. It appears only about 31% of state R's went to the polls. Democratic turnout was about 27%.

Pearce, 60, refused to declare victory as he held a 3,000 vote lead. "I'm a businessman. I let the numbers speak."


New Mexican photo
Ben Ray Lujan did not see light at the end of the tunnel until late into the evening. TV station numbers were showing him nearly tied and at one point three points in back of his main rival for the Northern Dem congressional nomination, Don Wiviott. "We were confused because we could not reconcile those numbers with what we were gathering, " he told me late last night. "Finally, when Santa Fe County reported, the numbers took off."

Lujan felled Wiviott 42% to 25%. It was a decisive victory that was somewhat unexpected because of pre-election polling that indicated a closer battle. But the young Lujan had to know it was going to be a good night when he edged out Wiviott 38% to 35% in heavily Anglo and conservative Quay County. All it took then was a landslide in the old Spanish counties. He got it. San Miguel gave him 52% of the vote in this six way race for the nomination. And that is how you spell C-O-N-G-R-E-S-S-M-A-N.

Lujan will face Republican Dan East who upset Santa Fe's Marco Gonzales, another Domenici endorsed candidate, to take the GOP nomination. Independent Carol Miller says she will run as an independent. But Lujan's impressive win in the primary puts in motion a victory for the fall.
Dems are happy about it, too. They think he will help bring out Hispanic votes not just for himself but also for Barack Obama.


The polls we were being fed by the operatives had this one nailed all along. Lincoln County restaurant chain owner and rancher Ed Tinsley led all night and easily won. It was a sweet victory for him. He had lost the GOP southern congressional nomination in 2002 when Joe Skeen retired from the seat. But this was his night for redemption. He carried Dona Ana County and topped it off with a Chaves County win. Throw in a first place in Lincoln County and it was champagne sipping time. Second place was nearly tied up, with Monty Newman claiming it for himself over Aubrey Dunn. Both polled around 21% to Tinsley's 31%.


Anytime you win, it's a good night, but it could have been better for Harry Teague. He secured the Democratic southern congressional nomination by beating Dona Ana County Commissioner Bill McCamley, but the margin of victory--53% to 47%--was not overwhelming. This after Teague put over $750,000 of his own money into the race. Teague won 15 of the 18 counties, but McCamley blew the doors off in his home county and that kept the race in play. Teague will have some work to do to give the Dems a fighting chance. Republican Ed Tinsley was already saying of Teague: "A leopard can't change its spots," meaning if Harry tries to move to the center after being to the left in the primary Tinsley will be waiting. Still, Harry is a candidate with a nice home base in Lea County, and the last Dem to win the seat--back in the 70's---was also a Lea County Democrat.

Heinrich (Journal)
The contest for the Dem nod for the ABQ congressional seat wasn't going to keep anyone up past their bedtime. It was over out of the gate. Former ABQ City Councilor trounced his three opponents, getting about 43% of the vote and setting up a good start for the November election. He'll need it. Republican Bernalillo County Sheriff Darren White took home 82% of the vote in his GOP primary with State Sen. Joe Carraro. White will start as the heavy favorite against Henrich because of his name ID, but Heinrich says White has Bush baggage to tote that should quickly get him in the game. White gave his victory speech so early the kindergarten crowd was still up. We were unable to reach him for our radio show, depriving the audience of the scintillating details of his cliffhanger. Or maybe Heather was crying on his shoulder.

Griego (Journal)
Some of the wildest action came really early in the evening when the absentee votes were released and showed incumbent State Senators James Taylor, Shannon Robinson and Linda Lopez all losing. Only Lopez would survive the night, and only narrowly. Taylor and Robinson fell in 60% plus landslides--Taylor to former ABQ City Councilor Eric Griego; veteran Robinson to 30 year old newcomer Tim Keller. Even "progressive" Dem Heather Brewer pronounced herself stunned. Then the chairman of the House Transportation Committee, Dan Silva, in the Legislature since the 80's, fell to union organizer Eleanor Chavez. And another shoe dropped as news followed that Roswell GOP State Rep. and House Minority Whip was sent packing by Dennis Kintigh.

It was a stellar showing by a wing of the Dems that has learned to organize and turn out the vote. Mike Santullo was caught predicting incumbent victories this year, but he was far from alone. Governor Big Bill took a hit as well. He endorsed Silva, Robinson and Taylor. These new faces could change the tone of the Legislature some. Foley's defeat is the biggie. He enraged many R's for crossing the aisle to work with Dems, but he was a thorn in the side of House Speaker Lujan. A lot of folks wanted him gone, and he is.

Lenton Malry told us at KANW that he thought the downfall of the incumbents could be a prelude to what voters may do to both parties come November. "Change is the order of the day." He declared. It was certainly the order of Election Night.

Thanks to all of our radio participants. It was another fun night of La Politica we will long remember.

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