Tuesday, October 11, 2011
A Few Good Things: Weighing The Pluses Of The Five Candidates Who Would Be New Mexico's Next US Senator
What's so good about the crop of New Mexico US Senate candidates? Quite a bit actually, but the way campaigns are these days we might never hear much of it. So while we are traveling this week and out of the line of fire, we thought it a good time to extol the virtues of the five contenders. A note of warning for our hopefuls--enjoy it while it lasts because it never does.
MARTIN HEINRICH--The ABQ congressman has been a quick learner and could be expected to get up to speed quickly if he lands in the Senate. Heinrich tamed his liberal instincts when he was elected to the ABQ House seat in 2008 and soon found himself a spot on the House Armed Services Committee--a panel of great import to the state's defense and energy establishments although not one that would enhance his credentials with progressives. Heinrich, now 40, is also credited with strong staffing as a congressman. That is essential in the world of a US Senator from New Mexico who has to know his way around the nooks and crannies of the capitol if he is to protect the state's many federal interests.
HECTOR BALDERAS--He's approachable and affable, traits that should not be underestimated in a chamber that likes to be known as "The World's Most Exclusive Club." Getting along goes a long way toward bringing home results. State Auditor Balderas, 38, could also be the template for a new generation of New Mexican politicians who walk the walk when it comes to straight-shooting ethical behavior. Balderas would be New Mexico's first Hispanic US Senator since Joe Montoya left in 1977. Hector doesn't wear his ethnicity on his sleeve, but his personal narrative--raised by a single mother, growing up in a small town, gives him an intrinsic understanding of his home state--and we suspect the fire to shield her when he feels she is threatened.
JOHN SANCHEZ--This Republican Senate hopeful is sometimes not taken seriously because he lacks a college education. But how many native New Mexicans have been able to build a substantial business like Sanchez (in roofing) and do it with no help from the government? Sanchez is an opportunist, and there's nothing wrong with that when you are sniffing around the Senate for ways New Mexico can be dealt into the power game. If you learn anything in business, it's to be adaptable and flexible. Sanchez may be demonstrating those traits in the primary in a somewhat cynical way. He is embracing the far-right as he goes for a narrow win in the conservative GOP Senate primary, but we would be surprised if they didn't surface as soon as he entered the Senate.
HEATHER WILSON---The former ABQ congresswoman may be a New Hampshire native, but she knows what makes New Mexico tick. She would pick up where Senator Domenici left off--and that's not too shabby. Her understanding of the national labs, defense bases as well as the moderate temperament of the state would make her an agile US Senator. Wilson is unapologetic about protecting the state's federal funding, despite considerable pressure within her own party. That strength of character can make a difference in the Senate. Of all those in the field, Wilson may also have the most potential to be a national player, given her military and educational background and a native intelligence that separates her from the pack.
GREG SOWARDS--He's the "gadfly" in the Senate race and not very well known outside of Dona Ana County. He also faces the longest odds of any of the contenders, but Sowards has the courage of his convictions and puts his money where his mouth is, donating some $150,000 of his personal money to his campaign. There's deep desire with Sowards that breeds persistence. You can't have enough of that when you're trying to persuade your fellow Senators.
This is the home of New Mexico politics.
E-mail your news and comments. Interested in advertising here? Drop us a line.
(c)NM POLITICS WITH JOE MONAHAN 2011
Not for reproduction without permission of the author