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Friday, February 10, 2012

It's Hers: GOP Senate Nomination Battle Essentially Over As Sanchez Bows Out; What's Ahead For Heather? Plus: The Viral Video That Has ABQ Talking 

It's hers this time. After a long, long wait the Republican nomination for the United States Senate is about to go to former ABQ Congresswoman Heather Wilson. The official withdrawal from the race of Lt. Governor John Sanchez virtually guarantees Heather the prize.

You can take it to the bank.

Greg Sowards, the wealthy Las Cruces day care center owner, is all that remains between Heather and the nomination. And while he has $600,000 banked to put up a fight (Wilson had $1.1 million at year's end), the Republican grassroots will now follow the party's elite and fall like dominoes into Heather's circle, even as Sowards tries to wear the mantle of the "true conservative." But this is not 2008 when heavyweight conservative Steve Pearce denied Wilson another Senate nomination. This time she's the heavy--even if a "moderate" one.

The Sanchez towel throw was not unexpected as we and others reported anonymous speculation last week that the end was near. We then broke the official news to the state on our Twitter account Thursday morning. It means Wilson will be able to concentrate more fully on the November battle which is likely to feature as her foe Dem US Rep. Martin Heinrich.

She needs that extra time to shore up conservative support in her own party without Sanchez putting a thorn in her side and also to begin a long romance of independent voters who are essential if she is to triumph over the Dem nominee. With less pressure coming from her right, Wilson should be able to appear more above the fray. Most important, she should not be subjected to an immense barrage of negative TV ads that have taken such a toll on her overall political image. (Sowards may come with some, but they'll be more like a BB gun than a bazooka).

Heather is now yucking it up on her web site with a hamburger contest and the like and touring the state talking about her personal life story--not much about politics. It's all part of her plan to humanize herself. Her negatives are very high after numerous tough congressional campaigns. Overcoming the personal distaste that many voters have formed for her will not be easy and many will never be moved. But try she must and the early going is the time for it.

Sanchez also affirmed our earlier blogging that he will not seek elective office this year, meaning he will not switch over to the ABQ GOP US House race. His future is now the waiting game. Governor Martinez issued a curt statement about his withdrawal, revealing that the relationship between the two is still icy.

Sanchez could eventually endorse Wilson, but he didn't do it on his way out the Senate door. He still has a poker hand. He is a prominent Hispanic Republican elected official who has been treated with about as much respect as a panhandler by Martinez, Wilson and company.

While Sanchez's withdrawal is a definite plus for Wilson as she will now have to spend less money on the primary and have more time to repair those aforementioned negatives, there are storm clouds gathering for her. The fervor for the GOP we saw in 2010 has waned as the ball is handed off to a broader electorate that will vote this year, her longtime mentor Senator Pete Domenici is gone from the scene and President Obama appears to be positioned for another victory in heavy Hispanic New Mexico. But those clouds are off on the horizon. Today the sun shines on Heather Wilson--if only briefly.

SANDRA IN SANTA FE

We caught up with Dem State Rep. Sandra Jeff and husband Joe at the Legislature's annual "Indian Day." Sandra gained notoriety when she broke with the Dem leadership last year on repealing driver's licenses for undocumented immigrants. She again supported the repeal when the House approved the measure this week.

There was talk that Jeff might leave the House to challenge fellow Native American and Dem State Sen. Lynda Lovejoy. The two have been known to be political sparring partners. But Jeff, a Navajo who represents parts of McKinley and San Juan counties, says she is staying put and will seek re-election to a third term in the House. Her unpredictable streak keeps the capitol guessers busy.

By the way, the secretary of state's office says of the 112 state legislators, five are Native American.

TRANSPARENCY DEFICIT?

Does Susana have a transparency deficit? This AP dispatch indicates she does:

Gov. Martinez bills herself as the transparency governor, promoting her mandate that all state employee salaries be posted publicly, touting her support for a bill that would require agencies and elected bodies to post notices of their meetings 72 hours in advance and promising quick responses to requests for public records. But when it comes to her schedule, Martinez keeps her information close to the vest. Other than public appearances, Martinez's office has declined to publicly release information about her travel or how she spends her days on the taxpayers' payroll. And notification of her public appearances often comes with just a few hours notice. The governor's office says it has a solid record of transparency, citing what it calls a speedy and thorough response to open records requests and its posting of public appearances on her web site.

And then there's the struggles of the alternative newspaper the Santa Fe Reporter to find out whose been visiting the Fourth Floor. Not pretty.

Sounds kind of like Big Bill, doesn't it? And it was all going to be so different. Not.

GOING VIRAL

How goes the conversation in ABQ? A YouTube video spoofing the slang of the city has gone viral with nearly 200,000 views. You can chuckle along here. Watch for the line about former Mayor Marty Chavez.

Thanks for stopping by this week and for again voting us "The Best" in the city.

Reporting to you from Albuquerque, I'm Joe Monahan

This is the home of New Mexico politics.

E-mail your news and comments. (jmonahan@ix.netcom.com)

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(c)NM POLITICS WITH JOE MONAHAN 2012
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