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Saturday, March 17, 2012

Weekend Special: Wilson Thwarts Sowards At GOP Preprimary; She Scores 83% Delegate Support Keeping Him Below Key 20% Mark, Plus: Arnold-Jones Waxes Field; Gets 62% Support 

Wilson & Arnold-Jones
Heather Wilson tamped down a threat from her party's right wing Saturday, scoring 83% of the delegate support at the Saturday GOP state preprimary convention. Greg Sowards came up short of the key 20% mark needed to win an official spot on the June primary ballot, coming with just 17% delegate support. He vows to stay in the race but will have to submit petition signatures to get on the June ballot.

About 800 statewide delegates attended the convention at the ABQ Crowne Plaza.

The Wilson win came after negative campaigning broke out between the two. The victory could soften the pressure the former ABQ GOP congresswoman feels from her party's right so she can begin positioning herself for the face-off with her general election opponent--either US Rep Martin Heinrich or State Auditor Hector Balderas.

But a key question remains. At the end of the year, Sowards had over $600,000 cash in his bank account--most of it money he donated to himself. Will he go ahead and spend a large chunk of it on negative ads against Wilson and try to keep her tacking to the right? That an unknown like Sowards could capture as much as 17% does speak to the rightward drift of the party and Wilson's continued problems with it.

The bottom line is that Wilson is headed for a healthy primary victory, but whether her political bloodstream will be infected by Sowards (to the delight of the Dems), is a question still wafting about in the March air.

JAZZED UP JANICE

When you boast you are going to win big, you better. And Janice Arnold-Jones did both. The ABQ GOP US House candidate blew the doors off at the preprimary, capturing over 62% of the delegate support to about 34% for ABQ City Councilor Dan Lewis and about 4% for retired Army Seargent Gary Smith. She had promised she would.

This sets the stage for Arnold-Jones, a former state representative and 2010 GOP Guv candidate, to take over the front-runner position in this contest. But she will need money to match this performance. At the end of the year she had only $20,000 in cash compared to $102,000 for Lewis and $88,000 for Smith who has said he will stay in the race and get petition signatures to be on the June primary ballot, but it is not certain.

The winner of the June 5 primary will take on one of three Democratic candidates competing for their party's nomination. The seat is being vacated by Rep. Martin Heinrich who is running for the open US Senate seat.

There is a sense that the party is moving it over to Arnold-Jones but none of these candidates has been very muscular--until now. A 62% showing is especially relevant for Arnold-Jones because she has had such a hard time taming her party's right wing. Her refusal to endorse the death penalty is one big reason, with her overall political moderation being the primary one.

The next money reports come out in mid-April. We will know then if party money is going to follow Janice out of this convention. If it does, Lewis could find himself fighting from the corner.

SENIOR ALLIGATOR ANALYSIS

A number of our Senior Alligators say the burst of strength by Arnold-Jones is a calculated play by the GOP. They think Janice's presence on the fall ticket will help Wilson in her Senate race in moderate ABQ and that she also matches up well against liberal Dem Eric Griego, now the leading contender for the Dem nomination. They think a Wilson-Arnold-Jones combo makes it harder for the Dems to attack them on women's issues. They see Wilson's forces pushing Arnold-Jones ahead. Also, Dan Lewis has not been on friendly terms with GOP ABQ Mayor RJ Berry and 2010 GOP ABQ US House nominee Jon Barela, additional factors favoring Arnold-Jones. They say the fight now is going to be over who is the "true conservative" with Lewis, a pastor, noting his more socially conservative views as he works to contain Janice's convention boomlet.

THE NORTH

In the preprimary contest for the northern congressional seat Rick Newton bested Jeff Byrd 65% to 35%. The winner of the June 5 primary will take on Dem US Congressman Ben Ray Lujan.

(c)NM POLITICS WITH JOE MONAHAN 2012
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