The nature of political ambition

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Many clamor to take Bingaman’s place in the U.S. Senate

By Hal Rhodes

Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell and his gang of senate GOPers are at it again.
This time they’ve told President Obama that his choice for a new Secretary of Commerce won’t be confirmed until the president submits proposed free trade agreements with South Korea, Colombia and Panama for Senate confirmation.
The Obama administration is holding back those agreements pending negotiations with Colombia and Panama on related issues.
But McConnell, et. al, have their own agenda and are now embarked upon another of their tantrums by threatening to leave the Department of Commerce leaderless unless they get their way.
It’s as mindless as it is irresponsible.
Is it any wonder that some of the most level-headed incumbent senators have made it known that they will not seek reelection in 2012, New Mexico’s Jeff Bingaman among them?
Yet, such is the nature of political ambition, that there are always others clamoring to take their places.
Even as Bingaman was announcing his decision to retire, Heather Wilson, the erstwhile congresswoman from the state’s 1st District, was rushing to proclaim her candidacy for the GOP nomination to succeed him.
This will be Wilson’s second bid for a senate seat. In 2008 she sought her party’s nomination for the seat being vacated by Republican Sen. Pete Domenici.  
It was not to be.
In one of the nastiest Republican primaries in memory, Wilson lost to  Steve Pearce, a congressman from New Mexico’s 2nd District, who subsequently lost to Democrat Tom Udall.  
New Mexico politics being what they are, Pearce has since reclaimed his old congressional berth, and although he has feigned scant interest in the GOP’s 2012 senate nomination, neither has he expressed enthusiasm for Wilson’s reignited senate ambitions.
By all accounts, New Mexico’s Tea Party Republicans are equally disenchanted at the prospect of Wilson as their nominee.
But Tea Partiers needn’t despair. New Mexico’s newly-minted lieutenant governor, John Sanchez, also has his eye on the Republican nomination to replace Bingaman.
Sanchez has yet to spend three full months in the post of lieutenant governor.   
Nonetheless, political ambition is not to be denied.     
It is a famously bipartisan axiom. After all the words of sorrow and regret, admiration and respect had been expressed by his fellow Democrats at Bingaman’s decision to hang it up, the winds of Democratic political fortune were being tested.
Not surprisingly, among top tier state Democrats looming as a potential aspirant for Bingaman’s seat  is the former lieutenant governor who lost the race for governor in 2010, Diane Denish.
Denish is said to be interested in the Dems’ senate nomination, and there would be certain poignancy to such a race were she to succeed. In 1972, her late father, then-state Sen. Jack Daniels, lost his own bid for a senate seat to Pete Domenici in what would be Domenici’s first term in the nation’s upper house.
Meanwhile, State Auditor Hector Balderas has all but declared that he’ll make a run for it. Balderas has brought energy and integrity to the auditor’s office but is still a long shot for the Democrats’ senate nomination next year.
District 1 Democratic Congressman Martin Heinrich could be more formidable. While many other Democrats in the House were getting the boot last November, Heinrich became a minor Democratic star by winning a second term.
The congressman has said he is “actively” considering a run in Democratic primary.
But it’s a long way from here to there.  
Who knows? Perhaps by the time one of New Mexico’s sundry senatorial wannabes takes office, the madness will have abated and a new Commerce Secretary will be in office — God and Mitch McConnell willing.     

Hal Rhodes
NM News Services