Wilson wins pre-GOP nod

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By Hal Rhodes

“Short, Bald, Honest” must surely rank among the most droll political slogans ever to enliven the campaign of a candidate for the United States Senate.
On the other hand, it obviously didn’t do Greg Sowards a lot of good with New Mexico Republican party insiders at the state GOP’s March 17 Pre-Primary Convention in Albuquerque, where over 80 percent of the delegates voted to give former-Congresswoman Heather Wilson top ballot position over Sowards in their June 5 primary election.
Have Republicans lost their sense of humor?
Sowards, a Doña Ana County business man, is indeed on the short side. He’s also a tad overweight. So on those two points, at least, he is demonstrably honest, making him a political rarity, cynics might say.
Of perhaps greater import, the trouncing Sowards took at the state Republican conclave raises interesting questions about the political clout of New Mexico’s Tea Party going into the 2012 election year cycle.
 Two years ago, national Tea Party functionaries were touting Republican Susana Martinez’s victory in New Mexico’s gubernatorial race as one of their big 2010 electoral accomplishments.
  Earlier in this year’s GOP Senate primary contest, no less a Tea Party Republican star than Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul, passed over Heather Wilson to endorse Lt. Gov. John Sanchez for the Republican nomination. If the polls were any indication, that endorsement did Sanchez little if any good and he eventually left the race altogether.
Word on the street has it that Sanchez’s withdrawal benefited Wilson at their party’s recent convention, although there is scant evidence that Tea Party types played a major role at that gathering.
Shortly before Sanchez threw in the towel, Alamogordo businessman and Tea Party favorite Bill English ended his own bid for the Republican Senate nomination, whereupon he threw his support to Sowards.
Said English, “I believe Greg Sowards is the only candidate that (sic) can unite Republicans, Independents and Conservative Democrats of New Mexico in 2012.”
Bill English could be right, but given Sowards’ tepid showing at the March 17 convention he now finds himself in the position of having to hustle up additional ballot signatures simply to get his name on the June Republican primary ballot.
For Heather Wilson, on the other hand, the GOP Pre-Primary gathering came as a gift.  With Lt. Gov. Sanchez and Bill English out of contention, and with Greg Sowards virtually on the ropes, the former congresswoman is free to focus her campaign on her “presumed” general election opponent, Democratic Congressman Martin Heinrich.
And make no mistake of it, Wilson and other top state Republicans do presume that Heinrich will be the Democratic Senate nominee this year and already have him in their sights.      Heinrich, too, has begun his campaign against Wilson, rarely missing an opportunity to take shots at the former congresswoman.
Nor would it be reckless to characterize Heinrich as the Democratic frontrunner.
 Nonetheless, the Democrats’ Senate primary remains a bona fide contest in which two attractive candidates have significant support down at their party’s grassroots.
In short, while it is safe for Wilson to start taking her primary election victory laps, Martin Heinrich can ill afford to stop looking over his shoulder at his rival for the Democrats’ Senate nomination, state Auditor Hector Balderas, until after the June 5th primary.
 Of course that doesn’t mean other Democrats aren’t already on Wilson’s case.
 Just last week the Democratic Senate Campaign Committee took the opportunity to link the ex-congresswoman to Congressional Republican “plans to gut Medicare while protecting tax breaks for corporations that ship jobs overseas and the wealthiest Americans.”
Wilson’s big win at her party’s Pre-Primary affair, it seems, came with a two-edged sword.
Hal Rhodes
New Mexico News Service