Albuquerque merits pondered

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Southern New Mexico could decide senate race

By Jay Miller

The Democratic U.S. senate primary is likely to be as hard fought and negative as the GOP primary. The two races have much in common.
Both contests feature a U.S. house member or former member, representing Albuquerque, against an opponent who has won a statewide election.
In the GOP primary, former Rep. Heather Wilson and Lt. Gov. John Sanchez do battle.
In the Democratic primary, Rep. Martin Heinrich and state Auditor Hector Balderas face off.
Wilson represented Albuquerque for more than 10 years, never losing  an election. She left her seat and unsuccessfully ran statewide in the 2008 GOP senate primary to replace Sen. Pete Domenici.
Sanchez won the GOP primary for governor in 2002 and then lost the general election by a big margin to Bill Richardson.
He won the 2010 GOP primary election for lieutenant governor and went on to win the position in the general election running on the Susana Martinez ticket.
On the Democratic side, Heinrich has been elected twice to the U.S. house from Albuquerque. In the U.S. senate primary, he is squaring off with Balderas who is serving his second term as state auditor.
The big question for the coming election is whether it is better to have represented Albuquerque in congress or to have been elected to statewide office.
Both Sanchez and Balderas have traveled the state extensively. They already have political contacts in every county.
Is that more important than having a big, loyal base in Albuquerque and not be known well among the other two-thirds of New Mexico’s population?
The pundits disagree. In 2008, Wilson beat Pearce in Albuquerque by about a 2-1 margin. But Pearce won his southern constituency by a 3-1 margin.
Wilson should do well again in Albuquerque. Sanchez probably will be stronger in the north. Southern New Mexico could decide that race.
Among the Democrats, Heinrich should do well in Albuquerque and Balderas in the north.
One advantage for Balderas is that he can boast of being from Wagon Mound when he is in the rest of the state but talk about his days going to law school and being an assistant district attorney in Albuquerque.
Neither Balderas nor Sanchez has established much of a record for a congressional candidate. Both served one two-year term in the state house.
Balderas is in his fifth year as state auditor. Sanchez is in his first year as lieutenant governor and hasn’t been allowed to do anything except preside over the Senate.
Wilson is pounding on Sanchez’s lack of a record. She says he claims to be a tea party conservative but his record to back that up is invented. He’s not who he says he is, Wilson claims.
Recent developments since Sanchez announced indicate that Gov. Susana Martinez may have unofficially come down on Wilson’s side.
The day after Sanchez’s announcement, Martinez announced she will not be assigning him any duties since he might be distracted by running for the U.S. Senate.
For the life of me, I can’t recall an elected official ever resigning an office in order to run for a higher office.
That includes the governor herself who held onto her district attorney’s job until days before she was sworn in as governor. It also includes Rep. Wilson when she ran for the Senate.
The day after the governor’s disapproving remarks about Sanchez, she appeared at a meeting at which Wilson was speaking and seemed to make a point to talk with Wilson and have their picture taken.
Besides presiding over the state senate, statutes also provide that the lieutenant governor serve on several boards and commissions.
The governor can’t legally remove Sanchez from them but past practice suggests she might try again.

Jay Miller