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GOP senators stump for Wilson

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Politics: They warn public about the possibility of sequestration

By The Staff

While the national Republican Party has all but abandoned New Mexico in recent weeks, three GOP senators came to Albuquerque Tuesday to raise money and boost the campaign of Heather Wilson as the U.S. Senate candidate best equipped to protect the state and the nation.

U.S. Sens. John McCain of Arizona, Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina touted Wilson — an Air Force Academy graduate, former congresswoman and defense contractor — as someone who will never underestimate the importance of the military.

“She would make sure that not only are New Mexico military assets protected, but also that our country remains safe,” Ayotte said.

McCain said across-the-board budget cuts set to take effect if Congress fails to reach a long-term debt reduction plan by January “will probably affect the state of New Mexico more drastically and more dramatically than any other state in the nation.”

“You would get screwed,” Graham said when asked about the effects of sequestration. “Someone has to fix it. I served in the House with Heather and she is a good conservative with a strong independent quality. I can’t think of a better advocate.”

McCain, Ayotte and Graham are all members of the Senate Armed Services Committee and have been traveling together on what they call a “Preserving America’s Strength” tour to highlight the “devastating impacts of the looming defense cuts.”

Wilson said the cuts would mean a loss of $400 million and 27,000 jobs at the state’s military bases and at New Mexico’s Sandia and Los Alamos national laboratories.

Wilson’s opponent, U.S. Rep. Martin Heinrich, said he agrees with McCain that “we must come to the table and prevent devastating cuts to our military and national labs.”  

“We’ve clearly seen that Tea Party Republicans are willing to take our economy hostage just to score political points, but I’m not willing to do that,” Heinrich said. “Last year’s debt ceiling deal was necessary to avoid a global financial crisis, and like Senator McCain, I voted reluctantly to ensure that did not happen.

“I’m committed to standing with New Mexicans and reducing the deficit using a balanced approach that includes asking millionaires to pay their fair share, while ensuring our military has the resources they need to defend our nation.”

A Wilson win would give the GOP one of four seats it needs to pick up in November to take control of the chamber. But with Wilson and GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney both trailing in the state, the Republican Party nationally has been shifting resources away from New Mexico to more competitive states. For example, the National Republican Senatorial Campaign Committee recently pulled $3 million in television advertising it had reserved for Wilson. And last week, the Republican National Committee transferred three key staffers from its Mitt Romney campaign efforts to Colorado and Nevada.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce has stepped into fill some of the void, basically doubling its spending on Wilson last week by putting $455,000 into new ads for her.

Both have been on the air since the June primary and despite Heinrich’s perceived advantage, both have gone negative.
Wilson has been working to tie Heinrich to what she calls Obama’s failed economic policies and budget cuts to the federal labs that are central to New Mexico’s economy while Heinrich has been working to paint Wilson as putting special interests ahead of New Mexicans.

A recent poll conducted for the Albuquerque Journal by Public Policy Polling showed Heinrich leading Wilson 49 percent to 42 percent.

“Throughout the entire campaign season, Martin Heinrich has had a consistent lead,” said pollster Brian Sanderoff. “But the race is still in play ... they can’t take anything for granted.”