New Mexico: Wolves, wilderness, drilling and Latinos
"Nothing is more attractive to a wolf than the sound of a crying baby," said then-Rep. Steve Pearce, R, during a 2007 debate over one of his bills, which sought to kill funding for the federal Mexican wolf reintroduction program in southern New Mexico, Pearce's district. More recently, Pearce expressed his views of land protection and immigration by opposing a wilderness bill along the Mexico border because it would "provide new corridors of access for drug trafficking and human smuggling." Stances like these got Pearce a lifetime score of 3, out of a possible perfect 100, from the League of Conservation Voters -- which is about 3 points higher than his scores from other progressive groups.
HCN's Guide to Western Elections
Pearce's anti-wolf bill lost. And in 2008, Pearce lost, too, in a face-off with Democrat Tom Udall over a Senate seat. Now Pearce wants his old House seat back from the Democrat who won it in 2008, Harry Teague. Given Pearce's stances on wolves, wilderness and drilling -- his top campaign contributors are oil and gas folks -- environmentalists are jumping into the fray. Defenders of Wildlife has spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on ads painting Pearce as corrupt.
The liberals are more anti-Pearce than pro-Teague. Teague made a career in oilfield services and leans to the right. He voted against health-care reform, and despite the fact that he favors cap-and-trade climate legislation, the oil and gas industry contributes generously to his campaign. Polls show the two in a dead heat.
Republicans are also looking to reclaim the 1st Congressional District seat, which centers on Albuquerque. The Democrat who won in 2008, Martin Heinrich, leans to the left and has a 100 percent rating from the League of Conservation Voters. The Republican candidate, Jon Barela, is a former president of the Albuquerque Hispano Chamber of Commerce and vice chairman of the state's Republican Party. Polls indicate the Democrat has a slight edge.
Also watch Gov. Bill Richardson, one of the stars of the Democratic uprising in the West, is stepping down this year, opening things up for either Democratic Lt. Gov. Diane Denish or Republican Susana Martinez. Each follows her party's line on the issues, but the so-called identity politics are more intriguing: Will the Hispanic vote go to the Hispanic candidate, Martinez? Or to the Democrat -- Denish is courting Hispanics by choosing Brian Colón as her running mate -- as it usually does? Either way, the winner will make history, becoming the first woman to lead the state.