New Mexico Senate race heats up
(L) Rep. Martin Heinrich (R) Former Rep. Heather Wilson
July 18th, 2012
04:07 PM ET
2 years ago

New Mexico Senate race heats up

(CNN) – Former Rep. Heather Wilson of New Mexico sought to draw a sharp contrast Wednesday with her Democratic opponent in the state's heated U.S. Senate race, painting her opponent, Rep. Martin Heinrich, as a politician too eager to expand the scope of government.

"He believes in high taxes and more debt and big government, and that's just not who I am," Wilson told reporters at a meeting hosted by the National Republican Senatorial Committee, the Senate's GOP campaign arm.

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The race, held to replace retiring Democratic Sen. Jeff Bingaman, features two high-profile figures in the state. A former Air Force officer and White House official under President George H.W. Bush, Wilson served as a U.S. congresswoman from 1998 until 2009. She also worked as a cabinet member in former New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson's administration.

Heinrich, meanwhile, was elected to Congress in 2008 after serving as president of the Albuquerque City Council and as Natural Resources Trustee for the state. Both candidates won their party primaries by wide margins earlier this year.

So far the two candidates are fairly even in terms of fund-raising, with Wilson pulling in $4 million by the end of June compared to Heinrich's $3.9 million. The Democrat, however, has slightly more cash on hand with $1.7 million to Wilson's $1.6 million.

With polls indicating the race to be close–Heinrich generally maintains a slight advantage–the contest is expected to one of the more closely-watched Senate contests this fall, especially as Republicans eye the election as a chance to pick up a seat in the chamber.

Wilson, who ran further to the right during the primary, labels herself an independent voice, saying she would oppose some Republican ideas, such as the privatization of Social Security. She's also not shy in pointing out the fact that she was a Democrat until her 20s.

Asked if she supported the controversial Republican budget proposed by House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan, Wilson said she had "concerns" about the plan but did not elaborate on specific points with which she disagreed.

"I haven't looked at his bill in a long time," she said, emphasizing that she's running for the Senate, not the House, and noted the chamber's failure to produce a budget in three years.

Heinrich's campaign, however, said Wilson has waited far too long to take a position on the budget.

"It's been 464 days and she still hasn't made up her mind about the Ryan budget that guts Medicare-that's not leadership," said Whitney Potter, a spokeswoman for Heinrich. "If Heather Wilson won't refute conservative attacks on Medicare on the campaign trail, how can she be trusted to stand up to the Republican Tea Party agenda in Washington?

And while Wilson hits Heinrich as a supporter of tax increases, Heinrich argues his opponent, who voted for the Bush-era tax cuts while in Congress, would side with "millionaires and billionaires at the expense of New Mexico's middle class."

The congressman supports President Barack Obama's proposal to end the tax breaks for households making more than $250,000 a year.

"There are several reasons that we must end the Bush tax cuts for millionaires and billionaires, but chief among them is the simple reason that we can't afford it," Heinrich said in a statement last week. "We followed Heather Wilson and George W. Bush down that road already, and America's middle class paid the price while the wealthy consolidated their grip on power."

Wilson made headlines last month when becoming one of the first Republican candidates up for election this cycle to announce she would not attend the GOP convention in Tampa this August, citing a need to stay in the state and campaign. On Wednesday, Wilson further defended her decision, saying it was personal, not politics.

The former congresswoman added she expects energy to be a top area of contention in the race and faulted her opponent for being "way out on the extreme of his own party" on the issue.

"He wants large swaths of land to be wilderness and road-less," she said, making the case, along with many Republicans, that tapping into the state's resources could boost the economy and create jobs.

A number of conservation groups, however, have thrown their money into the race against Wilson. The League of Conservation Voters, Defenders of Wildlife Action Committee, and the Sierra Club have all dropped dollars in New Mexico, according to Federal Election Commission filings.

Meanwhile, American Crossroads, the super PAC founded by Karl Rove, has spent hundreds of thousands in support of the Republican candidate.

With Hispanics comprising a large component of New Mexico's voting population, immigration also comes up as an issue in the race. Wilson, however, said she did not support the recent Obama administration policy to stop deporting young illegal immigrants who entered the U.S. as children, as long as they meet certain requirements.

Wilson criticized the rule for failing to be a "permanent solution" and argued it was "unlikely that a lot of people" would take advantage of the new policy.

The candidates are scheduled to hold their next debate in October.


Filed under: 2012 • New Mexico • Senate
soundoff (19 Responses)
  1. BARACK HUSSEIN OBAMA has a FAILURE PROBLEM

    Come on New Mexico, flush the leftist Democrats and save this country and your state! The last thing this country needs is another Obamadroid in the US Senate spending this country down the tiolet.

    July 18, 2012 04:19 pm at 4:19 pm |
  2. Rudy NYC

    She believes in low taxes, high debt, and no government.

    July 18, 2012 04:25 pm at 4:25 pm |
  3. Thomas

    "He believes in high taxes and more debt and big government, and that's just not who I am," Wilson told reporters at a meeting hosted by the National Republican Senatorial Committee.

    BLAH , BLAH, BLAH ,

    Your state is # 46th in education , what do you want a whole class of morons ? Lady get real , think out side your mundain , self centerd little party line world !

    Go play in the back yard !

    July 18, 2012 04:34 pm at 4:34 pm |
  4. Bingham

    That is going to be hard sell for Wilson in that state. I travel in Texas, Oklahoma and New Mexico. New Mexico is very eclectic and the people I know tend to be very wealthy or the lower end of middle class. I travel all over the state and the upper middle class is almost non-existent.

    July 18, 2012 04:35 pm at 4:35 pm |
  5. Namejkane fl SEND THE THREE TIME LOSER romney HOME AND MAKE IT FOUR.

    Another Gop bafoon heading for the Gop bafoons train wreck in Nov with romney the clown driving and BACHMANN as co pilot !!!!!

    July 18, 2012 04:50 pm at 4:50 pm |
  6. Wire Palladin, S. F.

    Actually, she believes in and voted for low taxes for the wealthy, bigger government, and supported the idiot who added $4.6 trillion to our national debt.

    July 18, 2012 04:53 pm at 4:53 pm |
  7. BARACK HUSSEIN OBAMA has a FAILURE PROBLEM

    Thomas - Your state is # 46th in education , what do you want a whole class of morons ? Lady get real , think out side your mundain , self centerd little party line world !
    =================================================================================================
    What is that ranking based on and who does it? Is it just based on the amount of money spent? Could any of the tens of thousands of poorly educated illegals be dragging down thier averages? And since liberals and the teachers unions control the schools, why are you pointing fingers at others???

    July 18, 2012 04:53 pm at 4:53 pm |
  8. Darryl

    The Republican have shown nothing short of name calling, insults, demonizing and dis-respect for the political system not to mention the POTUS.The people of this country are all now very well aware of the discord and where it comes from.They will pay the price come November and as far as the Taxes go ? let them go all the way till January 1st.Then they can wright a new Tax deduction for the 98% of americans, working class & middle class and raise the Tax on the wealthiest people who have done well and have never suffered any of the conquences that they have created.The Wallstreet Greeddy people of this country.It is time to bring this country back somewhat to what it use to be.This country does NOT belong to the Ultra-Wealthy to purchase and control. This country belongs to all of the people of this great nation.

    July 18, 2012 04:55 pm at 4:55 pm |
  9. Myviewis

    Yes, small government, we don't need that many public servants. Let's be real, we have less police officers and firefighters than public servants working in government offices doing pretty much nothing and getting great pay, great benefits, great hours. These days if you want to get rich you go work for the government.

    July 18, 2012 04:56 pm at 4:56 pm |
  10. Ronda in Houston,TX

    Kick the repub to the curb.

    July 18, 2012 05:06 pm at 5:06 pm |
  11. Bill

    The democrat wins this one. End of story.

    July 18, 2012 05:08 pm at 5:08 pm |
  12. aaronjwalton

    I think the caption is wrong. Heinrich is on the right, and Wilson's on the left, correct?

    July 18, 2012 05:12 pm at 5:12 pm |
  13. Larry L

    Somalia has low taxes, small government and very loose gun laws. Sounds perfect for the Republican mantra...

    July 18, 2012 05:16 pm at 5:16 pm |
  14. Lisa P

    Myviewis

    Yes, small government, we don't need that many public servants. Let's be real, we have less police officers and firefighters than public servants working in government offices doing pretty much nothing and getting great pay, great benefits, great hours. These days if you want to get rich you go work for the government.
    July 18, 2012 04:56 pm at 4:56 pm
    +++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

    You really don't know anything about working for the government, do you? Perhaps in the future you should just keep your ignorance to yourself. Or you could learn something about what governments do and how they work *before* shooting off your mouth. Your choice.

    Hint: if you want to get rich in a huge bureaucracy, go to work for a malor bank, insurance company, investment firm or multi-national corporation. Your local town hall is *not* the place to start.

    July 18, 2012 05:18 pm at 5:18 pm |
  15. tellin it like it is

    Yeah, send another big spending Democrat to the Senate. We have sooo much money to spend! Which do you prefer, Freshly printed or Chinese borrowed? We need people that are going to stop the spending insanity, not spending fools that want to send this country over the cliff.

    July 18, 2012 05:22 pm at 5:22 pm |
  16. Lisa P

    "He wants large swaths of land to be wilderness and road-less," she said, making the case, along with many Republicans, that tapping into the state's resources could boost the economy and create jobs...
    --------------------------

    So, what if the wilderness *is* the resource, and the jobs all depend on tourism? Doesn't "tapping" into one set of resources kind of mess up the others? It seems to me that people in NM need to think this out.

    July 18, 2012 05:25 pm at 5:25 pm |
  17. GonzoinHouston

    I've always admired the psychic abilities of conservatives. "My opponent believes", "Obama really wants", "the American people really think". How do you know what he believes, lady? Are you using the GOP's inside line to God or something?

    July 18, 2012 05:25 pm at 5:25 pm |
  18. tellin it like it is

    >Lisa P - So, what if the wilderness *is* the resource, and the jobs all depend on tourism?
    >Doesn't "tapping" into one set of resources kind of mess up the others?
    >It seems to me that people in NM need to think this out.

    yeah, because trudging through the vast wilderness on foot is what all americans want to do on their vacations... do you think this is still the 1830s??? get real.

    July 18, 2012 05:32 pm at 5:32 pm |
  19. Thomas

    @Larry L
    Somalia has low taxes, small government and very loose gun laws. Sounds perfect for the Republican mantra...

    Love it !

    July 18, 2012 05:37 pm at 5:37 pm |