Location: United States

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

NM-1: A Crumbling Facade?

Ever hear of Heather Wilson? Chances are, you haven't. New Mexico's First Congressional District isn't widely known for creating controversy. That may be changing.

A review of her record will tend to blow apart the idea that she is not a "real Republican". She tends to not be independent, but generally conservative and she doesn't generally buck the party too hard. She is, as well, a card-carrying member of the Religious Right. Nothing about her voting record indicates much of a concern for human rights or roping in the scope of governmental power.

Her opponent is Patricia Madrid. It isn't good news for Wilson that Madrid is currently polling dead even with her (although I don't care for the science behind this particular poll). The 2004 election showed her winning by a scant 24,000 votes. While she was right in the middle in regards to vote totals of the three Congressional districts, her opponent pulled in close to 40,000 votes more than any challenger. While most of her district is in Torrance County, the majority of the population is in Bernalillo County - mostly within the city of Albuquerque. Benalillo actually went to Kerry (though by an extremely slight margin). Much more sparsely populated Sandoval County went by the same margin to Bush - but with a difference of less than 2,000 votes. Both Torrance and Valencia are pretty safe areas for her, without many votes to mine and large distances between them. That leaves Santa Fe County, which has only a sliver in the First. Still, that County went to Kerry by 71%. With Madrid's electoral victory in 2002 (when she won by a 51%-37% margin) she looks to be in a strong position.

So who cares about New Mexico anyway? Well, I think it's safe to say that Heather Wilson's record indicates that she is acting in exactly the opposite manner that would typically be expected. There is nothing - nothing - in her record to indicate that she would pull away from her party, her President, or giving the government greater police powers. So why is she raising a stink?

Look through the electoral stuff. She's in a bad situation, and standing by her man (George W. Bush) is likely causing a great deal of her problems. With an election coming up and a well-funded and well-seasoned opponent at her heals, she has to step out and make a name for herself. She has to look tough. She has to show that she is her own woman.

There are some, I know, who are cynical about election-year politics. Wilson is likely to be a prime example for that group. If she can convince people in the next nine months that the first seven years of her service was an error, then she may win another two years. This argument says that politicians simply try to dupe us into casting our votes for people we don't really back.

I look at it hopefully, though. A Representative is supposed to work in the interest of the district they represent. As local opinions turn against George W. Bush, Wilson's actions should change. It isn't unprincipled and it isn't throwing the President under the bus - it's simply Wilson doing her job. I find it refreshing that what looked like an inpenetrable barrier of blind support for the President can actually be held in check by something. It is an indication that Republican partisanship isn't as monolithic as is typically portrayed - at least sometimes.

The question for voters is: Will this conscience disappear after the election? I have no way to answer that. That's up to the voters of New Mexico's First District - and it's entirely in their hands.


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