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Lightning Rods Aid Heinrich, Wilson

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — The early front-runners for their parties’ nominations for New Mexico’s open Senate seat each got a boost or a black mark in August, depending on which political party is speaking.

Rep. Martin Heinrich, D-N.M., was endorsed by the Sierra Club on Aug. 5. Former Rep. Heather Wilson, R-N.M., attended a Thursday fundraiser with Karl Rove, a former top aide to President George W. Bush who has been called the “architect” of the national Republican campaign strategies in the first half of the last decade.

Conservatives, who often take issue with the Sierra Club’s environmental stances against industry, said Heinrich was too eager to take money from “extremist” special interest groups.

“The Sierra Club’s endorsement of Congressman Heinrich shows that his focus is on appeasing environmental extremists over ensuring that New Mexico families can find good-paying jobs,” said Bryan Watkins, executive director of the Republican Party of New Mexico.

Outside the Wilson fundraiser in Albuquerque, about 50 people participated in a protest sponsored by the Democratic Party of New Mexico.

“Karl Rove’s appearance with Heather Wilson is a reminder of Wilson’s ethically challenged past, and New Mexico voters will not forget,” said Scott Forrester, state Democratic Party executive director, referring to controversy over the firing of U.S. attorneys around the country in 2007, including David Iglesias, then U.S. attorney for New Mexico.

Muddy track: The Democratic Party of New Mexico caused a fuss when the organization sent out a news release accusing Republican Gov. Susana Martinez and former Albuquerque Public Safety Director Darren White of cronyism.

The fuss moved up a notch after it was shown that some of the allegations weren’t true.

The Democratic Party’s release accused Martinez of “steering sizable government contracts (White’s) way with a security consulting contract at Expo New Mexico.”

White is actually working for The Downs At Albuquerque, a private company, to consult on the security portion of a bid the Downs is creating to continue its lease with the state. White will not make any money from taxpayers on the deal and will not remain employed by the Downs after the bid is completed.

Expo New Mexico will evaluate the bids and choose the Downs or another company to operate the racetrack on the state fairgrounds. The Democratic Party, in its news release, also pointed out the connection between White and newly appointed Expo New Mexico Director Dan Mourning, calling Mourning a “friend and political ally” of White’s.

State GOP officials jumped on Democrats for the release.

“It’s disappointing that the Democratic Party is so desperate to smear (Martinez) that they would resort to sending out provably false statements,” said Bryan Watkins, Republican Party of New Mexico executive director.

“It still reeks of cronyism,” said Scott Forrester, Democratic Party executive director.

Lonesome GUV: Former New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson, who is seeking the Republican nomination for president, missed another national debate Thursday night.

But he still let his feelings be known in a statement after the eight-person debate in Iowa and broadcast on Fox News.

“Everyone on the stage talked about cutting spending and balancing the budget, but where is the commitment to actually get it done and get it done now?” Johnson said. “With some political courage, the budget could be balanced in 2013, but that courage wasn’t on the stage tonight. The Johnson administration would propose a balanced budget in January of 2013.”

Johnson decided to skip the debate, and the accompanying straw poll, because it “has much more to do with organizing busloads of supporters than it does with ideas and solutions to our country’s economic problems,” Johnson’s senior campaign adviser, Ron Nielson, said in a statement earlier this month.