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Dems Play Nice

By Leslie Linthicum
Journal Staff Writer
    The four candidates vying for the Democratic nomination in the 1st Congressional District were positively positive in the first— and probably only— televised debate in the race.
    They took a few shots at one another, but it was nothing compared with the 20-minute poking match that constituted the Republican debate.
    State Sen. Joe Carraro went after Bernalillo County Sheriff Darren White in a testy exchange, which aired on KNME-TV during the weekend. It ended with Carraro asking famously anti-drug White whether he had ever taken drugs.
    White had no opportunity to respond as the show, "New Mexico In Focus," ran out of time. (White said his response to Carraro off camera was, " 'Have you ever taken an IQ test?' That was my way of saying that was a stupid comment.")
    Carraro alleged White doesn't understand the issues before the U.S. Congress. White countered that Carraro is trying to get attention with "crazy allegations" and "venom and constant stone throwing."
    Carraro alleged White left his job as state secretary of public safety under Gov. Gary Johnson because of a no-confidence vote from the New Mexico State Police Association. White acknowledged the no-confidence vote during the debate.
    Members of the officer's union did approve a no-confidence measure regarding White in September 1999 when he was DPS secretary. He resigned in November 1999. White told the Journal the vote was a result of his shaking up the agency and pushing for change. He said he quit after Johnson came out in favor of legalizing hard drugs.
    In the Democratic contest for the 1st Congressional District seat, Albuquerque lawyer Robert Pidcock has repeatedly complained that Martin Heinrich, who is considered the front-runner, has little job experience. In an e-mail to the Journal, he questioned the legality of Heinrich's business, Heinrich Consulting, which he ran from 2002-05.
    City records show Heinrich didn't get a license for the business until December 2004. By then he had served on the Albuquerque City Council for more than a year.
    Pidcock wondered if Heinrich really could have been operating an Albuquerque business without a license while he was on the City Council.
    Actually, Heinrich admitted later, that's exactly what happened. He said he ran the business for nearly three years without a license because he didn't realize he needed one.
    "Martin Heinrich is a guy who plays by the rules, and as soon as someone brought the error to his attention, he got the license," his campaign manager, Jon Blair, said.
    Pidcock also questions Heinrich's job as executive director of the Cottonwood Gulch Foundation, which runs summer wilderness camps in the Zuni Mountains in western New Mexico, and brought it up in the KNME forum.
    "That could hardly be classified as a full-time job," Pidcock said.
    Heinrich started at the foundation in the fall of 1996 and ran his first summer camps in 1997. Although summer is the active season for the 540-acre camp, the foundation raises money, recruits and plans year round, and the job is full-time year-round, according to current Cottonwood executive director Mike Sullivan.
    Both segments of the debate can be viewed online at KNME.org/NewMexicoInFocus. Click on "Episode 135."