Sunlit Water

March 5, 2007

Vindictive Much?

Filed under: Politics — by teofilo @ 11:21 pm

One thing about the US Attorney scandal as it applies to New Mexico is that it seems to be all about Heather Wilson.  Iglesias’s story is that she called him to pressure him to speed up an indictment of a Democratic State Senator to help her campaign at a time when she was lagging in the polls, and only after he declined did Domenici step in.  Most of the media attention seems to be focusing on Domenici so far, which makes sense since he’s a much more prominent guy, but Wilson’s really the center of this storm.  Domenici wasn’t even running in 2006.

Some people have expressed surprise that he would get involved in this, since it seems pretty far removed from his own political career and it seems odd that an esteemed six-term senator would stoop to this kind of dirty work, but it actually makes a great deal of sense.  Wilson owes her political career pretty much entirely to Domenici, who found her in Washington and brought her back to New Mexico to be Secretary of Children, Youth and Families when Gary Johnson was elected governor, then essentially hand-picked her for the First District Congressional seat when Steve Schiff resigned in 1998.  She’s always had trouble politically in the district, which is closely divided politically with a slight Democratic lean, and it’s only her connections and (admittedly prodigious) political talent that have allowed her to continue scraping out narrow victories, often by mere hundreds of votes.  Domenici, whose own popularity is through the roof, has been an indispensable ally for her in those elections, and it’s clear that he feels a strong loyalty to her and desire to keep her career afloat.  Hence his call to Iglesias, a call that may now have dire consequences for both his career and hers.



  1. Is it possible that he wants to retire and wanted to keep her around to be his replacement?

    Comment by Matt W — March 6, 2007 @ 12:16 am |Reply

  2. That seems logical, but he apparently doesn’t want to retire any time soon. Last I heard he was planning to run again in 2008 for a seventh (!) term, but this scandal may of course change all that. It’s quite possible that he’s been grooming her as a successor without having any particular plans for when she’ll move into that role.

    I should clarify that this is all just speculation on my part, and I haven’t spent much time in NM in a while. Grain of salt, etc.

    Comment by teofilo — March 6, 2007 @ 12:57 am |Reply

  3. He’d likely say that even if he’s thinking seriously about retiring, just to keep people from devoting their time/energy to speculation/struggle over succession. When it gets close to the filing deadline, he can “reconsider,” tipping Wilson (and turning over his campaign war chest).

    I wonder whether this thing will end up making him stay on. Assuming that the matter remains political, and there are no indictments (a safe assumption so far, I think) his popularity is probably enough to weather this, but she was always a longer shot for statewide office. Maybe Dom stays to keep the seat out of Udall’s hands (or Richardson’s — who will have given up the Presidential bid by the time the filing deadline comes around) or ???

    Comment by CharleyCarp — March 6, 2007 @ 7:17 am |Reply

  4. I don’t know if this scandal will actually make him stay on longer than he was intending, but the idea that he’s staying to keep the seat out of Democratic hands mades sense. I’m sure there’s a certain amount of national GOP pressure on him to stay, since the state party’s a mess and Wilson, who is, as you say, a longshot, is the only really credible candidate for the seat. He can’t stay in there forever, though, and he’s already quite old.

    Comment by teofilo — March 6, 2007 @ 12:42 pm |Reply

  5. Well.

    Comment by Matt W — March 10, 2007 @ 11:44 pm |Reply

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