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New Mexico: Wilson Returns to the Chicken Dinner Circuit

Just two months after a hair-thin victory that she spent at least $3.3 million on, Rep. Heather Wilson (R) is back on the fundraising circuit.

Wilson has a $1,000-a-ticket fundraiser scheduled for Tuesday at the Capitol Hill Club. And, according to a political blog in the Land of Enchantment, the five-term Congresswoman also has a $1,000-a-plate event scheduled for later this week at an Albuquerque restaurant.

Wilson, a perennial Democratic target, defeated then-state Attorney General Patricia Madrid (D) by just more than 800 votes in November. Madrid spent at least $3.2 million on the race, and several Democratic interest groups spent millions more.

It remains to be seen whether Democrats will make another major push to oust Wilson in 2008, despite the Democratic lean of the 1st district.

Former Albuquerque City Councilor Eric Griego (D) told Roll Call last week that he is considering running for the seat, but is far more likely to do so if Wilson runs for Senate in 2008 — which would happen only if six-term Sen. Pete Domenici (R) decides to retire.

“I’ve watched that race long enough to see that it’s really tough unless it’s an open seat,” said Griego, who currently is the assistant secretary for economic development at the New Mexico Economic Development Department.

Griego said that the presidential prospects of his boss, Gov. Bill Richardson (D), also could figure in his decision.

Should Wilson vacate the House seat, a huge field of Democrats and Republicans would undoubtedly line up to replace her.
— Josh Kurtz

Albuquerque Mayor Ponders Political Future

Albuquerque Mayor Martin Chavez (D), who has talked openly of running for Senate in 2008 if veteran Sen. Pete Domenici (R) does not seek a seventh term, this week set up a fundraising committee for a 2010 gubernatorial bid.

Chavez told the Albuquerque Tribune that he has not ruled out a Senate run and is merely keeping all his options open.

“I really have very strong opinions about my viability as a candidate,” he said.

The money Chavez raises for his statewide campaign account cannot be transferred to a federal account.

Chavez also did not rule out running for a fourth term as mayor in 2009; if he does that, he’d have to re-establish a city campaign account.

Gov. Bill Richardson (D), a likely presidential contender in 2008, will be term-limited in 2010. Lt. Gov. Diane Denish (D) already has announced her intention to run for that post, and others could follow.

In November, Chavez met with national Democratic leaders about a 2008 Senate bid. At the time, he said he would not challenge Domenici if he ran again and would, in fact, be inclined to support New Mexico’s longest-serving Senator for another term.
— J.K.

Likely Spoiler for Brady Drops His City Hall Bid

Rep. Robert Brady (D), who is poised to officially enter the Democratic primary for mayor of Philadelphia today, got good news earlier in the week when a former ally-turned-rival announced that he would not run.

John Dougherty (D), a prominent Philadelphia labor leader, said he would forgo the 2007 race because his wife and mother are ill.

“You get one mom and I get many elections,” he told The Philadelphia Inquirer.

Dougherty, the president of Local 98 of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers in Philadelphia and a former treasurer of the city’s Democratic Committee, was expected to cut deeply into Brady’s support among working class and white ethnic voters.

Brady, who is the city’s Democratic boss, was once a close friend of Dougherty’s, but the two had a falling out last year and the Congressman engineered Dougherty’s removal as treasurer of the city party.

Dougherty’s departure leaves five major Democrats in the race: Brady, Rep. Chaka Fattah, state Rep. Dwight Evans, former City Councilman Michael Nutter, and wealthy businessman Tom Knox. The winner of the May 15 primary is almost certain to be elected mayor in November.

As in many cities, race could be a major factor in the primary outcome. Fattah, Evans and Nutter are black; Brady and Knox are white.
— J.K.

State Weighs Possible Primary Date Change

State Sen. Ron Calderon (D) has introduced a bill to move the state’s 2008 presidential primary from early June to the first Tuesday in February.

California officials, including Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R), have been complaining of late that the Golden State, with the biggest population in the nation, is overlooked and ignored in the quadrennial presidential nominating process. Senate bill 113 would leave the June primary in place for all contests other than the presidential primary.

The Congressional primaries would be among those that would still take place in June if the Legislature passes, and the governor signs, SB 113.

“California is the biggest and most influential state in the union yet our current June presidential primary virtually ensures that the nominees will be determined long before our voters cast their ballots,” Calderon said in a statement.

California had a June presidential primary for decades, but state officials changed it to March in the 1990s in an effort to give state voters more of a say in the nominating process. But that also leapfrogged the state’s other primaries to March, which many officeholders did not like. So they changed the primary date back to June for the 2006 elections.

Calderon is chairman of the state Senate Committee on Elections, Reapportionment and Constitutional Amendments, so he should at least be able to get the primary date measure through the Senate.
— David M. Drucker

New Liberal PAC Lists Three House Democrats

Labor unions and other liberal groups this week formed a new political action committee designed to prevent Democratic officeholders from straying too far from liberal Democratic orthodoxy.

The new political organization, Working for Us PAC, is modeling itself after the Club for Growth, the fiscally conservative group that targets RINOs — Republicans in Name Only — in GOP primaries.

“Over the last several years many Democrats in Congress have abandoned basic progressive values and voted against the best interests of their constituents,” the group says on its Web site home page. “And that’s why we’ve formed Working for Us PAC — to help whip Democrats who stray back in line. We expect our members of Congress to always be working for us — America’s families. We’re here to make sure they do.”

The group listed three Democratic Members as potential targets for defeat in party primaries — Reps. Ellen Tauscher (Calif.), Albert Wynn (Md.) and Henry Cuellar (Texas), who was endorsed by the Club for Growth in 2006 — and urged supporters to nominate other Democratic elected officials who don’t pass the liberal litmus test.
— J.K.

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