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In a move that could alter the outcome of the Republican primary in the race to replace retiring Sen. Pete Domenici (R), the Club for Growth announced Wednesday that it was endorsing Rep. Steve Pearce (R) over Rep. Heather Wilson (R).

Equally significant, the club signaled that it is ready to play hardball against Wilson, a political moderate who many Republican leaders believe would be the stronger general election candidate against the likely Democratic nominee, Rep. Tom Udall.

In a statement, the conservative anti-tax group praised Pearce for his voting record, but spent more time dissecting Wilson’s.

“It is clear that Heather Wilson is out of step with New Mexico Republicans,” said Club for Growth President Pat Toomey, a former GOP Congressman from Pennsylvania who served with both Wilson and Pearce. “As a Representative, she has sided with the Democrats to increase taxes, increase spending and increase government’s intrusion in the marketplace. As a Senator, we fear she will vote the same way.”

Although the battle lines have already been drawn in the primary, with Pearce the favorite of most conservative activists, the club’s ability to raise and spend serious money could alter the political landscape considerably.

Wilson is a prodigious fundraiser; the club’s endorsement of Pearce will help blunt her likely financial advantage.
— Josh Kurtz

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