Don’t count Teague out, yet
I’ve written plenty about how tough a time U.S. Rep. Harry Teague, D-N.M., is going to have winning re-election in November. In fact, in NMPolitics.net’s monthly newsletter that goes out to qualifying donors, I’ve ranked him as the second most endangered incumbent in New Mexico this year, behind state Rep. Karen Giannini, D-Albuquerque.
The situation got worse for Teague last week when Politico told us about a $2.7 million lawsuit he and his companies are facing for failing to repay loans on equipment purchases. The most important revelation from the article is that Teague’s companies have lost a lot of money. The candidate who pumped $1.5 million of his own money into his campaign in 2008 may not have the resources to do it again.
Despite all of that, I don’t count Teague out. He has a realistic shot at winning re-election. It’s my view that the race leans toward Teague’s GOP challenger, former U.S. Rep. Steve Pearce, but only slightly.
Pearce is in a good position, but I’ve heard many say things like “Teague is toast,” and I simply don’t believe it. This is a Republican-leaning district. It’s a Republican-leaning year. The GOP has a tested, well-known and personally wealthy candidate who’s loved by the well-financed libertarian wing of his party. Pearce held the seat longer than Teague, which reduces Teague’s incumbency advantage.
By many conventional measures, perhaps, Pearce should be in a very comfortable position right now.
But he’s not. Teague has held on in every poll of the race that has been released publicly. In those polls, Teague led by 1 point, trailed by 2 points and trailed by 4 points. In other words, the race is a statistical tie.
How Teague has held on
• Many say Teague has the best constituent services of any member in New Mexico’s congressional delegation. He has set up five offices across the 2nd Congressional district. He has been in New Mexico more often than the others. He has held more town-hall and constituent meetings. I’m not saying the others don’t work hard – they do – but Teague has been tireless and intentional about putting together constituent services some say rival those of former U.S. Sen. Pete Domenici.
• The next point plays off the last: Some Republicans don’t like Pearce because they didn’t see him do anything for their town or area when he was in Congress, but they believe Teague has helped them. These aren’t ideological voters. They’re Republican voters whose choice is based on what someone has done or will do for them. Teague will win some of their votes.
• Teague speaks the language of rural New Mexico. He’s personable and talkative. One-on-one conversations are when he’s at his best. He looks uncomfortable in Washington but very comfortable talking with someone in an informal setting in rural New Mexico.
• Las Cruces is becoming a larger player in politics. This district is becoming less Republican-leaning because of the progressive awakening that has taken place in Las Cruces in recent years. Conventional wisdom in the 2nd District is slowly changing.
Martinez may help Teague
I want to suggest one other factor that may help Teague: the GOP’s nomination of Doña Ana County District Attorney Susana Martinez for governor. Many progressives feel that Teague hasn’t given them a reason to vote for him on Nov. 2. Diane Denish, the Democrats’ candidate for governor, doesn’t necessarily excite them either.
But progressives who have a strong dislike for Martinez – and the hard-line stance she’s taken on immigration – may be inspired to show up to vote against her, especially since she’s from their hometown. While they’re there, expect some of them to vote for Teague, even if they do it begrudgingly.
Martinez may also inspire others in Las Cruces to vote in larger numbers than usual, and I don’t expect them to be straight-ticket voters. Martinez hasn’t inspired straight-ticket voting in her time as district attorney. She’s won election four times in a Democratic county as a Republican. Moderate independents and Democrats may vote for her instead of Denish but pick Teague over Pearce.
There are plenty of reasons the race leans slightly in Pearce’s favor, with the national mood and his ability to self-finance his race being at the top of the list. But don’t count Teague out.
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