Republican U.S. Senate candidate Greg Sowards disputes reports that his campaign is “over” because he is replacing its staff, and says he plans a more positive and issue-based campaign.
He said he is replacing The Prosper Group, which was managing his campaign, and other consultants from D.C. with a new campaign manager who “really fits the kind of candidate I am.” He declined to name that person.
Sowards’ campaign has recently taken a harsh tone as he has sought to portray himself as the true conservative in a GOP primary that includes two others he has characterized as liberals – former U.S. Rep. Heather Wilson and Lt. Gov. John Sanchez. The race also includes little-known William S. English of Alamogordo.
Sowards told NMPolitics.net the negativity didn’t fit him.
“We’re just changing directions,” he said. “The people I’ve been working with have been great. I look at them as friends. It’s just that they have certain ways of doing things that don’t fit a non-conventional candidate. I’m a different kind of candidate. I have a different message.”
“You’ll see our campaign take a very positive direction, and I will be able to be more who I am,” he said. “I’d like to think that’s the strong point of my campaign anyway.”
Sowards said nothing rules out the possibility of hiring the consultants back. He said he doesn’t want to fault them for the issues he had with the direction of his campaign, saying, “Sometimes you get caught up in the heat of the whole campaign.”
Sowards’ campaign could use a boost. The last public poll of the race, released in July, had him at 8 percent to Sanchez’s 24 percent and Wilson’s 52 percent.
‘I think I’m on a positive track’
The D.C. publication The Hill was the first to report on Sowards’ shift. Its Tuesday headline stated that Sowards “dismantles campaign.” The article quoted an unnamed source as saying, “Basically, the campaign is over.” Another “source close to the campaign” said the campaign “structurally ended.”
“There was good opportunity for Sowards to be the conservative alternative to Wilson in the race, and he just didn’t want it,” The Hill quoted he second unnamed source as saying.
The Hill said Sowards’ move creates an opening for Sanchez. Wilson has been raising impressive amounts of money and winning endorsements from a vast number of prominent Republicans around the state, but some aren’t happy with that. Sanchez and Sowards have been battling to be the anti-Wilson candidate.
Sowards told NMPolitics.net his campaign is by no means over. In fact, he expects it to gain steam now that he is shifting gears. He reported having $496,000 in the bank at the end of September, twice as much as Sanchez. And though Sowards’ biggest weakness has been fundraising – the owner of several Las Cruces daycare centers has loaned most of his campaign’s funds himself – he noted that his donations from others have increased every quarter.
Sowards raised about $2,000 in the first quarter of the year from outside sources, and $7,400 in the second. In the quarter that ended Sept. 30, he raised about $47,000 from outside sources.
“It is difficult for me to ask for money from people who have less than I do,” Sowards said, “but I think I’m on a positive track.”
The Hill reported that Sowards’ new manager has no experience in such jobs. Sowards said he and the new manager like similar books, and said “there’s going to be some synergy going on in my campaign.”
This isn’t the first time Sowards has gone with an unconventional campaign structure and largely funded his own campaign. And it isn’t the first time people discounted him. But in 2008, those who did so underestimated Sowards.
He spent $325,000 of his own money on his 2008 congressional race. In a five-way primary, he won 17 percent of the vote but finished fourth and lost to Ed Tinsley, who went on to lose the race to Democrat Harry Teague.
Though he didn’t win, Sowards, who faced two candidates who had financial backing from national political action committees, played a significant role in determining the outcome of that race.
‘Meat and substance’ versus career politicians
Though Sowards plans to run a more positive Senate campaign than he has in recent months, don’t expect the active tea party member to avoid talking about the problems with electing career politicians.
“I am anti-career politician. I have a hard time voting for incumbents myself,” he said. “If there’s a campaign where that’s going to play big, I think it’s going to be this one.”
He said politicians who make decisions “based on political careers” have caused most of America’s problems, and that won’t change “if we continue to send the same type of politician to Washington.”
His campaign’s last two news releases have hit Wilson and Sanchez by name and called them “career politician” and “liberal,” but Sowards said he’s now going to focus on “policies and programs and things that will entice people to look at my campaign as an actual solution, instead of just treading water in Washington.”
“Career politicians just tread water in Washington… and we want to be actually taking some strokes toward the goal,” he said.
“People can expect an upbeat campaign. It’s not going to be a negative campaign,” Sowards said. “There’s no reason to do that. There’s enough meat and substance to my campaign that I believe people will want to hear what I have to say.”