Heinrich, Balderas have made each other better
Martin Heinrich and Hector Balderas are the future leaders of the Democratic Party, and during this U.S. Senate primary they’ve pushed each other to become better public servants.
Some Democrats and Republicans hope their favored candidates can avoid primaries and save money for general election contests. But I’ve always thought the experience gained from a tough primary is worth more than the money avoiding a primary saves.
The Democratic U.S. Senate contest is a good example.
Martin Heinrich is likely to be the party’s nominee. He raised more than $490,000 during the last quarter and ended March with $1.55 million on hand. Hector Balderas, by contrast, raised $127,000 and ended March with $395,000 in the bank.
Balderas never had to raise as much as Heinrich to compete. He has underdog and Hispanic appeal that will provide him a boost on June 5. And he’s getting lots of free media from his work as state auditor to fight corruption in Sunland Park.
But Balderas needed to raise more money than this.
So the likely scenario is that Heinrich will face Republican Heather Wilson in November, and Balderas will start thinking about what he’s going to do when his tenure as state auditor comes to an end in two years. Running for attorney general or governor are possibilities.
The Democratic Party was in disarray following former Gov. Bill Richardson’s scandal-plagued tenure and Diane Denish’s loss to Republican Susana Martinez in the 2010 gubernatorial race.
It’s time to rebuild, and though there are other Democrats on the rise, Heinrich and Balderas are, without question, among the future leaders of the party. Both have grown during this campaign.
Forcing each other to grow
Wilson rarely makes mistakes. She’s smart, quick and sharp. Neither Democrat was ready to face her when the U.S. Senate race began.
Balderas has campaigned as a native New Mexican who grew up in a tiny rural town and in poverty. Even if the polls haven’t reflected it, likeability was in Balderas’ favor because, as his campaign claims, New Mexicans love underdogs.
Had Balderas been able to raise enough money to compete with Heinrich, this would be a much different race.
Balderas has forced Heinrich to hone his message and think beyond the largely metropolitan area he’s represented in the U.S. House. Though Heinrich’s congressional district has included some small towns like Edgewood, there’s a difference between those towns and rural communities like Jal and Wagon Mound, Balderas’ hometown.
Heinrich, who was raised in rural Missouri by working-class parents, had what it took to compete in rural New Mexico, but Balderas pushed him to focus on developing it.
Heinrich has also pushed Balderas. He’s better versed on the issues than the state auditor. He’s more articulate and polished. Though too much of that can be a negative, particularly in rural New Mexico, too little of it can damage a candidate’s credibility.
During this campaign, Balderas has built a statewide network, raised enough money to run a credible campaign, become more articulate and learned a lot about policy.
Ready to take on Republicans
The Democratic U.S. Senate primary isn’t over. Heinrich’s campaign could implode or Balderas could suddenly raise enough cash to flood the airwaves with as many TV ads as Heinrich will. But that’s not likely.
Heinrich is probably going to face Wilson in November. And he’s in a much better position to compete with her because he had to first defeat Balderas.
Balderas is well-positioned to help his party rebuild following the devastating (for Democrats) 2010 election and in an era in which Martinez remains quite popular. He’s ready to jump into the governor’s race, if that’s what he chooses, and fight for the right to take on Martinez in 2014.
Democrats, these two are the future leaders of your party, and during this campaign they’ve pushed each other to become better public servants. Your party will be better because of it.
12 comments so far. Scroll down to submit your own comment.
Leave a response
You must be logged in to post a comment.