Wednesday, October 25, 2006

THE HEATHER/PATSY DEBATE

The New Mexican assigned me to do a sidebar on the Congressional District 1 debate last night, just a kist of highlights. It didn't make the paper's web site, so I'll post it here.

Andy Lenderman's main story can be found HERE

A version of this was published in The Santa Fe New Mexican
October 25, 2006


Here are some highlights from Tuesday’s debate between Republican U.S. Rep Heather Wilson and Democratic Attorney General Patricia Madrid:

Questionable campaign contributions: The candidates were asked their opinions on campaign contributions from lobbyists. Madrid said lobbyists “are a part of government” and contribute to politicians “only to give them access, to inform you what they do.”

Wilson responded, “I’m amazed at what I just heard. Nobody buys access in my office. I’ll talk to any New Mexican who wants to talk to me, not conditioned on paying at the door.”

Wilson said Madrid took $125,000 in contributions from a casino owner in Southern New Mexico who had business in her office. She was referring to Sunland Park Racetrack and Casino owner Stanley Fulton who is fighting a plan for Jemez Pueblo to build a casino near Anthony, N.M. Fulton contributed before and after Madrid wrote to the federal Bureau of Indian Affairs opposing the Anthony casino.

Madrid said Wilson has taken thousands of dollars in contributions from Republican congressmen who were involved in “money laundering.” Wilson’s campaign has returned or donated more than $30,000 in campaign contributions in recent months from former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, who faces money laundering and conspiracy counts stemming from Republican fundraising in 2002; Randall “Duke” Cunningham, a former California congressman who resigned in 2005 after admitting taking $2.4 million in bribes from defense contractors; and from former Washington lobbyist Jack Abramoff, who pleaded guilty last winter to fraud and other charges.

War in Iraq: Madrid pounded Wilson over her support of the war in Iraq, even during questions not directly related to Iraq. Money being spent on the war could be better spent on homeland security measures and on health care, Madrid said. “For leading us into a war based on failed and manipulated evidence, my opponent deserves to be fired,” Madrid said.

Wilson said Madrid’s view of the war is outside of the American mainstream. She criticized Madrid’s previous statements that the U.S. should withdraw from Iraq by the end of this year. Madrid, she said, has advocated plans of quitting before the job is done and coming home. “That is a plan of surrender,” Wilson said.

Wiretaps: Wilson defended Bush’s program of secretly wiretapping phones without obtaining warrants. She said this is necessary to fight al-Qaida terrorists. “It’s a dangerous world,” she said. “We can’t afford to move at the speed of the court system.”

Madrid said she supports the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, which allows the government to wiretap without a warrant as long as warrants are obtained no more than 72 hours after the taps are instigated.

President Bush: In a debate segment in which the candidates asked each other questions, Madrid blasted the president — who is unpopular in New Mexico and who lost to Democrat John Kerry in the 1st Congressional District. She said Wilson voted 85 percent of the time with Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney. She asked Wilson whether she thought Bush was a good president.

Wilson pointed out that Bush and Cheney don’t vote in Congress. She said she’s disagreed with Bush on “several things,” including Bush’s opposition to federal funding of stem-cell research. But, as Madrid later pointed out, Wilson never answered the question whether Bush is a good president.

House page scandal: Madrid defended a recent attack against Wilson dealing with former Rep. Mark Foley, who resigned following revelations he had sent sexual electronic messages to teenage congressional pages. Wilson, Madrid said, was on the committee overseeing the page program. “She didn’t do her job and protect those children. She took more (campaign contributions) from Mark Foley than anyone else in Congress, and she looked the other way.”

Wilson never responded to this.

Education: Wilson endorsed the federal No Child Left Behind program, saying it has given more authority to local schools. She said in the past five years federal aid to New Mexico schools has nearly doubled.

Madrid said No Child Left Behind needs “some tweaking.” She said the federal government hasn’t properly funded it, and the program unfairly brands schools “and groups of students” as failures.

Prescription drugs: Wilson defended Medicare 4, the new prescription-drug program. Madrid said the program was a catastrophe, and it was mainly a boon for insurance companies and drug companies.

Social Security: Both candidates said they were against privatizing the Social Security. program

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