Thursday, September 04, 2008


A version of this was published in The Santa Fe New Mexican
September 4, 2008

Democrat Bill Richardson isn’t the only New Mexico governor to speak at a national political convention in recent days. His predecessor, Gary Johnson, this week was in Minnesota — not at the Republican National Convention in St. Paul, but at former GOP presidential candidate Ron Paul’s miniconvention nearby in Minneapolis.

Johnson spoke before some 13,000 attending the Paul campaign’s Rally for the Republic on Tuesday.

Former Gov. Gary Johnson
“I tried to draw correlation between my time in office and Ron Paul,” Johnson said in a telephone interview Wednesday. “Ron Paul often casts the only ‘no’ vote in Congress. As governor, I had 750 vetoes. That’s more than the other 49 governors put together.”

In effect, his vetoes were the sole dissenting vote, said the man who became known as “Gov. No.”

In his speech, Johnson said, he talked about his efforts to reform anti-drug laws — a position that cost him the support of many state Republicans.
He also talked about how he’s against motorcycle helmet laws. He said he got a great response to a quip that he’s used before in New Mexico. Johnson told the crowd in Minneapolis he chooses to use a helmet when riding a motorcycle, “but for somebody that wants to drive their motorcycle and not wear a helmet, we have an organ-donor shortage in this country.”

The night before the rally, Johnson said, he got to spend about 45 minutes talking to Paul.

Despite his loyal following, Paul, who once ran as the Libertarian Party candidate for president, says he won’t run as a third party candidate this year.

So where does that leave Johnson?

The most recent GOP governor of New Mexico said he’s not backing John McCain for president. “My problem with McCain is the war and his foreign policy,” Johnson said. Like Paul, he believes having American troops in Iraq and many other countries has made the U.S. a target of terrorism.

He’s also not getting behind Libertarian Party candidate Bob Barr, either. “I debated Bob Barr about drugs when I was governor,” he said of the former Georgia congressman. “I find irony in his newfound libertarianism.”

And Johnson definitely isn’t backing the Democratic ticket, though Johnson predicted Barack Obama will be the next president.

She’s everywhere: U.S. Rep. Heather Wilson of Albuquerque might have lost the Republican U.S. Senate primary to U.S. Rep. Steve Pearce of Hobbs in June, but it seems her name is popping up everywhere lately on the national campaign trail.
After Obama’s acceptance speech in Denver last week, the McCain campaign released a lengthy response from none other than Wilson, disputing Obama’s “Top Misleading Claims.”

Wilson has been active this week at the GOP convention in St. Paul. On Wednesday, she conducted a “reporter roundtable.” She was part of a group of prominent Republican women, including Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchinson, R-Texas, and former Hewlett Packard chief executive officer Carly Fiorina, who were lined up to do television and radio interviews to demand better treatment for vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin and her family.

Wilson has appeared on MSNBC’s Hardball, defending Palin’s anti-abortion record, and, on Tuesday, she even appeared on left-wing radio — Thom Hartman’s show on the Air America network. There she made an interesting — Freudian? — slip. When Hartmann, who apparently isn’t up on New Mexico politics, asked whether she was having a hard time in her Senate race, Wilson replied, “There was a primary and my colleague from Southern New Mexico, Steve Pearce lost that — uh, won that — primary, so I will actually be retiring from the House in January.”

So what does she have planned for January and afterward? Are these appearances indicative about a possible place for Wilson in a McCain administration?

“It’s like she’s standing in the John McCain employment office,” Albuquerque blogger >Joe Monahan said in an interview Wednesday.

A GOP source who asked not to be named said Wilson has become a “top-tier McCain surrogate” because she’s good at it. “She’s a great messenger,” the Republican said. “It’s fair to speculate about any number of opportunities for Heather Wilson, whether McCain wins or loses.”

Among the possible positions is secretary of the Air Force (Wilson is an Air Force vet) or a position with a foreign-policy think tank. “You can’t rule out governor in 2010,” the Republican source said.

Latest poll numbers: If so, Wilson will have to work on her numbers back home, though. According to >a new SurveyUSA poll of 631 likely voters in the 1st Congressional District, 40 percent said they have a favorable opinion of Wilson, while 45 percent had an unfavorable view.

The same poll showed Obama leading McCain in the district, which mainly consists of Albuquerque, by a 55 percent to 41 percent margin. The poll, sponsored by the Washington, D.C., publication Roll Call, did not talk to voters in other parts of the state.

In the 1st District Congressional race, Democrat Martin Heinrich was leading Republican Darren White 51 percent to 46 percent. The margin of error is 4 percentage points.

There also was a question that could be significant in the U.S. Senate race here. Asked who is most responsible for gasoline prices, 35 percent said oil companies while only 12 percent said environmentalists. Republican Pearce constantly has characterized his Democratic opponent Tom Udall as being in league with “extreme environmentalists” while Udall and his supporters say Pearce is in the pocket of “Big Oil.”

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