This week, National Affairs Daily is rolling out the magazine's top-ten House races to watch in November. [Click here to read the introduction to the package.]
DISTRICT: NEW MEXICO's 1ST (Albuquerque)
INCUMBENT: Rep. Heather Wilson (R, four terms)
CHALLENGER: State Attorney General Patricia Madrid (D)
TOP ISSUES: Iraq, gas prices
Madrid was heavily recruited to run by both Nancy Pelosi and Hillary Clinton, and it's easy to see why. The attorney general — all sixty inches of her — is a pull-no punches fighter who has racked up a record that rivals even Eliot Spitzer's in New York. She has successfully sued WorldCom, GE and Chevron, bringing in nearly $480 million to the state's coffers, and has repeatedly taken the Bush administration to court over its atrocious environmental record. And as the state's first Hispanic AG, Madrid gives the Democrats their best-ever shot in a district that, at least on paper, ought to swing their way: The population is forty-three percent Hispanic, and registered Democrats handily outnumber Republicans.
Yet since the district was first drawn up in 1968, voters have elected only Republicans. And Wilson, the incumbent, is certainly no slouch: A Rhodes scholar, she served in the Air Force and chairs the House subcommittee on national security — a distinct edge in a district that is home to an Air Force base. But her support for the administration makes her vulnerable. "She has voted right down the line on every aspect of this war and its conduct," Madrid says. "She didn't ask the hard questions — or looked the other way — when the president went into this war with a phony coalition on phony intelligence."
For her loyalty, Wilson has been richly rewarded. In June, Bush swept into New Mexico for a fund-raiser that netted $375,000 for Wilson. Then, in one of the most ironic moments of this year's elections, Wilson promptly turned around and used the money to bankroll ads touting her independence from...George W. Bush.
"This is a great race," says venerable political handicapper Stu Rothenberg. "Wilson is tough. She's admired. But Madrid is a great campaigner. There's a ton of national money in this race. It's going to be a squeaker."
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