Senate election needs fewer emails, more competitors
Author Stephen King says the road to hell is paved with adverbs.
I used to agree with him. Now I believe adverbs have more value than emails from politicians soliciting money.
Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham pleaded for donations all through a campaign that lasted 23 months. She always seemed to need $3 or $10 to ward off doom or Republican Steve Pearce.
U.S. Rep. Ben Ray Luján’s emails are even more breathless. His solicitations also are commonplace now that he’s running for the Senate.
Even though Luján, a Democrat, has yet to draw an opponent, he always claims to be in the midst of a crisis. The other day he asked for campaign contributions in an email headlined: “My heart just sank.”
It wasn’t famine or pestilence that caused his anxiety. Luján can get palpitations without facing anything so serious.
“I just received an emergency phone call that made my heart sink,” he wrote to begin his message, recasting the catchy title. “New Mexico is the ONLY state in the West completely controlled by Democrats. But I’m hearing Senate Republicans are making unprecedented moves to steal it.”
Luján’s email raises questions.
Doesn’t a member of the U.S. House of Representatives have Google? Why would it take a mysterious call for a congressman who lives and breathes politics to discover that Republicans are raising money in hopes of retaining their advantage in the Senate?
More important, why would the Republicans bother to pour any of that cold cash into New Mexico, a state where they have yet to field a candidate and they have little chance to win?
Everyone with a passing interest in politics knows the person who could end Luján’s political career isn’t a Republican. It’s a fellow Democrat.
Her name is Maggie Toulouse Oliver, and the next “emergency” call Luján receives might be about her entering the Senate race.
I hope she does. Voters ought to have choices, not coronations.
New Mexico has never sent a woman to the U.S. Senate. Toulouse Oliver, the secretary of state, might be the one to break through.
She has won and lost statewide elections. Toulouse Oliver knows the challenges of organizing field operations across all 33 counties.
Luján has competed only in regional elections, and they covered much of the ground in Northern New Mexico where his father was a household name. The late Ben Luján was a longtime speaker of the state House of Representatives.
Toulouse Oliver has another edge. She used to be the top election official in Bernalillo County, by far New Mexico’s most populous county. To win a statewide race, any candidate has to run well there.
Toulouse Oliver also has revealed some flaws.
She didn’t run aggressively enough in the 2014 election for secretary of state. The result was that she lost to incumbent Republican Dianna Duran, a dishonest candidate who resigned from office and then pleaded guilty to two felonies for embezzlement and four misdemeanors.
Toulouse Oliver bounced back to win the secretary of state’s office in the 2016 and 2018 elections.
One of her poorer decisions while in office will resurface if she runs for the Senate.
She promised to run a nonpartisan elections office as secretary of state. Then Toulouse Oliver committed a giant gaffe last year by unilaterally adding a straight-ticket voting option to the ballot. That was as partisan as it gets, given that her party is dominant in New Mexico.
The state Supreme Court ended Toulouse Oliver’s maneuverings. It ruled that she did not have the authority to create a ballot with the option for straight-party voting.
On the plus side, Toulouse Oliver has a record of overseeing clean and efficient elections.
She stood strong against Republican President Donald Trump after he made reckless claims that election fraud prevented him from winning the popular vote in 2016.
Toulouse Oliver has promised an announcement soon on whether she’s running for the Senate.
If she decides to stay on the sideline, she should skip the theater of a news conference or a gassy video on social media. State residents already have seen enough of such grandstanding.
A couple of straightforward paragraphs in an email would do. That would be more interesting than any of Luján’s messages, where a furtive enemy is always plotting, and another infusion of cash is critical.
Ringside Seat is an opinion column about people, politics and news. Contact Milan Simonich at firstname.lastname@example.org or 505-986-3080.