op-ed

Heather Wilson can’t win

Heather Wilson can’t win. She just can’t.

There’s a chance that the Republican Party will pick up a U.S. Senate seat in New Mexico this fall, but only if entrepreneur Greg Sowards wins the GOP primary on June 5th.

At the moment, ex-Congresswoman Heather Wilson is the front-runner to win the primary. She has statewide name recognition and the support of the National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC) — dubious assets, each. She’s a guaranteed loser in November.

Heather Wilson is a moderate Republican. She dabbles in limiting the power and reach of the federal government. She’s lukewarm on capitalism. She’s almost pro-life. In short, she stands for nothing. But the death knell for her candidacy is not her policy positions. The insurmountable problem is the candidate herself.

Wilson is everything Americans despise about politicians, regardless of party. A cursory look at her career reveals profligacy, cronyism, abuse of power, lies, cover-ups and a sex scandal. She’s seldom crossed an earmark she hasn’t liked, including the infamous $398 million Bridge to Nowhere. She is a crony of the first order, landing a cushy state job with a $93,000 base salary for her husband Jay Hone.

The same Jay Hone was accused of inappropriately touching a 16-year-old boy in 1993. The sensitive state file containing the accusation mysteriously disappeared three days after Wilson was appointed secretary of New Mexico’s Children, Youth and Families Department. When confronted about the missing file by a local KOAT news reporter, Wilson denied removing the file. Days later, Wilson admitted that she had taken the file and lied to cover her theft. Her husband should be presumed innocent, but Wilson stole government documents and lied in front of cameras.

In a better world, Heather Wilson’s voting record would disqualify her from representing a major party. (Her votes to implement cap and trade and the anti-industry Kyoto Protocol should be enough by themselves.) There’s plenty to dislike in her policy positions. But her personal baggage and professional misconduct overwhelm any policy discussions. She’s simply unelectable.

In the latest general election polls, Wilson is treading water at around 40%. To win a statewide election in New Mexico, a Republican needs full party support and a strong majority of the independent vote. Heather Wilson won’t get it. If she wins the June 5th primary, Democrats will spend millions turning her and her husband’s foibles and misdeeds into a laughingstock and cautionary tale, and she will damage the GOP brand across the state and hurt every Republican candidate in New Mexico. Her GOP backers in Washington are hoping for another wave election like 2010. While their hopes may be realized, the wave won’t be enough to rescue Heather Wilson.

In a swing state like New Mexico, Republicans would ordinarily swallow hard, hold their noses and vote for Wilson, believing she is the best that the purple political climate would accept. However errant that thinking may be, it’s the norm for the GOP establishment, particularly in swing states. Fortunately, that tired, loathsome, lazy reasoning doesn’t apply in this case.

And, happily, there is an alternative. Greg Sowards is an entrepreneur, an inventor, a family man, a military veteran and a successful small business owner. Sowards has a great resume, a scrappy campaign and growing energy in New Mexico’s conservative grassroots. But time is short. He needs to catch lightning in a bottle and national conservative support to pull off a crucial upset in two weeks.

Sowards doesn’t have Wilson’s money, name recognition or support from the big boys in Washington. But he does have one important thing that Wilson doesn’t: a chance in November.

Yates Walker is a conservative activist and writer. Before becoming involved in politics, he served honorably as a paratrooper and a medic in the U.S. Army’s 82nd Airborne Division. He can be reached at [email protected]