They call her RINO.
So here we go again.
It's Indiana in New Mexico. On June 5th.
The race: the Republican nomination for a vacant US Senate seat.
This time the part of insurgent Richard Mourdock is being played by New Mexico conservative businessman Greg Sowards.
And Queen RINO?
The feminized Richard Lugar of the piece? That would be former New Mexico GOP Congresswoman Heather Wilson. A member of a GOP group that opposes the repeal of Obamacare.
Sowards is being supported by reform conservatives, most notably Kentucky U.S. Senator Rand Paul. Said Paul in his endorsement:
Greg supports dramatically shrinking government. Greg supports the 5-year balanced budget proposed by myself and Senators [Jim] DeMint and [Mike] Lee. He agrees that our future generations of Americans do not deserve to be enslaved by debt, and we need more champions like him in the U.S. Senate.
Wilson is the GOP Establishment favorite. She is being supported by the usual suspects, including Alaska's RINO Senator Lisa Murkowski. As seen here at the Huffington Post, Murkowski was the featured speaker at a Carlsbad fundraiser for Wilson in April of this year. In the article, Murkowski is cited favorably for her support for Planned Parenthood -- and for something else.
Let's let the HuffPo describe Wilson's senatorial fundraiser from Alaska. Reports the HuffPo of Murkowski, in a story about Murkowski's endorsement of Wilson:
She criticized GOP presidential candidates for not condemning right-wing radio host Rush Limbaugh for calling Georgetown law student Sandra Fluke a "slut" and a "prostitute." Wilson's campaign did not return a request for comment about whether she agreed with Murkowski's comments.
Which is to say, Wilson couldn't quite bring herself to take on Rush -- although as Queen RINO she's touched every other liberal Republican base out there, thus drawing support from the left-leaning Murkowski. Then again, presumably neither Murkowski nor Wilson are fans of the "Limbaugh Rule." As articulated by Rush Limbaugh in September 2010 as that year's elections approached. The Limbaugh Rule as stated by its author:
In an election year when voters are fed up with liberalism and socialism -- and when the fate of the country as founded is at stake -- you vote for the most conservative Republican in the primary. Period.
In an ominous development that may affect conservative support for a second spot on a Romney ticket, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie has joined with Murkowski in opposing conservative Sowards. In Christie's case, the endorsement came at a $2,500 a head Wilson fundraiser in New York's primo 21 Club. Christie has been making forays around the country, recently for House Majority Leader Eric Cantor in Virginia and a Kentucky Lincoln Day Dinner. New Jersey media believe his actions are designed to help Romney -- and possibly help Christie onto the Romney ticket.
Which makes Christie's fundraising for Wilson over her conservative opponent a curious approach.
THE NEW MEXICO SENATE race is but the latest battlefield in an ongoing conservative revolution that is sweeping the country state-by-state. The most notable example in 2012, of course, was the upset of longtime Indiana Republican moderate Senator Richard Lugar by the Tea Party supported state treasurer, Richard Mourdock.
Wilson, as a House Republican, had nowhere near the 36-year longevity on Capitol Hill that Lugar had. Yet for the ten years she served after winning a 1998 special election and remaining until 2008 (when she ran and lost a Senate primary for the seat now held by Democrat Tom Udall), Wilson firmly established herself as a leading member of the dwindling band of GOP officials who won the derisive nickname RINO -- Republican In Name Only.
It is this record -- an across-the-board record on issues that ranges from the economy and fiscal issues to big government issues to social issues -- that has won Wilson the nickname among Sowards supporters as "Queen RINO."
This record includes:
• TARP: Wilson voted for "TARP" -- the "Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008" or "Troubled Asset Relief Program" that bailed out Wall Street to the tune of $700 billion.
• Kyoto Protocol: Wilson voted to begin implementing the controversial global warming-based Kyoto Protocol, legislation that included the even more controversial concept of "Cap and Trade" taxes.
• Planned Parenthood: Yes indeed, she was an enthusiastic supporter of federal funding for Planned Parenthood.
There's more, of course.
Perhaps the most glaring indication of the "Queen RINO" tag was Wilson's membership in a group called the "Republican Main Street Partnership." Founded in 1998 -- the year Wilson first took her seat following a special election -- the group's members, all current or former elected Republicans in the House, Senate and governorships, have included several notable Republicans who themselves have been tagged with the "RINO" label. That list includes names like former Pennsylvania Senator Arlen Specter (who left the GOP in 2009), Rhode Island Senator Lincoln Chafee (who also departed the GOP and is now governor), and ex-Connecticut GOP Congressman (and current Senate candidate) Christopher Shays.
A visit to the group's website shows that it is not devoted to conservatism but rather its chief objective is "to further a centrist, pragmatic Republican agenda." Read: no social issues here (hence Wilson's support of Planned Parenthood) -- and big government is really not so bad after all.
A startling example of the latter -- the passive acceptance of big government and a watered down leftist agenda -- is the group's opposition to repealing Obamacare.
You read that right.
The oft-stated, much repeated first goal of soon-to-be GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney -- repealing Obamacare -- is opposed by Wilson's group. Says this Republican group:
"We believe that the provisions of Obamacare that are not working should be repealed, that thos provisions that are working should be retained…."
In other words, members of this Wilson-favored-Republican-group have already signed on to the idea of a government takeover of health care -- just, you know, not so much.
This being the classic RINO position that Barry Goldwater once labeled "the dime store New Deal."
Wilson underlined her commitment to the dime store New Deal concept when she was quoted by the Santa Fe New Mexican as saying:
"I've been very honest with members of my own party. We're not going to agree on everything. I'm not going to play political games. I will always tell you the truth. I also am not averse to bipartisan compromising when it is in (the) interest of New Mexico."
Where is the National Republican Senatorial Committee on the Wilson-Sowards race?
The NRSC was burned in the last cycle when it openly supported RINO Florida Governor Charlie Crist over Marco Rubio. Mark Levin was the first to spot Rubio's potential and repeatedly brought the now-Florida senator to the talk radio spotlight. Crist, of course, eventually left the party. The NRSC also raised money to defeat now Kentucky Senator Paul, who in turn, like Rubio, defeated the NRSC's favorite. Without doubt the most contentious NRSC intervention was it's considerable opposition to Delaware's Christine O'Donnell in her primary against GOP Establishment candidate Congressman Mike Castle, a former Delaware Governor and SEIU ally.
This time around in New Mexico the NRSC has been studiously neutral -- or has it?
A Sowards source says that when the NRSC held a retreat for prospective candidates and donors in Austin, Texas, Heather Wilson was there. While Wilson was provided a break-out session with donors, Sowards' invitation "never materialized." To make matters worse, Wilson was eclipsed by rising Ohio star Josh Mandel, according to a source present at the event.
Eyebrows were also raised by an anti-Sowards story that suddenly appeared in, of all places, the Weekly Standard. The Standard piece picks up the Wilson campaign theme that Sowards business -- child care -- has received government money, thus making Sowards a hypocrite. To which Sowards replies:
Career politician Heather Wilson has a big spending, liberal record she cannot defend, so it comes as no surprise her campaign and ruling class elite Republicans in Washington, D.C. are desperately twisting the truth in their hit piece by the establishment favoring Weekly Standard against the Sowards for Senate Campaign. The article referenced is a factually flawed misrepresentation of my long held belief that subsidies are not part of the free market.
During her tenure as Cabinet Secretary for Children Youth & Families Department for the State of New Mexico, before she began her ten years in the U.S. House of Representatives in 1998, Wilson was the author of a short sighted and destructive program. Because of her lack of business understanding, her crowning achievement, the "Gold, Silver and Bronze Program" de-incentivized the quality care of New Mexico children and offered additional subsidies for poor quality care. The policies that she pushed forward, created a "join or die" dilemma. Wilson helped force the Child Care industry into this situation.
I am thankful that Wilson brought up the issue of subsidies, because it gives me a platform to talk about the destructive effect that career politicians have had on our lives and businesses. They and their obnoxious sense of entitlement have long crippled small business owners with unnecessary and burdensome regulations. It is the height of arrogance to attack my successful small business where we employ 75 people and care for over 600 children so their mothers can work and go to school, while their children are well cared for.
Wilson is part of the heavy thumb of State Regulation and the very person that helped put these policies in place. She of all people should understand why these subsidized programs are harmful. For Wilson to expect us to not accept the state program for low income families is akin to a grocery store not accepting food stamps, which could be construed as discrimination.
In the 2010 cycle, the Wall Street Journal's Neil King Jr. reported that
…the Republican brass in Washington and Delaware are doing all they can to tarnish Christine O'Donnell, who is taking on Rep. Mike Castle in the GOP primary for the Senate seat in Delaware…. The GOP establishment has been shipping out reams of opposition research and links to negative news stories…. The National Republican Senatorial Committee is also piling on, briefing reporters on negative aspects of O'Donnell's record.
In other words, out there in New Mexico there is conservative suspicion the NRSC is up to a more subtle version of the same old tricks it pulled in 2010. Piling on Sowards by quietly dumping on Wilson's opposition to the Washington-based Standard. Sowards' response is on his website.
Notably absent from the negative story on Sowards was any mention of Wilson's own problems that have nothing to do with ideology.
Problems that alarmed conservatives believe would serve as a drag on presidential nominee Romney's ability to carry the state.
Those problems that reportedly have Democrats sharpening their knives?
• A vanishing child abuse file -- on Wilson's husband. The 2006 story is outlined here at the progressive site Raw Story and is headlined this way:
Congresswoman on page board buried file on husband's child abuse allegation
Raw Story, no friend of conservatives, sums up the accusation this way:
In 1995, just three days into her tenure as Secretary of the New Mexico Children, Youth and Families Department, Wilson removed a routine working file alleging that her husband had engaged in inappropriate contact with a minor. The file was then transferred to the department's attorney in her own Albuquerque office, where it soon went missing.
• Wilson's role in a U.S. Attorney firing. As the liberal site TPM instantly began circulating when Wilson announced her candidacy, Wilson was at the center of the furor over the firing of U.S. Attorneys in the Bush-era, specifically New Mexico's David Iglesias.
The Sowards camp believes passionately that New Mexico Democrats, not to mention the Washington crew led by Harry Reid and Patty Murray, along with media allies from MSNBC to Media Matters, are salivating to trash Wilson on this issue if she wins the nomination to face Democrat Congressman Martin Heinrich.
There are other New Mexico-centric issues Democrats are chatting up, but the concern among conservatives is clear. Focused both on Wilson's liberal streak and her personal vulnerabilities.
Perhaps the most quoted assessment of Wilson comes from Red State's Erick Erickson:
The number one goal of conservatives in 2012, other than defeating Barack Obama, has got to be defeating Heather Wilson in New Mexico. She'd be Mike Castle terrible in the United States Senate.
All of which means: just who is Greg Sowards, anyway?
As seen here, not unlike others in the conservative reform movement Sowards is pro-capitalism (he's a businessman), pro-life, and, perhaps most importantly in the Age of Obama? That would be pro-Constitution.
Will he win?
No one gave Indiana's Mourdock a chance, either.
If Sowards does win, however, it will be for one reason and one reason only.
Heather Wilson spent 10 years in Congress advocating every big government or big government-lite solution that came down the congressional pike.
She clearly intends to do more of the same if she gets to the Senate.
Without the slightest sense of irony the Wilson campaign has put out this ad saying that "Washington politicians in both parties are driving us off a cliff."
For ten years, say her New Mexico conservative critics, Heather Wilson had her hands on the wheel, her foot on the gas.
Now that the cliff is in sight…Greg Sowards is determined to keep the woman he calls Queen RINO from taking a Senate throne.
And the Establishment GOP wants his head.