Money, service mean sure Senate win

By Ned Cantwell: State columnist

I think Sen. Jeff Bingaman is going to get beat in November by his Republican opponent.

I also think Lordsburg High School will defeat La Cueva in the state football championship game, Santa Fe will become a conservative enclave, Carlsbad Caverns bats will relocate to White Sands National Park, and the Los Alamos labs will host an international conference on what makes Frisbees work.

Bill Richardson will issue a statement admitting, “Of course I am running for president, always have been, you ninnies.” I think some guy in the Treasurer’s Office will turn down a campaign donation saying, “No, I can’t take that; it wouldn’t look right.”

John Dendahl will e-mail a press release sometime during this fall campaign saying, “My opponent and I disagree on many issues, but when it’s all said and done, the governor is passionate about solving New Mexico’s problems, and I respect him for it.”

The kids entering college this semester weren’t even born when Jeff Bingaman was first elected to the United States Senate. For 24 years he has been carrying his briefcase to Washington to represent the people of New Mexico.

It was a different world when Bingaman was elected n 1982. That was the year Israel launched an attack to destroy Palestine Liberation Organization military bases in South Lebanon. Whoops. Maybe it wasn’t so different.

It was the year Penn State ran an 11-1- 0 record to the national championship, a first class stamp cost 20 cents, John Hinckley Jr. was found not guilty for shooting President Ronald Reagan after being declared a nutcase. And 1982 was just 10 years after a kid named Allen McCulloch graduated from Farmington High School.

The young man did well for himself and is now listed on the November ballot as the Republican challenger to Sen. Bingaman. Allen McCulloch is a doctor, and while the country certainly could use a new prescription to cure what ails it, he needs to keep his day job. Bingaman has a lock on this one.

It is next to impossible to oust an entrenched senator, even a shoddy one. And Bingaman is anything but shoddy. He is a good man who has well served his New Mexico constituency.

Why can’t Bingaman be beat? Look not much further than the money. Recent reports show the incumbent’s campaign cashbox stashed with $1.8 million. During the same reporting period at the end of June the challenger had $2,487, not quite enough to mount an aggressive city council campaign.

Like it or not, and most of us don’t, big-time politics requires big-time money and the folks who write those checks are placing their wagers carefully. It would be nice, and perhaps well serve the democratic process if campaigns could be funded by kids holding Saturday morning car washes, but those days are gone, if, in fact, they were ever here. Thirty-second TV spots don’t come cheap, and you can’t win without them.

Political junkies can argue all day whether it would be better to impose term limits so that our elected officials do not grow Washington roots harder to get rid of than crabgrass. Others would argue that a state that supports a six-term senator reaps the rewards of power.

Argue it anyway you like. The reality is Silver City native Jeff Bingaman, first elected as New Mexico’s attorney general in 1978, will be elected to a sixth Senate term in 2006.

Next week we’ll take a closer look at Dr. Allen McCulloch.

Ned Cantwell welcomes response at:
ncantwell@charter.net