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New Mexico Telegram » Featured, Senate » Heinrich, Wilson spar at debate but no knockout blow

Heinrich, Wilson spar at debate but no knockout blow

Heather Wilson knew what she had to do going into the race. Martin Heinrich knew what he had to do.

Wilson needed to fundamentally change the direction of the race; earlier in the day a Rasmussen poll came out showing Heinrich maintaining his double-digit lead. Heinrich needed to make sure that he did not make a mistake to allow that fundamental change in the direction of the race.

Much of the debate echoed ads and press releases that the two campaigns had already released.

Heinrich did his best to highlight Wilson’s time in Congress and regularly invoked Wilson’s votes for the tax cuts proposed by George W. Bush. Wilson did her best to tie Heinrich to current economic situation.

Perhaps the largest flash point in the debate came over the role of the 150th Fighter Wing, or “Tacos.”

The two debated over who was to blame for the Tacos losing their original mission, which involved F-16s. Heinrich said that Wilson had failed to look for alternative missions for the 150th Fighter Wing before it was moved to Vermont and said he found a new mission that helped keep jobs at Kirtland Air Force Base. Wilson said that the loss of the original mission only came when Heinrich was in office and so he was to blame.

Another disagreement came over who was responsible for the large deficit. Rep. Martin Heinrich cited the votes for Bush’s tax cuts and Wilson’s vote to go to war in Iraq. Wilson says it was the spending policies since Heinrich came into office, including the stimulus.

For all the debate and back and forth, there was not the game-changing moment that Wilson’s team was looking for. Heinrich proved that he was no Patricia Madrid; while he appeared nervous at times, he did not make any major gaffes or have five seconds of silence. Wilson was largely composed and spent much of the debate on offense, pushing to make Heinrich make that gaffe.

The two also differed on the Keystone XL pipeline. Heinrich admitted that it would create a lot of jobs — but Heinrich said those jobs would be in Canada. Wilson said that if the pipeline was not built, the oil would instead be sold to China.

Energy was something that Wilson’s campaign clearly wanted to focus on. After the debate, Wilson’s campaign issued a press release that says Heinrich was chasing a “green dream” instead of supporting coal.

Heinrich’s campaign had a debate fact check posted to their website and sent out to reporters while the debate went on.

The debate itself had an open feel.

There was no two minutes for each side or time for a rebuttal. Instead, moderator Dick Knipfing gave the candidates the opportunity to debate back and forth. Each candidate at times cut the other off or ignored the other candidate’s attempt to get a word in edgewise; it made for an entertaining and less scripted debate.

The structure was much like the Vice presidential debate that followed and last week’s presidential debate, but on a local and much smaller scale.

If you missed it, KRQE has the entire debate online.

Photo: Screenshot from

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Matthew Reichbach has blogged about New Mexico politics since 2006. Matthew was a co-founder of New Mexico FBIHOP with his brother and part of the original hirings at the groundbreaking website the New Mexico Independent. Matthew has covered events such as the Democratic National Convention and Netroots Nation. In addition to politics, Matthew is an avid sports fan, especially of the Los Angeles Dodgers, and TV fan.

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