New Mexico’s junior senator, Democrat Ben Ray Luján, knows the state has a double standard for politicians. He continues to exploit it.
With Luján, everything is about money. His abiding interest is collecting cash for his campaigns.
The senator and his handlers sent a solicitation last week with the hackneyed headline, “Dialing for dollars?” Luján’s message was worse than the title.
It stated: “We have fallen behind on our fundraising goals for our upcoming FEC fundraising deadline. This is a real problem, which could endanger everything we’ve worked so hard to build over the last few years.
“Instead of pulling Ben Ray away from doing his job to fundraise, we hope to make up this shortfall with your help.”
What an admission. An ailing country is trying to recover from a pandemic, but Luján’s camp says the senator needs more of your money, or he might ignore the job he was elected to do.
Imagine the backlash if Republican Congresswoman Yvette Herrell announced she might spend her days soliciting campaign contributions instead of doing her job.
Herrell would take a public whipping. Critics all across New Mexico would call her greedy and pummel her for misguided priorities. Democrats might be incensed enough to find a candidate to run against Herrell, the only Republican in the state’s five-member congressional delegation.
Luján has been a senator for only six months. Yet he’s confident enough in the state’s double standard that he believes most people won’t care if a freshman Democrat puts fundraising ahead of work in the Senate.
As for the deadline Luján mentioned in his plea for cash, it’s not what people in the real world would consider pressing. Luján doesn’t have a reelection campaign until 2026.
He is guaranteed five more years of steady paychecks. Famine, war, pandemics and natural disasters don’t stop members of Congress from collecting a salary.
Luján’s constituents have no such assurance. Many are still trying to find a decent job after being displaced during the pandemic.
Many other members of Congress operate almost like Luján. They’re always asking for money, and they always claim the sky will fall if they don’t get it.
The difference is not many others are brazen enough to announce they might ignore their job so they can solicit donations.
New Mexico’s Republican Party is so weak, it’s bench so thin, that Luján probably doesn’t have to worry about a serious challenger emerging by the 2026 election.
Because state Republicans are inept, I receive more complaints about New Mexico’s other senator, Democrat Martin Heinrich, than I do about Luján.
Heinrich likes to endorse Democrats in contested primaries. Choosing sides is a sure way for a U.S. senator to rile a handful of people in his own political base.
Three years ago, Heinrich backed his pal, Garrett VeneKlasen, for state land commissioner. Supporters of a rival candidate, Stephanie Garcia Richard, rang me day after day. They wanted to know why wasn’t I writing about Heinrich’s unfair decision to play favorites.
The truth is, there was nothing unfair about what Heinrich did. He liked VeneKlasen and he said so.
Another truth was neither I nor most voters gave two cents about Heinrich’s preference for land commissioner.
On Election Day, Heinrich’s endorsement counted for nothing. Garcia Richard defeated VeneKlasen in a close race. The key factor might have been a third candidate, George Muñoz, siphoning enough votes to spoil the election for Heinrich’s candidate.
Heinrich didn’t worry about critics who said he shouldn’t use his right of free speech to influence Democratic primary elections. The senator last year endorsed a dozen candidates for the state Legislature and four others in races for county commissioner.
He’s still at it. Heinrich last week announced he’s backing Raúl Torrez, the Bernalillo County district attorney, for attorney general. The primary election is not until June 2022.
Heinrich weighed in early. Torrez and State Auditor Brian Colón already are campaigning for attorney general.
The Republicans will nominate a tomato can. Anyone with a law degree and a willingness to take a beating will do.
Heinrich’s endorsements are more curious than influential. At least they’re more interesting than Luján’s insidious suggestions that he might lie down on the job unless you pony up.