The story of the last couple of days, during my Presidents Day Weekend travel, has been Democrats choosing not to run for statewide office in 2012. Besides Evansville mayor Jonathan Weinzapfel taking a pass on the Indiana gubernatorial race and Rep. Joe Courtney taking a pass on running for Connecticut’s Senate race, the big news is five-term senator Jeff Bingaman of New Mexico choosing to retire.
He had always won solidly, and in 2006, Bingaman won 71 percent of the vote. Already the race to replace him is being categorized as a “toss-up,” but a great deal depends on the candidates. Democrats had done well here in recent cycles until 2010, when Susana Martinez won the governor’s race and Steve Pearce won one of the state’s three congressional districts.
Bingaman joins Jim Webb, Kent Conrad, and Joe Lieberman among Senate Democrats taking a pass on another term. The chances of Democrats keeping this seat are probably better than in Virginia and North Dakota, but worse than in Connecticut. Still, some mainstream accounts are calling the news a “body blow” to “the odds of Democrats hanging onto the Senate.”
Democrats may not have to look too far for a promising challenger; second-term congressman Martin Heinrich says he’s considering running for the seat. Of course, that would create an open-seat race where Republican Jon Barela took 48 percent last time around, setting up a decent shot for the GOP to pick up that House seat.
State auditor Hector Balderas is apparently in.
On the Republican side, former governor Gary Johnson is a “no.” Former congresswoman Heather Wilson and Pearce are “maybe”s.