Supporters of New Mexico’s Republican U.S. Senate candidate Heather Wilson marched on her opponent Rep. Martin Heinrich’s campaign headquarters in Albuquerque on Thursday armed with complaints about Heinrich’s big-government fiscal record—and with a monkey.
"He’s to represent that we're tired of politicians like Congressman Heinrich who are monkeying around in Washington," protest organizer Marita Noon told a local reporter about the protester, who wore a monkey suit. "But the other thing he's to represent is specifically some of the foolish money that was spent for the $800 billion stimulus bill that was spent to observe monkeys fighting," Noon said.
Noon was referring to a nearly half-million-dollar appropriation in the 2009 stimulus bill, which Heinrich supported, for a Santa Fe Institute study entitled, "Network Conflict Theory: Empirically-Based Models of Conflict Dynamics and Effective Conflict Management Strategies."
As part of the study, researchers spent 150 hours "to see if monkeys learn better strategies as they gain experience fighting."
"While New Mexicans were cutting back, Congressman Heinrich was in Washington on a taxpayer-funded spending spree that dug our country $5 trillion deeper into debt," Wilson spokesman Chris Sanchez said in a statement. "He cannot be trusted to turn this economy around because his idea of economic recovery is just more government spending."
Heinrich, a noted environmentalist with firm support in Santa Fe conservationist circles, has strong financial backing from some of the nation’s most prominent environmental groups, and currently leads Wilson 50 to 41 percent, according to a survey by the Democratic polling firm Public Policy Polling (PPP).
Political observers in New Mexico told the Free Beacon that Heinrich’s lead owes largely to the fact that President Obama, who leads Mitt Romney by 11 points in New Mexico, is ahead of Heinrich on the ticket. These observers theorized that middle-of-the-road Democratic voters are unaware of some of Heinrich’s more out-of-the-mainstream left-wing policy positions.
Wilson’s advertising campaign labeling Heinrich "too extreme for New Mexico"—similar to the way that Republican Scott Brown has been attempting to win over moderate Democrats from a left-wing ideologue in Massachusetts—appears to be working with independent voters, but has not yet been enough to move moderate Democrats into Wilson’s camp.
Wilson leads Heinrich 53 percent to 37 percent among independents, according to an Albuquerque Journal poll.
Independent voters have increased by 26,000 in the state of New Mexico since 2008.
"Heather has begun making her comeback, as she has done in every race she has won," spokesman Sanchez said in a statement.
Wilson and Heinrich will have five televised debates between October 8 and October 25, beginning with a debate at New Mexico PBS Studios.
If Heinrich’s more extreme policy positions and affiliations are publicized within the next month and a half, then enough moderate Democrats could cross the aisle in order for Wilson to close the gap, insiders believe.
"We’re a Democratic state, but we’re not a progressive state," Wilson told the Free Beacon in August.
Heinrich has relied heavily on an influx of cash from the environmental lobby to build his lead.
Heinrich counts the League of Conservation Voters, which has contributed $108,634 to his campaign, as his top contributor this election cycle. In total, Heinrich has received $145,365 in campaign contributions from the green lobby. In addition, the Sierra Club and the League of Conservation Voters are targeting Wilson with a $2 million negative advertising campaign.
"He gets a lot of money from conservation groups. If you go out to Santa Fe, which is like Berkeley with mountains, you see a lot of Heinrich stickers," New Mexico Watchdog reporter Rob Nikolewski told the Free Beacon in August.
Heinrich staunchly supported the 2009 Waxman-Markey climate change bill, which would have imposed job-killing cap-and-trade energy regulations. Heinrich called Waxman-Markey "historic," compared the bill to the Apollo space program, and said it would "transform our nation."
In 1997, Heinrich formed an environmentalist group called the New Mexico Wilderness Alliance to prevent off-road vehicle use on public lands and to reform state mining law. Heinrich formed the group with David Foreman, a cofounder of the radical environmentalist group Earth First.
Foreman pleaded guilty in 1990 to a felony conspiracy charge stemming from Earth First’s efforts to sabotage power line towers and a ski lift near Flagstaff, New Mexico. The FBI said the group was also planning attacks against a nuclear power plant and a weapons factory.
Foreman donated to Heinrich’s 2010 congressional campaign, according to the Federal Election Commission.
The Heinrich campaign did not return a request for comment.