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Wind or Oil? New Mexico Voters Face Sharp Choice on Nov. 2

Teague's clean energy agenda draws some, but others say Pearce will defend the state's oil industry

By Elizabeth McGowan

Nov 1, 2010

What alarms and annoys her is watching this election season devolve into an expensive and months-long smear campaign and squawk-fest.

“You turn on the television, and 75 percent of the ads now are political,” she says. “Why are they spending so much money when we’re hurting so bad? Why don’t they spend that money telling us what good they’ve done instead of the other person’s bad?”

A cursory survey of the Smiths’ fellow diners reveals that while they didn’t fully grasp the specifics of the science behind global warming, they are aware it’s a looming threat that legislators need to be involved in solving.

“We’ve got to do something about it because we’re going to destroy ourselves if we don’t,” explains 86-year-old Judge Hamilton, a Republican who cast an early ballot for Teague. “Pearce was in there for years, and what did he do?”

“It was an honest and down-to-earth decision,” Hamilton says about Teague’s support for a climate bill designed to curb greenhouse gas emissions and promote cleaner technologies. “I trust the guy enough. So, if he thought this bill was good for our state, I’ll go along with him. We need people with common sense.”

Not Everybody on the Teague Bandwagon

While the senior center is laden with Teague supporters, that isn’t the case at a stucco house steps away across Third Street. One of Ronald Sullivan’s cars, sporting a “Bring Back Pearce” bumper sticker, is parked near a wave of colorful yard signs for Republican candidates and a fence bedecked with a homemade sign calling for President Barack Obama’s impeachment.

Sullivan has a one-word response for the science proving that manmade warming has dangerous consequences: Hogwash.

“The Earth has so much more power than we do,” says the ebullient 63-year-old mechanic, who cheerfully pulls his head out from under a pickup truck to engage in a conversation about energy and the Teague-Pearce contest. “We can’t even predict the weather. How can we predict how carbon dioxide is affecting the Earth?”

“Carbon dioxide makes trees grow better,” he says, pointing to twin mulberry trees flourishing in his front yard framed with a cinder block wall. “And besides,” he continues, gesturing beyond a slightly tattered American flag flapping in the breeze to a resplendent blue sky spritzed with white, puffy clouds, “do you see any dirt up there, any sign of global warming?”

Sullivan says he respects Teague for having the guts to defend his vote for the climate legislation co-authored by Democratic Reps. Henry Waxman of California and Ed Markey of Massachusetts. But the admiration ends there.

“Harry Teague says he’s an oil man, but he doesn’t act like one,” he emphasizes. “We’d be bankrupt in this state if it weren’t for oil. Steve Pearce would never vote for a bill that hurts the oil industry.”

Pearce, first elected to the House in 2002, gave up his seat to make an unsuccessful run for the Senate in 2008.

Pearce’s "Over-Taxed, Over-Regulated" Message Resonates

Sullivan echoes Pearce’s campaign mantra that the government is over-taxing and over-regulating everybody and everything. The Republican’s ideas about undertaking more drilling to slash unemployment and boost energy independence resonate with Sullivan in a state where the oil and gas industry employs about 15,000 workers.

Wind and solar technology aren’t advanced enough and are too pricey for major investments now, Sullivan says.

With conservative talk show host Sean Hannity burbling on the radio in the background, Sullivan explains with a sly smile that he was born to Democratic parents in what he describes as the “socialist capital city” of Santa Fe. Though he doesn’t consider himself a member of the Tea Party, he recently attended a rally organized by the Tea Party Express in Las Cruces, a city not far from the Mexican border, because he’s enamored with the group’s “common-sense ideas.”

“I listen to talk radio because it makes me think,” he explains. “I’m an issues person. I believe in looking at the facts and making up my own mind.”

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