The race for New Mexico’s northern Third Congressional District seat, the position Tom Udall is vacating to run for Pete Domenici’s Senate spot, has not garnered many headlines or much television coverage in Albuquerque. Only a tip of that district touches the metropolitan area, and the hotter contests elsewhere have caused that particular campaign to fade from scrutiny.
Then, too, the heavy majority in Democratic registrations in the northern counties means that the polls will almost always show a double-digit or better win for them, even more so in a year in which Obamamania seems likely to produce record turnouts.
The Democratic candidate, Ben Ray Luján, is well-financed and very well-connected, as his father has been Speaker of the state House of Representatives for a decade. Ben Ray Luján is likely to serve that district for many years in Congress and will probably be, in time, a congressional force. He is young, articulate and smart, a quick learner and a good campaigner.
The Republican, Dan East, has chosen to wage a Newt Gingrich-style campaign, with calls for smaller government, less taxes and pleas to “let the market forces work their magic without any tampering”—a platform that seems sure to produce a below-25 percent total result.
She worked in Washington in the first years of the Clinton administration, helping put together Hillary Clinton’s universal care proposal.
It is, though, the independent in the race, Carol Miller, who may finish second. With scarcely no campaign money and while having to waste valuable time trying to force her way into the few televised debates, Miller has attracted an amazing amount of support. Why?
I think many voters are drawn to the Miller platform on health care reform. She believes in expanding Medicare to all citizens and prioritizing primary care training and education, along with giving reimbursements and incentives like scholarships and loan repayment in areas with health shortages. Luján has recognized this and has been quick to include his own interest in health reform prominently in his television ads.
Miller’s campaign has no television budget, but for 20 years she has been personally involved in community hearings, patient hours of waiting in committee rooms of the State Capitol, months of mind-numbing task force meetings, and report-editing and testimony-gathering that have shaped her views on what ails America’s health care system.
She is well-known among that segment of northern New Mexico voters who want an independent voice representing them in D.C., and many still remember her earlier run for the position as a Green. She worked in Washington in the first years of the Clinton administration, helping put together Hillary Clinton’s universal care proposal, and Miller brings lessons learned from that experience to the current campaign.
New Mexicans have never before elected an independent to Congress. They probably won’t this time, either. Money still talks loudly in politics. But Carol Miller’s race, along with her impressive credentials and background, deserve better than to be ignored.
Her effort is a reminder to us all of just how much richer our politics could be; of just how many other valuable candidates might be enabled to reach out to us if we had public financing of our elections.