John Gizzi's Races of the Week

New Mexico’s 2nd U.S. House District

Pearce vs. Teague

 Voters in New Mexico’s sprawling 2nd District (Roswell-Santa Fe) will get a very rare opportunity this fall: a chance to choose between two candidates who both have records in Congress on major national issues. 

 Former Republican Rep. (2000-08) Steve Pearce—decorated U.S. Air Force pilot in Vietnam, oilman, former state legislator—is running to take it back.  He faces Democratic Rep. Harry Teague, who won the district two years ago when Pearce ran unsuccessfully for the U.S. Senate.

 “And I’m running because the fellow who has my seat is voting with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi almost all the time and that’s quite a bit left,” says the conservative Pearce (lifetime American Conservative Union rating: 94%).  “He votes for such government spending as the huge stimulus packages and the economy is not getting any better.  Look, we both came out of private business.  He made millions in the oil business and should know better than to vote against industry—the major source of job creation.”

 The records of Pearce and Teague (lifetime ACU rating: 29%) differ sharply on just about everything, but it’s the Democrat’s vote for the cap and trade energy-tax “climate” legislation that the Republican candidate says best illustrates his charge that Teague “represents Pelosi’s interests, not ours.”

 “Cap and trade would force small businesses to downsize in order to downsize,” declares Pearce.  “It would drive up the cost of electricity and that would be devastating to our mining and agriculture industries.”

 Small business, agriculture and mining are the essence of the Land of Enchantment’s2nd District.  As Pearce notes, “when you go to Luna and Silver City here, and you find unemployment at 17% to 20% thanks to environmental regulations already on the books, you know something is wrong.”

 For his comeback bid, the 62-year-old Pearce has already raised more than $1 million (“92% of it from individuals and not one dime of my own money!”).  He continues to win fresh support from angry voters who see an Obama White House and its Interior Department waging a “war on the West,” targeting ranchers and private landowners. 

 Flying his own plane across the district, Pearce hits the small towns and listens to people who feel the hostility of government in faraway Washington.  The GOP hopeful’s message is simple:  “What we need is a good dose of freedom and a fresh understanding of the Constitution.” 

 Freedom Is His Flight Plan was the title of a biography of a pilot-businessman who entered politics because he feared an encroaching federal government.  His name was Barry Goldwater.  In so many ways, Goldwater’s message of a half-century ago came be heard from Steve Pearce today.

(Pearce for Congress, .P0. Box 2696, Hobbs, N. M., 88241; 575-392-2061)

North Dakota’s At-Large U.S. House District

Berg vs. Pomeroy

 All things considered, Republican Rick Berg has things going rather well for himself.  The Hetinger native and North Dakota State University graduate runs a successful real estate company in Fargo and has served in the state house of representatives since he was 24.  Along with such fellow conservative spear-carriers as Rep. Gene Nicholas of Candu, Berg helped enact record decreases in the Roughrider State’s income and property taxes. 

 So why, people might ask, would Berg—at age 50, the majority leader of the state house, happily married and a father—want to go to Congress?

 “Yes, things are going well in my life and I don’t need the job or another title,” says Berg.  “But I felt I would regret it for the rest of my life if [Democratic Rep.] Earl Pomeroy were re-elected.”

 So Berg decided to run against Pomeroy (lifetime American Conservative Union rating: 22%).  At the GOP state convention in March, he was selected unanimously as the party’s standard-bearer against the Democrat who has held their state’s lone U.S. House seat since 1992.

 The seat Pomeroy holds has actually been in Democratic hands for 30 years.  Asked why he has a good chance of putting it in Republican hands, Berg points to Pomeroy’s votes for what the GOP nominee calls “the trifecta”—Obama-backed healthcare, stimulus packages, and cap and trade climate legislation.  Moreover, as Berg notes, “the big picture landscape has changed out here in recent years.  All statewide office-holders are Republicans and both houses of the state legislature are in Republican hands.  And [GOP Gov.] John Hoeven is going to win the open Senate seat this year going away.”

 But most significantly, Republicans have finally offered North Dakotans a candidate with a record that contrasts strikingly with Pomeroy’s. 

 “It’s all about the way we do business,” says Berg. “When we were facing a deficit here in North Dakota and times were tough, we set priorities.  We funded things we things we needed and we didn’t fund others.  And we didn’t raise taxes—we cut them.  And guess what?  In 22 quarters since we cut taxes in ’02, the sales tax collection increased.  We have a balanced budget, a surplus, and money in our ‘rainy day’ fund,” and possibly most significantly, since ’02, state unemployment has dropped to 4% and the tide of college students leaving North Dakota has subsided. 

Yes, the race for Congress in North Dakota is “about the way we do business.”  And with help from his fellow conservatives, Rick Berg will go to Congress to “do business” on behalf of smaller government, small business, and the taxpayer. 

(Berg for Congress, P.O. Box 9394, Fargo, N. D., 58106; 701-364-BERG)

New York’s 25th U.S. House District

Buerkle vs. Maffei

 With New York’s having last gone for a Republican for President back in 1984 and the Empire State’s U.S. House delegation down to two Republicans, just talking about a GOP candidate’s unseating a Democratic U.S. representative there is bound to invite a response so familiar to New Yorkers: “Fuhgedabout it!”

 But defiant in the face of her party’s flaccid posture in New York is Ann Marie Buerkle, who has decided to challenge freshman Democratic Rep. Dan Maffei in the 20th District (Syracuse).  Defying formidable odds has been a lifetime chore for Buerkle, a mother of six and grandmother of 11.  A registered nurse by training, she earned a law degree nights and served a stint on the Syracuse City Council. 

 “And I lost after one term because my opponents vilified me over my pro-life position,” she says.  Undaunted, Buerkle was tapped in 1997 by Dennis Vacco (New York’s last Republican attorney general) as an assistant state attorney general. 

 Buerkle’s never-say-die spirit obviously impressed the elders of two parties, as he wrapped up the Republican nomination for Congress as well as the ballot line of New York State’s Conservative Party.  In one month, the Republican-Conservative hopeful raised more than $100,000, almost all of it in small donations from individuals.

 “And I’m going for the nomination of [New York’s] Independence Party as well,” vows the indomitable Buerkle, who says she is running because “we have lost our way.  We need to get back to the U.S. Constitution.”

 Denouncing Maffei (lifetime American Conservative Union rating: 0%) for what she calls “his down-the-line votes with Barack Obama and Nancy Pelosi,” the feisty challenger offers a fresh agenda as an alternative: reducing corporate taxes from 35% to 25% (“I’m not afraid of giving breaks to people who create real jobs”), permanently ending the estate and alternative minimum taxes, and “repealing the healthcare package my opponent helped enact and replacing it with real reform—that is, more portablility for private health insurance plans and tort reform.”

 Not surprisingly, Buerkle’s drive and energy on the campaign trail are infectious.  It is that spirit that helped her overcome odds against her in past ventures.  If conservatives give her campaign for Congress the support it needs and deserves, then Ann Marie Buerkle will once again prove she is an “overcomer”—and win in November.

(Ann Marie Buerkle for Congress, P.O. Box 219, DeWitt, N. Y. 13214; 315-415-4233;