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New Mexico's GOP Senate primary leaves Democrats smiling

June 4, 2008 |  3:02 am

The breaks keep going the Democrats' way in the developing battle for Capitol Hill.

Already reveling in results of special House races that would seem to portend November gains for them in that chamber, national Democratic leaders quietly cheered Tuesday's outcome in New Mexico's Republican Senate primary.

In the battle to replace venerable GOP incumbent Pete Domenici, who is retiring for health reasons, the more conservative of two contenders triumphed -- which should increase the odds that Democratic Rep. Tom Udall will capture the seat in the general election.

The GOP race was close, as expected. Rep. Steve Pearce, who hails from the state's southeast corner, edged out Albuquerque-area Rep. Heather Wilson, 51% to 49%.

Wilson's more moderate brand of Republicanism had been essential to her political survival in a swing House district in New Mexico's most populated area. But it proved her undoing in the statewide primary. And Democrats were left pleased that Wilson -- with her track record of attracting the votes of suburban independents -- won't be Udall's rival.

-- Don Frederick