Pearce Won’t Rule Out Self-Funding 2010 Campaign

Posted September 15, 2009 at 2:15pm

Former Rep. Steve Pearce (R-N.M.), whose bid to win back his old House seat could become one of the marquee Congressional elections of the 2010 cycle, said Tuesday that he would not rule out spending his own money on the race.

Pearce, a wealthy oil services company executive who gave up his seat last year to make an unsuccessful run for Senate, has previously not seeded his Congressional campaigns with his own fortune.

“My belief is, if you can’t compel people to invest in your campaign, I don’t think you can buy a seat, at least not very often, and not in this district,— Pearce said in a conversation with Washington, D.C., reporters.

But this cycle Pearce is trying to oust his successor, freshman Rep. Harry Teague (D), another oilman who is the 10th richest Member of Congress, according to Roll Call’s 50 Richest Members analysis. Teague spent $3.4 million to win the 2nd district seat last cycle, about half of it from his own pocket.

Pearce said it is his preference not to spend any of his own money on the campaign, but said he would not dismiss the possibility. Since declaring his candidacy in June, he said his sole focus has been on raising a substantial amount of cash before Sept. 30. While he would not say what his fundraising goal for the quarter is, Pearce vowed to exceed the target he has been given by the National Republican Congressional Committee.

Teague ended June with $574,000 in cash on hand.

While the southern New Mexico district has more registered Democrats than Republicans, it is quite conservative, and Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) carried it by 1 point in the 2008 White House election.

But New Mexico remains a volatile state politically — Democrats swept all the Congressional seats last year, and they are well-positioned to hold onto the governor’s mansion in 2010 despite various scandals surrounding Democratic officeholders in recent years.

Pearce professed to be unconcerned about the greater political dynamic in the state and said he was focusing on his own race. But he said many voters are sick of the corruption, and that could help Republicans up and down the ballot.

Pearce also offered an olive branch to former Rep. Heather Wilson (R), whom he defeated in a bloody Republican Senate primary. Wilson is still contemplating a run for governor next year — a race Pearce decided to skip — and Pearce said Wilson could be the strongest GOP contender against the likely Democratic nominee, Lt. Gov. Diane Denish.

“It would be nice if we had someone running with a better ID,— he said. “If Heather runs, it definitely runs our chances up the flagpole. I think we’ve got good candidates. The problem is name ID. That’s an expensive problem to solve.—

Name identification will not be a problem Pearce will face trying to win his old seat back — he acknowledged that many voters still believe he is in Congress, and said he will benefit from that confusion.