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Sharp contrasts define primary race between GOP candidates seeking to unseat Democratic U.S. Rep. Ben Ray Lujan

By Steve Terrell

The New Mexican New Mexico Abbr. NM or N.M. or N.Mex.

A state of the southwest United States on the Mexican border. It was admitted as the 47th state in 1912.

They both favor fewer taxes, less government, less spending and fewer government regulations. They both identify with the tea party movement. They both want to replace incumbent Democrat Ben Ray Lujan in Congress.

But the two Republican candidates running in the 3rd Congressional District Noun 1. congressional district - a territorial division of a state; entitled to elect one member to the United States House of Representatives
district, territorial dominion, territory, dominion - a region marked off for administrative or other purposes
 have many differences in style and substance.

Tom Mullins, a Farmington oilman, is a soft-spoken man who doesn't mind when people call him "traditional Republican." He describes himself as a "pro-life Catholic conservative."

Adam Kokesh, who lives in and was raised in Santa Fe, is a proud member of the libertarian Ron Paul wing of the GOP. In fact, Paul, a congressman from Texas, has personally endorsed Kokesh, a former Marine who fought in Iraq and came home to actively protest the war.

Kokesh might be the only Republican congressional candidate anywhere who was escorted out of the 2008 Republican National Convention for heckling presidential nominee John McCain For McCain's grandfather and father, see John S. McCain, Sr. and John S. McCain, Jr., respectively
John Sidney McCain III (born August 29, 1936 in Panama Canal Zone) is an American politician, war veteran, and currently the Republican Senior U.S. Senator from Arizona.

"The national leadership (of the Republican Party) is just as corrupt as the Democrats," Kokesh said in a recent interview.

It will be hard for any Republican to win in this district, which covers most of the northern part of the state. Congressional Quarterly Congressional Quarterly, Inc., or CQ, is a privately owned publishing company that produces a number of publications reporting primarily on the United States Congress.  ranks it as a "safe Democratic" District.

The National Republican Congressional Committee isn't expected to spend any money or effort helping the GOP candidate in the district.

While there are frequent e-mails from the committee castigating New Mexico's other Democratic incumbents in the U.S. House, Reps. Harry Teague and Martin Heinrich This article or section needs sources or references that appear in reliable, third-party publications. Alone, primary sources and sources affiliated with the subject of this article are not sufficient for an accurate encyclopedia article. , for their votes and positions, they never attack Lujan for the same votes and positions. In the 2008 general election, Lujan won his first term with 57 percent of the vote, taking the seat left vacant when fellow Democrat Tom Udall Thomas Stewart Udall usually called Tom Udall (born May 18, 1948) is an American politician who has represented New Mexico's At-large congressional district as a member of the United States House of Representatives since 1999.

Tom Udall was born in Tucson, Arizona.
 made his successful run for the U.S. Senate. Republican Dan East got 30 percent, while independent Carol Miller got

13 percent of the vote.

The GOP is in the minority in the 3rd Congressional District. According to according to
1. As stated or indicated by; on the authority of: according to historians.

2. In keeping with: according to instructions.

 the Secretary of State's Office website, as of November 2009, Democrats outnumbered Republicans by nearly 2 to 1. There were 212,202 registered Democrats in the district, 107,937 Republicans, 54,403 independents (declined to state) and 9,453 members of other parties.

However, one early poll showed Lujan leading either Republican candidate, but only by single-digit margins. In February, Public Policy Polling, a Democratic polling organization from North Carolina North Carolina, state in the SE United States. It is bordered by the Atlantic Ocean (E), South Carolina and Georgia (S), Tennessee (W), and Virginia (N). Facts and Figures

Area, 52,586 sq mi (136,198 sq km). Pop.
, reported that in a matchup, Lujan led Mullins 42 percent to

36 percent and led Kokesh

40 percent to 32 percent. "Lujan has poor approval numbers with 40 percent of voters giving him bad marks to just 31 percent who like how he's doing," said a memo accompanying the poll.

"But the district's overwhelmingly Democratic nature should make it easy for him to overcome that. Republicans are more unified in their dislike for him than Democrats are in their support." (400 voters in the district were interviewed between Feb. 18 and 20. The margin of error was 4.9 percent.)

The GOP establishment seems to be backing Mullins, who won more than 80 percent of the delegate vote at the Republican pre-primary convention in March. Mullins also has the edge in money. According to the most recent reports filed with the Federal Election Commission, Mullins had $28,676 cash in hand as of March 31, compared with Kokesh's $12,003. Incumbent Lujan had $375,035.

Mullins has been the most aggressive in attacking his primary opponent. At a January tea party candidate forum in Rio Rancho, Mullins publicly denounced Kokesh as "an Internet celebrity and a war protester" who didn't deserve the seat, conservative blogger Jim Scarantino reported. This was around the same time Mullins wrote on his campaign blog, "My primary opponent is a war protester and proud of it. I have spoken with many veterans who believe that Adam's actions dishonor To refuse to accept or pay a draft or to pay a promissory note when duly presented. An instrument is dishonored when a necessary or optional presentment is made and due acceptance or payment is refused, or cannot be obtained within the prescribed time, or in case of bank collections,  the military and our nation's military men and women. I agree with their opinion."

Kokesh's campaign later responded, "We believe that Mr. Mullins' insinuation INSINUATION, civil law. The transcription of an act on the public registers, like our recording of deeds. It was not necessary in any other alienation, but that appropriated to the purpose of donation. Inst. 2, 7, 2; Poth. Traite des Donations, entre vifs, sect. 2, art. 3, Sec.  that Adam's service to our country as a Marine in Iraq isn't worth a line on his resume is a slap in the face to all military personnel and veterans. ... Whatever perspective you may have on our foreign policy, there is no excuse for degrading the sacrifice a veteran has made for our country. It is possible that, because he has never served in the military, Mr. Mullins does not understand the type of commitment and dedication required to volunteer for our armed forces."

In an interview Thursday, Mullins said Kokesh has "a track record of poor judgment." He challenged Kokesh's claim of being a "lifelong Republican" and said Kokesh had never voted in New Mexico.

Kokesh, in an interview, said that for a few years during the Bush administration he became so frustrated with the national GOP leadership that he registered Libertarian. Kokesh said he changed back to Republican in 2008. He said he did vote in the 2008 election and in the nonpartisan Santa Fe mayoral race. "But the reason I didn't vote in New Mexico before that was because I was in the military before I was eligible to vote." He enlisted at the age of 17.

Though he has defended himself against some of Mullins' attacks, Kokesh has not attacked his opponent. "I'm proud that I've run a clean campaign. I've only criticized Tom on his ability to win and on the issues," Kokesh said.

Other Republicans have piled on Kokesh for his anti-war activities. Rod Montoya, who was second vice chairman of the state Republican Party, recently resigned, listing Kokesh as the main reason. "Since returning from his second voluntary deployment to the Middle East, he has become a professional war protester," Montoya wrote in his letter of resignation early this month. Like Mullins, Montoya is from Farmington.

Kokesh even evoked the ire of national right-wing pundit An expert or knowledgeable person. From "pandit" in Hindi. See guru.  Michelle Malkin, who in a March blog post called him "an anti-war smear merchant in GOP clothing."

Rising to Kokesh's defense was local Republican activist (and legislative candidate) Brigette Russell, who wrote "when Adam Kokesh volunteered as a Marine and then risked life and limb serving in Iraq, he earned the right to say whatever he damn well pleases about that war."

Russell, who is running against incumbent state Rep. Brian Egolf in District 47, said Kokesh is "a viable Republican candidate, a candidate who works like I've never seen a candidate work, and has built one of the best campaign organizations I've ever seen."

Another local Republican has spoken out favorably for Kokesh. Asenath Kepler, a former city manager who ran for mayor this year, endorsed Kokesh in a statement in April, saying he's "not afraid to ask the big questions, and to suggest creative, fresh solutions to the many difficult problems facing our nation." Kepler is chairing Kokesh's campaign.

Mullins has been endorsed by two state senators from Farmington: Steve Neville, who said in a statement, "We need more engineers in Congress with problem solving problem solving

Process involved in finding a solution to a problem. Many animals routinely solve problems of locomotion, food finding, and shelter through trial and error.
 skills like his," and Bill Sharer, who praised Mullins' business experience and support for the oil industry as well as the fact that Mullins "supports traditional marriage and is the pro-life candidate in this race."
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Publication:The Santa Fe New Mexican (Santa Fe, NM)
Date:May 17, 2010

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