Heather Wilson to Paint Martin Heinrich as Enviro Extremist in New Mexico

(Image Credit: Eric Draper/AP Photo)

Environmental politics are alive and well in the New Mexico Senate race.

At a briefing with reporters today at the National Republican Senatorial Committee, New Mexico Senate candidate Heather Wilson and campaign aides laid out their plan of attack against Democratic Rep. Martin Heinrich, against whom Wilson is running in New Mexico's competitive 2012 Senate race. It includes painting Heinrich as an environmental extremist, hitting him on a few key policy points.

"New Mexico is one of the top energy-producing states in the nation," Wilson, 51, told reporters. "On this issue particularly, congressman Heinrich is way out on the extreme of his own party."

Wilson's campaign plans to hit Heinrich on his opposition to the Keystone Pipeline project, which the Albuquerque Journal has backed in editorials, and his vote in favor of House Democrats' cap-and-trade bill in June 2009.

The Wilson campaign will also blast Heinrich, 40, for his vote in favor of health care overhaul and, specifically, the medical-device tax it included.

"It is nearly unanimously agreed in New Mexico that the Keystone Pipeline will create jobs in this country," Wilson communications consultant Todd Harris told reporters.

On emissions policy, Harris said, Heinrich "aggressively pursues a cap-and-trade bill because that's in line with his liberal politics."

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Cap-and-trade formerly enjoyed bipartisan support, including from Sen. John McCain, but Republicans used the 2009 vote to pummel Democratic House incumbents in the 2010 midterms. The issue helped Republicans wrest control of the lower chamber, and Wilson's campaign team has adopted that playbook.

Heinrich is backed by environmental groups and was called an "environmental champion" by the Natural Resources Defense Council's political arm. Under Democratic Gov. Bill Richardson, Heinrich served as the state's natural resources trustee.

Both the League of Conservation Voters and the Sierra Club are spending money in New Mexico to back Heinrich, while the Chamber of Commerce and the GOP super PAC American Crossroads are spending to help Wilson. A recent Sierra Club ad accused Wilson of helping to poison drinking water in schools by supporting a bill that limited lawsuits oil companies could face, Albuquerque news station KOB-TV reported.

Aside from those groups, we can expect Democrats to campaign against Wilson by painting her as a supporter of conservative Republicans' entitlement agenda.

"If New Mexicans send Heather Wilson back to Washington, there is no doubt she would support cutting Medicare and privatizing Social Security in order to preserve tax breaks for companies that ship jobs overseas and give more tax breaks to millionaires," Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee spokesman Matt Canter said in a statement emailed to press after Wilson's meeting with reporters-a characterization of her views that may or may not be accurate.

Wilson said she does not support Social Security privatization, although in the past she has expressed openness to letting some Social Security payments go toward "personalized pension funds." The candidate would not take a firm position on House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan's budget plan, while saying she had "some concerns" with his proposal to convert Medicare into a system that makes premium-support payments to seniors, rather than direct payments to hospitals.