03/15/2012 04:03 pm ET Updated Apr 05, 2012

The Gloves Come Off In New Mexico's 2012 Senate Race

It's a high-stakes primary contest on both sides of the aisle in New Mexico, as Republican and Democratic candidates hope to fill the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by Sen. Jeff Bingaman after 30 years. The eventual nominees will play a huge hand in determining which party wins control of the chamber come November.

Since Lt. Gov. John Sanchez dropped out of the race in February (he endorsed Wilson Thursday), the GOP primary has been a dual between former Rep. Heather Wilson, a centrist, and conservative businessman Greg Sowards. Though Sowards has an endorsement from Tea Party favorite Sharron Angle on his side, Wilson is enjoying an extremely wide lead in the polls. Still, Sowards is determined to fight on, and has vowed to stay in the race no matter what happens in the upcoming pre-primary contest.

As the two candidates attempt to convince delegates at the convention to vote their way, they're stepping up attacks. Sowards claims the Wilson camp anonymously sent a letter to the Republican delegates containing a Weekly Standard article (cleverly titled "Breaking Bad") that paints Sowards in a negative light. From the article:

The vast majority of his [Soward's] income comes from the government. He lists just two sources of income on the personal financial disclosure form he filed with the U.S. Senate to run for office: New Mexico Children, Youth and Families Department and New Mexico Child Care Assistance. The taxpayer money goes to Kids’ Kountry, a childcare business that he runs with his wife -– a total of some $1.6 million since 1998.

More problematic: Sowards pushed New Mexico governor Bill Richardson to use stimulus funds –- what his campaign website calls an example of “Obama’s socialism” –- to keep that money coming.

Wilson denies the anonymous letter came from her campaign.

Sowards responded with a deluge of mailers attacking Wilson. From N.M. Politics:

The first -- and harshest -- of three letters he sent brought up past allegations against Wilson in accusing her of improperly pressuring former U.S. Attorney David Iglesias and, as the former head of the state's Children, Youth and Families Department, burying a child abuse allegation against her husband. It also stated that her staff was linked to an "illegal voter registration scheme."

Sowards has run for congress twice before, and was defeated both times. Wilson ran for Senate in 2008 and lost to a more conservative member of Congress.

The Democratic candidates vying for the seat are Rep. Martin Heinrich and state auditor Hector Balderas. At last weekend's Democratic pre-primary in New Mexico, Heinrich finished ahead, but Balderas gained momentum by exceeding expectations.

A December Public Policy Polling survey found Democrats with a slight lead (47-40) in a hypothetical Heinrich vs. Wilson general election.

10 more election stories from beyond the presidential field:

Richard Lugar Ineligible To Vote In Indiana [HuffPost]

Shelley Berkeley Proposes Outside Spending Ban [Las Vegas Review Journal]

Some Democrats Aren't Happy With Elizabeth Warren's Senate Campaign [Boston Herald]

The National Right Wing's Top Senate Target: Ohio [Washington Post]

Sherrod Brown Combatting 'Excessive Speculation' On Gas [Mount Vernon News]

Kaine's Super PAC Should Not Obviate His Standing With Virginia's Voters [Blue Virginia]

Kirsten Gillibrand Unveils Jobs Plan [Times Union]

Two More Submit Signatures To Replace Olympia Snowe In Maine [WABI TV]

Tammy Baldwin, Obama's Fates Intertwined In Wisconsin [National Journal]

Early Blow To Bob Turner's Senate Campaign [Buffalo News]