|Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from New Mexico's 1st district
June 25, 1998 – January 3, 2009
|Preceded by||Steven Schiff|
|Succeeded by||Martin Heinrich|
|Born||Heather Ann Wilson
December 30, 1960
Keene, New Hampshire, U.S.
|Alma mater||United States Air Force Academy
Jesus College, Oxford
|Service/branch||United States Air Force|
|Years of service||1978–1989|
Heather Ann Wilson (born December 30, 1960) is President of the South Dakota School of Mines & Technology in Rapid City, South Dakota. She is a former Republican member of the United States House of Representatives representing New Mexico's 1st congressional district from 1998 to 2009. She was the first female military veteran elected to a full term in Congress.
While in Congress, Wilson focused on national security issues, serving on the United States House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence and the United States House Committee on Armed Services. She also focused on health care, energy, manufacturing and trade, and telecommunication, serving on the United States House Committee on Energy and Commerce.
She opted not to run for re-election to the House in 2008 and sought the U.S. Senate seat of retiring Senator Pete Domenici but finished second in the Republican primary to Congressman Steve Pearce, who then lost the general election to Democrat Tom Udall. On March 7, 2011, she announced another run for Senate in 2012 to replace retiring Senator Jeff Bingaman, but lost the general election to Martin Heinrich, her successor in the House of Representatives.
In April of 2013 she was selected to be President of the South Dakota School of Mines and Technology by the South Dakota Board of Regents. She is the nineteenth president, and first female president, of SDSM&T.
Early life, education, and Air Force service
Wilson was born in Keene, New Hampshire, the daughter of Martha Lou, nurse, and George Douglas "Doug" Wilson, a commercial pilot and member of the Experimental Aircraft Association. Wilson grew up around aviation and hoped to become a pilot like her father and grandfather before her. Her paternal grandparents were born in Scotland. Her grandfather, George Gordon "Scotty" Wilson, flew for the Royal Air Force (RAF) in World War I and emigrated to America in 1922 where he was a barnstormer and airport operator in the 1920s and 1930s. He served as a courier pilot during World War II and started the New Hampshire Civil Air Patrol where he was a Wing Commander. Her father started flying at age 13 and enlisted in the United States Air Force after high school.
The United States Air Force Academy began admitting women during her junior year at Keene High School (Keene, New Hampshire), and Wilson applied and was appointed to the Academy. At the Academy, she was the first woman to command basic training and the first woman Vice Wing Commander. She graduated in 1982 as a Distinguished Graduate (magna cum laude equivalent). Although she had planned to go to flight school, Wilson earned a Rhodes Scholarship to study at the University of Oxford during the sixth year that women were permitted to apply and continued her education at Jesus College, University of Oxford, earning a Master of Philosophy and D.Phil. in International Relations by 1985.
In 1990, Oxford University Press published her book, International Law and the Use of Force by National Liberation Movements, which won the 1988 Paul Reuter Prize of the International Committee of the Red Cross. The Paul Reuter Prize is awarded for a major work in the sphere of international humanitarian law. Wilson won the second Reuter prize ever awarded.
An Air Force officer for seven years, Wilson was a negotiator and political adviser to the U.S. Air Force in England, and a defense planning officer for NATO in Belgium, where her work included arms control negotiations.
National Security Council
Wilson served in the United States Air Force until 1989 when she was chosen to serve as director for European Defense Policy and Arms Control on the National Security Council staff, "the President's principal forum for considering national security and foreign policy matters with his senior national security advisors and cabinet officials. Since its inception under President Truman, the Council's function has been to advise and assist the President on national security and foreign policies. The Council also serves as the President's principal arm for coordinating these policies among various government agencies." She worked for Republican President George H. W. Bush.
After leaving government in 1991, Wilson founded Keystone International, Inc. in Albuquerque, New Mexico to promote business development in the United States and Russia. The company specialized in working with senior executives in large American defense and scientific corporations with business development and program planning work in the United States and Russia.
Governor Johnson administration
In 1995, Governor Gary Johnson appointed Wilson to be Cabinet Secretary for Children Youth & Families Department, New Mexico, a $200 million state agency with 2,000 employees, where she led efforts to: reform child welfare laws; modernize the juvenile justice system; and improve early childhood education. This position led her to take an intense interest in Medicare and Medicaid and the ways in which the system can be improved to ensure the health of the American people and the American healthcare industry. Under her leadership, the department opened a juvenile work camp and a secure facility for young, violent offenders. It eliminated the wait for state-subsidized child care, revamped the foster care program and made adoptions faster. She also was an architect and the chief lobbyist for the governor's education agenda, including a law allowing charter schools, annual testing, and more budget authority for local school boards.
U.S. House of Representatives
- 1998 Special election
Five-term Republican Congressman Steven Schiff declared he would not run for re-election in February 1998 because of his battle with Squamous-cell carcinoma. Wilson resigned her cabinet post to enter the Republican primary. She won the support of Schiff and U.S. Senator Pete Domenici. Domenici called Wilson "the most brilliantly qualified House candidate anywhere in the country." After Congressman Schiff's death in March, a special election on June 23 was announced. Wilson won the Republican primary for the general election with 62.48 percent of the vote, "propelling her to a sizable win in the June 2 primary for the fall election against conservative state senator William F. Davis."
Three weeks after winning the primary, Wilson won the special election with 44.5 percent of the vote in a three-way race against millionaire Democratic state senator Phil Maloof and Green Party candidate Robert L. Anderson. She was sworn into office on June 25, 1998, making her the first woman since Georgia Lusk in 1946, and the first Republican woman ever, to represent New Mexico.
The special election set a record for the infusion of party money. For the June 23 special election, Maloof spent $3.1 million, approximately $1.5 million of which came from the Maloof family fortune and $1 million from committees. Wilson received $1 million from various GOP committees and raised an additional $1.5 million herself.
During the campaign, Phil Maloof aired an attack add accusing Wilson of an abuse of power by improperly handling her family's foster care file while she served as Secretary of the State of New Mexico's Department of Children, Youth and Families. Wilson had her family's foster parent records relocated from the Department's central location. When a local news station reported that she had the file removed, Wilson stated that she didn't remove the file. It remained in the custody of the Department, available for any official use but unavailable to her other than through the process all foster parents must use to get access to their records. Wilson produced a sworn affidavit from the Department that the file remained intact and unavailable to her for the duration of her time as Cabinet Secretary. After completing the investigation, Former District Attorney Bob Schwartz confirmed that the file was intact, accessible to the Department, and had not been tampered with.
- 1998 General Election
Less than five months later in the general election, Wilson faced Phil Maloof again. This time, she won a full term, defeating Maloof 48.4 percent to 41.2 percent. Maloof far outspent Wilson again, spending an additional $5 million to Wilson’s $1.1 million, making it the most expensive House race in New Mexico’s history.
Wilson was considered vulnerable by the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee during the 2000 election. Although the 1st had been in Republican hands ever since its creation in 1969, it has become increasingly friendly to Democrats at the national level; it has supported a Democrat in every presidential election since 1992.
Nonetheless, Wilson managed to defeat her Democratic opponent, former U.S. Attorney John J. Kelly, by seven points. Democrats felt the presence of a Green candidate siphoned off votes that would have otherwise gone to Kelly.
In 2004, Wilson faced Romero again. Outside spending on the election was the 15th highest of all House races that year, totaling $2,505,949. The National Republican Congressional Committee spent $1,085,956 in the race. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee spent $1,284,092.
Wilson and 66 other candidates received $10,000 donations from then-U.S. House Majority Leader Tom DeLay's Americans for a Republican Majority (ARMPAC) political action committee. ARMPAC filed termination papers with the Federal Election Commission on April 24, 2007. Wilson returned the $10,000 donation from ARMPAC.
During Wilson's reelection campaign in 2004, Romero ran advertisements that made the suggestion that her votes in Congress aided Osama bin Laden because she had voted against a bill to require the screening of cargo holds. Wilson's campaign countered with a policy ad stating "Richard Romero opposes death penalty for child molesters who kill their victims."
Following a debate with Romero, former New Mexico Republican Governor David Cargo said that despite her moderate image, Wilson was "essentially a fairly conservative Republican." That year, the Albuquerque Tribune also wrote, "In reality, Wilson's six-year record of voting in Congress reveals a loyal, dependable vote for the official Republican Party position on the overwhelming majority of issues. Much more so than either of the Republican congressmen who represented Albuquerque before her. During the last three years of [Steve] Schiff's tenure in Congress (1995–1997), he voted the Republican Party line 78 percent of the time. During the last three years of [Manny] Lujan's service (1986–1988), he voted with the House Republican leadership 65 percent of the time."
Wilson won the election by eight points.
In the 2006 elections, Heather Wilson faced an election day challenge from New Mexico Attorney General Patricia A. Madrid. The race was Wilson's toughest challenge since taking office. Since early September 2006, Wilson had been behind in all polls. For example, a poll taken from October 24–29 by Reuters/Zogby showed Madrid leading Wilson 53-44. Nevertheless, the election day results were far more favorable to Wilson. According to the Albuquerque Journal on Thursday, November 9, 2006, Wilson possessed a 1,300-plus-vote lead with 99% of the votes counted. Nevertheless, the final results and a formal certification of a winner needed to be delayed until additional hand-tallying of paper ballots and provisional ballots were completed. (Historically many provisional ballots are thrown out because of lack of signatures or many are not registered voters, according to County Clerk Mary Herrera.) Later that same day (November 9), Wilson declared victory in the congressional race, although Madrid refused to concede. Finally, on Tuesday, November 21, 2006, two weeks after the election, Madrid conceded to Heather Wilson. Wilson won the election by 875 (out of 211,000) votes, or 0.4% 
Wilson was the first woman to represent New Mexico since Georgia Lusk in the 1940s. Wilson was a member of the Republican Main Street Partnership, a coalition of centrist Republican leaders. Wilson has appeared on HBO's Real Time with Bill Maher.
According to Congressional Quarterly, from 2001 to 2003, Wilson voted in agreement with the Republican Party at least 90 percent of the time. This dropped to roughly 80 percent in 2004 and 2005. From 2001 to 2004, she voted in support of president George W. Bush nearly 90 percent of the time, falling to 70 percent in 2005. The Albuquerque Journal reported several instances in 2004 when Wilson acted in opposition to Republican interests: requiring the Bush administration to release cost figures for his prescription drug plan, lecturing Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld about the importance of the Geneva Conventions during an Abu Ghraib hearing, and opposing a move by House Republicans to protect Tom DeLay from his fundraising scandal. Critics said these were calculated moves to moderate her image for her upcoming election. Later, she lost her seat on the House Armed Services Committee due to the actions of Republican Joe Barton, an ally of DeLay.
- Medicare Prescription Drug, Improvement, and Modernization Act of 2003 Motion to Recommit
In 2003, Wilson joined 221 Republicans and 1 Democrat in voting against a Motion to Recommit the Medicare Prescription Drug, Improvement, and Modernization Act of 2003 (HR 1). The motion would have deleted entire sections of the joint House and Senate compromise bill and replaced them with the respective Senate version. The sections pertained to allowing the Secretary of Health and Human Services to negotiate lower drug prices with pharmaceutical companies. The Secretary would have the authority to use the purchasing power of the federal government to negotiate contracts with manufacturers in order to ensure that enrollees in the new Medicare prescription drug benefit paid the lowest possible price. Drug manufacturers lobbied heavily against drug re-importation and price negotiations in part because of the lower consumer costs it would bring. The Motion to Recommit has been widely used as a political tool designed "to set up 30-second attack ads against vulnerable Members for supporting child molesters and pornography."
- Broadcast Decency Enforcement Act
On January 21, 2004, legislation was introduced by Congressman Fred Upton to increase the fines and penalties for violating the prohibitions against the broadcast of obscene, indecent, or profane language. The effort was "fueled in large measure by the soaring number of complaints about indecency to the F.C.C., nearly 250,000 in 2003 from just 346 in 2001... ." On February 12, 2004, the United States House Committee on Energy and Commerce held a hearing on the bill, at which representatives of the Federal Communications Commission (Kathleen Q. Abernathy, Jonathan Adelstein, Michael Copps, Kevin Martin, and Michael Powell), major broadcasting corporations (Gail Berman of Fox Broadcasting Company, John Hogan of Clear Channel Communications, Mel Karmazin of Viacom, Harry Pappas of Pappas Telecasting Companies, Bud Paxson of Paxson Communications, Alex Wallau, of ABC, and Alan Wurtzel of ABC), and the National Football League (Paul Tagliabue) testified. During the hearing, Wilson denounced Karmazin saying, "You knew what you were doing. You knew what kind of entertainment you're selling, and you wanted us all to be abuzz, here in this room and on the playground in my kids' school, because it improves your ratings. It improves your market share, and it lines your pockets." Karmazin resigned from Viacom on [June 1], 2004. Even though "Congressional efforts, both bipartisan, were well under way before the Super Bowl ... ", CNN's Reliable Sources ran an episode titled, "Is Media Blowing Bush's National Guard Service Out of Proportion?; Congress Discovers Sex" on which Gail Shister, television columnist for the Philadelphia Inquirer, characterized the congressional hearings as "a tempest in a teacup" and "a great election year issue". Frank Rich, columnist for the New York Times, called the hearings "congressional grandstanding." The bill, H.R. 3717, passed the House of Representatives on March 26, 2004 by a vote of 391-22-1.
- NSA warrantless domestic surveillance
On February 7, 2006, Heather Wilson, while serving as Chairwoman of the House Intelligence Subcommittee on Technical and Tactical Intelligence, called for a full congressional inquiry into the NSA warrantless surveillance. Eric Lichtblau of The New York Times said that "the congresswoman's discomfort with the operation appears to reflect deepening fissures among Republicans over the program's legal basis and political liabilities" In an interview for the article, Wilson said, "The president has his duty to do, but I have mine too, and I feel strongly about that."
- Fired U.S. attorneys
Wilson was accused of and later cleared of influencing the termination of a U.S. Attorney.
In February 2007, former U.S. Attorney David Iglesias alleged that Wilson's competitive 2006 campaign for re-election to the House was a significant reason for his dismissal from the Justice Department. Both Wilson and Republican United States Senator Pete Domenici contacted Iglesias in October 2006.
In a March 2007 statement, Wilson said her October call to Iglesias was to resolve an allegation of ethical impropriety made against Mr. Iglesias. Iglesias denied the charge and Wilson took him at his word. Iglesias never reported the contact, as he was required to do by DOJ rules.
In July 2007, the United States House Committee on Ethics under the leadership of Chairwoman Stephanie Tubbs Jones (D-OH) did an initial review of the matter, including interviewing Mr. Iglesias. It decided not to proceed with any investigation of Wilson. The Justice Department also did a review. Wilson never contacted the Justice Department about Iglesias' performance and the matter was closed.
- Environmental record
Wilson, along with 80 Democrats and 215 other Republicans, supported House passage of the conference report on the Healthy Forests Restoration Act, which opponents argued would "reduce and expedite (speed up) environmental and judicial reviews of forest thinning projects. The bill would authorize $760 million a year from fiscal 2004 to fiscal 2008. The Bureau of Land Management and the United States Forest Service would have the authorization to remove vegetation that could cause or assist the spread of wildfires, disease or insect infestation. All forest thinning project would come after public meetings had been held. Forest thinning would be restricted to land that is within a 1.5 miles of at-risk communities, high-risk land that serves as a home for threatened and endangered species, high-risk land in the area of municipal water sources and high-risk land that is specifically susceptible to disease or insect infestation."
Wilson, 36 Democrats, and 192 other Republicans supported House passage of the Threatened and Endangered Species Recovery Act of 2005, which would have amended and reauthorized the Endangered Species Act of 1973 to provide greater results conserving and recovering listed species, and for other purposes, including: Repealing the authority to designate an area as "critical habitat" for an endangered species; Requiring the Secretary of the Interior to create "recovery plans" within two years of classifying species as endangered or threatened; Allowing recovery agreements with private citizens whose land may be part of a species recovery plan; Issuing grants to support private property owners who voluntarily help to increase the number of endangered or threatened species on their private land; Providing compensation in an amount no less than fair market value to private landowners who have had regulation imposed upon their land; and, Calling upon the Secretary to submit an annual cost analysis of the previous years spending to Congress, including the amount of Federal and State funds used for each species."
The League of Conservation Voters (LCV) Action Fund, the political advocacy group's Political Action Committee (PAC), named Wilson to its 2006 "Dirty Dozen" list. of members of Congress targeted for defeat by the LCV in the 2006 elections." As justification for inclusion on the list, the LCVAF stated: "The key purpose of this report is to shine a spotlight on Members of Congress who have consistently sided with the energy industry and against the interests of those they are elected to represent," said LCV President Gene Karpinski. "Each of these seven voted for the disastrous, backward-looking energy bill, which gave billions of dollars in taxpayer subsidies to oil companies at a time of record breaking profits. All voted to drill in the Arctic Refuge and, with the exception of Rep. Harris, all voted against sensible clean energy solutions such as increased fuel economy standards for cars and trucks." The LCVAF also issued a press release in which Wilson was criticized by New Mexico farmers for what they saw as her anti-environment stance: she voted against a $58 million dollar fund for voluntary conservation measures in the state. The League of Conservation Voters gave Wilson an "abysmal" rating on its 2003 National Scorecard, rebuking her for taking more than $100,000 in campaign contributions from the energy lobby.
- United States House Committee on Energy and Commerce, 105th Congress (1997–1998) until her retirement after the 110th Congress (2007–2008).
- United States House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, 106th Congress (1999–2000), 109th Congress (2005–2006), and 110th Congress (2007–2008)
- Subcommittee on Technical and Tactical Intelligence (Chair & Ranking Member)
- Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations
- United States House Committee on Armed Services, 107th Congress (2001–2002) and 108th Congress (2003–2004))
2008 U.S. Senate campaign
On October 5, 2007, Wilson announced she would run for the U.S. Senate to replace retiring senator Pete Domenici in 2008. Wilson raised $2,608,446 for the race, spending it all in the Primary against Congressman Steve Pearce. Of that total, 73 percent was donated by New Mexicans. In November 2007, she was said to have raised about $110,000 at a Washington fundraiser with Vice President Dick Cheney.
In March 2008, Wilson's primary opponent, Congressman Steve Pearce, received 54.51% of the delegate vote in a pre-primary nominating convention. Wilson was defeated by Pearce in the June 3, 2008 primary by a margin of 51% to 49%. Wilson immediately endorsed Pearce's candidacy, saying that Republicans have "no time for disappointment or for bitterness. Republicans have made their choice and I gladly accept it." In the general election, Pearce was overwhelmingly defeated by Congressman Tom Udall, 61% to 39%.
2012 U.S. Senate campaign
On March 7, 2011, Wilson formally entered the race to fill retiring Senator Jeff Bingaman's seat. While Lieutenant Governor John Sanchez and Las Cruces Businessman Greg Sowards announced their candidacies for the Republican nomination as Tea Party conservatives, Sanchez withdrew from the race in February 2012 and endorsed Wilson. At the state convention in March 2012, Wilson told Republican delegates that, "We won't always agree on everything, but I won't play political games and I will always tell you the truth." Wilson secured 83% of the votes from the convention, forcing Sowards to get more signatures to qualify for the ballot.
Sowards attacked Wilson in direct mail and via the internet for being too moderate but was never able to generate enthusiasm for his candidacy. Wilson won the Republican primary 70% to 30% on June 5, 2012.
The general election matched Wilson against Congressman Martin Heinrich, who succeeded her in the House of Representatives. While Heinrich, a former Sierra Club activist, was the most liberal candidate ever to face Wilson, he largely avoided unscripted public events and ran as a champion of the middle class who will protect Social Security.
A coalition of environmental groups spent $1.5 million on television advertising in the summer attacking Wilson. Wilson fought back over the fall, highlighting Heinrich's failure to protect jobs at New Mexico's national labs and military bases, and his votes against New Mexico's important energy industry, but she was not able to match the grassroots effort of the Obama campaign and its allies. They mobilized thousands of young and low-income voters in Albuquerque who had first registered in 2008 to vote for President Obama. Governor Romney and his allies had no comparable voter registration and mobilization effort in New Mexico. While New Mexico Republicans and Wilson in particular have always done much better among Hispanics than Republicans in other parts of the country, Wilson was also burdened by the increasingly negative brand identity of her party nationally among Hispanics.
While Wilson lost the general election 50-45, she out-performed Governor Romney by 5%. Heinrich's entire margin of victory was in Albuquerque and Santa Fe, while Wilson won the rural and energy producing areas of the state.
Wilson is the head of the government contracting firm Heather Wilson & Company. In June 2013, the company was flagged in a Department of Energy Inspector General report that claimed that Wilson collected $450,000 from four Department of Energy facilities between January 2009 and March 2011 with little evidence any work was performed. The Department of Energy stated it recovered $442,877 paid to Wilson’s firm.
- See "Women in Congress: Heather A. Wilson". Helen Douglas Mankin was a Red Cross civilian nurse who served in World War I, but did not have veteran status. Catherine Small Long, a member of the Navy WAVES, was elected to complete the term of her husband who died in office and did not run for re-election.
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- Heather Wilson for Senate official campaign website
- Biography at the Biographical Directory of the United States Congress
- Financial information (federal office) at the Federal Election Commission
- Financial information (federal office) at OpenSecrets.org
- Issue positions and quotes at On the Issues
- Voting record at The Washington Post
- Appearances on C-SPAN programs
- Profile at SourceWatch
- House Eyes National Toxics Law Zachary Coile, SF Chronicle, July 13, 2006.
- Heather Wilson's comments during the hearing concerning the Super Bowl halftime show controversy YouTube clip of Heather Wilson at House FCC Hearing
|United States House of Representatives|
|Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from New Mexico's 1st congressional district
|Party political offices|
|Republican nominee for U.S. Senator from New Mexico