First, to beat a sitting member of the House is almost an impossible task. Add to this the fact that many, many people in Albuquerque work at the Labs or make their living from Lab purchases. So, protecting the Lab's budget trumps all other concerns. Heather is great at reminding people of that fact - after all she learned it from Pete who an absolute master at this process. So when Pete comes to town telling folks to vote for Heather the threat is implicit and they listen.
Besides this there is the simple fact that Heather has gotten the old folks to love her. She does that by high levels of constituent services. Her aids visit retirement homes to help residents deal with Medicare, Medicade, and Social Security issues and fawns over them on a daily basis. Doesn't matter that she usually votes against their interests - they think she is great. I opened voter envelopes Monday till my hands hurt and I saw the birth dates of the voters. The majority weren't born in the 60's, 70's, or 80's. They were born in the 30's, 40's, and 50's and that's why the absentee votes are so devistating for the Democrats running against Heather. These votes are mostly from folks that are 60+ years old and they split their ticket - they voted for Bingaman, Heather, and Bill Richardson. I can't tell you how many ballots I saw that were basically straight party Dem tickets with a crossover to Heather and occassionally another Republican candidate. These votes are Heather's secret wepon and she knows it!