Will the U.S. Attorneys Scandal Rear Its Ugly Head in 2012?

Here's a possible blast from the not-so-distant past: The 2007 U.S. attorneys scandal could get rehashed as a campaign issue in a 2012 Senate race.

With Sen. Jeff Bingaman's (D-N.M.) retirement, the names of possible successors are being batted about, and one of them is former Rep. Heather Wilson (R-N.M.), who ran for Senate in 2008 but lost in the GOP primary. She's currently leading an online reader poll at KOAT7, Albuquerque's ABC TV affiliate.

Wilson, as you may recall, played a not-insignificant part in the 2007 U.S. attorneys scandal that marked one of the final ugly moments of the Bush administration, as Attorney General Alberto Gonzales was dragged before the Senate Judiciary Committee and raked over hot coals, ultimately forced to resign as Democrats and Republicans alike questioned whether the Department of Justice could even function with him at the helm.

Wilson called one of those attorneys, David Iglesias, in 2006 as she faced a tough election battle, to ask him about the slow pace of corruption prosecutions. Iglesias alleged Wilson pressured him to speed up a corruption investigation involving Democrats. Wilson has denied this. Politico's Patrick O'Connor and Josh Kraushaar (now of National Journal Hotline) wrote in 2007 that the scandal had endangered her political future.

If the former congresswoman does indeed run for Bingaman's seat, all this could become a campaign issue. It hasn't been one for her before, according to a Republican operative in the state, who said the attorneys scandal didn't figure prominently in her 2008 GOP Senate primary.

But although Wilson has denied Iglesias's allegations, and although this was all several years ago, it's the type of thing political opponents use to attack each other. If Wilson truly is a leading candidate for Bingaman's seat, we can probably expect a barrage of political attacks against Wilson to fly around her home state and the Beltway as Election Day 2012 approaches.

When asked if the attorneys scandal would figure prominently in the 2012 race if Wilson ran on the GOP ticket, and if Democrats in the state would raise the issue, New Mexico Democcratic Party Executive Director Scott Forrester said, "Yes--Wilson clearly sought to pressure the U.S. Attorney to seek indictments in an effort to help her in a tight campaign. New Mexico voters remember that and we're sure this misconduct will come to light in 2012 should she run."

Updated at 5:45 p.m.