Inside the Capitol

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

ufpdate--Hector Balderas announced today the he will run for Senate

MON, 5-2-11
SANTA FE � U.S. congressional races in New Mexico are shaping up to be almost as much fun as the contests in 2008. That�s when New Mexico went from having some of the most seniority in Congress to having about the least seniority.
All three House members ran for the open Senate seat of retiring Sen. Pete Domenici, a veteran of 36 years. That meant zero seniority in the House but Bingaman�s 26 years in the Senate still gave New Mexico the clout to keep its valuable federal projects.
Now that Sen. Bingaman has announced his retirement, New Mexico will be left with no one having more than four year�s seniority. If the entire House delegation decides to run for the open Senate as it did four years ago, the state could really be in bad shape.
That is not as likely to happen as it was four years ago. Rep. Martin Heinrich, of New Mexico�s 1st Congressional District, is the only House member to declare his intent to run for the Senate and he may have raised enough money to scare some others out.
Rep. Heinrich has made some impact in Washington during his first two years. He has picked up some good committee positions, was elected president of the large 2008 Democratic freshman class and managed to keep most of New Mexico�s federal assets in his district.
His one loss was a change in mission for the famed Tacos, the New Mexico Air National Guard�s fighter unit. Blame for that loss has not fallen solely on Heinrich�s shoulders however.
As of this writing, New Mexico�s two other Representatives, Steve Pearce and Ben Ray Lujan have not jumped into the Senate race. Pearce took the leap in 2008. He beat Rep. Heather Wilson in the GOP primary but lost badly to Rep. Tom Udall in a general election dominated by Democrats.
With political possibilities looking better for the GOP in 2012, Pearce could decide to try again. But would Republicans be willing to give him back his House seat again in 2014, if he loses again in 2012? Another factor is that Former Rep. Heather Wilson, who lost to Pearce in the 2008 Senate primary, is back again running hard.
Pearce runs far to the right of Wilson. That�s good in the primary but Wilson says that makes her stronger in the general election. With the tea party now on the scene, just how much moderation will be tolerated in 2012? Pearce also is over a decade older than Wilson. Strategists often look at such factors when thinking about building seniority for the party.
Rep. Ben Ray Lujan, of the 3rd Congressional District, now is putting out the word that he won�t challenge Heinrich for the Democratic senatorial nomination. He�s happy and doing well where he is. No major opponents appear to be looming from either side in 2012. Redistricting will change his constituency some but not that much.
Lujan is doing well in Washington. The vice-chairmanship of the House Hispanic Caucus gives him connections with the leadership. He overcame the stigma of being a card dealer to win in 2008 and now is known as hard working with good constituent service.
State Auditor Hector Balderas has announced in the past few days for the U.S. Senate� With a statewide victory for auditor under his belt, he has a leg up on Rep. Heinrich in that respect. But Heinrich has Washington experience and fundraising ability.
Former Lt. Gov. Diane Denish has been encouraged to get in the U.S. Senate race. Sen. Tim Keller, a young Albuquerque Democrat, has expressed interest. He has been very active in promoting fiscal analysis and good government issues.
On the GOP side, in addition to Wilson, Lt. Gov. John Sanchez is a probable contender. Greg Sowards of Las Cruces and Bill English of Alamogordo also have announced.
The changed language should be in the attachment.


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