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U.S. House races take early shape

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By The Staff

SANTA FE – All three of New Mexico’s newly-elected Democratic members of the U.S. House face re-election next year.

And all three began raising money and getting in close touch with constituents the day they took office.

Rep. Martin Heinrich’s 1st Congressional District is seeing much action with two possible Republican candidates, a libertarian, an unregistered hopeful and a lawsuit.

Republican Jon Barela says he plans to make an announcement very soon. The Albuquerque businessman has been a first vice chairman of the state GOP and was appointed to the Albuquerque Public Schools board.

Also looking seriously at the race is Kevin Daniels, an Albuquerque funeral home owner.

The Libertarian Party has nominated Alan Woodruff, a retired Albuquerque lawyer, as its 1st Congressional District candidate.

Woodruff also is serving as lead attorney in a suit being brought by the Libertarian and Green parties, with Daniel Fenton of Albuquerque, who is not registered to vote but wants to run for Congress.

The suit seeks to invalidate a wide range of state election provisions they say unfairly restrict ballot access for minor parties. The contested provisions include petition requirements, voter registration requirements, replacement of candidates, straight party voting and party disqualifications.

The suit contends our state election code contains considerable obstacles that aren’t present in most other states. Woodruff says the state election law is skewed toward the two major parties.

He’s right. Back in the mid-’90s, Democrats figured they lost some major elections because Green Party candidates took too many votes away from them. So they made it more difficult for minor parties to get candidates on the ballot.

Republicans were the beneficiaries of those Green candidacies but they didn’t really complain about the changes pushed by Democrats because they knew a Libertarian or some other third party could take votes from them.

Rep. Harry Teague’s 2nd Congressional District has been very quiet.

The speculation is that possible GOP candidates are waiting to see whether former Rep. Steve Pearce decides to run for governor or tries to get his old seat back.

I hear the smart money is on the latter.

In Rep. Ben Ray Lujan’s 3rd Congressional District, Republican Dan East won a surprise primary election victory last year but then only pulled 30 percent of the vote in the general election. That was with Carol Miller, an independent candidate in the race, who took 13 percent of the vote.

This year, another third party candidate has announced his intention to run.

Adam Kokesh, a Libertarian, says he is getting help from U.S. Rep. Ron Paul, a Texas Republican who made a surprising splash in the GOP presidential primary last year. With a little Ron Paul guidance in Internet fundraising, Kokesh might get noticed.

In the secretary of state’s race, it appears Mary Herrera will try for a second term. She may be challenged in the primary by Democrat County Clerk Stephanie Gonzales of Santa Fe.

No Republicans have publicly expressed interest yet.

The Land Commissioner race is usually hard fought. Republicans always find a strong candidate to run because that office has so much affect on rural New Mexico.

Former land commissioner, Ray Powell Jr., a Democrat already has announced. On the Republican side, Bob Cornelius will seek the GOP nomination. He grew up in southeast New Mexico and is a former executive director of the Bernalillo County GOP.

Cornelius briefly entered the 2008 race in the 2nd Congressional District and now works for the state Public Regulation Commission as an investigator.

Current land commissioner, Pat Lyons is term limited. He appears ready to jump into the state Public Regulation Commission race in District 2, currently held by David King.

Write Jay Miller at

insidethe capitol@hotmail.com