House races are shaping up

-A A +A

GOP is running impressive candidate against Lujan

By Jay Miller

U.S. House races are beginning to take shape. Senate races already are well set because they are statewide.
Senate candidates don’t have to worry about what redistricting might do to their campaign plans.
Heather Wilson and Martin Heinrich reported impressive third quarter fundraising totals.
Lt. Gov. John Sanchez still can give Wilson a race in the GOP primary, with Greg Sowards lurking as a possible spoiler.
State Auditor Hector Balderas still has a shot at Heinrich in the Democratic primary.
But it is the House where interest now is turning. The 1st Congressional District has a full-blown race on the Democratic side. Rep. Martin Heinrich is giving up the seat to run for the Senate post being vacated by Sen. Jeff Bingaman.
State Rep. Eric Griego got in first and has been raising money and picking up endorsements from progressive groups.
Former Albuquerque Mayor Marty Chavez soon jumped in and has been doing well raising money among more moderate voters.
County Commissioner Michelle Grisham joined them in mid-August. She, too has posted strong fundraising totals.
Her politics lie somewhere between Griego and Chavez. Republican hopefuls in District 1 still haven’t stirred up much interest. City Councilor Dan Lewis got in first, followed later by former Rep. Janice Arnold-Jones. Neither one has caught fire.
Their fundraising totals are meager. It appears obvious that GOP powers are not excited about either one.
They may be waiting to see whether Economic Development Department Secretary Jon Barela jumps in. Barela ran Heinrich a strong race for the seat a few years ago.
Barela has a bit of a problem. He has a good job, which he says he likes very much. But it appears he won’t be able to keep his job if he runs.
Even though it is customary to do both, Gov. Susana Martinez made a major issue out of Lt. Gov. John Sanchez running for the U.S. Senate.
She contended there wasn’t time to do both even though the lieutenant governor’s post is a do-nothing job.
She followed that up by saying if Barela runs, he must resign.
Could it be that Barela quietly has the support of GOP leaders and is staying on the state payroll as long as he can?
It is a sure bet that party leaders eventually will back some candidate in a big way, just as they backed Martinez for governor last year.
The 2nd Congressional District remains quiet. Rep. Steve Pearce is in control despite many complaints from the environmental community.
 Democrats Evelyn Madrid Erhard and Frank McKinnon are staging long shot bids.
Blogger Heath Haussamen reports that former state Rep. Jeff Steinborn, of Las Cruces may jump in also.
Democratic candidates don’t have much chance in the heavily Republican performing district.
But there may be hope in the future. The district, especially in Dona Ana County, is growing and becoming more Democratic.
Some possible future candidates think that with a little redistricting help they can be strong enough to win before this decade is over.
The 3rd Congressional District is much the opposite.
It is almost impossible for a Republican to win. Incumbent Rep. Ben Ray Lujan took 57 percent of the vote last year despite a national Republican landslide.
But the GOP is trying again with an impressive candidate who should run a good race.
Rick Newton, an international businessman, with roots in Taos and Albuquerque, will run a campaign based out of Taos.
According to his campaign brochure, Newton has been involved in high-profile, deep water recovery projects using special equipment he invented.
Working for Booz, Allen & Hamilton, he prepared Soviet nuclear threat assessment and managed a nuclear weapons effects team.
Although he has worked out of Albuquerque most of the last 14 years, he has kept close to the Taos community and says he has planned to end up there ever since beginning his career in New Mexico in 1969.

Jay Miller