Candidates line up for US Senate and House seats

February 16, 2012 • State News

SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — Two candidates have dropped out of the race for New Mexico’s open U.S. Senate seat, but candidates on both sides of the aisle will still face competitive primaries in June.

Former U.S. Rep. Heather Wilson, of Albuquerque, and Las Cruces Tea Party candidate and local businessman Greg Sowards filed their petitions Tuesday to run in the Republican primary for the Senate seat being vacated by the retirement of Democrat Sen. Jeff Bingaman.

On the Democratic side, U.S. Rep. Martin Heinrich, of Albuquerque, and state Auditor Hector Balderas made their candidacies official. A third [auth] announced candidate for the Democratic nomination, Albuquerque political activist Andres Valdez, said he decided to bow out because of “the outrageous amount of money needed to run.” He threw his support behind Balderas.

Last week, Lt. Gov. John Sanchez announced his plans to pull out of the GOP race, saying he feared a divisive primary would hurt the GOP’s attempts to win back a Senate seat for the party. Democrats have held both seats since Sen. Tom Udall replaced longtime Republican Sen. Pete Domenici.

The race to replace Heinrich in the 1st Congressional District also promises to be competitive. Three Democrats — former Albuquerque Mayor Martin Chavez, Bernalillo County Commissioner Michelle Lujan Grisham and state Sen. Eric Griego — submitted nominating petitions to the secretary of state’s office before Tuesday’s deadline.

Three Republicans — former state Rep. Janice Arnold-Jones, Albuquerque City Councilor Dan Lewis and Gary Smith, of Albuquerque — also filed to compete for Heinrich’s seat, which previously was held by Wilson.

U.S. Rep. Steve Pearce will run unchallenged in his primary. He will face either Democrat Evelyn Madrid Erhard, of Las Cruces, or Frank McKinnon, of Roswell, in the general election.

Ben Ray Lujan, a Democrat representing District 3, will face former Santa Fe County Commissioner Harry Montoya and Santa Fe artist Sean Closson in the primary. Jefferson Byrd, of Tucumcari, and Frederick Newton, of Taos, filed to compete in the district’s Republican primary.

Tuesday was also the filing deadline for candidates for the Court of Appeals. Judge J. Miles Hanisee is running to retain a seat he was appointed to last year by Gov. Susana Martinez. Two Democrats filed to oppose him, Monica Zamora and Victor Lopez. All three are from Albuquerque.

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