Many Albuquerque-area political figures are rumored to be gearing up for a congressional campaign after New Mexico Congresswoman Michelle Lujan Grisham announced she plans to leave the seat and run for Governor.
There are still no definitive announcements or declared candidates, but the handful of people NM Political Report spoke to this week gave similar answers—that they have been encouraged to run and are giving it serious consideration.
Some said they don’t want to run for family reasons, in particular because of the amount of travel that comes with the job.
The state’s congressional members often travel back and forth from Washington D.C. and New Mexico. U.S. Sen. Martin Heinrich’s family, for example, lived in Albuquerque while he served in the U.S. House before Lujan Grisham.
The 1st Congressional District seat was held for years by Republicans until 2008, when Heinrich became the first Democrat elected in the seat’s history. Since then, the seat has become an increasingly safe for Democrats.
Below, NM Political Report takes a look at people rumored to run for the seat in 2018.
Sen. Jacob Candelaria, D-Albuquerque, begins his second legislative term in January and is currently the youngest member in the state Senate. Candelaria said some residents have talked with him about a possible run but he hasn’t yet made a decision.
“I’m humbled and energized by the conversations I’ve had with families from [Congressional District 1] encouraging me to look at this race,” Candelaria said in a statement. “I’m committed to serving the state I love, and will be looking at how I can best continue doing that over the holidays.”
Albuquerque City Councilor Pat Davis said he’s also seriously considering running for Congress.
“Friends and neighbors have asked me to consider if I can be a better voice for our values, our city and state as our partner in Congress,” Davis said. “They make a strong case and I have begun talking to community leaders throughout central New Mexico about how I can best
serve our families into the future.”
Davis said whoever wins the spot in Congress should be ready to “stand up to” President-elect Donald Trump.
“The stakes for our families simply couldn’t be higher and that’s why I am giving this very serious
Consideration,” Davis said.
Rep. Javier Martinez, D-Albuquerque, also said it’s important for Lujan Grisham’s replacement to take on the Trump administration. Martinez, who will soon begin his second term in the state House of Representatives, said he’s “looking very closely” at the congressional race.
“It’s a very serious decision that deserves the utmost reflection and thought,” Martinez said. “My family and I will make a decision very soon.”
The outgoing state Director for U.S Department of Agriculture Rural Development Terry Brunner said Congress needs “well-informed people ready to do battle with the Trump administration.”
Brunner said he started receiving emails and phone calls of encouragement about a possible run for Congress, but that he needs to keep his wife and children in mind.
“They come first, really,” Brunner said.
“The travel is a pretty big commitment.”
Before working for the USDA, Brunner was state director for former U.S. Sen. Jeff Bingaman. Brunner said he’s visited 160 New Mexico communities while serving in his current position and argues that the state needs some serious work.
“We have some very serious structural issues in New Mexico that have to be addressed,” Bruner said.
Brunner’s last day with the USDA is Friday, but he said wants to continue advocating for the state any way he can.
“I can’t stand by and watch our state fall further into the abyss,” Brunner said.
Related: Lujan Grisham running for governor
Democratic Party of New Mexico Chairwoman Deb Haaland said her immediate focus is on finishing out her term, which ends in April, but that a run for Congress is still a possibility.
“I’m not going to rule it out at this time,” Haaland said.
Haaland said whoever runs should be ready for aggressive fundraising and extensive travel plans.
“It’s a heavy burden to raise money and travel back and forth,” Haaland said. “Whoever’s running needs to consider those things.”
Regardless of whether she decides to run for Congress or not, Haaland said she will remain committed to advocating for the Democratic Party, especially during the 2018 gubernatorial campaign.
“I feel like whatever I decide to do, I’m going to continue to work hard making sure Democrats get elected,” she said.
Bernalillo County Assessor Tanya Giddings declined to say much on whether she would consider an run, but confirmed that she’s been encouraged to do so.
“I’m honored to have been asked [to run] by friends, colleagues and supporters of mine,” Giddings said in a brief interview.
For now, Giddings said she remains focused on her current position but will keep discussions open.
“I’m going to discuss this with family, friends and supporters over the holidays,” Giddings said.
NM Political Report sources named state Senate Majority Whip Michael Padilla, D-Albuquerque, as a possible candidate for Congress. But on Tuesday, Padilla said he is only looking toward the upcoming state legislative session.
“I’ve heard the rumors,” Padilla said. “I’m flattered, but right now I’m focused on balancing the state budget, resolving the job crisis and reforming CYFD.”
Padilla said the state should be thankful for Lujan Grisham’s time in office and that he wishes the best for her in the run for governor.
Maggie Hart Stebbins
Bernalillo County Commissioner Maggie Hart Stebbins confirmed to NM Political Report that she is interested in running for Congress and would like to extend her focus on behavioral health issues to the national level.
“Having a representative from this area that will commit to that work is important,” Stebbins said.
Stebbins said she would not have considered a run two years ago because of her children.
“What makes me open to looking at this is my kids are now out of the house and that gives me a little more flexibility,” Stebbins told NM Political Report.
Lujan Grisham and Hart Stebbins were colleagues on the Bernalillo County Commission.
Bernalillo County Commissioner Wayne Johnson, a Republican, told NM Political Report that he had no interest in running for Congress and that he’s “working on mayor right now.”
Johnson is among a long list of candidates reported to be running for Albuquerque mayor.
Correction: This story originally said Candelaria is the youngest member of the state Legislature. He is the youngest member of the state Senate. State Rep. Andres Romero is younger than Candelaria.
Pat Davis is the executive director of ProgressNow New Mexico. ProgressNow New Mexico helps find funding for NM Political Report. No one in the organization, including Davis, has any input in the editorial process of this or any other story.