New Mexico’s primary elections are still more than eight months away, but that hasn’t slowed down candidates for U.S. Senate. Both the Republican and Democratic primaries have multiple candidates already, but arguably the Democratic race is the closest watched so far.
Democrats will choose between U.S. Rep. Ben Ray Luján, who is walking away from the high ranking position in U.S. House leadership of Assistant Speaker of the House to run, or Maggie Toulouse Oliver, New Mexico’s Secretary of State. Luján has a financial advantage so far and secured endorsements from U.S. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, U.S. Rep. Debra Haaland and the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee. But Toulouse Oliver said she believes New Mexicans care less about what friends in high places think.
“We have our own local leaders that we look to and we’re very independent-minded,” Toulouse Oliver said. “While I respect those decisions and respect Congressman Luján for getting that support for himself, I don’t think that it’s going to be even a remotely deciding factor at the end of the day.”
Pushing the envelope vs. mainstream
Toulouse Oliver didn’t grow up with a high-ranking state legislator as a parent and doesn’t have the institutional knowledge of Congress — two things Luján can boast.
U.S. Rep. Ben Ray Luján is running for Senate. The six-term congressman from northern New Mexico announced his candidacy for the open U.S. Senate seat in a video from his family farm in Nambé on Monday morning. “I’m running to be your next United States senator,” Luján said. “I’ve been humbled by all of the outreach telling me to run and it’s been an honor to serve you in the House, where we’ve accomplished a lot together.”
After listing some of his accomplishments, including that he “led the effort to win back the House,” the Democrat turned his attention towards the Senate. “To move forward, we’ve got to fix the Senate, where Mitch McConnell stands in the way of progress,” he said.
After U.S. Sen. Tom Udall announced he was not seeking a third term in office, speculation immediately began over who would run to replace him in 2020. Hours after Udall’s announcement, Larry Sabato’s Crystal Ball moved the seat from “Safe Democratic” to “Likely Democratic.” That means the political prognosticating outlet believes something out of the ordinary would have to happen for Democrats to lose the seat. While Udall and his colleague in the U.S. Senate, Martin Heinrich, each won their seats in races without an incumbent, it is exceedingly rare for that to happen in New Mexico. So it’s no surprise that the list of Democrats who could run to replace Udall is lengthy, even after Albuquerque Mayor Tim Keller took himself out of the running. Some high profile political figures that have either said they are considering a run, or are said to be considering a run are below.