February 4, 2016

Here’s who running for Congress, Secretary of State in NM

Earlier this week, candidates for federal office and for a rare presidential-year Secretary of State race officially threw their hats in the ring for the positions.

elephant-donkey-rep-demo-TXT-VOTE_REVERSEaSupreme Court and Court of Appeals candidates also announced their intentions to run.

The most high profile race will be Bernalillo County Clerk Maggie Toulouse Oliver against State Rep. Nora Espinoza, R-Roswell, for Secretary of State. The statewide position is normally contested in non-presidential years, but because of the resignation by Dianna Duran amid scandal, and eventual conviction, voters will decide on the position this year.

Toulouse Oliver ran for the position and lost to Duran in 2014.

“I support an open, transparent process for everyone,” Espinoza said in a statement this week. “Every eligible New Mexican should be able to register simply, and cast his or her vote easily and without waiting in long lines. Votes should be protected by such measures as Voter ID, ensuring that no one’s vote is stolen by those who commit voter fraud.”

“I have dedicated my career to increasing access to the ballot and making sure that government operates with integrity,” Toulouse Oliver said in a statement. “I am looking forward to robust debate in this campaign about the best ways to engage New Mexicans in our democracy and to restore their trust in state government.”

Those aren’t the only positions up for election this year. All three congressional seats are up for election every two years, and this year there will be contested races in all three districts.

In the 1st Congressional District, incumbent Michelle Lujan Grisham filed to run again. She is a Democrat and is seeking a third term.

The only Republican who filed to run against her is Richard Priem, an Army veteran and businessman who ran for the Republican nomination in 2014, but lost to Mike Frese.

The district was once a swing district when held by Heather Wilson, but since Wilson left the seat for an unsuccessful Senate run in 2008, Democrats have held the seat and received less than 55 percent of the vote just once, in 2010.

In the 2nd Congressional District, Steve Pearce will look for his sixth term. Pearce unsuccessfully ran for Senate in 2008, but then won the seat back in 2010.

One Democrat filed to run, Merrie Lee Soules. Soules is the sister of State Senator Bill Soules, a Las Cruces Democrat. Merrie Lee Soules previously ran for a seat on the state Public Regulation Commission but lost a tight Democratic primary.

The district is considered the most conservative in the state, and Pearce won with nearly 65 percent of the vote in 2014.

In the 3rd Congressional District, Rep. Ben Luján will run for a fifth term. Luján first won in 2008, when Tom Udall left to run for Senate, successfully.

Three Republicans are hoping to be the candidate to take on Luján in the general election. Michael Lucero of Canon, Michael Romero of Vadito and Jerald McFall of Angel Fire all filed to run.

Romero is an Air Force veteran and former police officer in Nevada. Lucero is a rancher who has battled with the federal government over the Endangered Species Act and is a former Democrat. McFall is a ski tech in Angel Fire.

Michael Vigil, a Democrat, will leave the State Court of Appeals to run for a position on the New Mexico Supreme Court.

Judith Nakamura was appointed by Gov. Susana Martinez earlier this year. Supreme Court appointees must face a partisan election to keep the position. Thereafter, the justice will go through a retention election.

To replace Vigil, Democrat Julie Vargas filed to run. Two Republicans, Stephen French and Ned Fuller, hope to face Vargas in the general election.