November 11, 2016

Days after election, attention turns to governor’s race

The results of the 2016 elections have barely come in and already attention is turning toward 2018.

There is no presidential election in 2018, but New Mexico will elect a new governor and many statewide elected officials will be up for reelection.

U.S. Sen. Tom Udall is perhaps signalling an end to his time as an elected official in Washington D.C. and a run for governor.

“I’ve heard from many New Mexicans who are urging me to run for governor. I’m flattered by their support; I have an open mind, and I’m considering it,” Udall, a Democrat, said in a statement. “However, there are a lot of changes happening in our country, and right now, I’m focused on getting back to Washington and fighting for New Mexico priorities.”

Udall first won election to the Senate in 2008 after serving in the U.S. House for a decade.

But he isn’t the only one who might be looking this early at a run for governor.

U.S. Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham said in a short phone interview that she was not going to rule anything out, but it was too soon after the election to make any sort of decision in running for the state’s highest office.

“I haven’t had a chance to really think about that,” Lujan Grisham said. “And I really want to do this work.”

She mentioned infrastructure as one thing she hoped Congress would work on.

As for the timeline of a decision for a gubernatorial run, Lujan Grisham said any decision would have to be made before the end of 2017 because of the amount of fundraising that would be needed to mount a campaign—unless through self-funding.

“And I cannot self-fund,” Lujan Grisham said.

She also said she believed the Democratic nominee would not get a free ride in the primary.

“I think you’ll have a primary because there are some great Democrats there with a variety of important skills,” she said.

Attorney General Hector Balderas is another Democrat whose name frequently comes up in these conversations.

“Attorney General Balderas has deep concerns about our state and will evaluate serving in a greater capacity in the near future,” Caroline Buerkle, a political strategist who has worked with Balderas in the past, said in a statement.

On the Republican side, many believe Lt. Gov. John Sanchez will throw his hat in the ring for the nomination.

A spokesman for Sanchez responded to a request for comment Thursday.

“In recent months, Lt. Governor Sanchez has been asked by many New Mexicans – both Republicans and Democrats – to run for Governor in 2018, and he is seriously considering it,” Manny Gonzales, Sanchez’s campaign treasurer, said. “In the weeks ahead, he plans to discuss this further with his family and supporters, and make a final decision about his future at the appropriate time. Meanwhile, he will continue to devote his time to serving and helping citizens across the state as their Lt. Governor.”

And U.S. Rep. Steve Pearce, who left his seat in 2008 for an unsuccessful run for U.S. Senate, told the Albuquerque Journal his focus right now is on the U.S. House.

“We’ll sit down and start looking at that sometime next year,” Pearce told the paper.

Albuquerque Mayor Richard Berry, a Republican, has also been mentioned as a possible candidate for governor.

The race for governor will be big in 2018 for beyond the usual reasons—state legislative and congressional seats must be redistricted in during the governor’s next term. The governor will also have veto power over any redistricting maps passed by the Legislature.