January 9, 2018

One GOP candidate drops out of CD2 race, another replaces him

One Republican candidate announced he would no longer seek the party’s nomination for the 2nd Congressional District race, which covers southern New Mexico.

But another candidate quickly took his place.

Such is the turmoil in an open seat race, as candidates jostle for the nomination in the state’s most conservative district.

Andrew Salas, a New Mexico National Guard brigadier general, announced on Facebook Monday morning he would leave the race because of his military service.

“My military service has never stopped during this campaign and recently I received a new assignment that will continue to take me out of New Mexico during the homestretch of the campaign,” Salas said. “After prayerful consideration it has become very clear I can best serve our great country by continuing my military service. We are therefore withdrawing from our campaign for Congress.”

He was replaced by Gavin Clarkson, most recently known for being in the Trump administration.

In November, ProPublica reported on his “key role in a convoluted transaction that flopped and left the Interior Department fending off a $20 million liability.”

Clarkson resigned from his position as Deputy Assistant Secretary for Policy and Economic Development – Indian Affairs on December 29.

Clarkson previously taught law at New Mexico State University.

“Although I’ve fought against federal government overreach for more than a decade on behalf of rural America and Indian tribes, I’ve never run for public office until now,” Clarkson said in a press release announcing his candidacy. “But after seeing how destructive DC can be, both as a target on the outside and as a reformer on the inside, I’m convinced that the best way to help President Trump stop the swamp and protect New Mexico is to run for the Republicans nomination to make sure we retain this Congressional seat in November.”

The race is an open seat because incumbent Steve Pearce is running for governor instead of seeking another term.

The seat has been in the hold of Republicans for all but two years, after the Democratic wave election of 2008 when oilman Harry Teague won. Pearce did not run that year, he instead ran for Senate, but won the seat back in 2010.

Former Republican Party of New Mexico chairman and former Hobbs mayor Monty Newman, State Representative Yvette Herrell and pharmacist Jack Volpato are each running. State Land Commissioner Aubrey Dunn previously withdrew from the race and is considering a run for governor as a member of the Libertarian Party.

Six candidates are seeking the Democratic nomination.

Clarification: This post was updated the clarify the timeline of when Gavin Clarkson resigned from the Interior Department.

Correction: This story originally said Gavin Clarkson resigned from the Bureau of Indian Affairs. His position was not part of BIA, but part of the Office of the Assistant Secretary – Indian Affairs in DOI.