April 10, 2019

Who is running for Senate? For CD3?

Just about two weeks ago, U.S. Sen. Tom Udall announced that he would not run for re-election.

Nearly as soon as he announced his decision, a chain reaction began.  Speculation on who would replace him—and who would run to fill the spots of those eyeing Udall’s seat.

Note: This story was sent out Tuesday as part of the NM Political Report Elections Roundup. Sign up for the free email.

Here is a run-down of those who are running, those who are still deciding and those who have announced that they are not running.

It’s a long list, but I wouldn’t be surprised if I still missed someone (or a couple of someones). If you know of any that I missed, be sure to email me at matthew@nmpoliticalreport.com.

U.S. Senate

Democrats have won each of the last five U.S. Senate elections. If Democrats want a chance to take control of the U.S. Senate, this is a seat that the state party must keep. Democrats also have a deep bench, though several prominent Republicans are also looking at the seat, which Republican Pete Domenici held from 1973 to 2009.


Ben Ray Luján (D): The Congressman from northern New Mexico was the first out of the gate to announce he would run for Senate. Luján first won election to the 3rd Congressional District in 2008 and has since worked his way up the ranks in Congress. He is currently the Assistant Speaker of the House, the fourth-highest position in U.S. House leadership. He also has a national profile from running the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee in the 2016 and 2018 election cycles.

Maybe running:

The names of those who are still deciding whether or not to run is a long one.

Deb Haaland (D): Haaland won election to the 1st Congressional District last November. She said on Twitter last month, “I’m giving the Senate race a lot of thought and consideration.”

Maggie Toulouse Oliver (D): The Secretary of State easily won reelection this fall and said after Udall’s decision, “I’m seriously considering a campaign for U.S. Senate and will announce my decision in the days ahead.”

Jeff Apodaca (D): Apodaca, a former executive with Univision, ran for governor in 2018, but lost in the Democratic primary to Michelle Lujan Grisham. Apodaca hasn’t made any public comments yet, but some supporters have been encouraging the son of a former governor to run.

Steve Pearce (R): Pearce ran for Senate twice previously, losing in the 2000 Republican primary then the 2008 general election. Pearce also lost in the 2018 gubernatorial election. In every other election since his first U.S. Senate run, Pearce won the 2nd Congressional District seat. Pearce is currently the chair of the Republican Party of New Mexico.

John Sanchez (R): The former lieutenant governor briefly ran for Senate in 2012, but ended his run before the Republican primary. He also unsuccessfully ran for governor in 2002, losing to Bill Richardson in the general election.

Rod Adair (R): Adair was a state senator from 1997-2012. He then managed Dianna Duran’s campaigns for Secretary of State Dianna and worked as a top aide in her office, but left before Duran resigned. Some supporters have encouraged the candidate to run.

Gavin Clarkson (R): The former Trump Department of the Interior administration official lost in the Republican primary for the 2nd Congressional District in 2018. He then replaced JoHanna Cox as the Republican nominee for Secretary of State and lost to Toulouse Oliver.

Not Running:

Hector Balderas (D): The state’s Attorney General informed everyone of a big announcement on a morning rock station radio show last month. Balderas announced that he would not run for the seat.

Xochitl Torres Small (D): The freshman congresswoman in the 2nd Congressional District announced last Wednesday, “I will not be running to replace Senator Udall. There is so much work to do for New Mexico’s 2nd Congressional District, and I am honored and grateful everyday to get to do that work.”

3rd Congressional District

The heavily-Democratic district has been a launching pad for statewide office for Democratic holders. Its first representative, Bill Richardson, became a member of Bill Clinton’s cabinet and a two-term governor of New Mexico. Its next Democratic holder, Udall, became a two-term U.S. Senator.


Joseph Sanchez (D): The freshman legislator announced on April 1 that he would seek the 3rd Congressional District seat. The Alcade Democrat said, “I am  deeply concerned about and committed to assuring that the needs of our communities in the 3rd Congressional District are not overlooked, that the needs of the people of CD3 are addressed, that our rights are protected, that our economy and well-being is improved.”

Mark McDonald (D): McDonald is a businessman and the chairman of the Colfax Democratic Party. He lost in the general election for the deep-red 67th state House district and he announced on April 1 that he will run.

Michel Lucero (L): The Libertarian ran for State Land Commissioner in 2018 and received just under 6 percent of the vote. Now, the rancher is taking aim at a second run for the 3rd Congressional District, Lurcero lost in the 2015 Republican primary.

Maybe Running:

Marco Serna (D): The 1st Judicial District Attorney certainly seems like he’s leaning towards running, at least according to an appearance on the TK station’s Richard Eeds Show. Serna said he is “seriously considering” running for the seat and that he has an exploratory committee. He agreed with Eeds that it would be a “reasonable timetable” for him to make a decision by May 1.

Valerie Espinoza (D): Espinoza is in her second term as Public Regulation Commissioner, the same position Lujan held before becoming a member of Congress.

Valerie Plame (D): The former CIA official is getting a lot of media attention for her potential run. “Right now, I am going around and meeting with people,” the Democrat told the Associated Press. Her identity was leaked by a George W. Bush official in 2003 after Plame’s then-husband, Joe Wilson, criticized the rationale for the Iraq War.

Renee Villarreal (D): The Albuquerque Journal quoted Santa Fe City Councilor Renee Villareal as saying she is being urged to run and that she’s considering her options.

Robert Apodaca (D): Apodaca worked in the USDA under Barack Obama, and now he is “seriously contemplating” running, again according to the Journal.

John Sapien (D): Sapien is a moderate Democrat who has won state Senate elections by razor-thin margins in recent years.

Carl Trujillo (D): Another moderate Democrat, Trujillo lost his state House seat after accusations of sexual harassment from lobbyist Laura Bonar. The accusations led to a legislative inquiry, which was dismissed after Bonar declined to testify. Trujillo is now suing Bonar for defamation.