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« Chafee Backs Obama | Blog Home Page | Harris Up In NRCC Poll »

NM Races Set

Republican Senator Pete Domenici's retirement announcement in October initiated a trickle down of vacancies throughout the New Mexico congressional delegation, as the state's three House members have all filed for his seat. With Tuesday's candidate filing deadline, the races for the June 3 primary in the two open Republican seats are now set.

In the vast 2nd District, which covers roughly the southern half of the state, Rep. Steve Pearce leaves a safely Republican seat for his second shot at the Senate. He lost in the 2000 Republican primary for Senate before winning the open House seat in 2002.

Hoping to keep the seat in Republican hands, among others, is Ed Tinsley, a small business owner and rancher, and Aubrey Dunn, a retired bank president. The Republican nominee will start the general election with an advantage, as President Bush won 58% here in 2004. Both candidates reported having close to $300,000 cash on hand at the end of 2007.

Leading Democratic candidates include Dona Ana County Commissioner Bill McCamley, who has more than $200,000 cash on hand, and business owner Harry Teague, who reported having more than $350,000.

Teague's candidacy hit a major snag this week, however, when the Albuquerque Tribune reported that he and his company were named in a sexual harassment lawsuit by a former employee. Teague is specifically accused of ignoring a sexual harassment complaint by the former employee against a male coworker while she was working at one of Teague's companies. How long this matter remains in the news will greatly affect Teague's chances in the Democratic primary.

New Mexico's 1st District is centrally-located and tiny compared to the state's other two districts. The population of this swing district is 43% Hispanic, and gave John Kerry a 3-point win in 2004. It includes Albuquerque, the state's largest city, and some of its suburbs.

Rep. Heather Wilson has held this seat since 1998, when she won a special election with 45%. Her highest percentage since then has been 55%, with her closest margin of victory coming in 2006, when she defeated Patricia Madrid by 861 votes out of more than 200,000 cast. With Wilson vacating the seat, this is prime pickup territory for Democrats.

Leading the small pack of Democrats who have filed for the seat are Albuquerque City Councilor Martin Heinrich and former state Health Secretary Michelle Lujan Grisham. Heinrich reported having close to $300,000 cash on hand, and Grisham has about $100,000.

The leading Republican in the 1st District is Bernalillo County Sheriff Darren White, who has close to $200,000 cash on hand. Also running for the nomination is State Senator Joe Carraro, who finished second in the Republican primary for Senate in 2006. However, Carraro has yet to file campaign finance papers with the FEC.

National Republicans clearly favor White, who has won several elections in a jurisdiction that covers the vast majority of the district. NRCC chair Tom Cole told Politics Nation last week that while Wilson has been one of the better candidates he's seen, White is even better.

Both parties will likely spend lots of money here, as Democrats eye a chance to expand their majority, and Republicans fight to hold on to one of their swing districts.

-- Kyle Trygstad