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June 18, 2009

Heinrich challenger announces campaign

Republicans are rallying behind the candidacy of Jon Barela, a New Mexico businessman who announced this morning that he is running against freshman congressman Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.).

Barela, the former vice-chairman of the state Republican party, is the first candidate to jump in the race. He told POLITICO he plans to focus on job creation as the central part of his campaign’s message – while targeting the congressman’s support of excessive federal spending

“I don’t think Martin Henrich is a reflection of the district – this is still a center right seat. Martin Heinrich is too far to the left on budget issues, spending issues and national security issues… and I fit the district better,” Barela said in an interview with POLITICO.

Barela won the endorsement of Republican Darren White, the party’s highly-touted 2008 nominee. Heinrich defeated White with 56 percent of the vote last year to become the first Democrat to represent the district in several decades.

The Albuquerque-based First District gave 60 percent of the vote to Obama, making it a challenge for Republicans to contest.

Barela traces his family ancestry to New Mexico to the 17th century, and said he is uniquely-positioned to win over Hispanic Democrats and independents who have drifted away from the Republican party in recent elections.  At his announcement, he was endorsed by several Hispanic Democrats, including a former state representative who serves on the Democratic party's state executive committee.

Another Republican candidate, funeral home owner Kevin Daniels, is also considering running.