Ben Ray Lujan To Leave House Dem Leadership For Senate Bid

UNITED STATES - JULY 24: Rep. Ben Ray Lujan, D-N.M., attends a rally with House and Senate Democrats to announce "A Better Deal" economic agenda in Berryville, Va., on July 24, 2017. The plan aims to increase wages and lower expenses for Americans. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)
Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call Group

Rep. Ben Ray Lujan (D-NM) will run for the Senate, opening a spot in House Democratic leadership and making him the front-runner to replace retiring Sen. Tom Udall (D-NM).

“We stood side-by-side as I led the effort to win back the House,” Lujan said in a video released via twitter Monday morning. “But to move forward, we must fix the Senate, where Mitch McConnell stands in the way of progress.”

Lujan, the fourth-ranked House Democrat and a man who’d been viewed as a potential candidate for House speaker in the future, will instead take a shot at the upper chamber.

The congressman starts out as the front-runner in the Democrat-leaning state, both in the primary and general election. Lujan, who until recently chaired the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, has a national fundraising base — and comes from a powerful northern New Mexico political family with a well-known name around the state and close ties to local unions.

New Mexico Attorney General Hector Balderas (D), the only other Democrat with similar name identification, already announced he won’t run. New Mexico Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver (D) and freshman Rep. Deb Haaland (D-NM) have both said they’re considering bids as well, and could be competitive, but Lujan’s fundraising prowess and name identification give him the early upper hand in the race.

His decision also removes one possibility for Democrats when House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) eventually steps aside. Reps. Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY) and Katherine Clark (D-MA) are among the other Democrats currently in leadership thought to be interested in the position.

Democrats are expected to hold the seat in a state that has trended gradually their way over the last two decades as the GOP has moved right and alienated the state’s large Hispanic community.

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