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.”
I'm humbled to announce my candidacy to be New Mexico's next Democratic Senator. I hope I can count on your support as we take this journey together. https://t.co/QlM4S90ele pic.twitter.com/yvrDGYQhVq
— Ben Ray Luján (@benraylujan) April 1, 2019
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.