PCCC Backs Its First 2012 Candidate: Eric Griego (NM-1)

One of the nation’s leading progressive groups has picked the first candidate it will endorse in 2012: New Mexico state Sen. Eric Greigo, the only declared Democrat in the race to replace Rep. Martin Heinrich (D), who’s leaving the House to run for Senate.

The Progressive Change Campaign Committee, which has raised hundreds of thousands of national dollars for candidates across the country, chose Greigo as its first challenger candidate of 2012 in an email sent to its national list Thursday.Greigo “is one of the most progressive members of the New Mexico Senate,” the email reads. “He won his seat after running a grassroots primary against an incumbent conservative Democrat.”

Past fundraising efforts by the PCCC have netted big money from the group’s list of netrootsy supporters. The group now shifts its attention to making Greigo a household name in progressive circles, and pumping national cash into his campaign.

The endorsement also follows PCCC tradition of taking on conservative Democrats in primaries. In the email, PCCC founders Adam Green and Stephanie Taylor warn that Greigo could go down to more right-leaning primary opponents. They write that filling his coffers now could keep the field clear for a left-leaning candidate to snag the nomination in the district that leaned Democratic in 2010.

President Obama won the district 60-39 in 2008. Four years earlier, Democratic presidential John Kerry beat President Bush 51-48.

“Several conservative Blue Dogs are thinking about running in the primary against Eric,” the PCCC founders write, “and they will be looking at his fundraising numbers on June 30 to decide whether to enter the race.”

NMPolitics.net reports that former Lt. Gov. Diane Denish — who unsuccessfully ran as the Democratic nominee for governor last year — is considering a run for the seat. So is former Albuquerque Mayor Martin Chávez. The site calls the pair “heavy-hitters” who would “dramatically change the race.”

The Republican officially in the mix so far is former Albuquerque City Councilor Dan Lewis. Other candidates, according to NMPolitics, include Jon Barela, the state economic development secretary, who lost to Heinrich in 2010.

What makes Griego worthy of PCCC’s backing? The group’s founders write that he’ll “vote to bring our troops home, tax big corporations and the rich, and protect Social Security and Medicare from benefit cuts proposed by either party.” PCCC notes the 2008 results for Obama, suggesting a Democratic nominee would have an easy time of things in NM-1 even if he’s on the progressive side of things.

“The last thing we need to send to Washington is a Democrat who is a kinder, gentler version of the Republicans, frankly,” Greigo says in an announcement video on his campaign website.