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Democrats Face Ideological House Primaries

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In New Mexico’s 1st district Democratic primary, the liberal Progressive Change Campaign Committee has declared war on former Albuquerque Mayor Marty Chávez (above), instead endorsing state Sen. Eric Griego.

The former mayor has been endorsed by President Bill Clinton, actor Robert Redford and women’s equality advocate Lilly Ledbetter.

Not surprisingly, Chávez’s relative moderation and decisions to eschew divisive rhetoric has the PCCC apoplectic, calling the former mayor a closet Republican.

Griego served four years on the Albuquerque City Council before winning a seat in the New Mexico state Senate in 2008. He also served as executive director of New Mexico Voices for Children, a liberal advocacy group. The legislator ran unsuccessfully against Chávez in the 2005 Albuquerque mayor’s race.

Griego’s website lists endorsements from the two Democrats who chair the Congressional Progressive Caucus, Reps. Raúl Grijalva (Ariz.) and Keith Ellison (Minn.), Daily Kos, Democrats.com, MoveOn.org, Democracy for America and the Progressive Democrats of America. But he has also been endorsed by the Sierra Club and League for Conservation Voters.

Griego was one of seven liberal Democratic House candidates (Sheyman was another) who delivered “We Stand with the 99 percent” petitions to the Speaker in October.

The winner of the Democratic primary will try to hold the open seat of Rep. Martin Heinrich (D), who is running for Senate.

The Illinois and New Mexico Democratic primaries offer Democrats interesting choices between mainstream Democrats and their more confrontational primary opponents from the left. The outcomes could provide clues about whether — and how soon — Democrats will have their own version of the tea party to worry about.

Stuart Rothenberg is editor of the Rothenberg Political Report.

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