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All Eyes in Albuquerque on Race for Open Seat

Lewis was sitting on the largest war chest of the three at of the end of the year, with $102,000, and was rewarded by the National Republican Congressional Committee on Thursday by advancing to the "On the Radar" step of its Young Guns program, which demands candidates reach district-specific fundraising and organizational benchmarks. His progression there will offer an indication of whether the NRCC views him as a strong candidate.

Bernalillo County GOP Executive Director Steve Kush remains bullish on his party's chances of winning the district with one of their three candidates.

"It's a competitive primary, and quite frankly I think we're going to have a very strong nominee coming out of this," Kush said.

The Democrats are all taking different angles and carving out a base in the primary electorate.

Chavez, a centrist, is the most well-known and has a record of job creation that he touts on the trail. He was just endorsed by President Bill Clinton and has a well-organized campaign run by Alan Packman, who managed Heinrich's re-election. Packman said Chavez has the experience necessary to hit the ground running in January 2013.

"This is important because New Mexicans need someone in Congress who can deliver results," Packman said. "Marty has shown the kind of toughness you need to get things done in Washington."

Griego is politically savvy and has the backing of top labor, liberal and environmental groups including the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees; the League of Conservation Voters; and Reps. Raúl Grijalva (Ariz.) and Keith Ellison (Minn.), co-chairmen the Congressional Progressive Caucus. Griego campaign manager Ed Yoon said Griego's endorsements will translate to boots on the ground and a second-to-none grass-roots operation.

"I would argue it should be the hottest, most-watched Democratic race in the country," Yoon said. "So the question is ... what kind of a Democrat do we want to nominate for the general? The clear progressive is Eric Griego."

Grisham got a big boost recently with an endorsement from EMILY's List, which backs Democratic women candidates who support abortion rights and helps funnel donations and mobilize women voters. Grisham, a former secretary of the state Department of Health, was the last to enter the race but has spent little and has the most money with $278,000.

"I've never seen a candidate as driven as Michelle to do what she needs to win the race," Grisham campaign manager James Henry said. "She's a relentless worker. That's how we're going to win the thing."

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