New Mexico Rep. Martin Heinrich announced Saturday he is running for Senate, potentially setting up a high-profile race between the Democrat and former Rep. Heather Wilson.
Heinrich’s Senate bid had been expected since longtime Democratic Sen. Jeff Bingaman announced his retirement in February, and he made it official in a video posted on his redesigned campaign website and on Facebook.
“Over those weeks [since Bingaman’s announcement], I have discussed at length with my family how I might best continue to serve New Mexico,” Heinrich said. “After much serious thought, I am excited to announce today that I will be a candidate for the United States Senate.”
Heinrich was first elected to Congress in 2008, wining the open 1st district seat vacated by Wilson, who lost in the Republican Senate primary that year. Heinrich won re-election in the Albuquerque-based district in 2010 — a difficult political landscape for Democrats — and the party has made it clear it sees him as a top-tier contender.
Wilson, a moderate in Congress, already has company in the GOP primary, which has traditionally been a messy ideological affair in the state. Conservatives Bill English and Greg Sowards were already running when Wilson announced her bid.
Meanwhile, Lt. Gov. John Sanchez told Roll Call in Washington, D.C., last week that he is strongly considering running, and Rep. Steve Pearce (R) has declined to rule out a bid.
The Republican primary is expected to be a race to the right, which could be troublesome for Wilson. However, Wilson chaired Gov. Susana Martinez’s (R) transition committee and could receive support from the popular new governor.
Pearce, who defeated Wilson in the 2008 Senate primary then lost the general election, released a statement criticizing Heinrich’s record in Congress.
“Heinrich’s support for the liberal, out of control spending spree in Washington as well as his support for the job killing Cap and Trade legislation are clear indicators that he does not put New Mexican families first,” Pearce said.
The National Republican Senatorial Committee also immediately responded to Heinrich’s entrance to the race. “The contrast for voters will be very clear in 2012, and we are confident New Mexico will elect a fiscally responsible Republican to the U.S. Senate,” NRSC spokesman Brian Walsh said.
President Barack Obama won the state in 2008 and is expected to invest vast resources again in the 2012 presidential race to secure its five electoral votes.