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Former Albuquerque Mayor Marty Chavez announced Wednesday he is running for the open 1st district seat, giving Democrats what they believe is a strong general election contender.
Chavez, who served three terms as mayor, met recently in Washington, D.C., with the Congressional Hispanic Caucus and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, a New Mexico Democratic insider said.
Chavez is the second Democrat to join the race to replace Rep. Martin Heinrich (D), who is running for Senate. He follows state Sen. Eric Griego, who entered the race nearly two months ago and has the backing of the Progressive Change Campaign Committee.
Other Democrats considering running include Bernalillo County Commissioner Michelle Lujan Grisham, former Sandia Pueblo Gov. Stuart Paisano and Terry Brunner, an Obama appointee to the U.S. Department of Agriculture in New Mexico and former state director for retiring Sen. Jeff Bingaman (D-N.M.).
Former Lt. Gov. Diane Denish (D), who lost the state's gubernatorial race last year, has opted not to run. Denish and Chavez have the highest name recognition among the group, and Chavez’s entrance ensures the party has a top-tier challenger in the race.
In 2007, Chavez entered the race to replace retiring Sen. Pete Domenici (R), but he dropped out that December in deference to then-Rep. Tom Udall, who went on to win the seat.
Griego is known to be a tough campaigner, but there is some concern he is too liberal to win the seat held recently by former Rep. Heather Wilson (R), who is now running for Senate.
The Albuquerque-based district will change some in redistricting, but New Mexico insiders believe the seat will remain competitive and a top target for both parties.
On the Republican side, Albuquerque City Councilor Dan Lewis is running, and former state Rep. Janice Arnold-Jones has formed an exploratory committee and is likely to announce soon. Jon Barela, the 2010 GOP nominee who lost to Heinrich by 4 points, is also taking a look at the race.