Congress

Rep. Ben Ray Luján officially announces New Mexico Senate bid

Luján is expected to be a front-runner in the race for Tom Udall’s seat

Rep. Ben Ray Luján, D-N.M., officially entered the race for an open Senate seate Monday. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Ben Ray Luján officially announced his plans to run for the Senate Monday, ending a week of speculation over whether the New Mexico Democrat would give up his position as a rising star in House leadership for a rare shot an open seat. 

“There’s been a lot of speculation over the last week, so I wanted you to hear it directly from me,“ Luján said in a video posted to Twitter Monday morning. “I’m running to be your next United States Senator.”

The video was filmed on his family farm in Nambé, New Mexico, he noted. 

Luján, the assistant speaker and former chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, was expected to become an immediate front-runner in the race, which has drawn interest from numerous political personalities since Sen. Tom Udall announced his retirement last week.  

Potential candidates include Rep. Deb Haaland, New Mexico Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver and former CIA agent Valerie Plame.

Plame told Roll Call on Friday that she has been talking to potential supporters. 

“It’s daunting and scary and exhilarating and I don’t know how the playing field looks totally yet, so there’s lots of things to consider,” she said. “I need to see who else is interested in running.”

She also praised Luján, calling him “a fantastic representative.”

“We are so lucky to have him here in New Mexico,” she said.

Plame moved to New Mexico in 2007, several years after she was thrust into the national spotlight when her identity as a covert operative was leaked to the media by a member of the Bush administration. 

Toulouse Oliver tweeted last Thursday that she was “seriously considering” a Senate run and would announce her decision “in the days ahead.”

State Attorney General Hector Balderas took himself out of contention in a radio interview Thursday, saying that he wanted to remain in his current position and stay with his family in New Mexico. 

Democrats start with the early advantage in the New Mexico Senate race. Inside Elections rates it Solid Democratic.

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