Rep. Steve Pearce to Run for New Mexico Governor

First Republican to join race, opens up congressional seat

Rep. Steve Pearce is the first Republican to announce his candidacy for governor of New Mexico. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Rep. Steve Pearce on Monday became the first Republican to join the race for governor of New Mexico, opening up the state’s 2nd District seat, which Democrats were already planning to target in 2018.

Pearce is the second New Mexico congressional representative to announce plans seek the state’s highest job. Democratic Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham launched her campaign in December and has already outraised her potential competitors.

Term-limited incumbent Republican Gov. Susana Martinez will leave office at the end of 2018.

“New Mexico has so much potential but needs leadership to harness it,” Pearce said in his campaign launch video.

The House Freedom Caucus member focused in his announcement on turning New Mexico around. Pearce’s main points included bringing jobs back, fixing the state’s education system, and relieving poverty.

New Mexico consistently ranks among the worst states in terms of poverty and unemployment levels. 

Pearce is currently the sole Republican representing New Mexico in Congress. The 69-year-old conservative won his most recent term by 25 points. He supported President Donald Trump, who carried the 2nd Congressional District by 10 points, but lost the state.

As one of the few Republicans representing a district on the U.S.-Mexico border, Pearce has criticized Trump’s plan for a border wall.

A Vietnam veteran, Pearce previously owned and operated Lea Fishing Tools, an oilfield services company. All five of his siblings left New Mexico for better economic conditions, Pearce noted in his video.

While Pearce is the only Republican running so far, Lt. Gov. John Sanchez may also be considering a run.

On the Democratic side, Lujan Grisham is competing against state Sen. Joseph Cervantes, former CBS and Univision media executive Jeff Apodaca, and alcohol-prevention advocate Peter DeBenedittis.

The race to replace Pearce in the 2nd Congressional District is already packed. Four Democrats have entered the race, including Indivisible activist and army veteran Tony Martinez, environmental lawyer David Baake, Coast Guard veteran and college history instructor Madeline Hildebrandt, and Ronald Fitzherbert, who works in risk management for a health care clinic.

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee added the 2nd District to its target list in May.

Inside Elections With Nathan L. Gonzales rates the House race Solid Republican, while the governor’s race is rated Leans Democratic.

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