“The lieutenant governor is seriously considering it,” the Republican Sanchez’s spokesman, Mark Van Dyke, told NMPolitics.net. But he added that Sanchez is currently focused on the legislative session.
And following the session, Sanchez has promised to travel the state to report to communities on the Legislature’s work, Van Dyke said. Then, there’s the coming special session on redistricting that will most likely be held in the fall.
So, Van Dyke said, Sanchez isn’t likely to make a decision on the Senate race anytime soon.
“There are still a lot of challenges facing the State of New Mexico,” Van Dyke said. “It’s very premature for the lieutenant governor to weigh in on this race.”
Sanchez is a heavy hitter who could be a significant player in the Senate race. In 2000, he defeated the longest-serving Speaker of the House in New Mexico history in winning a legislative seat. In 2002 he was the GOP nominee for governor, losing that year to Democrat Bill Richardson.
Last year, Sanchez spent several hundred thousand dollars of his own money to become the GOP nominee for lieutenant governor and run alongside Susana Martinez.
A match-up against Heather Wilson
If Sanchez decides to run for Senate, he’ll join former U.S. Rep. Heather Wilson in the GOP primary. Wilson is formally entering the race today and is labeled by many as the frontrunner for the party’s nomination.
Some Republicans are looking for a candidate who is to the right of Wilson to be the party’s nominee. There may be an opportunity for one candidate who convinces voters he or she is to the right of Wilson to rise to the top of the pack and challenge her.
Van Dyke said Sanchez is a “proven conservative” and a businessman who is “not going to change his position based on who he’s talking to.”
Wilson lost to Steve Pearce – a candidate further to the right than her – in the 2008 GOP Senate primary. Pearce went on to lose badly to Democrat Tom Udall in the general election, and though Pearce says he’s considering running for Senate again this year, many think he’s unlikely to enter the race.
Some speculate that the party won’t pick someone like Pearce over Wilson this year because doing so proved disastrous for the party in 2008.
But Sanchez’s ethnicity might also be in his favor as the GOP looks to replicate Martinez’s impressive victory in last year’s gubernatorial race, which came largely because independents and conservative Democrats picked her over Democrat Diane Denish.
“The lieutenant governor is receiving a lot of encouragement to run,” Van Dyke said.
Willing to spend his own money
One reason Sanchez is receiving such encouragement is because he proved last year that he is willing to spend his own money to win. That contrasts with Pearce, who has personal wealth but hasn’t spent it on his races, even when he needed more cash to compete in 2008.
On the flip side, some are quick to point out that Sanchez raised almost no money in last year’s primary beyond what he contributed to his own campaign, and they wonder if he can raise outside money to compete in a primary.
After he became the party’s nominee last year, Sanchez did raise more than $150,000 in outside contributions in the general election, his finance reports show.