Denish and Chávez, both former gubernatorial nominees, are the best-known Democrats to publicly surface as potential candidates thus far.
Chávez is meeting this week with the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, the fundraising arm of Democrats in the U.S. House, to talk about the possibility of running, a source with knowledge of the situation confirmed.
Another source said Denish “has been getting a lot of encouragement from inside the district, and with solid name ID and a strong base there, she has time to test the waters.”
Denish had been considering running for the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by Jeff Bingaman. Whether she is still considering the Senate race isn’t clear.
Heinrich is the best-known Democrat to have entered the Senate race. His departure from the U.S. House has led many to consider running for the seat.
No Democrats have formally entered the race to replace Heinrich, but state Sen. Eric Griego of Albuquerque has formed an exploratory committee. In addition, state Rep. Antonio “Moe” Maestas of Albuquerque and Terry Brunner, Bingaman’s former state director who now heads USDA Rural Development in New Mexico, say they are seriously considering running.
On the Republican side, Albuquerque City Councilor Dan Lewis has entered the race, and former gubernatorial candidate and state Rep. Janice Arnold-Jones of Albuquerque has formed an exploratory committee.
They’re also former running mates. When Chávez unsuccessfully challenged then-Gov. Gary Johnson in 1998, Denish was the Democratic Party’s nominee for lieutenant governor.
Both have strong bases and the ability to raise money, and could be formidable candidates. But sources say there might also be room in the Democratic primary for a rising star.