Heinrich, a Democrat, is expected to talk with the media about his decision at 1 p.m. at the National Hispanic Cultural Center in Albuquerque. In the meantime, he posted a video and a statement online announcing his decision.
“It doesn’t take long in Washington to see that things there just aren’t working,” Heinrich said in the prepared statement. “Big corporations and special interests seem to get all of the breaks while regular New Mexico families are left holding the bill. New Mexico families deserve better.”
“I would be proud to represent you in the U.S. Senate,” he said. “I hope you’ll join me on this journey to provide everyone in this state with a prosperous future worthy of our efforts and our values.”
Heinrich is in his third year representing the Albuquerque-area First Congressional District in Congress. He’s the most high-profile Democrat to enter the race to replace Bingaman thus far. State Auditor Hector Balderas is reportedly leaning toward running, and former Lt. Gov. Diane Denish is also considering the race.
The only other Democrat who has entered the race is the little-known community activist Andres Valdez.
Some say Balderas would give Heinrich a run for his money if he enters the race. Others point to Heinrich’s impressive re-election victory last year – a year that was tough for Democrats in New Mexico and across the nation – to argue that Heinrich has strength among swing voters and that Democrats should nominate him.
The GOP primary
On the Republican side, the most high-profile candidate is former U.S. Rep. Heather Wilson, who Heinrich replaced in Congress when she opted instead to run for the Senate seat being vacated by Pete Domenici in 2008. Wilson lost that primary to Steve Pearce, who lost the general election to Democrat Tom Udall.
Pearce is among the other Republicans considering running for Senate, and he was quick to hit Heinrich today in a news release.
“New Mexico families deserve a senator who will go to Washington to fight on their behalf to create jobs and get our economy moving again,” Pearce said. “In Heinrich, they will only get someone fighting for special interests and the extreme agendas of Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid.”
CD1 race is wide open
Heinrich’s decision means his House seat is up for grabs next year. Albuquerque City Councilor Dan Lewis, a Republican who formed an exploratory committee weeks ago, is set to formally enter the race on Sunday.
On the Democratic side, state Sen. Eric Griego didn’t wait for Heinrich’s formal entry into the Senate race before he announced Friday that he’s forming a congressional exploratory committee. And Terry Brunner, Bingaman’s former state director who now heads USDA Rural Development in New Mexico, told NMPolitics.net that he’s seriously considering running for the House seat.
“I’ve very much enjoyed my job at USDA and I think we have been effective around the state,” Brunner said. “I am going to look at whether I can continue to be effective by serving New Mexicans in the Congress.”
Update, 1:25 p.m.
State Rep. Antonio “Moe” Maestas, D-Albuquerque, announced that he is also seriously considering running for the House seat Heinrich is vacating.
“This is an exciting time for New Mexicans,” Maestas said in a news release. “Senator Bingaman’s retirement presents an opportunity for a new generation of New Mexicans to provide national leadership.”
“The impulse is for politicians to exploit wedge issues that divide us, but it is imperative to elect leaders with a proven record of bringing people together, particularly in these trying economic times – and that’s exactly why I am considering a run for Congress,” he said.
Update, 2:40 p.m.
I neglected to report earlier that former gubernatorial candidate and state Rep. Janice Arnold-Jones, a Republican, has also formed a congressional exploratory committee as she considers running for Heinrich’s seat.
In an e-mail, Arnold-Jones said she just returned from a visit to Washington. She said her “exploratory efforts are positive, and we are moving forward quickly.”