U.S. Rep. Steve Pearce, R-N.M., appears, at least at this point, to be cruising toward re-election.
Pearce currently has no challenger except a little-known candidate from Roswell, even though Washington expects serious challengers to incumbents to already be raising money.
The latest potential challenger to bite the dust is Sunland Park Mayor Martin Resendiz, a Democrat who the Albuquerque Journal reported this morning admitted during a deposition to signing city contracts while he was drunk – and to not even knowing what he was signing.
That’s not going to earn him any points with voters in the 2nd Congressional District. Resendiz told NMPolitics.net in early May that he would officially form an exploratory committee the following week, but said it was a formality and that his decision to run for Congress “has already been made.”
Since then, we’ve heard nothing from him about running against Pearce.
Another potential candidate has also been consumed by scandal. Political insider Edgar Lopez of Las Cruces, who heads a real estate company, told NMPolitics.net in February that he was considering running. However, he’s made little noise since, and District Judge Mike Murphy’s bribery indictment makes it unlikely that Lopez could mount a credible challenge to Pearce.
Though Lopez hasn’t been charged with any crime, he’s the man to whom Murphy allegedly gave the money that bought his judgeship.
The only other well-known Democrat who publicly considered running was former State Rep. Nate Cote. But after looking at the numbers Cote decided that, unless redistricting significantly changes the makeup of the district, he won’t run.
That leaves Frank McKinnon of Roswell as the only Democrat in the race. He ran in 2008 but was knocked out by the Democratic Party’s Central Committee when he received only 1 percent of the vote at their preprimary nominating convention. The Democratic Party is unlikely to give him any more credibility this time.
Redistricting won’t likely help CD2 Democrats
Redistricting isn’t likely to make CD2 more favorable to a Democrat. Most of the plans being considered would actually make it a safer seat for Pearce.
To make matters worse for Democrats in Southern New Mexico, there are plenty of Democrats up north who are OK with handing CD2 to Pearce in exchange for making the Third Congressional District more favorable to Democrat Ben Ray Luján and keeping the 1st Congressional District a toss-up or maybe also making it more favorable to Democrats.
Things could have been much different. I wrote in January that the battle for speaker of the N.M. House of Representatives would impact redistricting. If Joseph Cervantes of Las Cruces had won, Southern N.M. Democrats would have had a fighting chance to push for a congressional district less favorable to Pearce. Instead, Luján’s father is the House speaker.
The reality is evident in the fact that Pearce doesn’t yet have a credible challenger. The longer Democrats go without finding someone to seriously challenge Pearce, the less likely their chances of finding a credible candidate become.
Democrats don’t yet have a serious candidate in the race because they look at the numbers and the history of the district and see reality: With an incumbent Republican seeking re-election, the district, with these boundaries and in this political climate, probably isn’t one of the best investments they can make.
For better or for worse, Pearce’s re-election chances look very good right now.