Sen. Cervantes jumps into governor’s race

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Sen. Joseph Cervantes of Las Cruces is jumping into a 2018 Democratic primary race for governor that’s currently dominated by U.S. Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham.

Joseph Cervantes

Courtesy photo

Joseph Cervantes

Cervantes was quoted by the Albuquerque Journal as saying he’s not daunted by taking on Lujan Grisham, who has already raised a lot of money and locked down endorsements from Attorney General Hector Balderas and others. Cervantes said he would demonstrate his “level of commitment” by investing his own money in his campaign.

“Unlike others who are in the race, I’m not a career politician,” he was quoted as saying.

Cervantes comes from a prominent Mesilla Valley farming family and is a lawyer. Before being elected to the Legislature in 2001 he was a Doña Ana County commissioner, and in a previous career he was an architect. He served in the N.M. House until 2012, when he was elected to the N.M. Senate, where he now serves.

Cervantes is the fourth Democrat to enter the race to replace outgoing Gov. Susana Martinez, a Republican who is also from Las Cruces. Martinez is term-limited from running again next year.

The other Democrats in the race are retired media executive Jeff Apodaca of Albuquerque and Peter DeBenedittis, an advocate from Santa Fe. No Republicans have yet entered the race.

Cervantes, 56, was quoted by The Associated Press as saying he “wants to focus on fixing the state’s economy and educational system, and will try to change policies that drive young people from the state.”

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“Being governor is the biggest opportunity to effect change in New Mexico,” The Santa Fe New Mexican quoted him as saying. “I think I can provide effective leadership in bringing change to a state in which the general public continuously recognizes is going in the wrong direction.”

Cervantes also has a history of fighting for increased government transparency. For example, he won approval in 2009 of legislation that opened conference committees — joint House/Senate meetings designed to resolve disputes about bills — to the public.

In 2007, Cervantes briefly jumped into the race for New Mexico’s Second Congressional District seat in the U.S. House. He later dropped out, citing family concerns.

“I love this state and I want to improve this state – I think we all do – and I will continue to look for every opportunity to do that,” he said at the time. “…Right now my family is too young to be thinking about moving them to Washington or to be living in two places at one time.”

A decade later appears to be the right time, in Cervantes’ view. Earlier this year, as a gubernatorial run looked increasingly likely, Cervantes gave the Democrats’ response to Martinez’s State of the State Address.

“The state of our state is unacceptable,” Cervantes said in that January speech. “It’s time to stop bemoaning these falling oil and gas prices, and it’s time to… use the resources and tools that we have in hand and which are in our control.”

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