ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – The expected departure of New Mexico Congresswoman Deb Haaland for President-Elect Joe Biden’s cabinet continues to bring out candidates looking to replace her in the U.S. House of Representative. Four Democrats have all formally said they want a shot at Congress, while a couple of Republicans have stated interest in running in the expected special election.
If confirmed by the U.S. Senate, Haaland would be forced to vacate her position representing New Mexico’s Congressional District 1. The district covers most of Bernalillo County and parts of Torrance, Sandoval, Santa Fe, and Valencia counties.
Haaland won re-election in the district in November 2020 and was set to serve a second term. With an expected special election to replace her, a select group of members of each major party will pick a single candidate to represent the party on the ballot.
“On both sides, folks want to look at this and say, ‘look, we want to make sure whoever we choose wins this consecutively and we hold on to this seat,’” said University of New Mexico Political Science Professor and KRQE Political Analyst Gabe Sanchez. “That’s where I think the perception of voters would react to who they choose definitely matters because they want to make sure this is not a one and done situation and they can hold on to this seat.”
So far, four Democrats have officially declared their candidacy. They include three state lawmakers, Representative Georgene Louis, Representative Melanie Stansbury, and Senator Antoinette Sedillo Lopez. Prominent Albuquerque attorney Randi McGinn has also announced her intention to run.
Two Republicans thus far have expressed interest in running. They included former CD1 and Albuquerque mayoral candidate Michelle Garcia Holmes and talk radio host Eddy Aragon.
Sanchez says so far, no prominent candidate has emerged from the pack yet, however, there’s still plenty of time to expect others to throw their names in. Sanchez says particularly for the Democrats, there is a lot of discussion happening behind the scenes about the symbolism of the party’s candidate of choice.
“Obviously given that Haaland was the first Native American elected here in New Mexico to Congress, is this perceived to be not only a female seat, but also a Native American female seat, and obviously of the candidates that we’ve talked about, only Louis has that designation,” Sanchez said. “So that I think is some of the behind-the-scenes discussion that many of us are paying attention to see if it will actually play-out in who’s picked by the party.”
Each major party’s so-called “Central Committee” will vote on the candidate to represent the party. Those votes likely won’t happen until after Congresswoman Haaland would be confirmed as Interior Secretary. For the Democrats, that includes between 175 to 200 party members, while Republicans have about 120 people on their “Central Committee.”
State law outlines a special election must take place between 77 and 91 days after a Congressperson’s seat being vacated. That call has to be made by the Secretary of State within 10 days of the vacancy.