New Mexico Republicans vie to challenge incumbent senator and reclaim House swing district

SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — Republican contenders filed petitions Tuesday to appear on New Mexico’s June 4 primary ballot in hopes of challenging incumbent Democratic U.S. Sen. Martin Heinrich and reclaiming a congressional swing seat along the U.S. border with Mexico.

Businesswoman Nella Domenici, daughter of longtime U.S. Sen. Pete V. Domenici, filed a candidate signature petition with the New Mexico secretary of state’s office as she seeks the GOP nomination to take on Heinrich as he runs for a third term.

Domenici has highlighted her concerns about inflation, crime, border enforcement and childhood well-being in early campaign announcements but declined to comment further Tuesday.

She’ll likely face competition from Bernalillo County Sheriff Manny Gonzales, who recently left the Democratic Party to seek the GOP Senate nomination. He also filed candidacy paperwork Tuesday.

Gonzales served two terms as sheriff starting in 2014 in the state’s most populous county, coordinated policing initiatives with Donald Trump in 2020 as the then-president deployed federal agents to Albuquerque. Gonzales ran unsuccessfully for Albuquerque mayor in 2021 against incumbent Tim Keller.

Nationwide, Democrats are defending 23 Senate seats this year as they hope to hold on to a majority that currently stands at 51-49.

Heinrich won reelection in 2018 with about 54% of the vote in a three-way race against Republican Mick Rich and Libertarian candidate and former New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson.

Republicans also are choosing a contender to take on U.S. Rep. Gabe Vasquez in a congressional swing seat along the U.S. border with Mexico.

Former one-term U.S. Rep. Yvette Herrell hopes to reclaim the 2nd District seat she lost in the 2022 election. A campaign manager submitted Herrell’s election registration paperwork Tuesday.

The district is one of about a dozen in the national spotlight as Republicans campaign to keep their slim U.S. House majority in 2024.

The Republican Party unsuccessfully challenged a Democratic-drawn congressional map that reshaped the 2nd District as it divvied up a conservative, oil-producing region among three congressional districts. In November, the state Supreme Court upheld a lower court decision that the map fell short of “egregious gerrymandering.”

Democrats currently control New Mexico’s two Senate seats and all three congressional districts, along with all other statewide elected offices and broad majorities in the state House and Senate.

Former state legislator Sharon Clahchischilliage, of Gadii’ahi, a Navajo community on the outskirts of Farmington in northwestern New Mexico, filed a petition to seek the Republican nomination to the 3rd Congressional District — where Democratic Congresswoman Teresa Leger Fernandez, of Santa Fe, is seeking a third term.

The sprawling district extends across northern and eastern New Mexico, including national security facilities at Los Alamos National Laboratory and rural communities recovering from the largest wildfire in the state’s recorded history.

Clahchischilliage said she wants to address government regulatory overreach and improve economic opportunity.

“Look at gun control, look at oil and gas … there’s a lot of over-regulating,” she said. “Farmers are feeling it, ranchers are feeling it. We’re all feeling it as New Mexicans and it’s not common sense to us.”

Two Republican contenders are seeking the nomination in the 1st Congressional District to challenge Democratic U.S. Rep. Melanie Stansbury, of Albuquerque. They include shooting range owner and health care entrepreneur Louie Sanchez, of Albuquerque, who has highlighted concerns about public safety, gun rights, border security and the economy.

Steve Jones, of Ruidoso, said he’ll use his experience as a certified public accountant to help rein in federal spending and the national deficit.

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