Gov. Susana Martinez and other big-name politicians stumped across New Mexico on Wednesday, making pitches for candidates in the state’s heated U.S. Senate race.
Showing up on the campaign trail along with the Republican governor to weigh in for Republican Heather Wilson and Democrat Martin Heinrich were Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., the 2004 Democratic presidential nominee, and Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., widely considered a rising national star of the GOP.
It was the first time Martinez — popular in New Mexico and also considered a rising GOP star — had publicly campaigned for Wilson, a former congresswoman from central New Mexico’s 1st Congressional District.
Wilson would advocate for New Mexico in the Senate by fighting against tax increases and boosting the state’s economy, Martinez told a crowd of about 400 during a rally in Albuquerque’s Tiguex Park with Rubio and other prominent New Mexico Republicans.
“Our state needs an independent leader who understands that Washington’s policies are putting a squeeze on middle-class families,” Martinez said. “A person of true character who is willing to take on the leadership of both parties to get things done right here for New Mexico. Heather is that independent leader.”
Martinez said Wilson would be a much-needed ally for her administration in Washington.
Rubio, a Cuban-American elected to the Senate from Florida in 2010, said Wilson has a background in national defense, experience in advocating for an energy policy rooted in fossil fuel development and a commitment to helping the business community.
“She’s a believer in the free enterprise system. … There is a shortage of people in Washington, D.C., that understand the free enterprise system,” Rubio said.
Martinez and Rubio also held a rally for Wilson earlier Wednesday in Las Cruces.
In Santa Fe, former Democratic presidential nominee Kerry touted Heinrich as the best candidate for the Senate seat.
Kerry told reporters before a closed-door fundraiser at the Rio Chama steakhouse that Heinrich is cut from the same cloth as Sen Jeff Bingaman, D-N.M., who is retiring after 30 years.
“I want to make sure that we have somebody of that quality, who reflects New Mexico but also understands the national challenges,” Kerry said.
Kerry highlighted Heinrich’s work on the House Armed Services Committee and in behalf of the state’s national laboratories. He also said the Heinrich-Wilson race is key in helping determine which party will control the U.S. Senate.
“This seat is critical to the New Mexico tradition of a Jeff Bingaman who is moderate, balanced, thoughtful, (willing to) reach across the aisle and work with people and that’s what we expect,” Kerry added.
Also talking to New Mexico voters on Heinrich’s behalf Wednesday were Rep. Charles Gonzalez, D-Texas, chairman of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, and New Mexico Rep. Ben Ray Luján, D-N.M., a vice chairman of the caucus.
Gonzalez praised Heinrich’s approachability and said New Mexico’s current 1st Congressional District representative has been an advocate for the Hispanic community in Congress.
“Being a colleague of Martin’s … we know that he’s been with us on every one of our issues, and he’s such a smart, capable guy,” Gonzalez said in an interview with the Journal. “On the issues, we always felt he was part of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus.”
Wilson has trailed Heinrich in the Journal Poll on the Senate race in New Mexico.