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Ex-U.S. attorney enters race for ABQ-based congressional seat

SANTA FE – Damon Martinez, a Democrat who resigned as U.S. attorney for New Mexico this year at the request of President Donald Trump’s administration, has entered the open 2018 race for an Albuquerque-based congressional seat.

Martinez, who officially launched his campaign Monday, will face a crowded field of candidates as there are now seven Democrats vying for the 1st Congressional District seat currently held by U.S. Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham.

The largely urban district was long viewed as a swing district but has been held by a Democrat for the past eight years. Lujan Grisham is running for governor next year and is not seeking re-election.

An Albuquerque native, Martinez led the local U.S. Attorney’s Office during a federal investigation into excessive force allegations against the Albuquerque Police Department that led to an eventual settlement agreement. He was one of 46 U.S. attorneys from around the country who resigned in March at the request of Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

Martinez said he decided to run for Congress because he feels he still has “unfinished business” when it comes to addressing New Mexico’s drug addiction problems, high crime rates and sexual assault issues.

“New Mexico, and especially Albuquerque, are in the middle of a crime wave, and there are things I could bring to address that,” Martinez told the Journal after formally announcing his campaign.

He said his background, military experience and tenure working as a congressional staffer would distinguish him from other candidates. Martinez has served in both the U.S. Army Reserve and the New Mexico National Guard, and he was deployed to Egypt in 2012.

He was appointed U.S. attorney for New Mexico by then-President Barack Obama in 2014 and helped spearhead an initiative that targeted heroin and opioid trafficking suspects in the state, while also ramping up drug education efforts.

“I think I’m uniquely situated to fight for New Mexico,” he said.

Martinez declined to label himself politically, but he voiced opposition to provisions in a House GOP health care overhaul bill, and said he would seek to improve New Mexico’s economy and schools.

The other Democrats vying for the party’s nomination are Albuquerque City Councilor Pat Davis; Albuquerque physicist Dennis Dinge; former state Democratic Party Chairwoman Debra Haaland; Edgewood Town Councilor John Abrams; Albuquerque attorney Damian Lara; and Antoinette Sedillo Lopez, former associate dean of the University of New Mexico Law School.

Former state Rep. Janice Arnold-Jones is the only Republican to enter the race.

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