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Politics Notebook: Ex-Trump administration official enters NM congressional race

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — With the state’s primary election just five months away, the GOP field for a southern New Mexico-based congressional seat has undergone a shake-up.

Gavin Clarkson, a Las Cruces resident who held a Trump administration post until recently resigning, announced Monday that he will seek the 2nd Congressional District seat currently held by U.S. Rep. Steve Pearce.

Clarkson, an enrolled member of the Choctaw Nation who is on leave from his faculty position at New Mexico State University, spent about six months as the Bureau of Indian Affairs’ deputy secretary for policy and economic development.

Gavin Clarkson

He strongly disputed a Washington Post report that claimed he resigned from the position after a critical internal report on the loan program he oversaw, describing it as “fake news.”

Rather, Clarkson said, he resigned from the post Dec. 29 so he could launch his bid for Congress. He also said he was previously barred from discussing the report.

“I’m tired of un-elected bureaucrats running roughshod over regular folks,” Clarkson told the Journal. “I can categorically deny … that my resignation had anything to do with a flawed inspector general report.”

He described himself as being in favor of government accountability and against abortion, and said economic development and education would be among his top priorities if he is elected.

Also Monday, Brig. Gen. Andrew Salas, former New Mexico National Guard adjutant general, announced he was withdrawing from the race due to a new military assignment as a special adviser on diversity and inclusion issues for the National Guard Bureau.

“After prayerful consideration, it has become very clear I can best serve our great country by continuing my military service,” Salas wrote in a Facebook post.

Salas, who lives in Bernardo in northern Socorro County, had entered the race in October.

His decision to withdraw leaves four Republican candidates in the race: former GOP state Chairman Monty Newman of Hobbs, state Rep. Yvette Herrell of Alamogordo, Carlsbad pharmacist Jack Volpato and Clarkson.

On the Democratic side, candidates include David Baake of Las Cruces, Mad Hildebrandt of Socorro and Angel Peña of Las Cruces.

Pearce announced in July 2017 that he would forgo a re-election bid and instead run for governor.

Dan Boyd: