Longtime GOP legislator from Northeast Heights quits race

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SANTA FE – State Rep. Larry Larrañaga, an Albuquerque Republican who was first elected to the House of Representatives in 1994, made a surprise announcement Tuesday that he will not seek election to another two-year term due to family health issues.

His decision to end his re-election bid gives state Republicans just one week to come up with a replacement candidate for the November general election ballot in House District 27, which encompasses a swath of the Northeast Heights.

Larrañaga said in an interview that he had been mulling over the decision for several weeks before deciding to withdraw from the race.

“I need to focus a little bit more on family,” he told the Journal. “I’ve had a great career, and I hope I’ve been a contributor.”

A former state Highway Department secretary and deputy chief administrative officer for the city of Albuquerque, Larrañaga is now tied for the third longest-serving House member. As part of his legislative tenure, he was chairman of a powerful House budget committee for two years – from 2015 through 2016 – after Republicans won a majority in the chamber for the first time in 60 years.

After Democrats reclaimed control of the House in the 2016 election cycle, Larrañaga remained an influential voice on the House Appropriations and Finance Committee.

During a 2017 special session, he sponsored a bill creating a “rainy-day” fund that calls for revenue from oil and natural gas taxes that exceeds a five-year rolling average to be set aside for future cash-lean years.

The legislation took effect for the current budget year, and $177 million is projected to be set aside in the fund next July, due to an oil drilling boom in southeastern New Mexico.

Larrañaga cited the bill as among his top legislative achievements, along with his work helping to craft a new 40-year state water plan.

“It will still be a roller-coaster ride, but hopefully a smoother roller-coaster ride,” he said of the rainy-day fund’s potential impact on the state budget decisions.

Meanwhile, Larrañaga joins several other incumbent House Republicans who are also heading for the exits in this year’s election cycle, including GOP floor leader Nate Gentry of Albuquerque, five-term Rep. Dennis Roch of Logan and two-term Rep. Sarah Maestas Barnes of Albuquerque.

Under state law, the state Republican Party has until next Tuesday to pick a replacement for Larrañaga for the Nov. 6 ballot. Bill Pratt, a retired physician, narrowly won a Democratic primary race in June and will be on the ballot in the House District 27 race.

State GOP Chairman Ryan Cangiolosi said Tuesday that he is confident Republicans will retain the seat in November. He also described Larrañaga as a “champion” for job creation and fiscal responsibility for more than two decades.

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