Assistant Speaker of the House Ben Ray Luján, D-N.M., received the endorsements of two firefighter organizations in his bid to replace Tom Udall in the U.S. Senate in 2020.
The New Mexico Professional Fire Fighters Association and Albuquerque Fire Fighters Local 244 announced their backing of the 3rd Congressional District representative on Thursday.
“I’m honored to have their endorsement,” Luján told the Journal. “I received their endorsement when I ran for Congress in 2008. It was a critical endorsement.”
New Mexico Professional Fire Fighters Association President Robert Sanchez called Luján “a friend and advocate of all firefighters and first responders during his time in Congress.”
“He’s helped us secure SAFER (Staffing for Adequate Fire & Emergency Response) grants through FEMA that has helped us with our staffing,” he said.
Sanchez said the organization represents about 2,000 members, including firefighters from Albuquerque, Farmington, Carlsbad, Las Cruces and Santa Fe.
Luján said his work for firefighters dates back to his days as chairman of the Public Regulation Commission when he supported legislation that helped secure funding for fire departments. He also mentioned helping to secure SAFER grants in Congress.
“I’ve worked on legislation to get them the tools to do their jobs,” Luján said. “They have a dangerous job trying to keep us safe. Many of them face difficult situations every day. I’ve worked to make their jobs safer, to make sure they come home to their families each night.”
Luján said he was looking into the possible negative effects federal firefighters may have experienced as the result of their exposure to per- and polyfluoroalkyl (PFAS) contamination found in such places as Cannon and Holoman Air Force bases in New Mexico.
Albuquerque Fire Fighters Local 244 President Justin Cheney also said Luján had been an advocate for public safety initiatives in Congress.
Luján is the only announced candidate. But he may be joined in the Democratic race by New Mexico State Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver.
Toulouse Oliver campaign spokeswoman Heather Brewer told the Journal that reports that Toulouse Oliver was leaning toward a Senate run were accurate.
“She is looking at where her skills can best serve the people of New Mexico,” Brewer said. She cited the election reform Toulouse Oliver backed that successfully passed the legislature this session.
She said Toulouse Oliver’s decision will come by the end of the month.
Another potential rival, U.S. Rep. Deb Haaland, D-N.M., announced earlier this week on Twitter she would not run for the open seat.
No Republicans have entered the race, but party chairman Steve Pearce said he has talked to potential candidates.