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Third GOP candidate enters race for U.S. Senate seat

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Republican Elisa Martinez speaks to supporters in Albuquerque on Wednesday after she announced she will seek the GOP nomination for an open U.S. Senate seat in New Mexico. (Russell Contreras/Associated Press)

Elisa Martinez has fought battles in New Mexico about abortion and women’s issues as leader of the nonprofit New Mexico Alliance for Life.

She is now in a fight of another kind in announcing her bid for the U.S. Senate seat being vacated next year by Democrat Tom Udall, who is not running for reelection to a third term.

Martinez said she wanted to be a “clear and strong voice for New Mexico working families” in announcing her bid in front of a room full of supporters at Hotel Chaco in Albuquerque.

“I am a working-class Republican who believes we can do better,” she said, noting in her speech where the state ranked in auto thefts, robbery and education. “… I’m a Republican who believes we can solve problems with new ideas and new energy. I’m not a politician, and I don’t come from wealth or privilege.”

She is the third Republican to enter the race. Martinez joins Albuquerque contractor Mick Rich and former New Mexico State University professor Gavin Clarkson in the GOP 2020 primary field.

“We want to run a very positive campaign on the issues,” Martinez said. “As a native New Mexican who comes from a working-class background with a very unique perspective, I believe I have the ability to connect with groups that maybe Republicans haven’t been able to connect with in the past.”

U.S. Rep. Ben Ray Luján, who represents northern New Mexico’s 3rd Congressional District, is the lone Democrat in the race following the departure of New Mexico Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver.

Martinez had been considering a bid for weeks. She sent fundraising emails to potential supporters asking for donations to help her make a decision.

“Obviously, fundraising was an important piece of that, with the response statewide from folks who are tired of our current leadership,” she said.

Her campaign said it had raised more than $100,000, which was the goal it had set. A campaign spokesman said a total would be released with Federal Election Commission filings at the end of the year.

The ability to raise campaign funds could be crucial in a potential race against Luján, who raised more than $1 million in each of the past two quarters of the year since announcing his bid for the Senate. Luján had more than $1.6 million cash on hand at the end of the third quarter of filing for the year on Sept. 30, compared with Clarkson’s more than $178,000 and Rich’s $152,000.

Martinez alluded to a potential battle with Luján as a “David versus Goliath” battle.

Martinez grew up in Gallup and is an enrolled member of the Navajo Nation. She said her Hispanic roots dated back 15 generations on her father’s side of the family, and said she was Navajo and Zuni from her mother’s side of the family.

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