SANTA FE – The field for an Albuquerque-based congressional seat currently held by U.S. Rep. Deb Haaland is continuing to expand, with Victor Reyes, the legislative director for Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham, becoming the fifth Democrat to officially enter the race on Friday.
In addition, former state Land Commissioner Aubrey Dunn has also filed the necessary paperwork to run in the special election as an independent candidate.
Dunn was elected land commissioner as a Republican in 2014, but later changed his party affiliation to Libertarian.
The 1st Congressional District seat could soon be vacant, as President-elect Joe Biden announced last month that he will nominate Haaland to lead the U.S. Department of Interior, which would make her the first Native American Cabinet secretary.
While Haaland does not have to give up her congressional seat until she’s confirmed by the U.S. Senate, the prospect of an open seat has already generated widespread interest.
Reyes, an El Paso native who worked for Lujan Grisham’s gubernatorial campaign before joining the Governor’s Office, said Friday he would be a “progressive” voice for the district, citing his support for expanded health care and renewable energy proposals.
“I’m ready to be a voice for everyone, but I especially want to be a voice for those that don’t have the words or power to speak for themselves,” he told the Journal.
He also cited family struggles with financial and substance abuse issues, saying such challenges would help him relate to many district voters.
Reyes, who would be the state’s first LGBTQ congressman, is related to former Texas Congressman Silvestre Reyes and also worked for Conservation Voters New Mexico and a liberal-leaning nonprofit group since arriving in the state.
For his part, Dunn, who lives on a ranch in Torrance County, said the rare special election could create an opportunity for a candidate who’s not affiliated with a political party.
“I think there are a lot of people tired of the direction we’re going,” he said Friday. “I’m really sick of the party politics – I think you’ve got to put New Mexico before the politics.”
He said confronting the national debt would be among his top priorities if elected, and accused both Democrats and Republicans of largely ignoring the issue.
The four other Democrats who have already announced campaigns for the seat are state Reps. Melanie Stansbury and Georgene Louis, state Sen. Antoinette Sedillo Lopez and veteran attorney Randi McGinn – all of Albuquerque.
Several other candidates have also said they are planning to run for the seat in the Democratic-leaning district, including Republicans Eddy Aragon and Michelle Garcia Holmes, who was defeated by Haaland in the November general election.
Under current state law, Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver would have to call a special election to fill Haaland’s seat no later than 91 days after it is vacated.
The state’s major political parties would hold central committee meetings behind closed doors to nominate their own candidates before such an election.