State Sen. Mark Moores enters congressional race

Sen. Mark Moores, R-Albuquerque, said Monday he is entering the race for the soon-to-be-vacant 1st Congressional District seat. (Eddie Moore/Journal)

SANTA FE — Mark Moores, an Albuquerque Republican who’s served in the state Senate since 2013, said Monday he is jumping into the race for a soon-to-be vacant congressional seat.

Moores said he told GOP state central committee members late Sunday he plans to run for the 1st Congressional District seat, which is currently held by Deb Haaland.

Haaland was confirmed as U.S. interior secretary on Monday and is expected to step down from her congressional seat Tuesday, triggering a special election that’s likely to occur in June to fill the vacancy.

A former University of New Mexico football player with family roots in northern New Mexico, Moores said his experience with political campaigns would allow him to ramp up his candidacy quickly once the legislative session ends March 20.

He also touted his record of bipartisanship, which includes co-sponsoring bills with Democratic lawmakers to ban coyote-killing contests and allow collegiate athletes to receive compensation for product endorsements.

“I fight for conservative values, but I also have a long track record of sitting down with people to get things done and that’s what Washington D.C. needs,” Moores told the Journal.

About a dozen candidates have already launched campaigns for the Albuquerque-based 1st Congressional District seat currently held by Haaland, including four Democratic state lawmakers.

On the Republican side, Moores becomes one of the best-known candidates in the field. The other six other declared GOP candidates are Eddy Aragon, Michaela Chavez, Ronnie Lucero, Jared Vander Dussen, Tracy Trujillo and Jonathan Gonzales.

Once a political swing district, the 1st Congressional District has not been held by a Republican since Heather Wilson vacated the seat in 2009.

Before being nominated as interior secretary by President Joe Biden, Haaland easily won re-election to a second two-year term in November with about 58% of the votes cast.

But Moores expressed optimism about the odds of a GOP breakthrough, saying many New Mexicans are frustrated by Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I’m a fighter,” said Mores, who would not have to give up his Senate seat unless he wins. “I’m willing to get in there and struggle.”

A former staffer for Republican ex-Lt. Gov. Walter Bradley, Moores is currently a partner, along with his wife, for an anatomic pathology laboratory that has provided coronavirus testing. He said the experience has provided him with a unique perspective on the state’s response to the pandemic.

Under New Mexico law, Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver will set the date of the election to fill Haaland’s seat.

And the state’s major political parties —Republicans, Democrats and Libertarians — will hold central committee meetings in the coming days to pick their candidates for the election.

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