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State Sen. Mark Moores will be the Republican nominee for the Albuquerque-based seat in the House of Representatives, which will be decided in a special election this summer.
The Republican Party of New Mexico’s state central membership selected Moores on Saturday during a virtual meeting.
A former University of New Mexico football player, Moores has been a state senator since 2013, representing Northeast Albuquerque.
Despite being the GOP nominee in a district where registered Democrats outnumber Republicans by about 85,000, Moores said he thinks he can sway voters to turn the seat red. He said during a news conference that he will try to do so by advocating to reopen schools and business, and for oil and gas drilling and law enforcement.
“I am going to take on this mantle, we’re going to fight and we’re going to win this thing,” Moores said.
Professionally, Moores and his wife are partners at an anatomic pathology laboratory. As part of that work, he has been involved in COVID-19 testing since the onset of the pandemic.
“I was on the front line. I was going into small businesses. I personally did rapid responses and was able to talk to employees and employers who were put out of work,” Moores said. “The calls for opening back up New Mexico were very, very strong. We needed to open up safely.”
New Mexico Democrats will pick their candidate Tuesday. The party has scheduled a forum with the candidates Sunday.
The special election was called after Secretary of Interior Deb Haaland resigned from her position representing New Mexico’s 1st Congressional District when she was confirmed to the Cabinet position. The election will be June 1.
The seat represents most of Bernalillo County, all of Torrance County and slivers of Sandoval, Santa Fe and Valencia counties.
Moores will try to become the first Republican elected to the seat since Heather Wilson in 2006. In late January, the district had 217,587 registered Democrats, 132,482 Republicans, 4,876 Libertarians and 111,011 other voters, according to Secretary of State data.
Steve Pearce, the chairman of the Republican Party of New Mexico, said Moores captured over 40% of vote by the party’s state central membership.
Eddy Aragon, the CEO of the Rock of Talk radio station, was second, with 28% of the vote. Elisa Martinez, the founder of a pro-life organization, got 17%. No other candidate got more than 10% of the vote, Pearce said.
“The candidate Mark Moores is the perfect one for us,” Pearce said. He has “a small business background, and he understands the importance of getting kids back in school. Those are probably two of the hottest button issues in New Mexico.”
Moores’ campaign is an attempt to flip a Democratic seat in a narrowly divided Congress. In addition to the Senate being split 50 to 50 between Democrats and Republicans, the House is currently divided 219 Democrats to 211 Republicans with five vacancies.
The 1st Congressional District seat for the last decade or so has been a launch pad for New Mexico Democrats.
Before Haaland’s election in 2018, Sen. Martin Heinrich held the position from 2009 to 2013, and Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham served from 2013 to 2019.
But Moores pointed out that before that run, a Republican had the post from 1969 to 2009.
“This is the right time for this campaign,” Moores said. “We had CD1 for 40 years … and it’s time to return us back to the Republican column.”