Top-ranking New Mexico Republicans rolled out the red carpet for Andy Nuñez on Tuesday, after the former six-term Hatch lawmaker officially changed his party affiliation to the GOP.
“We welcome Andy Nuñez as a member of the Republican Party and appreciate that he has been a longtime conservative leader in New Mexico,” state Republican Party Chairman John Billingsley said in a statement.
After serving as a Democrat for his first 10 years in the Legislature, Nuñez previously changed his affiliation to independent in 2011 after breaking with House Democratic leadership. He was subsequently defeated in his re-election bid last year.
Nuñez told reporters Tuesday that he now believes his agriculture background and pro-business views make him better-suited to be a Republican. As a GOP candidate, he’s planning on a 2014 run for his old House seat.
Although a political committee run by Gov. Susana Martinez’s political adviser targeted Nuñez during last year’s election cycle, the Republican governor welcomed Nuñez’s return to the political arena Tuesday without a hint of bad blood.
“The governor worked well with Andy Nu ñ ez when he was in the Legislature, encouraged him to change parties for several years, and strongly supports his decision to run again for the House,” Martinez spokesman Enrique Knell told the Journal.
However, Democratic Rep. Phillip Archuleta of Las Cruces, who currently holds Nuñez’s old House District 36 seat, questioned Nuñez’s motives and said many area Democrats remain upset that he left the party.
“Is he doing it for himself or for the community? Archuleta asked of Nuñez’s party switch.
RISING STAR: U.S. Rep. Joaquin Castro of Texas will deliver the keynote speech at a Democratic Party of New Mexico fundraising dinner in Albuquerque next month.
Castro, whose twin brother, Julian, serves as mayor of San Antonio, Texas, has been touted as a rising star in national Democratic politics.
U.S. Sen. Martin Heinrich, U.S. Reps. Michelle Lujan Grisham and Ben Ray Luján, and Attorney General Gary King are among the New Mexico Democrats expected to attend the dinner as guests.
Tickets for the Sept. 6 dinner cost $75 per person, according to an invitation for the event. The cost to take part in a separate VIP reception with Castro is $1,000 per head.
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