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Who wants to be New Mexico’s next governor?

Sen. Tom Udall

Sen. Tom Udall

Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham

Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham

Copyright © 2016 Albuquerque Journal

Two – and possibly three – members of the New Mexico congressional delegation are considering a run for governor in 2018.

Sen. Tom Udall and Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham, both New Mexico Democrats, told the Journal on Wednesday they are seriously mulling gubernatorial bids in 2018. Rep. Steve Pearce, the delegation’s lone Republican, also said he would at least consider the prospect of a run for the powerful fourth-floor office at the Roundhouse in Santa Fe.

Democrats failed to recapture either the House or Senate on Tuesday, and Republican Donald Trump pulled off a surprise upset of Democrat Hillary Clinton in the race for the White House. The Republican sweep marks the first time in a decade that the GOP has controlled both Congress and the presidency, which will make it even more difficult for Democrats to get their legislation signed into law.

Udall, 68, has been mulling a run for governor for more than a year. Clinton’s defeat could make that option more attractive. The dean of New Mexico’s congressional delegation first told the Journal that he was considering a gubernatorial run in 2015, and the two-term senator sounded even more serious about the prospect in an interview Wednesday. Udall, whose current Senate term expires in 2020, could run for governor in 2018 without relinquishing his Senate seat.

If Udall won the governor’s race in 2018, he would appoint his Senate replacement.

“I have not made a decision … but I have an open mind,” Udall said, adding that he would decide whether to run for governor “very soon” but declined to specify when.

Asked if the prospect of losing power under a Republican-controlled House, Senate and White House occupied by Republican President Trump would factor into his decision to run for governor, Udall said: “Is that part of the calculation? Of course.”

Lujan Grisham said that while she was honored to be re-elected to a third term Tuesday and looks forward to continuing her work in Washington, she is eyeing the New Mexico Governor’s Office partly because the chief executive of a state has more power than a member of the U.S. House.

“Running for governor gives you a sense of maybe being able to have more control over getting things done,” she said.

Asked whether she would run for governor even if Udall made it clear he planned to seek the office, Lujan Grisham, 57, suggested she might.

“I certainly haven’t been shy about jumping into primaries (elections) that are tough,” she said.

Rep. Steve Pearce

Rep. Steve Pearce

Pearce, who publicly supported Trump and spoke at his campaign rally in Albuquerque in late October, stands to gain clout in Washington under the new power structure that will take hold inside the Beltway in January.

The conservative Hobbs Republican, who was re-elected to a seventh term on Tuesday, hasn’t ruled out a run for the Governor’s Office but remained noncommittal Wednesday. Pearce, 69, is often cited by political observers as being too conservative to win a statewide race in Democratic-leaning New Mexico. He lost bids for a statewide Senate seat in New Mexico in 2000 and 2008.

“We’ll sit down and start looking at that sometime next year,” Pearce told the Journal on Wednesday. “Right now, we’re just thinking about serving in this (U.S. House) office right here.”

One member of the New Mexico congressional delegation who is definitely not running for governor is Sen. Martin Heinrich, a Democrat who is up for re-election to a second Senate term in 2018. Heinrich, 45, told the Journal on Wednesday he is planning to run for re-election.

Rep. Ben Ray Luján, a 44-year-old Democrat who chairs the Democrat Congressional Campaign Committee, was traveling Wednesday and could not be reached for comment. Aides to Luján, who was re-elected to a fifth House term on Tuesday, have previously told the Journal that the northern New Mexico congressman is not planning to seek the Governor’s Office in 2018.

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