The 2018 general election is nearly two years away, but it appears we’ve already hit the starting line.
At least a half-dozen New Mexico Democrats have expressed interest in running for governor in two years, a list that includes Attorney General Hector Balderas, U.S. Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham, D-N.M., and state Sen. Joseph Cervantes of Las Cruces.
Santa Fe Mayor Javier Gonzales added his name to the mix in recent days, saying he’s “reflecting” on a possible gubernatorial bid, partly because of concerns that the state is not properly funding education.
Other potential candidates have also emerged, including media executive Jeff Apodaca, the son of former Gov. Jerry Apodaca, and Santa Fe businessman Alan Webber, who sought the Democratic Party nomination for governor in 2014.
Webber told the Journal he would not have weighed a 2018 run if U.S. Sen. Tom Udall, D-N.M., had decided to pursue the race, but Udall said last week that he would remain in the Senate and bypass the gubernatorial race.
“I think Tom Udall would have made a great governor,” Webber said. “But if he’s not going to run, I think I should take a hard look at it.”
Apodaca, who has never run for elected office, said he would have considered entering the race regardless of Udall’s decision, describing himself as frustrated by the state’s low rankings in numerous national studies.
“I think there needs to be some new ideas, new direction and new blood,” Apodaca said.
The 2018 governor’s race could be attractive for Democrats and Republicans alike, because two-term GOP Gov. Susana Martinez is barred from seeking re-election.
However, winning election as the state’s chief executive requires lots of time on the campaign trail and serious fundraising chops – Martinez took in more than $6.7 million in contributions during her 2010 gubernatorial bid.
Although no candidates have formally announced for the 2018 race yet, don’t be surprised if they start coming soon, as the field will likely be solidified by the end of next year.
One high-profile Democrat who has ruled out a run is state Auditor Tim Keller, who told the Journal last week, “I’m not looking at governor.”
Keller has acknowledged his interest in running next year for mayor of Albuquerque.
Meanwhile, Republicans who are considered possible 2018 gubernatorial candidates include Lt. Gov. John Sanchez, U.S. Rep. Steve Pearce and Albuquerque Mayor Richard Berry, who will not seek re-election next year to his current job.
Dan Boyd: firstname.lastname@example.org