Her decision opens up the campaign for an awfully attractive seat — representing Albuquerque in the U.S. House of Representatives, in a district that’s never defeated an incumbent.
“This has the potential to be a big field both on the Democratic and Republican side,” said Brian Sanderoff, president of Research & Polling Inc. “Rarely are congressional districts handed over on a silver platter to any one individual.”
The last two representatives in the 1st Congressional District came out of local government — Lujan Grisham, a former Bernalillo County commissioner, and Martin Heinrich, a former Albuquerque city councilor. Heinrich is now in the Senate, and Lujan Grisham announced Tuesday that she will run for governor in 2018 rather than seek re-election.
Both are Democrats, but Sanderoff said the district is in play for either major party, depending on the mood of the country and the popularity of Republican President Donald Trump when voters head to the polls.
Among those who said Wednesday that they are considering a run are five Democrats:
■ Jacob Candelaria, a state senator and, at 29, the youngest member of the New Mexico Senate.
■ Pat Davis, a city councilor and executive director of ProgressNow New Mexico.
■ Maggie Hart Stebbins, a county commissioner who has also worked for the Mid-Region Council of Government, state Legislature and Congress.
■ Javier Martinez, a state representative and attorney for the Partnership for Community Action, a community group.
■ City Councilor Ken Sanchez, who is also eyeing a run for mayor.
More potential candidates are sure to emerge, especially on the Republican side.
Lt. Gov. John Sanchez — often mentioned as a candidate for governor, too — said he’s been encouraged to consider a run for the House.
“I have been contacted by some key Republicans in the 1st Congressional District who are offering some very strong encouragement of me to consider this,” he said in a statement released by Manuel Gonzales, a volunteer and campaign treasurer for Sanchez.
Gonzales said the encouragement “includes a sense that they have that he would be the strongest Republican candidate who could win that race.” But he added that Sanchez is focused on preparing for the coming legislative session.
Albuquerque Mayor Richard Berry, a Republican whose term ends in November next year, wouldn’t say whether he’s interested.
“Mayor Berry is dedicated to finishing the job he was elected to do,” spokewoman Rhiannon Samuel said. “He will address next steps once the time is right.”
County Commissioner Wayne Johnson, also a Republican, said he has no plans to run for Congress at this point. Instead, he’s preparing for a campaign for mayor in 2017.
The 1st Congressional District has changed over time, but it’s been held by both Republicans and Democrats. It covers much of Albuquerque, Bernalillo County and Torrance County, plus a slice of Valencia County.
But the five people who’ve held the seat since 1969 — when another congressional seat was added — have never been defeated in a re-election bid, Sanderoff said. Four left to run for another office or take another job, and one, Steve Schiff, died in office.
The previous incumbents include Republicans Manuel Lujan, Schiff and Heather Wilson. Heinrich won the seat in 2008 and election to the Senate four years later. Lujan Grisham won the office in 2012.
“It’s a winnable seat for either party,” Sanderoff said. “Holding all things equal the Democrat has the edge.”
For the record
An earlier version of this story incorrectly described Jacob Candelaria as the youngest member of the Legislature. He is the youngest senator, but Rep. Andres Romero is 12 days younger, making him the youngest member of the Legislature as a whole.