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Contractor to vie for Heinrich’s Senate seat

SANTA FE – Albuquerque contractor Mick Rich has been eyeing a run for the U.S. Senate seat currently held by Democratic incumbent Martin Heinrich for several years – and he’s now ready to make it official.

Rich, a Republican, is expected to formally announce his candidacy in the coming weeks, but said Tuesday that he’s definitely in the race.

While he’s never run for elected office before, Rich said his business experience – he’s worked as a commercial contractor for more than 30 years – would provide a different perspective for New Mexico’s congressional delegation.

“I’ve been building communities around New Mexico for 35 years,” Rich told the Journal. “I don’t think more government is going to solve our problems.”

If elected, he said he would push for relaxed restrictions on federal land use and more funding with solidified missions for the state’s federal laboratories, while describing high crime and drug overdose rates in New Mexico as a barrier to economic development.

Rich also described Heinrich as being out of touch with state voters, citing his vote against confirming former Texas Gov. Rick Perry as secretary of the U.S. Energy Department as an example.

However, before facing off against Heinrich, Rich could face opposition in the GOP primary. Though no other Republicans have announced candidacies, that could change in the coming months.

Meanwhile, Heinrich could be a formidable foe on the campaign trail. The former two-term U.S. House member and Albuquerque city councilman, who will be up for re-election for the first time in 2018 since being elected to the U.S. Senate in 2012, took in more than $1.3 million in contributions this quarter and has about $2.5 million on hand in his campaign account, according to federal reports.

Rich founded Mick Rich contractors in 1988 and is a member of the state Labor and Industrial Commission. His firm’s projects have included building and renovating schools and churches around New Mexico, including the San Felipe de Neri Parish in Albuquerque’s Old Town.

He said Tuesday he dislikes political labels, but feels he would be able to work effectively with President Donald Trump’s administration and current congressional leaders.

New Mexico’s other U.S. senator is Tom Udall, also a Democrat, who recently decided against running for governor and won’t be up for re-election until 2020.