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Barela, Steinborn might join congressional races

Jon Barela, left, and Jeff Steinborn

The playing fields are set for many 2012 U.S. House and Senate races across the nation, but the dynamics might still change dramatically in the 1st and 2nd congressional district races in New Mexico.

Jon Barela, the Republican Party’s 2010 nominee for the Albuquerque-area 1st Congressional District seat, confirmed Friday that he’s still considering making another attempt at winning the seat next year.

And former State Rep. Jeff Steinborn, D-Las Cruces, confirmed Friday that he’s seriously considering running against U.S. Rep. Steve Pearce, the Republican who represents the Southern New Mexico 2nd Congressional District. Steinborn said that’s not the only race he’s looking at.

The entrance of either into a congressional race would reshape that contest.

A lackluster CD1 GOP primary

The most recent finance reports revealed competitive Democratic and Republican primaries in the race for the open 1st District seat – but on the Republican side, many are unhappy with their choices. Janice Arnold-Jones ended the last quarter with just under $25,000 in the bank, while Dan Lewis had more than $82,000. Neither toped $50,000 in fundraising during the last quarter – which some say is a sign that donors are waiting to see what Barela does or are hoping for another strong candidate to enter the race.

During a visit to Las Cruces, Barela, the state’s economic development secretary, said Friday he’s still “very much looking at” the 1st District race but said he’s waiting to see what redistricting does to the makeup of the district. That process is currently in the courts.

In the meantime, Barela said he’s “laser-focused” on his current job and won’t be distracted from it, but he acknowledged that many are encouraging him to run for Congress.

“I’m humbled by the ongoing support and encouragement of those who are urging me to get into the race,” Barela said.

On the Democratic side, the 1st District candidates are former Albuquerque Mayor Marty Chávez, State Sen. Eric Griego, and Bernalillo County Commissioner Michelle Lujan Grisham.


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Barela would likely be able to raise money quickly and possibly establish himself as the frontrunner in the GOP primary if he decided to run. Until he decides whether to do that, the race remains fluid. Arnold-Jones and Lewis won’t go down without a fight. Lewis has already hired Barela’s 2010 finance director to fill that job for his campaign.

A serious challenge for Pearce?

Meanwhile, Pearce currently isn’t facing a serious challenge. Though two Democrats are launching long-shot bids to unseat him – Evelyn Madrid Erhard and Frank McKinnon – neither had reached the $5,000 fundraising limit by Sept. 30 that required the filing of an FEC report.

The race would change dramatically if Steinborn runs.

“At this point in time I am looking at that, as well as other options,” Steinborn said. “Steve Pearce is, without question, one of the worst congressmen in America, and a person who has continually put his own interests and his political interests above the interests of our country. It’s time that he goes.”

Steinborn, who lost his re-election bid for his state House seat last year, has a strong and active base in Las Cruces. Many doubt a Democrat has a shot against Pearce next year, but Steinborn isn’t one of them.

“As we’ve seen the last several elections, anything can happen,” he said. “I think when politicians start pigeonholing citizens, saying they’re only going to vote this way, they’re only going to vote that way, that doesn’t give them enough credit.”

“So-called safe seats have changed parties all across America when voters think we need change. I believe this is one of those years,” Steinborn said. “Steve Pearce has brought special distinction to himself through his extreme and destructive behavior as a congressman, and I think voters can see that. It is especially time for a change here.”

“Whether you’re part of the tea party or part of the 99 percent – wherever you fall on that spectrum – people are ready for change,” he said. “They’re ready for Washington to start dealing with the biggest problems in this country in a bipartisan way.”

Steinborn ran unsuccessfully for Congress in 2004, before he was elected to the state Legislature, so he’s familiar with the district. He said he’s committed to making sure Pearce is defeated, even if he’s not the candidate challenging Pearce.

He said he’s also looking at running for a seat in the state Legislature and waiting to see how redistricting affects things.

“There’s a range of things being looked at, and, candidly, I’ve gotten a fair amount of encouragement from different quarters for various offices,” Steinborn said.

Pearce’s last finance report showed that he had more than $433,000 on hand on Sept. 30.

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13 comments so far. Scroll down to submit your own comment.

  1. Dr J, correct me if I’m wrong but I think there is some oil and gas production activity is Pearce’s district.  If I look at a map it makes sense that many of those companies involved in that activity are not headquartered in Santa Fe or Albuquerque.  But I could be wrong (eyes roll)

  2. Interested says:  ”Steve Pearce gets 46% of his contributions from OUTSIDE of New Mexico, mostly from oil and gas, including the Koch Industries.”

    Interesting alright.   Maplight also says:  ”Tom Udall received 62% of campaign contributions ($887,181) from outside his district. (Rank: 369 out of 421.)
    Tom Udall received 56% of campaign contributions ($799,920) from outside his state. (Rank: 216 out of 421.)”

    And of course they were mostly from trial lawyers and enviro-pressure groups.  Pity they don’t or won’t show Jeff, Ben Ray, and Marty’s breakdowns geographically.  I would say Steve looks pretty locally focused compared to others.

  3. Steve Pearce gets 46% of his contributions from OUTSIDE of New Mexico, mostly from oil and gas, including the Koch Industries.  See maplight.org.  The father of Charles and David Koch was a founding member of the John Birch Society. 

  4. Well Jeff is more qualified than Ben Ray Lujan, so he’s got that going for him.

  5. It would be a careless act if New Mexico voters were unresponsive to Mr. Steinborn’s efforts to become the candidate for Mr. Pearce’s seat in Congress. Steve Pearce has served his country (thank him for that), and become a successful business owner… we cannot “punish” him for that!
    However, he has done little else to aid New Mexican constituents and nothing for the national
    well-being. His Super-Right views spill over in his written comments, his voting pattern (when he is present for a vote), and he has no idea of the meaning of elected stewardship. Stewardship for a congressman becomes the job of placing America First… not party-above-all!
    I urge all who can vote to do so, first, but urge Mr. Steinborn’s campaign to “light-up and put the red-head into Congress where he can make a difference.”

  6. Hemingway, would it be possible for ANY democrat running against Pearce not to be an “excellent” :candidate? Jeff has nothing to lose by running for any political office. Elected or not doesn’t change anything.

  7. jimspiri – yes, Barela would have resign …

  8. If Jon Barella runs, will he resign his current position?

  9. Mick,

    You really should proofread your remarks before you hit Submit.

    As ever,

    Michael J. Flynn

  10. Congressman Pearce serving seven inglorious years has done nothing for District 2. District 2 is the poorest Congressional District in New Mexico by far. The median income for 233,989 households is a paltry $36,439 with 17.6% of the families in poverty and 22.7% of individuals in poverty. There is a 11.1% unemployment rate compared to an approximate 8% for the other two districts. He is out chasing lizards in the desert, and people don’t have enough money to feed their families. How can anyone with common sense vote for this man.

    http://proximityone.com/rankingtables.htm

    However, Congressman Pearce ranks in the top ten in wealth in Congress.

  11. Hemingway: Mr. Steinborn would be an excellent Democratic candidate for Congress.

    I agree.

    Our current representative is dismissive of Democrats, even thought we make up about half of his district. Mr. Pearce calls civil servants talking heads, even tough Federal and State Government are major employers in the District. Mr. Pearce is even more dismissive of them than he is of Democrats. That is, except when he’s not pandering to that same set up folks when he needs their votes. How did WIPP soundly become a cause for the guy who says the Government can’t create jobs?

    For years, Joe Skeen represented all of his constituents, even Great Society Democrats like myself. Joe Skeen was a Republican that I proudly supported and voted for. Mr. Pearce, you’re no Joe Skeen.

    So yes. I’m for Jeff.

    As ever,

    Michael J. Flynn

  12. Barela may as well run, he isn’t doing anything in his current “job”, and his ambition and ego are far beyond it anyway. He is not happy where he is, or effective, so give it a shot. Many similarities with Jeff, except for what seems like a Don Quixote complex. May as well give it a try too Jeff, you can use other peoples’ money and so nothing to lose and it will keep you busy.

  13. Mr. Steinborn would be an excellent Democratic candidate for Congress.

    Steve Pearce has been a colossal failure in representing Southern New Mexico. In particular Dona Ana County has suffered. There has been no job creation by him. However taxpayers have made a wealthier man. The taxpayers have paid Congressman Pearce $1,148,600 for his Congressional terms in office and have given him lifetime health benefits and a pension for only five years of service. Plus he sold his Lea Fishing business to Key Energy that provides oil well services for double its value in 2003. His constituents have made Mr. Pearce a rich man – one of the wealthiest in Congress. Unfortunately he has not done much for his constituents – no job creation. He offers only far right political agenda.

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