Rep. Ben Ray Lujan (D-N.M.) won't run for retiring Sen. Jeff Bingaman's seat, Democratic sources have confirmed, clearing the way for what is shaping up as a two-candidate Democratic contest between Rep. Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.) and state Auditor Hector Balderas (D).
New Mexico politics blogger Joe Monahan first reported Monday that Lujan told local Democrats in Farmington that he will run for re-election to his House seat, rather than the Senate.
Lujan's decision is likely a break for Balderas, who filed statement of candidacy papers last week and is set to officially announce his candidacy this week. As prominent Hispanic pols, Balderas and Lujan could have split a big chunk of the Hispanic vote, allowing Heinrich to take advantage.
Former Lt. Gov. Diane Denish is another prominent name has been mentioned as possibility for the Senate race, though NMPolitics.com reported last week that she is taking a look at a run for the House seat Heinrich is vacating. Activist Andres Valdez is also in the Democratic race, but does not figure to be major factor in the primary.
On the GOP side of the Senate race, former Rep. Heather Wilson (R) is the front-runner. Lt. Gov. John Sanchez (R) is considering entering the race as well. If he runs, both the Democratic and Republican primaries would feature a high-profile matchup between a prominent Hispanic candidate and a prominent Anglo candidate.
5:21 p.m. update: In a statement, Lujan said, "after careful consideration, I have decided that I will not seek the Democratic nomination for the U.S. Senate race. I look forward to building on my work as Chair of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus' BOLD PAC and as a member of the DCCC's recruiting committee to recruit strong candidates who reflect the growing diversity of our country and who will be a part of our effort to take back the House. "
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