By Jim Ellis
June 8, 2017 — A statewide New Mexico poll released late last week suggests that US Rep. Steve Pearce (R-Hobbs) is well within the competitive range of fellow US Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham (D-Albuquerque), should the two battle each other in next year’s open race for governor of New Mexico.
In December, Grisham announced that she would not seek re-election to the House, instead declaring for governor. She is the leading Democratic candidate, particularly now since Attorney General Hector Balderas, who would have been a credible gubernatorial contender, announced instead that he would seek re-election and support the congresswoman’s statewide bid. Republican Gov. Susana Martinez is ineligible to seek a third term, and the lack of an incumbent in the 2018 campaign for the state’s top public office has ignited a game of political musical chairs.
Pearce, who represents the southernmost of the three Land of Enchantment congressional districts, and the state’s only Republican seat, confirms that he is considering the gubernatorial race. He was first elected to the House in 2002, and then vacated to run for US Senate in 2008, upsetting his congressional colleague, then-Rep. Heather Wilson (R-Albuquerque), in the Republican primary but losing the general election badly to the state’s third House member, Tom Udall (D-Santa Fe), 61-39 perent. Pearce returned to the House in the 2010 election, unseating one-term Democratic Rep. Harry Teague.