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New Mexico Republican Rep. Steve Pearce has decided to run for governor, a move that could create a high-profile clash for the state’s highest office.

Pearce announced his bid Monday morning with a video that describes a strong future for New Mexico under his leadership. 

“New Mexico has so much potential, but it needs leadership to harness it,” Pearce says in the video.

“My commitment is I’ll work hard every day bringing jobs back to the state, fixing a broken education system and relieving the poverty that we know is possible to relieve.”

Pearce is New Mexico’s only Republican member of Congress, and his district spans the southern portion of the state. He first won his seat in 2002, vacating his spot in Congress for a failed Senate bid in 2008 before mounting a successful return to the House in 2010. 

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Pearce is the only GOP candidate officially in the running for New Mexico’s governor’s mansion, but he could face a tough primary challenge if prominent Republicans decide to hop off the bench. Lt. Gov. John Sanchez and Albuquerque Mayor Richard Berry are both weighing bids, according to the Santa Fe New Mexican, as is land commissioner Aubrey Dunn. 

On the Democratic side, Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham and state Sen. Joe Cervantes are among those who have already announced. The race could ultimately boil down to a member-on-member battle if Lujan Grisham and Pearce survive. 

Republicans have held Pearce’s 2nd District for all but one term since 1981, and he cruised to reelection in 2016 by a 26-point margin. But Democrats have been eying the seat as a potential pickup opportunity. 

Open seats are far more easier for a party to flip than one held by an incumbent, so Pearce’s decision could embolden Democrats to make a push there. 

But Rep. Steve Stivers (Ohio), the head of the National Republican Congressional Committee, released a statement Monday morning that looked to head off that potential Democratic push by pointing to the tight GOP grip on the district. 

“Steve Pearce is a tireless fighter for the people of New Mexico and a valued member of the House Republican Conference,” Stivers said. 

“While we are sad to see him go, our loss is New Mexico’s gain. New Mexico’s Second District is a seat President Trump won by double digits last year, and House Republicans are confident we will be able to keep this seat in our column.”

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