New Mexico Dems brace for crowded race to succeed Udall

New Mexico Democrats are racing to line up support just days after Sen. Tom UdallThomas (Tom) Stewart UdallNew Mexico senators request probe into militia group detaining migrants Latino group urges state lawmaker to make primary challenge to Democrat for Georgia House seat Embattled senators fill coffers ahead of 2020 MORE (D) stunned the state's political class by announcing his retirement at the end of two terms in the Senate.
 
At least four prominent Democrats are eyeing bids to succeed Udall, multiple sources familiar with their thinking said, including two statewide-elected officials and two members of Congress.
 
ADVERTISEMENT
State Attorney General Hector Balderas (D) may be the first candidate out of the gate. Balderas, 45, will announce his intentions Thursday morning on an Albuquerque radio station. A spokesman said Balderas would release a video at the same time, a strong indication that the two-term attorney general is moving toward a Senate bid.
 
The spokesman, James Hallinan, declined to say whether Balderas would run. Balderas ran for a Senate seat in 2012, losing the Democratic primary to then-Rep. Martin HeinrichMartin Trevor HeinrichNew Mexico senators request probe into militia group detaining migrants Lawmakers, tech set for clash over AI Why America needs the ability to track enemy missiles from space MORE (D), who went on to win the seat in the general election.
 
Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver (D) is also likely to jump in the race, according to one senior New Mexico Democrat who had spoken directly to her. Oliver, first elected statewide in 2016, has raised her profile this legislative session by pushing an ambitious package of voting rights measures.
 
Perhaps the most prominent Democrat eyeing the race is Rep. Ben Ray Lujan (D), the No. 4 Democrat in House leadership. In the 24 hours since Udall announced his retirement, dozens of friends from New Mexico and Democratic colleagues in the Capitol reached out to Lujan and encouraged him to run. Sources close to Lujan say he is leaning toward jumping in the Senate race.
 
"I've been humbled by the amount of calls and encouragement that we've been getting from around New Mexico. So we're going to continue to visit with people from around the state, and consider how best we can serve the beautiful state that I call home," Lujan told The Hill.
 
He declined to say whether he would run, praising Udall's two terms in the Senate.
 
Lujan's interest in a Senate seat comes even as he ascends the ranks of Democratic leadership in the House. He is close to Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy Patricia D'Alesandro PelosiDemocrats are playing voters on their fantasies for impeachment The Hill's Morning Report - Trump tells House investigators 'no' Seven big decisions facing Biden in 2020 primary MORE (D-Calif.), coming off two terms as head of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC), and seen as a potential future candidate for Speaker.
 
But Lujan's path to the Senate would almost certainly be easier than his path to the Speaker's office. Both of Pelosi's longtime lieutenants -- Majority Leader Steny HoyerSteny Hamilton HoyerDems charge ahead on immigration Julián Castro: Trump should be impeached for trying to obstruct justice 'in very concrete ways' Dems seek to rein in calls for impeachment MORE (D-Md.) and Majority Whip Jim ClyburnJames (Jim) Enos ClyburnNew Mexico Dems brace for crowded race to succeed Udall Democrats hurting themselves with handling of Ilhan Omar controversy Biden speaking to Dems on Capitol Hill as 2020 speculation mounts: report MORE (D-S.C.) -- have eyed the top job for years. And Lujan, 46, is just one of a handful of ambitious and talented young leaders looking to climb the leadership ladder, including Caucus Chairman Hakeem JeffriesHakeem Sekou JeffriesDems attack Barr's credibility after report of White House briefings on Mueller findings The Hill's 12:30 Report: Assange faces US charges after dramatic arrest Dem leader: Trump's Fed picks like something out of 'SNL' MORE (D-N.Y.), DCCC Chair Cheri BustosCheryl (Cheri) Lea BustosRussia's election interference is a problem for the GOP 2020 is the Democrats' to lose — and they very well may DCCC opens Texas office to protect House pickups, target vulnerable GOP seats MORE (D-Ill.) and Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam SchiffAdam Bennett SchiffOn The Money: Treasury misses second Dem deadline on Trump tax returns | Waters renews calls for impeachment | Dem wants Fed pick to apologize for calling Ohio cities 'armpits of America' | Stocks reach record high after long recovery On The Money: Cain withdraws from Fed consideration | Says he didn't want 'pay cut' | Trump sues to block subpoena for financial records | Dems plot next move in Trump tax-return battle Pelosi downplays impeachment post-Mueller report MORE (D-Calif.), a Pelosi protege.
 
A source close to Lujan said future thoughts of moving up the leadership ladder were not factors in his deliberations about whether to run for Udall's Senate seat.
 
The final wildcard is Rep. Deb HaalandDebra HaalandPark Service defends funds used to stay open during shutdown Ben Ray Luján to run for New Mexico Senate seat New Mexico Dems brace for crowded race to succeed Udall MORE (D), just three months into her first term in Congress. Haaland, one of the first two Native American women in Congress, has left the door open to a bid.
 
"Thank you for love and encouragement New Mexico!" Haaland tweeted late Tuesday. "I hear you, and I'm giving the Senate race a lot of thought and consideration. I'll let you know when we've got news to share!"
 
Few Republicans immediately declared their interest in mounting a race that would be an uphill battle in an increasingly blue state that former Secretary of State Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonForget the spin: Five unrefuted Mueller Report revelations Former senators launching effort to help Dems win rural votes Biden's announcement was a general election message, says political analyst MORE won by 8 percentage points in 2016. Republicans have not won a Senate race in New Mexico since Pete Domenici won his final term in 2002, and their last prominent statewide officeholder, former Gov. Susana Martinez, left office earlier this year with dismal approval ratings.