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New Mexico: Pearce Will Seek to Regain Old Seat in 2010

Former Rep. Steve Pearce (R), who gave up his seat last year to run for Senate, announced Monday that he wants his old job back.

Pearce’s decision sets up what should be a competitive — and bloody — battle with his successor, Rep. Harry Teague (D).

The two are old friends, both products of the oil and gas industry in Lea County. Years ago, when Teague was a Lea County commissioner, he appointed Pearce to serve on the board of the county fair.

But Pearce said in an interview Monday that he has become increasingly dismayed with Teague’s record — particularly with his recent vote in favor of a climate change bill.

“The cap-and-trade thing was kind of the final straw,— Pearce said. “It’s completely at odds with this state and this district. … It’s not too risky to say that it’s going to be a very damaging vote for the state.—

Pearce’s announcement comes on the heels of a radio ad campaign by the National Republican Congressional Committee in recent days, whacking Teague for voting for the climate change bill.

Since losing the 2008 Senate race to now-Sen. Tom Udall (D), Pearce, who spent three terms in Congress, has pondered his political future.

Pearce won’t hold a district-wide announcement tour until the week of July 20. He decided to accelerate his declaration of candidacy because “we felt it necessary to respond to the burning, burning emotions that are out here— on the climate change bill.

The 2nd district, which covers the southern half of New Mexico, is conservative territory, though it has more registered Democrats than Republicans. The district gave 50 percent of its vote to Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) in the 2008 White House election and until Teague’s victory last year had not sent a Democrat to Congress since 1978.

But Teague is a conservative. And his experience in the oil patch may blunt some of the criticism Republicans hurl his way on the climate change vote. The fact that Teague shares a political base with Pearce in the heavily conservative eastern part of the district should also help him.

In a statement released after Pearce’s announcement, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee previewed the lines of attack Democrats will use against him, seeking to tie him to former President George W. Bush and blame him for the country’s financial crisis. The DCCC also listed several votes that it said were harmful to the district and state.

“With his reckless fiscal leadership having helped create the problem, Steve Pearce’s rhetoric about fighting for New Mexico families just doesn’t match up with reality,— said Andy Stone, a DCCC spokesman. “Pearce’s record is dripping with the kind of hypocrisy that New Mexicans rejected in the last election.—

Daniels Moves Toward Entering 1st District Race

Kevin Daniels (R), the owner of a funeral home chain, is moving several steps closer to challenging freshman Rep. Martin Heinrich (D).

Daniels is scheduled to be in Washington, D.C., this week to meet with officials at the National Republican Congressional Committee and other party leaders, strategists and interest groups about a possible Congressional bid.

It is not clear what kind of reception Daniels will get. Jon Barela, a businessman who is the former vice chairman of the New Mexico GOP, has already announced his candidacy, and several Republican leaders seem comfortable with the idea of Barela as their nominee. The 1st district is heavily Hispanic, and Barela would be the GOP’s first Hispanic nominee there since then-Rep. Manuel Luján won re-election in 1986.

But the Albuquerque-based district is increasingly becoming a Democratic stronghold, even though Heinrich is the first Democrat to hold the seat in more than 40 years. President Barack Obama took 60 percent of the vote there last fall.

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