A political action committee that works to recruit Hispanic candidates across the country is putting its weight behind Democratic Rep. Ben Ray Luján for the newly open Senate seat in New Mexico.
The Latino Victory Fund announced its “Run, Ben Ray, Run!” digital campaign Wednesday in an exclusive release to Roll Call.
“Luján has been a tireless advocate and progressive champion for the people of New Mexico and the Latino community across the country,“ said Melissa Mark-Viverito, the group’s interim president. “His unparalleled experience and bold leadership style will serve New Mexico well in the United States Senate.”
The fund is launching a website to recruit Luján, the No. 4 Democrat in the House, and will “focus on building grassroots support,” according to a press release.
New Mexico, now a solid Democratic state at the federal level, has the highest percentage of Hispanic residents among the 50 states, but it has not had a Latino senator since 1977.
Democratic incumbent Tom Udall announced his retirement Monday, presenting a “prime opportunity to recruit and run a strong Latino candidate,” according to the Latino Victory Fund.
The group described Luján as “a prolific fundraiser and the Democratic mastermind behind taking back the House of Representatives.”“As DCCC chairman, Ben Ray Luján is clearly the most prepared and experienced candidate who will ensure that the U.S. Senate seat in New Mexico stays in Democratic hands,” the fund said.
Luján has one of the highest profiles of the long list of potential Senate candidates named by local and national media outlets in recent days.
A campaign spokeswoman did not immediately reply to an email Wednesday asking about Luján’s plans, but Politico reported Wednesday that he was close to entering the race.
Local political experts who spoke to Roll Call this week were skeptical that he would give up his position in the House, where he is considered a top candidate for speaker when Pelosi steps down. But they said that if he does enter the race, he will automatically become a top contender. Another potential Democratic front-runner, state Attorney General Hector Balderas, plans to make an announcement about the race Thursday, his campaign said.
Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver and Reps. Deb Haaland and Xochitl Torres-Small have also been named as potential Democratic contenders. though Haaland and Torres-Small would have fewer accomplishments to point to since they are now serving their freshmen House terms.
On the Republican side, businessman and 2018 Senate candidate Mick Rich issued a press release Tuesday saying he was considering a run. Other potential candidates include former Trump official Gavin Clarkson, former Lt. Gov. John Sanchez and former Rep. Steve Pearce.
Latino Victory Fund, which supports liberal candidates, was trying to draft Arizona Rep. Ruben Gallego to run for Senate until Gallego announced Monday that he is staying in the House. The group is also working to convince Democratic Rep. Joaquin Castro to run for Senate in Texas.Also watch: First 2020 Senate race ratings are here