By Mike Cook
Las Cruces Bulletin
LAS CRUCES – U.S. Congressman Ben Ray Lujan will give up the seat he has held representing New Mexico’s Third Congressional District since 2009 to run for the U.S. Senate.
Lujan, 46, announced Monday, April 1, that he will run for the seat that incumbent Democrat Tom Udall has held for the past 11 years. Udall announced in late March that he will not run for re-election to a third term in the Senate in 2020.
Lujan, 46, said New Mexico needs another “champion” in the U.S. Senate who follows the example set by Udall and former New Mexico Sens. Jeff Bingaman and the late Dennis Chavez.
“’You have to earn the trust of the people of New Mexico,’” Lujan said is the advice Udall gave him in running for the Senate. As a senator, Lujan said Udall told him, “’It’s your job to serve them and it’s your responsibility.”
“It’s always been an honor to learn from Sen. Udall,” Lujan said. “He’s always been a mentor.”
“I believe I’m the strongest candidate” for the Senate, Lujan said in a telephone interview. “I’ve been humbled by all of the outreach encouraging me to the run,” he said in an online video. Lujan said a vigorous Democratic primary in the Senate race “is good for our party and good for New Mexico, so I welcome it.”
As chair of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, Lujan said on the video that he led the effort to win back control of the House (in November 2018).
“To move forward,” he said, “we’ve got to fix the Senate where (Republican Senate Majority Leader) Mitch McConnell stands in the way of progress.”
Lujan said there is “a lot of concern with President Trump’s approach to immigration,” including cutting U.S. aid to El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala. Instead, Lujan said, Trump “should be working with those countries” to address the violence that is causing people to flee those countries. More investment is needed for humanitarian efforts and to support asylum seekers, he said.
“We are willing to work together on a bipartisan basis” to deal with immigration, Lujan said, including improved technology for screening at all U.S. ports of entry and filling vacancies among customs officers and judges with authority in immigration issues.
Additional challenges for New Mexicans include reducing the cost of health care and prescription drugs, Lujan said, protecting the environment, improving infrastructure and creating job opportunities.
Lujan said he has been a “huge proponent” of expanding broadband access across the state and of technology transfer, which he said includes the state’s national laboratories and institutions like New Mexico State University. In the U.S. House, Lujan said he has helped pass legislation to deal with the nation’s opioid crisis, reduce student-loan debt and to support advanced research.
“We have to work together,” Lujan said. “We have differences of opinion, but we all have the same goal. Our best days are ahead of us,” the congressman said. “It’s up to each and every one of us.”
Lujan said he and his staff “care about our constituents very much,” and about one-third of the constituent service his office provides in northern New Mexico is veteran related.
“My team is very aggressive,” he said. That service, Lujan said, is “something I will take across the state” if he is elected to the U.S. Senate.
Lujan still lives on the farm he grew up on in Nambé, about 15 miles north of Santa Fe. He has a bachelor’s of business administration degree from New Mexico Highlands University. Lujan was elected to the New Mexico Public Regulatory Commission in 2005 and served through 2008 when he was elected to the U.S. House. He currently serves as assistant speaker of the U.S. House.
Lujan’s father, Ben Lujan, represented Santa Fe County in the New Mexico House of Representatives 1975-2012, including the last 10 years as House speaker.
Ben Ray Lujan said he learned from his parents and grandparents “that hard work matters, that no job is too big or too small. They instilled in me a love for New Mexico,” he said.
Mike Cook may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.