James B. Hale/The Daily TimesU.S. Rep. Ben Ray Luj n looks out at the flood damage across the city on a guided tour Monday evening. processed by
James B. Hale/The Daily Times U.S. Rep. Ben Ray Luj n looks out at the flood damage across the city on a guided tour Monday evening. processed by IntelliTune on 26102012 172017 with script _New - Normal- CTP
FARMINGTON — With less than two weeks until Election Day, the race for New Mexico's Third Congressional District may already be decided.

Most recent polls show incumbent U.S. Rep. Ben Ray Luj n, D-N.M., with a 24 point lead over Republican challenger Jefferson Byrd.

The latest campaign finance figures released by the Federal Election Commission show that Byrd's campaign has $12,350 cash in hand while Luj n's campaign has $473,369.

And historically, a Democrat has represented the district. In the past 30 years, a republican has represented the district for just two years 1997-99.

Byrd is not ready to give up the fight.

Byrd, 41, and Luj n, 40, both promise to make bolstering the local and regional economy their number one priority. Their backgrounds and approaches are different.

Byrd says Luj n has failed as a representative and is out of touch with his constituents. The region's growing economic problems are just one indication, he said.

"There's no reason for New Mexico to be 50th out of 50 in personal wealth," Byrd said. "We're in a race to the bottom. That's got to be turned around."

For Byrd, it's a matter of attitude. A representative has to be unified in voice with his or her constituents, he said.

"I will not be afraid to meet with the people and discuss the issues," he said. "You can't say you're someone's representative if you're not accessible."

Luj n argues that he's made an effort to meet directly with his constituents through programs such as Congress on Your Corner.


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He has racked up 54,000 miles to meet directly with the people, he said.

"It's very important to me," Luj n said. "I approach representing the people in a very serious way. That's why I've traveled as much as I have."

There is, perhaps, no more clear difference between the candidates than their backgrounds.

Byrd was born in Springer and was raised on his family's ranch outside of Mosquero. He earned a bachelor's degree in agricultural engineering from New Mexico State University and worked for Environeering Inc.

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processed by IntelliTune on 26102012 171803 with script _New - Normal- CTP
, an environmental consulting firm based in Texas. When his father died, he took a job the Navajo Refinery in Artesia and managed the ranch part time.

In 2008, he moved to Tucumcari and took over management of the family ranch. This is Byrd's first run for public office.

Luj n, son of outgoing state House Speaker Ben Luj n, D-Namb , is serving his second term representing Northern New Mexico. He was raised near Namb and holds a bachelor's in business administration from New Mexico Highlands University. Prior to joining Congress he served four years as a Public Regulation Commission member.

He was the Deputy State Treasurer, Director of Administrative Services and Chief Financial Officer for the state Cultural Affairs Department prior to serving on the PRC. Luj n currently sits on the Natural Resources Committee and the Science, Space and Technology Committee.

Luj n's voting record stands solidly with Democrat party lines. The Washington Post's U.S. Congress Votes Database shows that he has supported his party's position 93 percent of the time in his current term.

He supports the Affordable Healthcare Act, sometimes called Obamacare, increasing taxes on "millionaires and billionaires" and cutting taxes on the middle class and small businesses.

Byrd stances are surprisingly less hawkish than other Republicans.

He supports stimulating the regional and national economy by simplifying the tax code and reducing regulations, repealing the Affordable Healthcare Act in favor of allowing health insurance providers to compete in the private sector.

He is moderate on the possibility of military action in Iran taking Luj n's stance that all diplomatic efforts should be exhausted before a use of force is considered.

Byrd says his experience in the oil and gas industry and his early life on the family ranch make him a far better candidate to represent the people of Northern New Mexico. Luj n, he says, is a career politician.

"I was an environmental engineer for a number of years," Byrd said. "I have a fairly good grasp of what goes on in the oil field. My whole focus will be on getting jobs back to New Mexico"

Luj n says he will work to support energy production in San Juan County and state wide. 

He supports coal based energy production and the State Natural Gas Act of 2012, a bill that will amend the Natural Gas Act to provide assistance to states looking to carry out initiatives to promote the use of natural gas as a transportation fuel and public and private investment in natural gas vehicles and transportation infrastructure.

The bill is currently being reviewed by the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources.

"We need to invest in making coal smarter and more efficient," he said. "We need to develop the infrastructure. This isn't new technology."

Luj n also supports investment in renewable energy sources, and sees it as an emerging industry that could fuel economic development.