Contractor with local connections seeks U.S. Senate seat

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FARMINGTON — While the dust from the 2016 presidential election seems to have barely settled, some New Mexicans already are gearing up for the 2018 elections.

Democratic Party leaders hope their party regains a majority in the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate. M.P. Schildmeyer, the vice chair of the San Juan County Democratic Party, said it is important for Democratic New Mexico incumbents Rep. Ben Ray Lujan and Sen. Martin Heinrich to keep their seats.

In addition, the local Democratic Party hopes to recruit strong candidates to run for state legislative positions. Currently, all local state legislators are members of the Republican Party.

Schildmeyer said the party also wants to have a Democrat elected to the governor's office, as Republican Gov. Susana Martinez will not be eligible to run again because of term limits. U.S. Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham, D-N.M., already has announced plans to run for governor, but she is the only candidate to officially declare for the office so far.

Even so, campaigning for other offices has begun. This morning, Republican U.S Senate candidate Mick Rich, 63, visited Farmington, and met with local leaders and residents.

While Rich has an Albuquerque address, he said he considers himself a resident of much of the state due to the transient nature of his job. As a contractor, Rich has moved from place to place, depending on the contracts his business receives. Recently, he worked on the expansion of the Farmington Museum at Gateway Park.

If he earns the Republican nomination, Rich likely will face incumbent Heinrich in the 2018 race. Heinrich is a former Albuquerque city councilor with a background in engineering. He served two terms as a member of the U.S. House of Representatives before being elected to the U.S. Senate in 2012.

Schildmeyer said Heinrich has a record of supporting environmental protection, affordable health care, women's reproductive rights and same-sex marriage. She said the environment and health care will be two of the issues affecting New Mexicans during the upcoming years.

Rich said he has has five key platform issues — the economy, the military, taxes, energy and health care.

"When I first moved here, the opportunities that existed here in New Mexico were huge," Rich said.

He said those opportunities have slowly moved away from the state, and his goal is to bring them back. Rich said he will focus on reducing government regulations on the oil and gas industry, and providing the state's military bases and federal labs with a mission and funding.

Rich opposes federal lands being declared national parks, preserves or wilderness area. He said those moves prohibit oil and gas-related businesses from using the land.

"It's got to stop," he said. "Otherwise, rural New Mexico is going to dry up and blow away."

Hannah Grover covers government for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4652.

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