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FARMINGTON — U.S. Rep. Ben Ray Luján announced his bid for the U.S. Senate today.

Luján decided to run for the seat being vacated by Sen. Tom Udall, who announced on March 25 he will not seek re-election to a third term in 2020.

"What an incredible and exciting day," Luján said in a telephone interview this afternoon.

He said he was humbled to hear encouragement from constituents, family and friends as he considered a run for the Senate.

"It was after a lot of conversations with people around New Mexico, and with my family that I ultimately made the decision to announce that I would run for the U.S. Senate seat," Luján said.

"And it came through the lens of how could we be a strong voice for the people of New Mexico going forward," he said.

In a one-minute video message released by the campaign this morning, the fourth-ranking House Democrat touted work to win back the House from Republican control and ongoing efforts to lower prescription drug prices and health care costs.

Luján was chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee during the midterm campaign last year.

During the telephone interview, he said health care continues to be one of the most pressing issues that lawmakers need to address, especially considering action by the Trump administration and the Republican-controlled Senate to repeal the Affordable Care Act.

"There's so much work that we have to do, and health care will be front and center," he said.

He added that he continues to advocate for infrastructure, including increasing broadband access across the state, and holding the U.S. EPA accountable for the Gold King Mine spill.

"We cannot grow in many of our communities if we do not have access to faster, affordable internet," he said.

Luján has represented the Third Congressional District, which includes San Juan County and the Navajo Nation, since 2008. He previously was a member of the New Mexico Public Regulation Commission.

So far, one state lawmaker said today that he is running for Luján's seat.

State Rep. Joseph L. Sanchez, D-Colfax, Mora, Rio Arriba and San Miguel, announced his candidacy in a statement posted on Twitter.

"I view the opportunity to run for the CD3 seat as an opportunity to create and further policy having a larger, more positive impact on our northern New Mexico communities," Sanchez said.

Noel Lyn Smith covers the Navajo Nation for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4636 or by email at nsmith@daily-times.com.

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