New Mexico state Sen. Cliff Pirtle has confirmed he is interested in running for Congress as seven-term incumbent U.S. Rep. Steve Pearce eyes a race for governor.
“My wife and I have discussed this privately,” Pirtle told the Daily Record Wednesday. “I’ve had a few people contact me saying that my name is being circulated.”
Pearce, the only Republican among New Mexico’s five-member congressional delegation, is meeting with community leaders outside his congressional district as he considers running for governor of New Mexico in 2018. Republican Gov. Susana Martinez cannot run for a third term in 2018 due to term limits.
Asked if a potential congressional campaign is contingent on Pearce’s decision, Pirtle said he really didn’t know.
“I’ve been approached by different people,” said the 31-year-old Pirtle. “I think there’s interest there just to being a part of trying to make America better and going to Washington to improve the economy for the state of New Mexico.”
Pearce, R-Hobbs, and Pirtle, R-Roswell, squared off in the June 2010 Republican primary for the 2nd Congressional District, when Pearce won 84.8 percent of votes cast, compared to Pirtle’s 15.2 percent.
“That was before I had children,” Pirtle said, referring to the demands placed on members of Congress to travel back and forth between Capitol Hill and their respective states.
Pearce spokeswoman Keeley Christensen told the newspaper last month that Pearce was touring counties in northern New Mexico, outside his congressional district, to listen to concerns about the state’s direction. Christensen said Pearce “will ultimately make a decision based on how he feels he can best serve New Mexico.”
The possibility of an open seat for the 2nd Congressional District, which entails the southern half of the state, has prompted speculation on who might run to succeed Pearce in Washington D.C.
“My wife and I have just been discussing the possibility, weighing the pros and the cons,” said Pirtle, a farmer who has worked at Pirtle Farms for over 12 years.
Pirtle was first elected to a four-year term in the state Senate in 2012 when he defeated Senate majority whip and 34-year incumbent Democrat state Sen. Tim Jennings. Pirtle ran unopposed in 2016 in both the Republican primary and general election for Senate District 32, which includes Roswell, Artesia, Dexter, Hagerman, Lake Arthur and Mescalero in Chaves, Eddy and Otero counties.
Pirtle is not up for re-election until 2020, so he would not have to choose next year whether to run for re-election to his Senate seat or for Congress. He said he would make a decision about a congressional bid later this summer.
“I would say probably no later than the first of August,” he said.
Pearce currently is serving his seventh term in New Mexico’s southernmost congressional district. The 2nd Congressional District includes all of Chaves, Catron, Cibola, De Baca, Doña Ana, Eddy, Grant, Guadalupe, Hidalgo, Lea, Lincoln, Luna, Otero, Sierra and Socorro counties, and portions of Bernalillo, McKinley, Roosevelt and Valencia counties. The congressional district is geographically the fifth largest district in the nation, and the largest one that does not comprise an entire state.
Not since former Republican U.S. Rep. Joe Skeen retired from Congress in January 2003 after 11 terms has the state’s southernmost congressional district had a representative who resided in Roswell.
Pirtle, who was raised in Roswell and graduated from Roswell High School in 2004, has gained statewide recognition in the state Senate in recent years with his legislative efforts to place New Mexico on daylight saving time year-round.
Skeen also served in the New Mexico Senate before first running for Congress in 1980.
Pirtle was recently reappointed to serve as a voting member on three interim committees of the New Mexico Legislature, which meet when the Legislature is not in session, and as an advisory member on two additional committees.
Pirtle was reappointed this month to serve as a voting member on the Indian Affairs Committee, the Water and Natural Resources Committee and the Land Grant Committee.
Pirtle was also reappointed as an advisory member to the Public Schools Capital Outlay Oversight Task Force and the Legislative Council, which is made up of leaders of both the New Mexico Senate and House of Representatives, as well as additional legislators.
During the interim, the committees examine the effectiveness of state government, including the operations of all of its departments and agencies, and how they can be improved to serve the citizens of New Mexico. The committees also consider proposed legislation for endorsement.
When the Legislature is in session, Pirtle serves on the Senate Rules and the Senate Indian Affairs committees.
Interim editor Jeff Tucker can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 302, or at email@example.com.