A Democrat from Las Cruces on Thursday announced his campaign to unseat Republican U.S. Rep. Steve Pearce, although it remains unclear if the seven-term congressman will seek re-election to Congress, run for governor or pursue something else.
Although the general election isn’t until November 2018, David Baake said he’s not waiting to get his congressional bid started.
“Too many New Mexicans are struggling,” Baake said in a news release Thursday. “Unemployment is too high. Wages are stagnating. And now our health care is at risk. We need to start now, so we can build a movement to get our country moving in the right direction again.”
Baake, who grew up on the Texas-New Mexico border, graduated from Harvard Law School in 2014. After Harvard, he spent a year with the Natural Resources Defense Council, where he said he worked to promote clean energy and protect Americans from air pollution. Baake also spent time as an attorney in the federal judiciary, where he said he worked to promote fairness and stand up for constitutional rights.
“Growing up in a middle-class family, my parents taught me that all people deserve respect and the opportunity to succeed,” Baake said. “I’m running for Congress because I think we need to return to those values.”
Baake said Pearce’s vote for the American Health Care Act is evidence that new leadership is needed for southern New Mexico. The 2nd Congressional District, geographically one of largest congressional districts in the nation, spans the southern half of the state and represents a varied constituency from the Permian Basin oil fields of southeast New Mexico, where Republicans rule, to much more politically Democratic cities like Las Cruces and Silver City.
“The bill Pearce voted for would cause 23 million Americans to lose their health insurance, while raising costs for seniors and folks with pre-existing conditions,” Baake said. “Pearce’s vote shows he cares more about tax cuts for billionaires than the health of his constituents. We need a new voice in Washington who will defend all New Mexicans.”
Baake was also critical of Pearce’s bill to increase public access to public lands for hunting, fishing and recreational shooting. Pearce’s legislation would shrink the size of the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument from nearly 500,000 acres to 54,800 acres protected from any sort of mineral exploration/leasing and mining.
The mountain’s peaks rise above Las Cruces, and include a vast stretch of desert to the city’s west. Conservatives argue national monuments should not be any larger than necessary, and that former President Barack Obama frequently abused his executive authority conferring monument status on vast stretches of public lands.
“Our public lands are where many of us spend the most precious moments of our lives, hiking and hunting and fishing with our families,” Baake said. “I cherish them, and will fight to protect them for our kids and grandkids.”
Pearce’s flirtation with a gubernatorial campaign has prompted Republicans from southeast New Mexico to start making plans in the event Pearce, R-Hobbs, runs for governor. Pearce is currently the only Republican among New Mexico’s five-member congressional delegation.
Caleb Grant, chairman of the Republican Party of Chaves County, said many people are waiting to see what Pearce decides. Grant said if Pearce does not run for re-election to Congress, the political landscape in the congressional district would quickly change.
State Sen. Cliff Pirtle, R-Roswell, has told the Daily Record he is thinking about running for Congress. Pirtle, 31, ran unsuccessfully against Pearce in the June 2010 Republican primary for the 2nd Congressional District.
Pirtle said he would make a decision about a congressional bid by Aug. 1. The Republican and Democratic primaries are June 5.
Not since former Republican U.S. Rep. Joe Skeen retired from Congress in January 2003 after 11 two-year terms has the state’s southernmost congressional district had a representative who resided in Roswell.
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.