- Associated Press - Thursday, July 20, 2017

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) - The primary race for an open congressional seat in central New Mexico is set to become one of the most diverse in the country.

So far, the race has attracted nine candidates - seven Democrats and two Republicans - and even more may jump in within the next few weeks.

A Native American woman, an openly gay white male, a Hispanic former U.S. attorney, a Sandia National Laboratories physicist and a conservative immigration lawyer are among those seeking to replace Democratic U.S. Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham, who is running for governor in 2018.

Debra Haaland, a member of Laguna Pueblo, hopes to become the nation’s first Native American congresswoman. Pat Davis, an Albuquerque city councilor, is vying to be New Mexico’s first openly gay member of Congress.

The race features Damon Martinez, a former U.S. attorney for the District of New Mexico who led the office during Justice Department reforms of Albuquerque police and who was ordered to resign earlier this year by the Trump administration. Joining him are physicist Dennis Dinge, Edgewood Mayor Pro Tem John Abrams, attorney Damian Lara and former law professor Antoinette Sedillo Lopez. All are Democrats.

Republicans include lawyer Michael Hendricks. He grew up in Aguascalientes, Mexico where his parents worked as missionaries. He now works with immigrant communities in Santa Fe and New Mexico. His only opponent so far is former state lawmaker Janice Arnold-Jones, who ran unsuccessfully for the seat in 2012.

Republicans have not held the seat since 2009.

Christina Marie Sierra, a co-author of “Contested Transformation: Race, Gender, and Political Leadership in 21st Century America,” said the diversity of candidates in the 1st District race is a reflection of New Mexico.

It’s also a reflection of the push for more diverse candidates.

“Even Janice Arnold-Jones is an example of the diversity within the Republican Party,” said Sierra, a retired political science professor at the University of New Mexico. “She would increase the ranks of women within the party.”


Russell Contreras is a member of AP’s race and ethnicity team. Follow Russell Contreras on Twitter at https://twitter.com/russcontreras

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