Martin Heinrich was elected to Congress in November 2008 when he faced off against GOP candidate and Bernalillo County Sheriff Darren White for New Mexico 1st District. Indicative of his rising-star status in the Democratic Party, Heinrich’s congressional page indicates that he was elected “President of the Democratic Freshman Class of the 111th Congress.” Jon Barela is no lightweight, either; he used to be the state’s Republican Party vice-chair and assistant attorney general.
Candidates for New Mexico’s 1st Congressional District (two-year term)
(This district is located in the central portion of the state and includes Albuquerque. See a boundary map here.)
Candidate: Martin Heinrich
Political experience: Aside from holding the congressional seat since 2008, Heinrich is the western Regional Whip for the Democratic Party. He was appointed to the House Armed Services Committee and also the Committee on Natural Resources. Heinrich also served as President of the Albuquerque City Council.
Professional experience: Heinrich worked as executive director for the Cottonwood Gulch Foundation. He also worked at Kirtland Air Force Base and as a governor-appointed natural resources trustee for the state.
Key issues: Heinrich wants to preserve social programs, such as Social Security. He voted in favor of the unemployment benefits extension, a timetable for Afghanistan troop withdrawals and the establishment of a small-business lending fund.
Endorsements: Heinrich received the endorsements of the Sierra Club, Citizens for Global Solutions, Planned Parenthood, Defenders of Wildlife Action Fund, the National Education Association, League of Conservation voters and NARAL Pro-Choice America. Political endorsements include U.S. senators Jeff Bingaman and Tom Udall, New Mexico’s attorney general as well as a number of labor unions.
Chances of maintaining his seat: Positioning a vote for Heinrich as a vote against the Bush/Cheney status quo served the congressman well when running in 2008. Not surprisingly, the incumbent is going back to that same well again and now likens Jon Barela to a danger of “putting special interests before your interests.” It is questionable that voters will buy into this rhetoric a second time around, and perhaps this is why his lead consists of six percentage points (with a five-point margin for error). Of course, unless Barela uncovers a smoking gun or rousing campaign issue, it may just be enough to stay safe for another term.
Candidate: Jon Barela
Political experience:Barela’s political experience consists of a mix of hands-on expertise on the Albuquerque Public Schools Board and as being behind the scenes as an aide for Rep. Joe Skeen.
Professional experience: Barela is an entrepreneur who sits on the board of Cerelink, a company he describes as a “local technology start-up.” Prior to that he worked at Intel.
Key issues: Barela identifies taxes and wasteful government spending as primary problems currently plaguing New Mexico residents. He signed the Taxpayer Protection Pledge that Americans for Tax Reform designed to keep politicians accountable to their tax-related campaign promises. Barela further opposes government-run health care; he is in favor of health care reform.
Endorsements: The right to Life Committee of New Mexico and the National Federation of Independent Business are two of the political endorsements of Jon Barela. He is also garnering a very respectable list of grassroots Democratic endorsements.
Chances of unseating Martin Heinrich: Heinrich is a very vulnerable incumbent. As previously outlined, the poll numbers are sufficiently close to make this a very tight race. Any misstep by either candidate could result in a change of the numbers that currently favor the incumbent.
Key Differences between Martin Heinrich and Jon Barela
Health care: Barela opposes the government-run health care plan the Obama administration is currently enacting; instead, he is advocating for insurance reform. Heinrich is on board with the new legislation and its gradual implementation.
TARP: Heinrich believes in the use of government funds to help stimulate the ailing economy. This runs contrary to Barela’s philosophy of eliminating wasteful spending. The latter champions the elimination of the federal estate tax.
Climate change: Heinrich and Barela differ in their positions. Heinrich supports enactment of environmental regulations that would reduce effects of climate change; Barela opposes them.
New Mexico‘s 1st U.S. Congressional District
Location: The New Mexico 1st District is a central district that includes Albuquerque, Estancia, Moriarty and Mountainair.
2008 results: Heinrich beat Darren White with 56 percent of the vote.
Demographics: According to the U.S. Census, 72.5 percent of the district’s residents are white, 3.7 percent are black, 5.4 percent are American Indian, 2.6 percent are Asian and 19.8 percent are of another race. (Racial percentages do not add up to 100 because of the Census margin of error.) 45.5 percent of all races identify as Hispanic or Latino. About 15 percent of residents live at or below the poverty line.
The Cook Partisan Index gives the New Mexico 1st District a rating of D+5, which offers a small edge to Democratic voters.