In a video and calls to supporters, Republican Lt. Gov. John Sanchez announced Tuesday he's running for a U.S. Senate seat being vacated by Democrat Jeff Bingaman, a decision that sets up a potentially bruising primary contest for the GOP nomination next year.
Sanchez, 48, also launched a statewide television advertising campaign that features the biographical video, which portrays Sanchez as an example of the American dream someone from humble beginnings who became successful through hard work. He runs a roofing company in Albuquerque.
"It's all about jobs, the economy and the fact that the federal government is simply spending way too much money. It's immoral that we're spending money that we simply don't have," Sanchez said in a telephone interview.
He joins former five-term U.S. Rep. Heather Wilson in the GOP Senate race. Wilson announced her bid in March and has been busy fundraising and lining up supporters in New Mexico. Two lesser-known Republicans also are running Las Cruces businessman Greg Sowards and Bill English, of Alamogordo.
Sanchez was elected lieutenant governor in November, running on a ticket with Susana Martinez. He was the GOP gubernatorial nominee in 2002, losing to Democrat Bill Richardson. He served one term in the state House of Representatives, earning a reputation in GOP circles as a rising star by defeating a Democrat who had served for more than a decade as the speaker of the state House.
On the Democratic side, U.S. Rep. Martin Heinrich, State Auditor Hector Balderas and Albuquerque political activist Andrés Valdez are running for the Senate.
In his video, Sanchez took aim at Wilson without mentioning her name.
"We don't want to return people back to Washington, D.C., who got us into this mess in the first place. It's time for a new voice. I can be one of those leaders who will stand up for principled conservative values," Sanchez said.
Wilson represented the Albuquerque-area 1st Congressional District from 1998 until stepping aside to run for an open U.S. Senate seat in 2008. However, she lost in the primary to U.S. Rep. Steve Pearce who, along with a national anti-tax conservative group, pounded Wilson for being too moderate on tax and spending issues. Pearce lost to Democrat Tom Udall in the 2008 general election.
State Republican chairman Monty Newman said Sanchez's candidacy "means that Republican primary election voters will have another high-profile option to consider when they select the Republican nominee."