While there's no timetable to formally announce a bid for the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by five-term U.S. Sen. Jeff Bingaman, New Mexico State Auditor Hector Balderas, 37, appears closer to making the commitment -- and soon.
Today, during an informal afternoon coffee interview with us, Balderas said New Mexicans are looking for the next generation of leaders to head to Washington, D.C., and he's hoping his record of fiscal discipline and work on government accountability issues, both inside the auditor's office and in the NM House of Representatives, will appeal to those voters.
An exciting time
On Saturday, inside the Roundhouse, Balderas confirmed with us that he has been consulting with his family, a team of his political advisers, and the Democratic Senate Campaign Committee about the 2012 race and is close to making a decision about jumping into the race.
“I'm strongly considering entering the United States Senate race from New Mexico,” Balderas told us on Saturday.
In a time of fiscal crisis, Balderas said voters want strong leadership on issues of accountability and government reform. He said he has a record of both, including exposing statewide corruption, and uncovering a massive embezzlement in Jemez Springs in 2009.
Balderas told us he would take those same principals with him to Washington.
" I think that there has to be fiscal reform. Right now you see President Barack Obama and the legislature at the federal level grappling with this issue,” Balderas told off camera on Saturday.
"The choices and investments we make now will effect generations to come, so I will make fiscal accountability one of my top priorities.”
He also wants to make education reform another key campaign issue.
“I wouldn't be where I am today without educational opportunities,” Balderas said.
Passing the political torch
Balderas said he’s been getting favorable feedback and the buzz seems to be increasing, but Balderas said Democrats have to be concerned about holding on to Bingaman’s seat.
“New Mexicans at every kitchen or coffee table need to think about what direction do they want to go. It is a real opportunity to chose a different type of leader in New Mexico,” Balderas told me in Santa Fe before the video interview.
Republican contenders could include Lt. Gov. John Sanchez, U.S. Rep. Steve Pearce, former Rep. Heather Wilson, and former Gov. Gary Johnson. Two relatively unknowns have already launched their republican bids for the seat.
Democrat pundits have focused on Heinrich, Rep. Ben Ray Lujan, former Lt. Gov. Diane Denish, former Gov. Bill Richardson, State Treasurer James B. Lewis, and former Albuquerque Mayor Marty Chavez, along with Balderas.
If elected, Balderas would join two other Hispanics in the Senate. Florida is represented by Republican Mark Rubio, who was elected last year. New Jersey Sen. Robert Menedez, a Democrat, was appointed in 2005 by then Gov. Jon Corzine and elected outright in 2006 to a full six-year term.