Incumbent politicians rarely make endorsements in contested primary elections, but U.S. Sen. Martin Heinrich is breaking from conventional tactics.
Heinrich on Wednesday endorsed Roxanne “Rocky” Lara for Congress in the 2nd District, which covers southern New Mexico.
Lara, right, is competing with Leslie Endean-Singh for the Democratic nomination, which would be decided in the primary next June. The winner would face incumbent Republican Steve Pearce in the general election.
Heinrich, a Democrat from Albuquerque, said he was backing Lara because she would be a worthy member of Congress.
“Rocky brings the values, priorities and dedication we need to make Washington work for New Mexico. She will make an excellent partner when she is elected to serve southern New Mexicans in Congress,” he said in a statement.
Lara, 38, announced her candidacy for Congress only three weeks ago. She is a private attorney and a former Eddy County commissioner.
Lara ran this year for state Democratic Party chairwoman, losing to Sam Bregman. She entered the race for Congress four months later.
“I am grateful for Senator Heinrich’s support, and I look forward to having many others join our campaign to give all of southern New Mexico a voice in Washington,” Lara said.
Singh, 69, of Alamogordo, said in a recent interview that she planned to stay in the race and was busy raising money. Also an attorney, Singh announced her candidacy three months before Lara entered the race.
But Heinrich’s endorsement is a signal that at least one powerful Democrat believes the party should mobilize behind Lara.
Heinrich’s decision to pick a side in a primary goes against usual party traditions, but it is not unheard of.
Republican Gov. Susana Martinez last year endorsed a candidate in a hotly contested state Senate primary in the Clovis area.
Martinez’s choice was Angie Spears, who lost by a decisive margin to Pat Woods. Woods overcame the fact that Martinez personally campaigned for Spears and that her political organizations contributed money to Spears’ campaign.