State Rep. Thomas Garcia said today he is inclined to run for the state Senate, and likely will challenge fellow Democrat Pete Campos in the June primary election.
Garcia said in an interview that he had taken out petitions for both House and Senate seats, but was leaning toward the Senate race. He has until Tuesday’s filing deadline to decide.
Garcia, of Ocate, would have to run against fellow Democrat Nick Salazar if he tried to stay in the House of Representatives. Redistricting has thrown Garcia and Salazar into the same House district.
Garcia, 41, originally joined the House of Representatives in 2006 as an appointee of then-governor Bill Richardson. Garcia said he committed to the people in his five-county northern New Mexico district that he would represent them for 10 years.
With redistricting, Garcia said, the Senate district that Campos represents more closely resembles the area he originally committed to serve.
Running against Campos could be the more difficult race for Garcia.
Campos, 58, is a community college president from Las Vegas. He has been a senator since 1991.
Salazar is 82 years old and would have to campaign in a redrawn district that stretches to the Colorado border.
“Running for the Senate might be the harder race, but we as legislators shouldn’t look to take the easier path. We should make decisions based on serving the people,” Garcia said.
Salazar, of Ohkay Owingeh, is the most senior of New Mexico’s sitting legislators. He is in his 40th year in the House of Representatives.
In an interview, Salazar said he will seek re-election to a 21st term, no matter what Garcia or anybody else does.
“I’m running,” Salazar said.
Garcia, like Campos, makes his living as an educator. Garcia is superintendent of the Mora Independent School District.
He said he is able to make the 90-minute drive from the Capitol to his school district with relative ease, so he is not away for long periods, even when the Legislature is in session.
Garcia is perhaps the most ferocious debater in the House of Representatives, his style similar to a detective who wears down the opposition with question after question.
He is an Army veteran who grew up in a ranching family.
Not counting Garcia, 10 of the 70 House members are not seeking re-election. Four are running for the Senate, four are retiring and two others are seeking other offices.