ALBUQUERQUE — Gov. Bill Richardson jumped into two of the three New Mexico congressional races Wednesday, endorsing Harry Teague for the Democratic nomination in the 2nd District and Ben Ray Lujan in the 3rd District.
Richardson said Teague, seeking the southern New Mexico seat, is best suited to represent the party in this fall's general election.
"Harry Teague is a successful businessman and community leader with moderate views who should be able to win the general election," Richardson said.
Of Lujan, the governor said: "I believe Ben Ray Lujan is the most qualified candidate and is best prepared to represent the diverse communities that stretch across northern and eastern New Mexico."
Richardson has not endorsed any of the four Democrats in the Albuquerque-area 1st Congressional District race. The primary election is Tuesday.
Bill McCamley of Las Cruces, the only Democrat opposing Teague, said Richardson is entitled to his opinion. He then cited a string of newspaper and other endorsements supporting his own candidacy.
"However, this race isn't really about endorsements," said McCamley, a Dona Ana County commissioner. "It's about who is the best candidate to stand up for the middle class against big oil and other special interests in Washington.
"We look forward to working with Gov. Richardson on the issues that matter to middle- and working-class New Mexicans," McCamley added.
New Mexico faces a historic election cycle with all three congressional seats open. With the retirement of Sen. Pete Domenici, R-N.M., it also marks the first open senate seat since Domenici was elected in 1972.
A spokesman for Richardson, Gilbert Gallegos, said the governor wrestled over whether to make endorsements.
"The decision to endorse was a tough one," Gallegos said. "The governor fully supports Harry Teague, but he's also very big on Bill McCamley, who he believes has great potential to be a political leader in the future."
Lujan is running in a crowded Democratic field for the northern New Mexico seat that Richardson held in Congress from 1983-97. Rep. Tom Udall, D-N.M., is vacating it to run for U.S. Senate.
"I am proud to have Gov. Richardson's endorsement," Lujan said. "In Congress, I will carry on the tradition that Gov. Richardson and Congressman Udall set of standing up for the people of New Mexico."
The other Democrats in the 3rd District race are Santa Fe developer Don Wiviott, Santa Fe County Commissioner Harry Montoya, former state Indian Affairs secretary Benny Shendo Jr., lawyer Jon Adams and lawyer Rudy Martin.
Lujan serves on the Public Regulation Commission. His father, House Speaker Ben Lujan, D-Santa Fe, has been an important ally for Richardson in the Legislature and helped secure approval for the governor's initiatives.
"It's well-known that the speaker and the governor have a close relationship, and that Don Wiviott is not a political insider or a career politician," said Webster Cash, a Wiviott spokesman.
Wiviott has spent $1.3 million of his own money on the race and narrowly trailed Lujan in an Albuquerque Journal poll published last weekend.
"The only endorsement that matters in this race is the support of 3rd District voters," Cash said.
Gallegos said: "Gov. Richardson believes Don Wiviott has a good future in New Mexico politics."
Teague, who owns an oilfield services business in Hobbs, is another Richardson ally. He welcomed the governor's endorsement.
"Bill Richardson has a strong record of accomplishment that all Americans should be proud of," said Teague, a former Lea County commissioner. "I am honored to have him as a friend and to have his support."
Richardson said he worked with Teague on economic development initiatives in Lea County and noted Teague has grown an oilfield services business to 250 employees after leaving high school to work at 16.
"I know Harry will use that experience to create jobs and represent the mostly rural communities of southern New Mexico in Congress," Richardson said.
Richardson's endorsement came one day after the governor hosted a fundraiser in Albuquerque for Teague, campaign officials said. According to Federal Elections Commission records, the event provided $19,600.
Along with Hobbs businessman Johnny Cope, Teague co-owns two aircraft that Richardson's campaign paid to use during the governor's bid for the Democratic presidential nomination earlier this year.
Teague and McCamley, along with five Republican candidates, are seeking the seat currently held by Rep. Steve Pearce, R-N.M., who is running for U.S. Senate.