Rob Apodaca announced Thursday he is dropping out of the 3rd Congressional District race, making a jam-packed field of candidates a tad less crowded.

The 48-year-old Santa Fe-based management consultant said in an interview he decided to withdraw after his brother, Benjie, passed away about a month ago from cardiac arrest. Apodaca said he wants to focus on being with his parents and children instead of spending so much time on a campaign.

“It’s been a really tough situation losing my brother,” Apodaca said. “He was part of the whole campaign.”

Even with Apodaca’s exit, nine Democratic candidates are still seeking the nomination to succeed Rep. Ben Ray Luján, who is vacating what is considered a safe Northern New Mexico seat to run for the U.S. Senate.

With the primary election still 10 months away, longtime New Mexico pollster Brian Sanderoff said it’s too soon to have an inkling of who might be in the lead.

“Between the combination of most of these people having low name recognition and so many candidates in the race, it’ll make it difficult for the voters to make a choice,” Sanderoff said. “So it’s possible this race will go down to the wire where many voters won’t be making up their minds until we get closer to the election.”

The candidates who arguably have the most name recognition are Marco Serna, district attorney for Santa Fe, Rio Arriba and Los Alamos counties; former CIA agent and author Valerie Plame of Santa Fe; and Santa Fe lawyer Teresa Leger Fernandez. While each is well known with specific segments of the congressional district, none is a household name.

There is also a risk that voter turnout could be low, given that many people in rural parts of the district typically don’t go to the polls for the primary election, Sanderoff said.

That could change, however, if the Democratic presidential nominee has not yet been decided by June, in which case more people would likely turn out to try to impact that race, he said. That’s a possibility given there are also so many candidates in the presidential primary race.

Kyle Tisdel, a Taos attorney with the Western Environmental Law Center, announced Wednesday that he is joining the race.

Other announced candidates for the Democratic primary include Sandoval County Treasurer Laura M. Montoya, state Rep. Joseph Sanchez of Alcalde, former Navajo Nation presidential candidate Dineh Benally, Gavin Kaiser of Santa Cruz and Cameron Alton Chick Sr. of Rio Rancho.

Apodaca, who grew up near Taos and is a 1992 graduate of New Mexico State University, said this wouldn’t be his last endeavor in politics.

“I will be back,” he said.

Reporter

Jens Erik Gould covers politics for the Santa Fe New Mexican. He was a correspondent for Bloomberg News in Mexico City, a regular contributor for TIME in California, and produced the video series Bravery Tapes.