Former Las Cruces fire chief Adolf Zubia has joined the race for Congress in New Mexico’s southern district.

Zubia is a Democrat who will compete for his party’s nomination. The seat is now held by Republican Rep. Steve Pearce, who is giving it up to make a bid for governor.

Pearce has comfortably won the district, which stretches from Lordsburg to Hobbs, each time he has been on the ballot. But with Pearce bowing out to run for the state’s highest office, some Democrats say 2018 represents the best chance they have had in years to win his seat, even though it includes some of New Mexico’s most staunchly Republican counties.

Announcing his bid for Congress on Facebook, Zubia said he would “fight for health care and ensure our grandchildren have [a] habitable earth by transitioning to renewable energy jobs that improve our economy and will keep our children here in New Mexico.”

“I want to build confidence back in government,” he told a reporter Monday.

Zubia served as fire chief of Las Cruces from 2001-09 and went on to become fire marshal for the state of South Carolina. He resigned from that job after about 15 months, telling the news organization ProPublica he was pushed out by the governor after advocating for a building code on fire sprinklers.

Before becoming fire chief, Zubia worked as fire marshal for Las Cruces as well as for Doña Ana County. He is a former president of the International Code Council, which promotes building safety and fire prevention.

Zubia joins a crowded field in the district’s Democratic Party primary election. Tony Martinez, a retired pharmaceutical industry executive turned activist, announced earlier this month he would also seek the party’s nomination. One week earlier, lawyer David Baake jumped into the race. Also running are Madeleine Hildebrandt, a Coast Guard veteran and college history instructor residing in Socorro, and Ronald Fitzherbert of Las Cruces, who works in risk management for a health care clinic.

A couple of well-known Republicans are seeking the seat, too. The day after Pearce announced his candidacy for governor earlier this month, state Rep. Yvette Herrell of Alamogordo announced she would run to succeed him. And last week, state land commissioner Aubrey Dunn jumped into the race.

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