Newly registered Republican makes bid to become GOP lieutenant governor nominee

Michelle Garcia Holmes

The Republican Party might have a candidate for lieutenant governor after all.

Former independent Albuquerque mayoral candidate Michelle Garcia Holmes announced Thursday she has changed her voter registration to Republican and will seek the party’s nomination for the second spot on next year’s ballot.

“I truly believe the Republican Party is the best party for creating economic growth, prosperity, and responsive and open government that is committed to the people it serves,” Garcia Holmes said in a statement.

Her announcement comes after former state Indian Affairs Secretary Kelly Zunie withdrew from the race, leaving the Republican Party without a potential candidate. Zunie had tax and residency problems.

The only Republican running for governor, U.S. Rep. Steve Pearce, is perhaps best known in Southern New Mexico, while Garcia Holmes is an Albuquerque resident. She is a former law enforcement officer, which would fit with a party that has been campaigning hard on the state’s rising crime rate.

An ex-Albuquerque Police Department detective, Garcia Holmes worked as chief of staff for Democratic Attorney General Gary King. She ran for mayor of Albuquerque this year, touting her experience in law enforcement and position as an independent in what turned into a highly partisan Republican-versus-Democrat race. Garcia Holmes received nearly 4 percent of the vote, far behind the two leaders who advanced to a runoff.

Garcia Holmes has been particularly outspoken on abortion. She backed a ban on what are known as late-term abortions.

The job of lieutenant governor is low-profile and comes with few constitutional duties. Lieutenant governors are tasked with presiding over the state Senate when it is in session. And the lieutenant governor serves as the state’s chief executive when the governor is traveling. The job comes with a small staff and a salary of about $85,000 a year.

The Democratic Party primary for lieutenant governor is considerably more heated.

Last month, gubernatorial candidate Michelle Lujan Grisham called on state Sen. Michael Padilla to drop out of the race for lieutenant governor over years-old harassment lawsuits. Padilla is still in the race but faces competition from retired teacher Jeff Carr of Eagle Nest, Doña Ana County Commissioner Billy Garrett, former state House Majority Leader Rick Miera of Albuquerque and juvenile probation officer David McTeigue of Rio Rancho.

Contact Andrew Oxford at 505-986-3093 or aoxford@sfnewmexican.com. Follow him on Twitter @andrewboxford.

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