Plenty of New Mexico’s political figures live in a pressure cooker, campaigning hard today in hopes of having a job tomorrow.

Ryan Cangiolosi occupies the hottest seat this year.

His name might not be familiar to you. As chairman of the state Republican Party, Cangiolosi is less prominent than a small-town mayor, at least for the moment.

He will become more visible when he has to answer for the weak slate of candidates he has fielded for the midterm election.

There is Mick Rich, a contractor from Albuquerque and a mystery man to voters. He will get the Republican nomination for the U.S. Senate.

Any chance the Republicans had of ousting first-term Democratic Sen. Martin Heinrich ended when Rich emerged as their uncontested candidate.

Maybe Cangiolosi should have sweet-talked former Gov. Gary Johnson into leaving the Siberia of the Libertarian Party to become a Republican again.

At least voters would have recognized Johnson’s name. Running as a Libertarian in the 2016 presidential race, Johnson received 9 percent of the vote in New Mexico, a respectable showing for a third-party candidate.

Johnson would have elevated the debate and made the Senate race interesting.

If Rich stays within 10 points of Heinrich, he can declare a moral victory in November. But Republican Party loyalists will be asking Cangiolosi why he served up a tomato can for Heinrich to pummel.

Then there is the Albuquerque-based 1st Congressional District, an open seat that should be competitive.

The Republican candidate is former state Rep. Janice Arnold-Jones, who is on a long losing streak.

She ran a failed shoestring campaign for governor in 2010. Two years later, she ran for the U.S. House of Representatives and lost badly to Democrat Michelle Lujan Grisham.

In 2013, Albuquerque’s Republican mayor appointed Arnold-Jones to the City Council. Voters ousted her seven months later.

Even the Cleveland Browns have had a win more recently than Arnold-Jones.

Cangiolosi late last year watched his candidate lose the Albuquerque mayoral election. Now, with uninspiring candidates for two congressional seats, Cangiolosi needs someone to save him from disaster.

Congressman Steve Pearce might be Cangiolosi’s best hope, but he looks like an underdog in the state’s biggest race.

Pearce, of Hobbs, will be the Republican candidate for governor. He has the bad fortune of following two-term Republican Gov. Susana Martinez.

Her approval ratings have fallen so far that she ranks as one of the least popular governors in America. The odds are good that New Mexico voters will elect a Democratic governor after Martinez’s failures.

Her record of shoot-from-the-hip mismanagement is what many will remember. Martinez dismantled the state system for treating addicts and mentally ill people, and she mindlessly vetoed all funding for state universities last year.

She cannot leave office soon enough to suit most state residents.

Cangiolosi is left to hope the Democratic candidate for governor will make a big mistake and self-destruct.

Cangiolosi has one other slender chance at a breakthrough — the state House of Representatives.

Republicans briefly won control of the House in 2014. It was their first majority since the 1952 election, when Dwight Eisenhower’s romp to the presidency lifted the party nationally.

Now Democrats are back in charge of the House, 38-32. To flip control to his party, Cangiolosi needs his candidates to win four swing districts held by Democrats. That is a tall order.

Cangiolosi’s troubles are not new to the state. New Mexico Democrats were in similar disarray in 2014, when Sam Bregman was their chairman.

Bregman presided when Democrats lost control of the House of Representatives for the first time in 62 years.

Bregman also failed to clear the field in the 2014 governor’s race. Five Democratic candidates made the ballot. Gary King, once disparaged by Bregman as the worst attorney general in state history, won the gubernatorial nomination. Martinez routed King.

Four years later, Cangiolosi’s paper-thin lineup might lead to a recurring nightmare.

In it, he becomes the next Sam Bregman.

Contact Milan Simonich at or 505-986-3080. Follow his Ringside Seat column in Monday’s and Friday’s editions.

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