Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) endorsed a long-shot underdog in the New Mexico Republican Senate primary.
Paul, the libertarian-leaning Tea Party leader in the U.S. Senate, is backing businessman Greg Sowards, who has an uphill climb against former Rep. Heather Wilson in today’s contest.
“I’m calling on conservatives, libertarians, and Tea Party activists in New Mexico and across the nation to support Greg Sowards,” Paul said in a statement. “He will stand for the Constitution and I’m proud to stand with him.”
A poll conducted for Wilson in February found her leading Sowards 81% to 10%. Through March 31, Sowards had $706,000 in cash on hand (about half that of Wilson) thanks largely to loaning his campaign more than $1.1 million. Sowards raised less than $5,000 from individual donors last quarter.
Wilson has not seen the kind of third-party group involvement against her that occurred in 2008, when hundreds of thousands of dollars poured into the state to upend her first Senate bid against Rep. Steve Pearce, who went on to lose in the general election to now-Sen. Tom Udall (D).
Paul said Sowards supports a five-year balanced budget that he and GOP Sens. Jim DeMint (S.C.) and Mike Lee (Utah) proposed. “He agrees that our future generations of Americans do not deserve to be enslaved by debt, and we need more champions like him in the U.S. Senate,” Paul said.
The winner will take on either Rep. Martin Heinrich or state Auditor Hector Balderas, who are vying for the Democratic nomination, in what’s likely to be a competitive general election. The Senate seat opened with the retirement of Sen. Jeff Bingaman (D).
PolicyMic will be live-updating throughout the day. Follow the updates here:
LIVE UPDATES: 10:33 p.m. Heather Wilson is the projected winner of the New Mexico Senate Primary with 26.9% of the votes in. Wilson has so far 72.5% (27,038 votes) versus Sowards' 27.5% (10,274 votes).
9:57 p.m. Precincts reported 15.1%: Wilson 78.6% (17,696 votes) versus Sowards' 21.4% (4,827 votes).
9:36 p.m. 10.3% of votes are in and Wilson has 80.4% (14,057 votes) versus Sowards' 19.6% (3,422 votes).
9:15 p.m. 7.5% of the votes are in and Wilson holds 82.8% (10,842 votes) against Sowards' 17.2% (2,256 votes).
8:37 p.m. Hispanic Candidates Struggle: Despite that, according to the 2010 Census, Hispanics now represent a plurality of the population in New Mexico, Republicans and Democrats are both set to nominate white candidates on Tuesday in the state's Senate primaries. Democratic Rep. Martin Heinrich and former GOP Rep. Heather Wilson -- both strong contenders supported by the establishment wings of their parties -- are set to cruise to victory in their respective primaries, according to recent polling. Both fields once included once-promising Hispanic contenders who either failed to gain momentum or fizzled out altogether.
7:35 p.m. The Democratic primary in the 1st Congressional District will come down to the wire. And State Sen. Eric Griego, who is locked in a neck-and-neck battle with Bernalillo County Commissioner Michelle Lujan Grisham, is leaving nothing to chance.
Griego announced raising $100,000 in the closing days of the campaign, with help from national progressive groups like the Progressive Change Campaign Committee, and it appears he is putting that money to use by hitting the airwaves.
The ads are aimed at women, (Griego’s campaign notes in a press release that the Albuquerque Journal poll showed Griego leading among women) and feature several prominent Democratic women in the ads.
Lujan Grisham has targeted women as a key demographic since the start of her campaign; one of the major highlights of Lujan Grisham’s early campaign was knocking Republicans for the “war on women” that Democrats accuse the Republican Party of waging.
The third candidate in the three-way primary is former Albuquerque mayor Martin Chavez, who has lagged in the polls.
One of the women supporting Griego is Christine Trujillo, the President of the New Mexico chapter of the American Federation of Teachers, who said in a press release, “Eric Griego is the clear choice for teachers, parents and children.”
State Sen. Dede Feldman, one of Griego’s colleagues in the state Senate for the past three years, appears in an ad touting Griego’s support of women’s rights issues.
“There’s no more steadfast supporter of women and women’s issue [than Eric Griego] — particularly on the right to choose,” she said in a press release.
Also featured is LaDonna Harris, a Native American activist based in Albuquerque.
The single-minded focus on women shows that Griego’s campaign believes women will be a key voting bloc tomorrow. With what looks to be an extremely close race, Griego’s campaign is leaving nothing to chance.
6:35 p.m. Rand Paul-backed candidate Greg Sowards has never held public office before, which is one of the things that he thinks makes him a strong candidate. Sowards, 62, is an Army veteran, operates a child-care business and is an inventor with five patents. Sowards previously ran for office three times and lost every race.
Despite this record, Sowards isn't worried. He feels his platform of responsible government and reducing unwieldy and expensive government programs is popular. That's what ultimately caught the eye of Paul.
"I am running because I do not believe that our Founding Fathers intended our Constitution to be interpreted by career-minded politicians," Sowards said. "I feel they are the source of many of our problems today, and as a constitutional Republican, New Mexicans have a clear choice between a big spending, socially liberal, career politician in my opponent Heather Wilson and me."
His top three priorities if elected would be to reduce government spending, reduce the deficit and balance the budget.
"Right now, over 13 million Americans are unemployed and many more are underemployed," Sowards said. "While unemployment numbers appear to be dropping, the reality is the economy of the United States is shrinking and the financial outlook of our nation is dismal. As a businessman, I know that it is not the job of the federal government to create jobs."
4:07 p.m. Regardless of tonight's results, Rand Paul is poised to become the future of the libertarian Republican movement by building his own brand as he endorses and campaigns for other congressional candidates. In an interview Paul stated,“
There’s so much inertia up here, we’d like to see people come up who’d actually try to change the system… I think if we don’t shake off that inertia — you know, everything is mandatory spending, everything has a permanence up here. It takes someone who is somewhat fearless and aggressive to try and change the system.”
3:10 p.m. Former Rep. Heather Wilson is expected to win the Republican primary to fill the seat of retiring Democratic Sen. Jeff Bingaman. Rep. Martin Heinrich and state auditor Héctor Balderas are seeking the Democratic nomination.
A close race is expected in the Democratic primary for Albuquerque's 1st Congressional District, which is being vacated by Heinrich. In a three-way race are former Albuquerque Mayor Marty Chávez, state Sen. Eric Griego and Bernalillo County Commissioner Michelle Lujan Grisham. The winner will face former Republican state Rep. Janice Arnold-Jones.
To follow the results of the GOP presidential primary between Mitt Romney and Ron Paul, see here.