News Column

Lujan Ready for Third Term in Congress

Nov. 9, 2012

Steve Terrell

Ben Ray Lujan

U.S. Rep. Ben Ray Lujan's landslide victory over Republican challenger Jeff Byrd this week came as no surprise, as the 3rd Congressional District is an overwhelmingly Democratic.

However, Lujan, who was elected to a third term in Congress, won this time by his largest margin so far, 62 percent, according to unofficial returns. Though he's come close before, this is the first time he's cracked the 60 percent mark.

"I'm just thankful for my strong grass-roots campaign," Lujan said in a telephone interview Thursday.

The congressman is the son of Ben Lujan, speaker of the New Mexico House of Representatives, who did not seek re-election this year because of health problems.

Lujan returns to the U.S. House of Representatives with his party still in the minority. He also returns to a Congress with an immediate pending crisis, the so-called "fiscal cliff" in which major across-the-board automatic budget cuts, as well in the end of the payroll-tax cuts and certain tax breaks for business, are set to take place if Congress doesn't act.

He said he's optimistic that the two parties in Congress can come up with a compromise to avoid hitting the wall at the end of the year. He said he was encouraged by remarks by Republican House Speaker John Boehner Thursday. The speaker said he is willing to work with President Barack Obama and Democratic congressional leaders and is willing to consider some revenue increases.

Lujan currently is a member of the House Natural Resources and Science Space and Technology committees. He says he doesn't yet know what committees he'll be assigned to by House leadership. While he says his current committees cover many issues essential to New Mexico, if offered, he'd jump at the chance to serve on more high-profile committees like Energy & Commerce, Ways & Means or Appropriations.

Currently serving as second vice chairman of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, Lujan has been mentioned in national publications as a possible replacement for outgoing chairman, U.S. Rep. Charlie Gonzalez, D-Texas.

On Thursday, Lujan said that he wouldn't run for the chairmanship unless Ruben Hinojosa of Texas, currently the first vice chairman, decides not to run. "If Ruben runs, I'll support him," Lujan said. If that becomes the case, Lujan said he'll run for first vice chairman of the caucus.

Lujan served as chairman of the Hispanic Caucus' election PAC. "We supported 29 candidates, out of which 18 were elected," he said.

Source: (c)2012 The Santa Fe New Mexican (Santa Fe, N.M.). Distributed by MCT Information Services.

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