New Mexico voters will decide Tuesday which two candidates will face off in November for a seat on the U.S. Senate.
Two Republicans and two Democrats are running for the seat held by Democratic Sen. Jeff Bingaman, who is not running for re-election.
The Republican candidates are Greg Sowards and Heather Wilson, and the Democratic candidates are Hector Balderas and Rep. Martin Heinrich.
In both races, a candidate new to Washington is going up against one who has served as a member of the U.S. House of Representatives.
Heinrich has represented New Mexico's 1st Congressional District since 2009, and Wilson served in the same position from 1998 to 2009.
Balderas, 38, is state auditor and served one term as a state representative. Balderas is the underdog and is relying heavily on his humble roots to clinch the Democratic nomination.
An attorney, Balderas has spent his time as state auditor making headlines by cracking down on irresponsible governments and investigating embezzlement at all levels of society.
If elected, Balderas' top three priorities would focus on putting New Mexicans back to work. He would strengthen the education system, create small business incentives to spur job growth and continue fighting waste, fraud and abuse.
"It is essential that we are providing our children the highest quality education possible," Balderas said. "As a product of our state's public school system, I know first-hand the difference that a quality education can make
in a child's life. In Washington, I will fight for investment in our public education system from prekindergarten to college. We can't afford to cut back on our children's future."
Heinrich also focuses on his humble roots as one of the reasons he would be the best choice for representing New Mexico.
An engineer, Heinrich, 40, started his political career on the Albuquerque City Council. In 2008, he took Wilson's place in the House when she left to run for the Senate.
During his time as a representative, Heinrich's support of Social Security and Medicare was given a perfect score by an advocacy group that grades members of Congress.
He wants to ensure that those funds remain solvent and strengthen the economy.
"The fact is, a lot of middle-class families in New Mexico are struggling to get by as costs continue to rise and the deck seems stacked against them," Heinrich said. "It doesn't take long in Washington to see that things there just aren't working. Big corporations and special interests seem to get all of the breaks while regular New Mexico families are left holding the bill. New Mexico families deserve better."
In the Republican race, Sowards has never held public office, 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.
It definitely caught the eye of U.S. Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky. Paul, son of presidential candidate Ron Paul, endorsed Sowards over Wilson.
"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."
Wilson was re-elected to Congress six times, and gave up her seat to seek the Republican nomination in 2008, which she lost to Steve Pearce.
Wilson, 51, has an extensive resume. She graduated from the Air Force Academy, is a Rhodes scholar and has a doctorate in international relations. She is also a prize-winning author.
Wilson was the secretary of New Mexico's Children, Youth and Families Department and was director for European defense policy and arms control on the National Security Council staff at the White House.
Her top three priorities are creating jobs, repealing the health care law and creating a successful, long-term energy policy.
"There is nothing more important in America right now than creating jobs and growing the economy," Wilson said. "That means low taxes, a moratorium on job-killing regulations, an all-of-the-above energy strategy and government reform that will control the unsustainable growth in government spending."
Reporter Milan Simonich contributed to this report.
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