Lujan praised for family credentials

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By David Giuliani

Speaker after speaker during a rally for congressional candidate Ben Ray Lujan arrived at the same conclusion: He comes from a good family and won’t forget where he came from.

Lujan, widely seen as the front runner in the Democratic race for northern New Mexico’s congressional district, stopped in Las Vegas as part of a campaign announcement tour.

Lujan, the chairman of the state Public Regulation Commission, spoke to an audience of about 50 people — many of whom are local political leaders — during an hour-long event Saturday morning at Spic & Span.

Mayor Henry Sanchez said in a speech that he wanted to go on record as being the first locally to support Lujan’s candidacy.

The mayor mocked those who contend the local political establishment has maneuvered behind the scenes to throw its support behind Lujan, the son of powerful House Speaker Ben Lujan, who attended Saturday’s event.

“I’m the establishment. Six years ago, I was an old coach; now, I’m the establishment,” he said.

Sanchez said he pledged his loyalty to Lujan’s campaign because of the candidate’s dedication to the family concept.

“We Norteos know what family means,” he said, adding that Lujan received his college at Highlands University. “This family didn’t come from New York or California to run.”

The last two Democratic congressmen from northern New Mexico couldn’t claim native status: Bill Richardson came from the East Coast to run and and Tom Udall grew up in Arizona.

State Rep. Richard Vigil, D-Ribera, also spoke in favor of Lujan, saying he came from a good family. He said the House speaker has been like a father to him.

“We have values in northern New Mexico,” he said. “If you serve as a public official, never forget where you come from.”

State Rep. Thomas Garcia, D-Ocat, praised Lujan as well, saying his family has given of itself to the people of New Mexico for generations. He said the family has been a strong supporter of education and unions.

“Lujan is a good name,” he said. Lujan came to the podium with a standing ovation, with former West Las Vegas school board member Michael Vigil hollering loud for the candidate.

Lujan stuck to familiar Democratic themes — getting the troops out of Iraq, supporting veterans, promoting universal health care, doing away with No Child Left Behind (“A child is more than a test score.”)

He called for a minimum wage for teachers and support for workers, pointing to members of a government workers union in the audience.

Lujan also emphasized the need for the country’s energy independence.

“We put a man on the moon. I can’t see why we can’t solve the world’s energy problems,” he said.

Lujan, with his parents and siblings standing behind him, touted his family’s backing.

“Some people think he (father) shouldn’t be helping my campaign. I can’t figure out why,” the candidate said. “He’s been a great public servant. There’s no reason I should shy away from his support.”

In the audience were a number of Highlands University students, including graduate student Jesse Lopez, former student body president. He previously supported Javier Gonzales, chairman of the Highlands regents, for Congress, but Gonzales decided against running.

Lopez said he now supports Lujan.

“He’s one of our own,” he said. “Why wouldn’t we support him?”

Lujan is vying for the seat now occupied by Udall, who is running for U.S. Senate. Other Democratic candidates include Santa Fe developer Don Wiviott, Santa Fe County Commissioner Harry Montoya and Bennie Shendo Jr., who just resigned as secretary of the state Department of Indian Affairs.

Notables who attended Ben Ray Lujan’s announcement event on Saturday at Spic & Span:

• Ben Lujan, House speaker, D-Namb, father of candidate

• Henry Sanchez, Las Vegas mayor

• Leroy “Huero” Sanchez, former Las Vegas mayor, Luna Community College president and former Highlands University regent

• Richard Vigil, state representative, D-Ribera

• Thomas Garcia, state representative, D-Ocat

• Kenny Lujan, chairman of the West Las Vegas school board

• Matt Sandoval, former district attorney

• Michael Vigil, former West Las Vegas school board member

• June Garcia, San Miguel County Commissioner

• LeRoy Garcia, former San Miguel County Commission chairman

• Martin Suazo, San Miguel County Democratic Party chairman

• Walter Adams, former West Las Vegas school board member

• Jesse Lopez, former Highlands University student body president