ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Sen. Joseph Cervantes, a southern New Mexico Democrat in the state’s swing region, is jumping into the race for governor.

The architect and Las Cruces attorney told The Associated Press that he will formally enter the race Wednesday to seek the Democratic nomination for governor in a direct challenge to Congresswoman Michelle Lujan Grisham and other Democrats wanting to succeed Republican Gov. Susana Martinez.

Cervantes, 56, said he wants to focus on fixing the state’s economy and educational system, and will try to change policies that drive young people from the state.

“We need to support small businesses more,” the Las Cruces Democrat said. “We also have a lot of children living in poverty. That keeps me up at night.”

Cervantes said he supports using the permanent land fund to expand pre-K to all students in the state and believes New Mexico “should look at” legalizing recreational marijuana. “The infrastructure is not there for legalization yet,” said Cervantes, who has sponsored legislation to decriminalize small amounts of marijuana. “But it is something the state should look into.”

Cervantes said he is different from his Democratic opponents because he’s a small business owner and as a teen, worked on a farm.

Term limits prevent Martinez from seeking re-election in 2018.

Lujan Grisham, former media executive Jeff Apodaca, and alcohol-prevention teacher Peter DeBenedittis of Santa Fe all have announced they will seek the Democratic nomination.

No Republican has entered the race, though U.S. Congressman Steve Pearce said he may pursue the GOP nomination.

Cervantes earned a graduate architecture degree from California Polytechnic in 1985 and a law degree from the University of New Mexico in 1991. He served on the Dona Ana County Commission from 1999 to 2001 and in the New Mexico House of Representative from 2001 to 2012.

He won his senate seat in 2012, replacing the retiring Sen. Cynthia Nava.


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