Jefferson Byrd’s uphill fight for Congress
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Kermit the Frog sang it wasn’t easy being green and for Republican candidates in New Mexico’s bluest congressional district, it isn’t easy being red.
Jefferson Byrd, a rancher from Tucumcari, is trying to become just the second Republican ever elected in the Third Congressional District that covers the northern half and large swaths of eastern New Mexico, a sprawling area that includes the liberal sanctuary of Santa Fe.
Byrd says he’s seen polls indicating the race is closer than that, “but we’re not ahead,” he conceded this week while talking to Capitol Report New Mexico. “We’ve got a lot of work to do and we just have to keep working.”
In the 30-year history of CD-3, only one Republican has ever held the seat. That was Bill Redmond (1997-1999) and he was elected under unusual circumstances — after then-Congressman and Democrat Bill Richardson stepped down to become US Ambassador to the United Nations. In the subsequent special election, Democrat Eric Serna and Green Party candidate Carol Miller split the vote and Redmond ended up winning by 3,000 votes. But two years later Redmond lost by 10 points to Tom Udall.
Except for the year Redmond won, Democrats have won every race in CD-3 by double-digits. In one election (2002), Republicans didn’t even run a candidate.
“It is registered Democrat,” Byrd said of the district, “but a lot [voters] are registered because if you want to vote in the primaries, you gotta register as a Democrat because the Democrats are very good at getting people in every open space [on the ballot], including dog catcher … but that doesn’t mean they agree with Congressman Luján.”
But like Democratic Party underdog Evelyn Madrid Erhard facing incumbent Steve Pearce in CD-2, Byrd is facing an incredibly large gap when it comes to fundraising. As we reported in July, Luján had $416,104 cash on hand in his campaign while Byrd had just $919.
Byrd says his campaign message is focused on creating jobs, reducing the deficit and government regulations as well as simplifying the tax code.
“Congressman Luján believes the solution to our problems lies with government,” Byrd said. “And I know the root to our problems is the government. Government’s getting in the way of businesses. I recently talked to a guy who recently opened a restaraunt in Mora. It took him two years to open a restaurant because of all the hoops he had to jump through. He had to get permits, he had to get inspections. It took Walt Disney less than two years to open Disneyland, from inception to opening the gates was less than two years. That’s on 46 acres. You don’t think government is impacting our job growth?”
In the coming weeks, we’ll talk to Rep. Luján.
Here’s video of our interview with Byrd. It runs a little more than three minutes: