SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — New Mexico Lt. Gov. John Sanchez is dropping his bid for the U.S. Senate.
Sanchez said Thursday he was quitting the race to avoid a bitter campaign against former Congresswoman Heather Wilson in the Republican primary to succeed retiring Democrat Jeff Bingaman.
In a statement issued Thursday morning, Sanchez said a divisive Republican primary would "only diminish our party's genuine opportunity to bring real change in Washington."
"I have been involved in tough primaries myself and other Republican primaries have been tough," he said in a later interview. "The last thing we want to do is whoever becomes our nominee is for that person to come out bruised, bloody and broke. It's going to be a tough general campaign and we want to make sure we have peace among Republicans."
Sanchez said he won't run this year for any elective office, including the Albuquerque-area 1st Congressional District. Instead, he said he plans to focus on his duties as lieutenant governor and supporting the governor's policy agenda.
"I look forward to working to help elect more Republicans ... in this new election cycle," he said.
His departure allows Wilson -- who already has a nearly $1.7 million war chest -- to focus on raising money while State Auditor Hector Balderas and U.S. Rep. Martin Heinrich battle for the Democratic nomination.
There are two other announced Republican candidates, Greg Sowards of Las Cruces and William Scott English, but Sanchez was widely considered to Wilson's biggest threat.
Wilson called Sanchez "a fine public servant" who ran a good campaign "that questioned the current direction of our country and emphasized the importance of this election."
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New Mexico is located in the southwestern region of the U.S. Inhabited by Native American populations for many centuries, New Mexico has also been part of Imperial Spain, part of Mexico, and a U.S. territory.