New Mexico’s 2nd Congressional District isn’t the safe territory it used to be for Republicans, according to election handicappers.
Most experts have put the Republican stronghold in the “Likely Republican” category. This is both because of the national environment—there are many more competitive Republican seats compared to Democratic seats—and the fact that the incumbent is not running for reelection.
U.S. Rep. Steve Pearce is instead running for governor.
The Cook Political Report offers the most aggressive prediction. After the narrow victory by Democrat Conor Lamb in Pennsylvania’s 18th Congressional District, a district that Donald Trump won by 20 points in 2016, the outlet shifted the district and several others into the “Lean Republican” area.
Overall, The Cook Political Report sees a close race for control of the U.S. House.
“At the moment, President Trump’s low popularity and Democrats’ enthusiasm make a wave election quite possible and put the GOP’s majority at great risk,” the outlet wrote last week. “But given Republicans’ redistricting advantages and how well sorted-out the House has become, it could still be difficult for Democrats to pick up the 24 seats they would need to win control.”
Who will be running in November will be decided in June, which could change things. On the Republican side, State Rep. Yvette Herrell, former state party chair Monty Newman, former Department of Interior official Gavin Clarkson and former Gary Johnson campaign official Clayburn Griffin are running. On the Democratic side, Las Cruces water attorney Xochitl Torres Small will face U.S. Coast Guard veteran Madeline Hildebrandt.
All of the prognosticators rate New Mexico’s other two congressional districts as safe for Democrats in this election.
Pearce was first elected to the district in 2002, defeating Democratic State Sen. John Arthur Smith 56.2 percent to 43.7 percent. Republicans lost the seat in 2008 when Democrat Harry Teague defeated Republican Ed Tinsley when Pearce opted to run for U.S. Senate instead of another term in U.S. House. Pearce then won the district back in 2010, 55.4 percent to 44.6 percent over Teague.
Since then, Pearce has easily won reelection three times.
Other races in the district are also dominated by Republicans.
Trump outpaced Democrat Hillary Clinton in the district in 2016, according to numbers from Daily Kos Elections. He received 50.1 percent of the vote to Clinton’s 39.9 percent and Gary Johnson’s 8.1 percent. Mitt Romney also beat Barack Obama in the district in 2012, 51.7 percent to 44.9 percent.
Statewide elections also show a Republican lean, as no Democrat received more votes in the district than Republicans in 2014.