Matthew Reichbach is the editor of the NM Political Report. The former founder and editor of the NM Telegram, Matthew was also a co-founder of New Mexico FBIHOP with his brother and one of the original hires at the groundbreaking website the New Mexico Independent. Matthew has covered events such as the Democratic National Convention and Netroots Nation and formerly published, “The Morning Word,” a daily political news summary for NM Telegram and the Santa Fe Reporter.
Matthew has appeared as a panelist for the Society of Professional Journalists’ New Mexico Chapter’s panel on covering New Mexico politics and the legislature.
A native New Mexican from Rio Rancho, Matthew’s family has been in New Mexico since the 1600s.
While turnout increased statewide, Democratic counties with large populations saw among the biggest gains on Election Day. Turnout statewide in 2018 was 55 percent, compared to 40.35 percent in 2014 and 52.71% in 2010. In 2018, 693,893 voters cast ballots*, the most of any midterm in state history. This is the easy way to explain how Democratic gubernatorial candidate Michelle Lujan Grisham won by a large margin, and also why Democrats all the way down the ballot had a successful night. Digging further down into the numbers, it shows just how impressive turnout was in some districts, while in others turnout lagged.
Republican Yvette Herrell campaigned for the 2nd Congressional District on a Trump-like platform—pro-border wall and speaking about illegal immigration—and appeared alongside Vice President Mike Pence and White House counselor Kellyanne Conway. And after narrowly losing the congressional race to Democrat Xochitl Torres Small in Tuesday’s election, Herrell showed up on President Donald Trump’s favorite TV network Saturday. The state legislator told a Fox News host that she isn’t conceding to Torres Small, and she questioned the counting of absentee ballots that provided the final margin of victory for her opponent. Herrell spoke on “Justice with Judge Jeanine,” a program Trump himself appeared on before. According to Herrell, an hour after some media outlets called the race and she gave her victory speech, the Secretary of State’s office called and said, “They had magically found 4,000 ballots that had not been counted.” She said about an hour and a half later, the office said there were an additional 4,000 ballots.
All eyes were on Doña Ana County Wednesday night, as elections observers waited for county election workers to tally thousands of absentee ballots. When the county released the results for the 2nd Congressional District race on Wednesday night, the 6,411 to 1,847 margin gave Democrat Xochitl Torres Small a lead larger than the likely number of provisional ballots left. Many asked why it took election workers in Doña Ana County so long to count the votes. It came down to a lack of workers and an unforeseen influx of absentee votes. The county released the results of 8,350 absentee ballots Wednesday night (only 8,258 of which included votes for the razor-thin 2nd Congressional District race).
With absentee ballots in Doña Ana County finally counted, Democrat Xochitl Torres Small will be the next U.S. Representative for New Mexico’s 2nd Congressional District. Torres Small needed a little over 1,800 more votes than Republican Yvette Herrell to win the race before the county’s absentee ballots were included in the vote totals. Torres Small blew past that number and netted an additional 4,564 votes, which gave her a 50.69 percent to 49.31 percent lead over her Republican opponent. In all, there were 8,258 absentee ballots for the race. Related: Democrats take back governorship
Wednesday evening, the Associated Press called the race for Torres Small.
New Mexico elected a Democratic governor Tuesday, and she will have an expanded Democratic majority in the New Mexico state House at her side. Democrats have held a majority in both houses of the legislature since 2016 and after Tuesday night’s wins, they could hold up to 47 seats in the 70-member chamber, the most in decades, depending on several close races, including some that will trigger automatic recounts. With no changes from the recounts, Democrats would hold 46 seats. The victories were especially widespread in Bernalillo County, where Democrats defeated several Republican incumbents, including Jim Dines and David Adkins. Incumbent Republican Jim Dines trails retired engineer Abbas Akhil in House District 20 by 0.68 percentage points.
Fresh off re-election, New Mexico Rep. Ben Ray Luján is seeking a position in U.S. House leadership. The day after Democrats took control of the U.S. House of Representatives, Luján announced he now wants to become Assistant Democratic Leader, the fourth-highest position in Democratic leadership. For the last two election cycles, Luján was chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, which helps elect Democrats to the U.S. House. Currently the New York Times reports Democrats won 27 House seats, for 22 total seats, with 17 races, including one in southern New Mexico, undecided. With the majority, Democrats will elect a Speaker of the House, opening up another leadership position.
Democrats kept two U.S. House seats Tuesday night. And in a third, hotly contested race, the Republican leads, but thousands of uncounted of votes in a key county could flip things. The 2nd Congressional District race still isn’t over, thanks to approximately 8,000 absentee ballots whose results haven’t been posted. Out of those, 4,000 are yet to be counted. And, as journalist Heath Haussamen noted, approximately 1,000 provisional ballots also remain.
Voters are reporting long lines in some areas of the state, including at Rio Grande High School in Albuquerque and at a polling in Anthony, New Mexico. While some see long lines as a good sign that many people want to vote, Charles Stewart of the MIT Election Lab says it’s a sign that things aren’t working correctly. “If you value the time of voters, inordinately long lines are not a good thing,” he told NM Political Report. He cited a presidential commission that said if a voter is waiting for more than 30 minutes to vote “then it’s too long.”
“It’s getting to be a habit in New Mexico,” Stewart said. Phil Nickel reported that the line at the high school was approximately 250 people when he arrived at 5:45 p.m. NM Political Report spoke to him at about 6:35, and he was still in line, waiting to vote.
New Mexico Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver said that “false claims of voter fraud” by President Donald Trump and U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions “are yet another disgusting attempt at voters suppression.”
Toulouse Oliver encouraged New Mexicans to vote on Election Day despite the statements. “The President is only trying to degrade confidence in our elections and discourage eligible voters from casting their ballots,” Toulouse Oliver said. “There is no evidence of widespread voter fraud anywhere in New Mexico or the United States, and when it does occur it is prosecuted swiftly and vigorously. I encourage all eligible New Mexico voters to get to the polls today and make their voices heard.”
In a release, the Secretary of State linked to a Washington Post article from Monday night that said Trump and Sessions warned about voter fraud without providing any evidence. Trump made the claims about the alleged voter fraud ahead of a campaign rally in Cleveland on Monday.
While most of the votes may have already been cast before Election Day, hundreds of thousands of New Mexicans will go to the polls today and decide the next governor—as well as a number of other races. Note: NM Political Report will have a live blog beginning at 5:00 p.m. Come back to NMPoliticalReport.com or see our Facebook or Twitter page around that time for a link to the live blog. The gubernatorial contest between Democrat Michelle Lujan Grisham and Republican Steve Pearce is surely the marquee matchup to watch. Polling shows Lujan Grisham with an edge, but Republicans insist the race is closer than the public polling has shown. The winner will replace Susana Martinez, the term-limited Republican who has seen her approval rating fall precipitously since her easy reelection in 2014.