Ben Ray Luján wants New Mexicans to know he’s seriously contemplating running to replace Tom Udall in the U.S. Senate. Emphasis on “seriously.”
Luján is in his sixth term in the U.S. House, and he’s watched other New Mexico representatives move on to other positions. Martin Heinrich won election to the U.S. Senate in 2012. Both Steve Pearce and Michelle Lujan Grisham ran for governor in 2018. Now with Tom Udall leaving the Senate in 2020, Luján may vacate the same seat his predecessor left over a decade ago to once again follow his path to the Senate.
Finding a polling place. Waiting in line. Filling out a ballot. Most New Mexico voters don’t seem to have many complaints about that part of Election Day. But while a new survey has found plenty of confidence in the democratic process as it plays out at the polling place, it also found plenty of concerns about the sanctity of New Mexico’s elections, whether it is the specter of hackers, the influence of big-spending campaign donors or a news media that many view as biased.
If you wanted to run for governor as an independent last year, you would have needed to get more than 15,000 registered voters to sign a petition to get your name on the ballot. It was a nearly impossible goal. New Mexico law sets a high bar for independent candidates to even qualify for an election. A new state legislator wants to make it easier for independents to run for office by drastically slashing the number of signatures they need to file with election officials. While the Legislature has consistently shot down past proposals to loosen up New Mexico’s notoriously tight ballot access laws, one top Democrat appears to be on board with the idea.
A bill to allow voters to register on the same day they vote cleared its first House committee Wednesday. The House, State Government, Elections & Indian Affairs Committee advanced the proposal on a party-line vote. The bill aims to let voters register or update their voter registration during early voting or on Election Day, and vote on the same day. Currently, voters must register four weeks before the election to be eligible to vote. One of the bill’s Democratic co-sponsors, Patricia Roybal Caballero of Albuquerque, said the legislation “is the ultimate access bill to allow voters to access the electoral process as openly as possible.”
The bill would allow new voters to register on Election Day and those already registered to change their address.
Both federal and state candidates filed campaign finance reports this week, showing how much they spent on their races this year. The reports showed several very high-cost races. Democrat Michelle Lujan Grisham spent nearly twice as much as her Republican opponent on the way to her victory in last month’s elections, and spending by the two exceeded $14 million. In all, Lujan Grisham spent over $9.5 million, while Steve Pearce spent just under $4.9 million. Lujan Grisham’s total includes money spent during a primary, which she easily won, while Pearce didn’t face a Republican opponent.
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.
U.S. Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham will take on a new title in January when she becomes New Mexico’s next governor. Ending the nearly two-year-long campaign for governor, Lujan Grisham and her opponent Republican U.S. Rep. Steve Pearce each addressed their respective supporters Tuesday night. Calling out to the crowd in Albuquerque, Governor-Elect Lujan Grisham pointed out that the state has more opportunities than challenges. “This state is so ready to lead,” she said. “We will lead from today, and on renewable, clean energy we will be known as the clean energy state of America.”
At the Republican Party of New Mexico watch party, Pearce had similar thoughts about the state’s ability to succeed.
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.
More people cast ballots by the end of early voting than ever before in a New Mexico midterm election. Between early and absentee ballots, the Secretary of State reported 430,796 votes by the end of early in-person voting on Saturday. That’s thirty percent more than in 2010. NM Political Report dug into the numbers provided by the Secretary of State,and just a reminder that absentee numbers can still increase, as any ballots returned before close of polls on Election Day will be counted. 0.56: Percent of voters who cast ballots who are registered Libertarians.
Congressional candidate Xochitl Torres Small once again dominated fundraising in the federal races, according to the latest campaign finance reports, covering Oct. 1 to Oct. 17. The Democrat seeking the 2nd Congressional District seat reported raising nearly $950,000 in those 17 days. The hefty campaign finance haul brought the water attorney’s total tally to over $3.8 million for the open congressional seat.
The latest New York Times/Siena College poll shows just how close the 2nd Congressional District race remains. The poll found that Republican state Rep. Yvette Herrell leads her Democratic opponent, water attorney Xochitl Torres Small, 45 percent to 44 percent, with still 11 percent undecided. Nate Cohn of the New York Times, who is part of the congressional polling project for the newspaper, says it was their closest result yet. The poll notes that the margin of error of +/- 4.6 percent means each candidate’s true numbers could be that much in either direction. Spending in the district, which is in the millions by outside groups, shows they also believe the race is one of dozens in the nation that will determine who controls the U.S. House of Representatives.