U.S. Sen. Martin Heinrich will serve a second term in Washington D.C. after a significant win against Republican Mick Rich and Libertarian Gary Johnson. Heinrich gave his acceptance speech to a crowd of supporters and alongside his wife and two sons. “In the face of a president who defies so much of what we stand for as Americans, I will continue to stand with you,” he told the crowd. He said he will continue to oppose a border wall between the United States and Mexico that “our border communities do not want and do not need.”
A Senate race that was largely assumed to go to Heinrich, saw a twist when one of the rounds of musical chairs in the Libertarian Party of New Mexico included a swap-out from New Mexico Land Commissioner Aubrey Dunn to Johnson, a former New Mexico governor. Dunn had been polling mostly in single digits with Rich and Heinrich splitting most of the votes.
That was Gov. Susana Martinez talking to a police dispatcher in December 2015 after hotel employees called in a noise complaint. Many of her critics focused on her slurred speech that night. But Martinez’s demand for what she deemed a public record grabbed the attention of journalists and open records advocates because of her administration’s history of delaying or outright denying public records. When she first ran for governor in 2010, Martinez vowed to be more transparent than her predecessor, Bill Richardson.
The flood of U.S. Senate polls since Gary Johnson entered the race continued this week. Two new partisan polls show different visions of the U.S. Senate race, but both show the incumbent leading while the insurgent Libertarian candidate trails in third place. One newly-released poll by Greenberg, Quinlan, Rosner Research for The Majority Institute, an organization that seeks to elect Democrats to the U.S. Senate, showed Heinrich with the support of 48 percent of likely voters, compared to 33 percent for Republican Mick Rich and 17 percent for Johnson, a former governor. The poll was conducted in early August, before Johnson formally entered the race. Another poll released before Johnson formally entered the race showed the same order.
Last year as hardcore band Cipher took the stage in Philadelphia, the group’s frontman, Maurice “Moe” Mitchell, took a moment to call for unity. “The hardcore scene, and I grew up in the hardcore scene, was a rare space where people of all different race, class, gender, expression, create a community together,” Mitchell told the crowd. That rare message in today’s political climate is one that Mitchell seems to take with him everywhere, including as an organizer for Black Lives Matter and, more recently, as the national director for the Working Families Party. Mitchell came to New Mexico this week as part of a “national blitz” and said he plans to take what he learned in the grassroots world of progressive organizing and apply it to the more-distinctly-organized world of political campaigns. “When you’re coming from a very, sort of, top-down staff model, it can be very scary to give that much latitude to people you may not even know,” Mitchell said of how political groups are typically structured.
Gary Johnson, the Libertarian Party of New Mexico nominee for U.S. Senate, is still mum on whether he will run. But, that hasn’t stopped supporters and political adversaries from chiming in on his candidacy. Johnson has yet to even launch a campaign, but some of his supporters are calling for his possible Republican opponent, Mick Rich, to drop out of the race. Those supporters say internal polling suggests with Rich out of the picture, Johnson would win in a head-to-head race against U.S. Senator Martin Heinrich. Too much competition?
New Mexicans likely won’t see a Libertarian candidate for governor on the ballot in November. While still unofficial, the results of a recount conducted Wednesday show the party’s primary candidates for those races lacked enough write-in votes to make it onto the general election ballot. Bob Walsh, a gubernatorial hopeful, and Robin Dunn, running for lieutenant governor, both entered the race on the Libertarian ticket after the filing deadline, forcing them to run as write-in candidates. Per state law, Walsh and Dunn each needed 230 votes in the primary election to be included as candidates in November. Walsh was short by 44 votes, and Dunn by 40, to make it onto the general election ballot.
For New Mexico Democrats, the celebration and rallying didn’t stop after he primaries on Tuesday night. About 75 party officials, candidates and their supporters crammed into a back room of an iconic Albuquerque restaurant Wednesday morning to celebrate primary wins from late the night before. Democratic primary winners Deb Haaland and U.S. Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham energized the crowd at Barelas Coffee House with talks about winning the general election in November. “We have the most incredible Democrats,” Lujan Grisham said. “I have to say this is one of the strongest tickets I’ve ever seen.”
Haaland, who is the Democratic candidate for the congressional seat Lujan Grisham currently holds, encouraged Democrats to take any criticism from Republicans with a grain of salt.
“You know all of this doesn’t have to be so serious, when we’re getting hit with this barrage of horrible things from the Republicans,” Haaland told the crowd.
One of the less-surprising moments on Tuesday was when U.S. Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham won the Democratic primary for governor. A recent Albuquerque Journal poll showed Lujan Grisham more than 40 points ahead of former television executive and son of a past New Mexico governor, Jeff Apodaca. On Tuesday night, election numbers showed Lujan Grisham with more than 60 percent of the vote against Apodaca and state Sen. Joe Cervantes. “You guys are awesome,” Lujan Grisham said to supporters Tuesday night during a victory speech in Albuquerque. In the last several weeks, the race became increasingly contentious when Apodaca’s campaign criticized Lujan Grisham’s role in a private company that manages the state’s high risk insurance pool.
Outside the New Mexico State Capitol on Thursday morning a small group of men and women gathered to spread the word that candidates should not need an R, D or L after their names to win a race. The group also hoped to reach the almost quarter of New Mexico voters not registered with a particular party and show them not everyone has to choose from established major-party candidates. “Buenos días de Dios. I’m Tweeti Blancett,” one of the candidates called to about a dozen people outside the Roundhouse, “I’m running for state representative for District 40 and I’m an independent.”
Blancett is a rancher from northern New Mexico and a former Republican legislator. Blancett’s campaign announcement also helped launch Unite New Mexico, a local partner of Unite America.
New Mexico’s next governor should be ready to confront the state’s critical water issues on his or her first day in office. That’s according to Mike Connor, deputy secretary of the U.S. Department of the Interior during the Obama administration, who spoke at a water conference at the University of New Mexico on Thursday. The agenda looked ahead—past the six remaining months of Gov. Susana Martinez’s administration—to what the next governor needs to understand about New Mexico’s water challenges, from drought and water transfers to interstream agreements, including on the Colorado River, whose waters seven U.S. states and Mexico share. Connor noted that on the Rio Grande, Elephant Butte Reservoir is 18 percent full, and said it could drop to less than five percent by the end of this year’s irrigation season. “The governor needs to have some policy initiatives ready to go as quickly as possible because there are going to be water issues that need to be addressed from the get-go,” he said.