All eyes are on Governor-elect Michelle Lujan Grisham. With about two months until the legislative session starts and just weeks until she takes office, speculation and rumors about how she’ll run the state are growing. Lujan Grisham will appoint new department heads for the state agencies, but she has another list of important appointments to make shortly after taking office. Lujan Grisham will also have to fill state judicial vacancies and a New Mexico Senate seat in southern New Mexico as she takes office in January. During her campaign, Lujan Grisham also said she would like to see all new members of the University of New Mexico Board of Regents.
Republican congressional candidate Yvette Herrell filed a suit Tuesday, asking a judge to order the impound of absentee ballots in a key southern New Mexico county after she lost to Xochitl Torres Small in last week’s election. Herrell filed the suit in state district court and asked the court to order State Police to take control of absentee ballots and associated documents from Doña Ana County. She also wants an investigation into “reports of chain-of-custody issues and other improprieties” though she provided no evidence of problems.
The Doña Ana County Canvassing Board unanimously certified the results of last week’s election hours before Herrell filed the suit. In the filing, Herrell claims she was “stripped of [the] title” of winner of the election because of the results from the Doña Ana County absentee ballots. Some media outlets had already projected Herrell to win, but at least one, the Albuquerque Journal, did not know of the absentee ballots.
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.
Governor-elect Michelle Lujan Grisham and Gov. Susana Martinez made their first joint-public appearance since Election Day on Friday to announce that the two are in the midst of a smooth transition. Both Lujan Grisham and Martinez highlighted the significance of Martinez, the nation’s first Latina governor, handing the reins of state government over to another Latina. Lujan Grisham will be sworn in on Jan. 1. The outgoing governor also took a moment to take credit for handing over a healthy state government to Lujan Grisham.
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.
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.
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.