After Donald Trump defeated Hillary Clinton and Democrats failed to take control of the Senate, many saw 2016 as a disastrous election for Democrats. At least nationwide. But in New Mexico the party retook control the state House of Representatives and expanded their majority in the Senate. Statewide, Clinton defeated Trump by 8 percent, even though over 9 percent of voters backed Libertarian nominee and former Gov. Gary Johnson. While the election took place ten months ago and may seem like old news, the results can provide a glimpse into which races will be competitive in 2018.
A national outlet says New Mexico has a very good chance of flipping from a Republican governor to a Democratic one. In fact, National Journal predicted this week that New Mexico is the second-most likely state to elect a governor from a different party than the incumbent in the coming year. Gov. Susana Martinez, a Republican, cannot run for a third consecutive term because of term limits. From National Journal (story is behind a paywall): Martinez’s favorability has faded as the economy stagnates in the Democratic-trending state. Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham, a former state Cabinet official backed by EMILY’s List, is the front-runner for the Democratic nomination and general election next year.
A member of Democratic state senate leadership announced he is running for Lieutenant Governor. Michael Padilla, the Majority Whip in the state Senate, made the announcement early Monday morning. He says his focus while running for Lt. Gov. will be similar to his focus during his four years in the state senate. “Helping New Mexico end poverty will be the focus of my campaign for Lieutenant Governor,” Padilla said in a statement. Padilla mentioned early childhood development in his announcement.
With primary elections for many races a little less than a year away, candidates are already jockeying for positions. The top tier race in the state will be the race to replace Susana Martinez as governor. The Republican is barred from running for a third consecutive term by state law. U.S. Rep. Steve Pearce is the lone Republican candidate so far. Pearce said in a press call after announcing his candidacy that he believed Lt. Gov. John Sanchez and Albuquerque Mayor Richard Berry would not seek the position.
U.S. Rep. Steve Pearce announced Monday that he is running for governor. Pearce becomes the first Republican to announce a run for the position and is taking his third crack at a statewide office after previously losing in two U.S. Senate races.A launch video highlights his time in New Mexico, since a child, and his pledge to help the state recover from its economic problems.
“My commitment is that I’ll work hard every day, bringing jobs back to the state, fixing a broken education system and relieving the poverty that we know is possible to relieve,” Pearce says in the video. Pearce reiterated those points in a press call Monday afternoon. He called it “heartbreaking” that New Mexico is at the bottom of so many lists and asserted that New Mexico has everything it needs to be successful but “we just need to manage it better.”
Management, and his business experience, is something Pearce touched on repeatedly, including when talking about education. Pearce said he wanted to move decision-making closer to the district and classroom level.
A group that raised big money in the Georgia special congressional election last month is now endorsing Martin Heinrich’s U.S. Senate reelection bid. End Citizens United supports campaign finance reform, including the titular goal of overturning the Citizens United U.S. Supreme Court decision. The group’s president and executive director, Tiffany Muller, praised Heinrich while endorsing him. “Senator Heinrich has consistently stepped up to the plate to root out Big Money from our political system and represent those who really matter—hard-working New Mexico families,” Muller said in a statement. “He knows that special interests are rigging the system and Americans are getting left behind, which is why he’s fighting to rip the price tag off of our democracy.
Democrats are lining up to run for Congress in the 2nd Congressional District in 2018. Four have already decided to take a stab at the 2nd Congressional District seat, currently held by Republican Steve Pearce. The district has been held by Republicans for all but two years since New Mexico gained a third seat in 1983. From 2009 to 2011, Democrat Harry Teague held the seat after winning in the Democratic wave election of 2008, when Steve Pearce opted for a Senate run. Pearce again ran for the seat in 2010 and easily defeated Teague.
New Mexico’s gubernatorial race is trending blue according to a prominent news outlet that analyzes elections. The Cook Political Report changed its ratings for eight gubernatorial elections Monday, moving New Mexico and four other states toward Democrats, two states closer to Republicans and one away from an independent. New Mexico was moved from a toss up to “Lean D.” According to the outlet’s rating system, “lean” races “are considered competitive races but one party has an advantage” while toss ups “are the most competitive races; either party has a good chance of winning.”
New Mexico is one of two races with current Republican governors where the race is likely to tilt Democratic. New Jersey, with unpopular Gov. Chris Christie leaving, is considered “likely D,” which means it is not currently competitive but could become so at some point. Gov. Susana Martinez is unable to run for a third consecutive term.
In news that surprised no one, Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver announced Tuesday that she will run for reelection. “From modernizing campaign finance rules to increasing ballot access and voter education in our native and rural communities, we are making swift progress on many of the priorities I set early on,” the Democrat said in her press release. “I look forward to serving a full term for the people of New Mexico so that we can continue to combat dark money in politics, raise the bar for transparency and accountability in government and cement our sacred voting rights for every eligible citizen.”
No other candidate has announced their intention to run. Toulouse Oliver, a Democrat, won election in 2016, defeating Republican Nora Espinoza. The position is normally contested in non-presidential years, but the election was held in 2016 because Dianna Duran resigned from her position as Secretary of State hours before pleading guilty to criminal charges related to campaign finance.
Former House Majority Leader Rick Miera announced Monday that he will run for lieutenant governor. The Albuquerque Democrat is the second to announce a run for the position. “I am running for Lt. Governor because New Mexicans deserve leaders who have the courage to make the bold decisions we need that will get our state moving again,” Miera said in a statement announcing his candidacy. The position’s biggest responsibility is to preside over the state senate. In the event of a tie vote in the Senate, the lieutenant governor will cast a vote, something that very rarely occurs.