The recent Albuquerque and Las Cruces municipal elections, along with other races nationwide, could signal a warning for Republicans in the 2018 elections. The pendulum looks to be swinging from Republican gains during the Barack Obama years to Democratic gains in response to Donald Trump, according to Brian Sanderoff, the president of the Albuquerque-based Research & Polling, Inc.
“I think the political mood right now benefits Democrats,” he said. “And I think part of that is due to the fact that a Republican is in the White House, has lower approval ratings and all the dynamics that go with that.”
In New Mexico, 2018 will be an important election year with the governor’s race, a U.S. Senate seat, three U.S. congressional districts and a number of other statewide positions up for grabs. Locally, Tim Keller’s comprehensive victory in Albuquerque for mayor, the flipping of a previously Republican-held Albuquerque city council seat and the progressive sweep of the Las Cruces city council show how national shifts are reflected in New Mexico politics. “That’s American politics, du jour, that it goes back and forth,” University of New Mexico political science professor Lonna Atkeson said.
A top Democratic gubernatorial candidates says a Lt. Gov. candidate should step down because of sexual harassment claims from a decade ago. Michelle Lujan Grisham told the Associated Press she believed State Sen. Michael Padilla, D-Albuquerque, should not run for the state’s second-highest position because of the claims.
In New Mexico, the governor and lieutenant governor of major parties are each nominated separately in party primaries, then run as a ticket in the general election. The allegations date back to before Padilla’s political career, when he worked for the city of Albuquerque at the city’s 911 call center. Padilla faced a suit in federal court from five women for creating a hostile work environment and sexual harassment. Padilla resigned, but denied the allegations.
Ray Powell announced today that he is leaving the race for New Mexico State Land Commissioner due to health issues. The Democrat, who previously served in that position from 1993-2002 and 2011-2014, said he made the difficult decision after being diagnosed with Myasthenia Gravis, an autoimmune disease. He explained that after complications from dental work he had a hard time speaking, and knew he should see a doctor. Unable to get an appointment with a neurologist within the next few months, he went to the emergency room instead. “You just can’t run a statewide campaign, or I can’t, with this condition,” Powell told NM Political Report.
One Democratic lawmaker already says he’s planning to run to for State Auditor, now that Tim Keller won the race for Albuquerque mayor. State Rep. Bill McCamley, D-Mesilla Park, confirmed to NM Political Report Tuesday night that he plans on entering the race. If Keller had lost the race, he would have been able to run for a second term. Instead, Keller will become mayor on Dec. 1.
President Donald Trump promised to drain the swamp, but to one of his most controversial political allies, that morass has widened — to now encompass the Republican Party. Appearing on Fox News’ “Hannity” show in October, former White House strategist Steve Bannon called the GOP a “globalist clique.” Bannon, who is executive chair of the far-right Breitbart News Network, promised to use his media platform and funding connections to challenge every Republican incumbent (apart from Texas Sen. Ted Cruz) with his own “coalition” of candidates for the 2018 midterm elections. “We are declaring war on the Republican establishment that does not back the agenda that Donald Trump ran on,” Bannon said, adding that it would be a long-term effort to first replace Republican incumbents, and then Democrats. That has put some Western Republicans in Bannon’s crosshairs, as senators from Utah to Arizona have been either tepid in their support, or outright critical of Trump. Here’s a list of potential targets:
Sen. Jeff Flake, Arizona
Flake has been one of Trump’s most outspoken Republican critics from the get-go.
During the 2016 election, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security didn’t know which state officials to communicate with to relay the threat of attempted Russian interference. That confusion is one thing U.S. Senator Martin Heinrich wants to fix with the Securing America’s Voting Equipment (SAVE) Act, which he introduced with Maine Republican Senator Susan Collins. “I think overall, over the course of the last few decades, we may have become complacent as a country as to the potential for this,” Heinrich said of attempts to influence elections in the United States. “There were cases where they were maybe engaged with the wrong decisionmaker or talking to the vendor instead of, say a secretary of state or a county clerk,” Heinrich said. “Just getting all of that written down in a way that sort of provides a roadmap for a real-time event so that the response is quick provides a lot of advantages.”
If passed, the legislation would strengthen the security of the country’s elections system, which are not centrally run by the federal government, but by state and local officials.
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.