There was some big news in the land of elections over the last week here in New Mexico. The biggest news was probably two Republican member sof the House who decided not to run for another term: House Minority Leader Nate Gentry and Sarah Maestas Barnes. Both are from Albuquerque. They are also both in districts that increasingly lean towards Democrats and would have been tough for Republicans to hold even with the incumbency advantage. You can see more analysis of these and other legislative seats here.
In the past few weeks, I noticed something from Steve Pearce’s campaign. Twice, staffers posted on social media that in the governor’s race, he is “tied” in the gubernatorial race against Michelle Lujan Grisham. And this week, when replying to the story about his controversial comments on same-sex marriage from 2008, his campaign manager asserted the video came out because national Democrats “are panicking because this race is tied.”
Democrats still have a contested primary, while Pearce has no opponent in June. I asked Pearce’s campaign manager why he said that, and he pointed to Google Ads by Lujan Grisham’s campaign asserting that the race is tied. “I’d assume it’s one of their internal polls but that’s a guess,” Paul Smith wrote in an email.
New Mexico’s 2nd Congressional District isn’t the safe territory it used to be for Republicans, according to election handicappers. Most experts have put the Republican stronghold in the “Likely Republican” category. This is both because of the national environment—there are many more competitive Republican seats compared to Democratic seats—and the fact that the incumbent is not running for reelection. U.S. Rep. Steve Pearce is instead running for governor. The Cook Political Report offers the most aggressive prediction.
Just after 10 on a bright, but chilly Wednesday morning, Mick Rich strolled into a retro-looking coffee shop on historic Route 66 in Tucumcari. Making his way to the back of the restaurant, where the walls and windows were covered in “Mick Rich for Senate” campaign signs, he introduced himself to diners. “I’m Mick Rich and I’m running for Senate,” he said to a few people eating bacon, eggs and stacks of pancakes. Pushing 6 feet tall and bald, Rich made a point to stop at every table, both on the way in and out. After less than an hour talking to about 15 people in Tucumcari, and with a cinnamon roll to go, Rich climbed into the back seat of “The Beast,” a four-ton rig, wrapped with the words “Mick Rich for Senate” and an attached living space, for the two-hour trip to Las Vegas, NM.
A southern New Mexico Democrat got a key endorsement ahead of the 2nd Congressional District primary. EMILY’s List, a national organization that supports women who support abortion rights, announced Friday it is endorsing Xochitl Torres Small. “With this open seat, working families of the 2nd District have a chance to elect a leader who brings New Mexicans of all backgrounds together to tackle tough problems – not one who would end health care access for millions of people and give big corporations tax cuts at the expense of the middle class,” Stephanie Schriock, president of EMILY’S List, said in a statement. “Southern New Mexico families can count on Xochitl doing the same in Congress, which is why EMILY’s List is proud to support her.” The endorsement comes on the heels of Torres Small winning the Democratic pre-primary convention with nearly two-thirds of the votes from party delegates in the district.
Peter DeBenedittis announced Wednesday that he would end his gubernatorial campaign. The announcement came after the longshot candidate failed to reach two percent at the Democratic pre-primary convention, and urged his supporters to instead support Jeff Apodaca, one of his opponents. DeBenedittis said he was “incredibly sad” to make the decision, but thanked supporters. He also outlined why he said his campaign never gained traction. “Over the past few weeks, our campaign needed several things to break in our direction for the campaign to be viable, and none of them did,” DeBenedittis wrote.
The field is set for the 2018 state House primaries, with eight incumbents not filing for reelection and several others facing potentially competitive challenges either in the primary or the general election. Still, there are 26 candidates, all incumbents, who face no opposition in either the primary or general election. Independent and third party candidates can still enter, but it is much more difficult to make the ballot and win, due to higher signature requirements and a lack of party structure. Meanwhile, just two Libertarian Party candidates took advantage of the party’s new major party status to seek state legislative office. Here is a look at some of the 70 legislative races and dozens of candidates to watch.
Both major political parties saw some signs of encouragement in municipal elections Tuesday. The most high-profile election took place in Santa Fe. Not only is the state capital one of the largest cities in the state, it also used ranked choice voting for the first time. Santa Fe voters chose Alan Webber as the next mayor. The election had high turnout with 38 percent of the city’s registered voters taking part.
Blair Dunn always knew he was a Libertarian, but instead registered as a Republican. Like Hermey the Elf in Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, Blair has found solace on his own island of misfits. Blair’s island is the Libertarian Party of New Mexico. At almost seven feet tall with his signature cowboy boots and bow tie, Dunn will never be mistaken for an elf. He’s easy to spot, even in the most crowded room.
New Mexico’s State Land Commissioner said he will block the United States government from accessing some state lands along the border unless they can come to an agreement on access to the area. The newly-minted Libertarian, who is running for U.S. Senate, posted signs Tuesday along a mile of state trust land along the border with Mexico. In a press release, he called the construction of fences and roads on the land a “federal land grab.”
He told the Associated Press his office would install a fence to block access to the property if his office can’t come to an agreement with the federal government. Dunn said an investigation by his office found the federal government constructed a road and a fence on a stretch of land without acquiring the necessary right-of-way. Dunn wrote to the federal government about state lands along the border, and proposed a land swap, earlier this year.