The Democratic campaign arm that seeks to flip the House released polling Tuesday that showed the race for the 2nd Congressional District in New Mexico is close. The memo, released by the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, shows Republican state Rep. Yvette Herrell leads Democratic water attorney Xochitl Torres Small 45 percent to 43 percent in the Republican-leaning district. The release also looked at polling in ten other congressional districts. A memo, credited to DCCC chairman and New Mexico’s U.S. Representative in the 3rd Congressional District Ben Ray Luján, says the polling shows Democrats will be competitive in districts even where President Donald Trump won in 2016. This includes New Mexico’s 2nd Congressional District, which Trump won 50.1 percent to 39.9 percent.
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.
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.
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.
Delegates for the Democratic Party of New Mexico chose their preferred candidates for statewide and federal races Saturday afternoon at the state pre-primary convention. But before candidates finished their stump speeches, a brief protest and an alliance between two gubernatorial candidates caused some excitement. The Democratic convention showed higher numbers of both the number of candidates and convention attendees than the recent Republican and Libertarian state parties. Six state and federal candidates emerged from contested races as party favorites for the Democratic primary election in June. While he denied rumors that he was dropping out, gubernatorial candidate Peter DeBenedittis used his speech to encourage delegates to cast votes for another candidate in the race, Jeff Apodaca.
Another Democrat is seeking the party’s nomination for the 2nd Congressional District seat. Xochitl Torres Small, a water attorney from Las Cruces, announced Wednesday that she is joining a shrinking field of Democrats. “As the daughter of a teacher and a social worker in Las Cruces, I learned early the values of hard work and having your neighbor’s back – something that seems long forgotten in Washington today,” Torres Small said. “To solve our greatest problems, we need a new crop of leaders ready to bring New Mexicans of all backgrounds together to find common sense solutions. I’m running to expand opportunities for hardworking families and to strengthen our rural communities with better access to healthcare, broadband service and good-paying jobs.”
She also announced a number of endorsements, including Democratic state representatives in the Las Cruces area Doreen Gallegos, Rudy Martinez and Joanne Ferrary.
One Republican candidate announced he would no longer seek the party’s nomination for the 2nd Congressional District race, which covers southern New Mexico. But another candidate quickly took his place. Such is the turmoil in an open seat race, as candidates jostle for the nomination in the state’s most conservative district. Andrew Salas, a New Mexico National Guard brigadier general, announced on Facebook Monday morning he would leave the race because of his military service. “My military service has never stopped during this campaign and recently I received a new assignment that will continue to take me out of New Mexico during the homestretch of the campaign,” Salas said.
A young, first-generation American is throwing his hat in the ring for the open seat congressional race in southern New Mexico. Angel Peña, the Río Bravo Regional Conservation Director for Conservation Lands Foundation, told NM Political Report Thusday that he intends to join the Democratic primary for the seat. Incumbent Steve Pearce is leaving the seat to run for governor. Peña said running for Congress wasn’t on his radar at the start of 2017. But over the year, certain events changed his mind, starting with the inauguration of Donald Trump in January.
Some resources from national Democrats are trickling into New Mexico in an attempt to swing the state’s 2nd Congressional District from Republicans to Democrats. The national party is doing that as many predict a “wave” election for Democrats, and a chance to return the majority in the U.S. House of Representatives to Democrats. To do that, Democrats will need to win in traditionally-Republican districts and retain all their own districts. This puts New Mexico on the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee’s radar. Next year’s election will see two New Mexico congressional districts without an incumbent running for reelection.
Aubrey Dunn announced he will not run for reelection as state land commissioner and will instead run for congress in the state’s 2nd Congressional District. Dunn, a Republican, made the announcement Tuesday. U.S. Rep. Steve Pearce, also a Republican, announced earlier he will forego a run for an eighth term in office and instead run for governor. Dunn is so far the second Republican to announce candidacy for the seat, following state Rep. Yvette Herrell of Alamogordo. Other Republicans have said they are considering a run, including state Sen. Cliff Pirtle of Roswell.