After a midterm election in which Democrats wrested back control of the Governor’s Office and expanded their majority in the state House of Representatives, Kelly Fajardo feels almost invisible at the Roundhouse this year. Fajardo, you see, is a Republican representative in a Democrat-dominated House, where members of the GOP are now outnumbered by the largest margin in two decades. “It just feels like we don’t matter,” said Fajardo, R-Los Lunas. “Our job is to create good policy, and when you’re going, ‘I don’t need you. I don’t need to listen to you,’ that creates a problem,” she said.
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.
A recent poll shows Democrats are poised to clinch most statewide races, while a congressional race remains too close to call and one expensive state race leans towards Republicans. A poll by Research and Polling, Inc. for the Albuquerque Journal shows Democrat Michelle Lujan Grisham leads Republican Steve Pearce 53 percent to 43 percent in the race for governor. The ten point lead is an increase from the 7 percent race found in a September poll. The same poll found incumbent U.S. Senator Martin Heinrich, a Democrat, leading in the three-way race against former Gov. Gary Johnson, a Libertarian, and contractor Mick Rich, a Republican. Heinrich is 20 points ahead of Rich and almost 40 ahead of Johnson.
That was Gov. Susana Martinez talking to a police dispatcher in December 2015 after hotel employees called in a noise complaint. Many of her critics focused on her slurred speech that night. But Martinez’s demand for what she deemed a public record grabbed the attention of journalists and open records advocates because of her administration’s history of delaying or outright denying public records. When she first ran for governor in 2010, Martinez vowed to be more transparent than her predecessor, Bill Richardson.
A new poll shows good news for Democrats in New Mexico’s two top statewide races and a close race for a hard-fought congressional race in southern New Mexico. Emerson College released their second round of polling of likely voters in New Mexico, and the poll showed Democrat Michelle Lujan Grisham leading Republican Steve Pearce 53 percent to 44 percent in the gubernatorial race. The two are involved in an expensive race that has included millions of dollars spent on TV ads from both sides in the hopes of replacing Susana Martinez as governor. Martinez, a Republican, cannot run for a third consecutive term. A previous Emerson College poll conducted in August showed Lujan Grisham leading Steve Pearce 42 percent to 40 percent.
Governors typically come into office with high expectations, after telling voters what legislation they’ll ensure passes to improve the state. But they can run into one major challenge: the state legislature. Any legislation must pass both the House and Senate with a majority from each chamber. To do so, the governor must convince and cajole members who represent ethnically, socio-economically, geographically and ideologically diverse districts throughout the state to advance the legislation. At times, their efforts crash upon the rocks and the promised progress is stalled.
It’s just over two weeks before Election Day in one of the hottest races in the country — the Second Congressional District covering the southern half of New Mexico. Attack TV ads and nasty mailers have bombarded the air waves and stuffed mailboxes — and in the age of social media, clogged the news feeds of fired-up voters – all paid for by millions in campaign cash, national Democratic and Republican party support and spending from dark money groups. And nothing points to the onslaught easing before Election Day. This story originally appeared at New Mexico In Depth and is reprinted with permission. A 2nd Congressional District election is usually a quiet affair ending in a forgone conclusion.
Attack ads, political bottle tossing and recriminations have marked this year’s race to replace outgoing Gov. Susana Martinez, who is leaving office due to term limits. The campaign’s increasingly dark tone illustrates the state of play in politics here in New Mexico and across the nation. But under the tribalism lies something else: A set of stark differences in visions held by the two candidates, Democrat Michelle Lujan Grisham and Republican Steve Pearce, who have both abandoned seats in the U.S. House of Representatives for a shot at the Governor’s Mansion. During three televised debates, Pearce and Lujan Grisham have hurled broadsides and frontal attacks at one another on a host of issues bedeviling the state — from education to immigration, economic development to marijuana legalization, energy to water conservation. Clashes over how to address New Mexico’s persistently high crime rates, particularly in Albuquerque, have torched some of the race’s oxygen, too.
Early voting in one key southern New Mexico county is not only outpacing past years, it is so far beating out all other counties in the state. Through the end of Monday, 4,304 Doña Ana County voters already cast their ballots either by early in-person voting or by returning absentee ballots. And Democrats are happy, as 56.9 percent of those voters are Democrats. In 2016, 50.28 percent of early and absentee voters were Democrats. Statewide, 22,702 voters have already cast ballots.
A majority of New Mexico voters support legalizing recreational marijuana. And a governor who opposes the idea will leave office at the start of the year, giving hope to some supporters of the idea. But even if New Mexico’s next governor supports the legalization of recreational marijuana, a familiar obstacle would still stand in the way: the state Senate. State Sen. Jerry Ortiz y Pino has sponsored legislation to legalize recreational marijuana since 2014. He’s tried with constitutional amendments in the past, but if Michelle Lujan Grisham, who supports legalization, wins office then the effort will go through regular statue.