The southern New Mexico congressional district won by Democrat Xochitl Torres Small may prove to be the most-expensive race in state history. Torres Small defeated Republican Yvette Herrell and will replace Republican Steve Pearce, who ran for governor instead of seeking another term. As anyone who watched TV in the weeks ahead of the election, candidates and outside groups targeted the race in the national battle over the U.S. House of Representatives. In all, candidates and outside groups spent $12.7 million on the race according to the Center for Responsive Politics, with several weeks of spending from candidates not due until Dec. 6.
Republican congressional candidate Yvette Herrell filed a suit Tuesday, asking a judge to order the impound of absentee ballots in a key southern New Mexico county after she lost to Xochitl Torres Small in last week’s election. Herrell filed the suit in state district court and asked the court to order State Police to take control of absentee ballots and associated documents from Doña Ana County. She also wants an investigation into “reports of chain-of-custody issues and other improprieties” though she provided no evidence of problems.
The Doña Ana County Canvassing Board unanimously certified the results of last week’s election hours before Herrell filed the suit. In the filing, Herrell claims she was “stripped of [the] title” of winner of the election because of the results from the Doña Ana County absentee ballots. Some media outlets had already projected Herrell to win, but at least one, the Albuquerque Journal, did not know of the absentee ballots.
Republican Yvette Herrell campaigned for the 2nd Congressional District on a Trump-like platform—pro-border wall and speaking about illegal immigration—and appeared alongside Vice President Mike Pence and White House counselor Kellyanne Conway. And after narrowly losing the congressional race to Democrat Xochitl Torres Small in Tuesday’s election, Herrell showed up on President Donald Trump’s favorite TV network Saturday. The state legislator told a Fox News host that she isn’t conceding to Torres Small, and she questioned the counting of absentee ballots that provided the final margin of victory for her opponent. Herrell spoke on “Justice with Judge Jeanine,” a program Trump himself appeared on before. According to Herrell, an hour after some media outlets called the race and she gave her victory speech, the Secretary of State’s office called and said, “They had magically found 4,000 ballots that had not been counted.” She said about an hour and a half later, the office said there were an additional 4,000 ballots.
All eyes were on Doña Ana County Wednesday night, as elections observers waited for county election workers to tally thousands of absentee ballots. When the county released the results for the 2nd Congressional District race on Wednesday night, the 6,411 to 1,847 margin gave Democrat Xochitl Torres Small a lead larger than the likely number of provisional ballots left. Many asked why it took election workers in Doña Ana County so long to count the votes. It came down to a lack of workers and an unforeseen influx of absentee votes. The county released the results of 8,350 absentee ballots Wednesday night (only 8,258 of which included votes for the razor-thin 2nd Congressional District race).
Democrats kept two U.S. House seats Tuesday night. And in a third, hotly contested race, the Republican leads, but thousands of uncounted of votes in a key county could flip things. The 2nd Congressional District race still isn’t over, thanks to approximately 8,000 absentee ballots whose results haven’t been posted. Out of those, 4,000 are yet to be counted. And, as journalist Heath Haussamen noted, approximately 1,000 provisional ballots also remain.
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.
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.
Congressional candidate Xochitl Torres Small once again dominated fundraising in the federal races, according to the latest campaign finance reports, covering Oct. 1 to Oct. 17. The Democrat seeking the 2nd Congressional District seat reported raising nearly $950,000 in those 17 days. The hefty campaign finance haul brought the water attorney’s total tally to over $3.8 million for the open congressional seat.
The latest New York Times/Siena College poll shows just how close the 2nd Congressional District race remains. The poll found that Republican state Rep. Yvette Herrell leads her Democratic opponent, water attorney Xochitl Torres Small, 45 percent to 44 percent, with still 11 percent undecided. Nate Cohn of the New York Times, who is part of the congressional polling project for the newspaper, says it was their closest result yet. The poll notes that the margin of error of +/- 4.6 percent means each candidate’s true numbers could be that much in either direction. Spending in the district, which is in the millions by outside groups, shows they also believe the race is one of dozens in the nation that will determine who controls the U.S. House of Representatives.
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.