November 9, 2016

As Trump wins nationwide, Dems take House, expand Senate majority

The New Mexico State Capitol, or Roundhouse Wikicommons.

In a disastrous night for Democrats nationwide that saw Republican Donald Trump win the presidency, the state party actually did well, retaking the House of Representatives and expanding the party’s majority in the state Senate.

The scope of the advantage in both chambers isn’t yet known, as there could be up to four automatic recounts, two in each chamber.

Democrats also won back the Secretary of State seat when Bernalillo County Clerk Maggie Toulouse Oliver easily defeated Republican Nora Espinoza.

“What a difference two years makes,” Toulouse Oliver told a crowd of supporters Tuesday night, referring to her 2014 loss to Republican Dianna Duran.

Duran resigned last year hours before pleading guilty to counts of misusing campaign funds, for which she spent 30 days in jail. Duran’s resignation triggered a new election in 2016.

Toulouse Oliver ran again and outspent her Republican opponent, culminating in an easy victory this time.

“We have a lot to do in the next two years,” she continued. “We will hold elected officials accountable and make sure elections are free and fair and accountable to everyone in this state.”

But it wasn’t all great for state Democrats. Republican judge Judith Nakamura retained her spot on the state Supreme Court, a rare Republican judicial win in the state. Democrats lead the high court with a 4-1 advantage.

A jubilant Nakamura, who was appointed to the high court last year, declared victory in the late hours of the night at the Albuquerque Convention Center.

“I just want to thank you New Mexico, thank you Republicans, thank you Democrats, thank you decline to state,” Nakamura said. “You decided to put independent judiciary above party politics.”

And the most high profile, if mainly symbolic, win for state Republicans was the defeat of Senate Majority Leader Michael Sanchez. The powerful Belen Democrat lost after Republican PACs spent hundreds of thousands of dollars in the successful effort to defeat the thorn in the side of the governor.

Republican Greg Baca, who will take the seat, put the symbolism of his victory on show by standing next to Lt. Gov. John Sanchez. Sixteen years ago John Sanchez beat Michael Sanchez’s brother Raymond Sanchez, then Speaker of the House.

“We just want to work toward a better state here,” Baca said. “Let’s start talking about things like safer streets, better education, more jobs, more opportunities for everyone.”

Still, it appears that Democrats will expand their majority in the state Senate, though it won’t be completely clear by how many seats until final numbers come in and recounts are done.

Democrat Bill Tallman looks to have won a narrow victory over Republican Lisa Torraco in the Albuquerque-area SD 18 seat.

In the Las Cruces area, Democrat Jeff Steinborn easily defeated incumbent Republican Sen. Lee Cotter.

As of press time, Democrat incumbent Sen. John Sapien, D-Corrales, clung to a narrow lead over Republican challenger Diego Espinoza in the SD 9 seat, within the 1 percent threshold for an automatic recount.

The Senate District 39 race, which spans multiple counties from San Miguel to Lincoln County, showed a narrow lead for Democrat Liz Stefanics over Republican Senator Ted Barela. As of press time, the race was just outside the 1 percent margin for an automatic recount.

Democrats appear to have won back the state House, after two years under control of Republicans.

While several vulnerable House Republicans beat back challengers, like Albuquerque’s Sarah Maestas Barnes and House Majority Leader Nate Gentry, other Republicans fell.

Democrat Liz Thomson won back her Albuquerque seat, defeating Republican Christina Hall. Thomson lost to Republican Conrad James in 2014, after defeating him in 2012, but James opted not to run again this year, leaving an open seat.

Dona Ana County proved costly for Republicans. Democrat Nathan Small defeated incumbent Andy Nunez by more than 10 percentage points. And after losing two races to Terry McMillan, Democrat Joanne Ferrary defeated the Republican incumbent in her third attempt for the seat.

In another sequel race, Rodolpho “Rudy” Martinez defeated state Rep. John Zimmerman, a Republican who first picked up the seat two years ago. Martinez actually lost the portion of the district in Dona Ana County, but won handily in Grant County.

Republican state Rep. Paul Pacheco, who represents parts of Bernalillo and Sandoval Counties, trailed Daymon Ely with all precincts reporting within the 1 percent margin, triggering a likely recount.

But that wasn’t the closest race.

With all precincts reporting, Republican incumbent David Adkins lead his Democratic challenger Ronnie Martinez by just two votes. Even if the vote total shifts with provisional ballots, this race will be decided by a recount.