June 5, 2018

Voters to choose nominees for guv, other races



After four weeks of early voting, the last of New Mexico’s voters will cast their ballots today.

Already, over 110,000 New Mexicans have voted through either early in-person or absentee voting. More than 75 percent of those have been Democrats. Democrats have cast 76,839 votes, Republicans 34,674 votes and Libertarians, in their first cycle as a major party, 265 votes.

More Democrats are casting ballots because they have a competitive race at the top of the ballot. Republicans have no primaries with multiple candidates on the ballot in any statewide race. And Libertarians do not have more than one candidate in any race.

Democrats will decide which of three candidates will face U.S. Rep. Steve Pearce in the general election in November. U.S. Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham had a large lead in the Albuquerque Journal poll released last week, but State Sen. Joseph Cervantes and former media executive Jeff Apodaca, the son of former governor Jerry Apodaca, stepped up their attacks on Lujan Grisham over the last week.

Apodaca called on Lujan Grisham to step down from the race because of her ties to Delta Consulting, a company that managed the state’s high risk pool. Lujan Grisham released five years’ worth of taxes and amended her congressional financial disclosure to reflect the money she made from the company.

Gov. Susana Martinez cannot run for a third consecutive term.

Other statewide races

The other big primary to watch is the Democratic primary for State Land Commissioner. Incumbent Aubrey Dunn opted not to run for another term and is instead running for U.S. Senate, as a member of the Libertarian Party.

Three Democrats are running to replace Dunn, sportsman and conservationist  Garrett VeneKlasen, state Rep. Stephanie Garcia Richard and state Sen. George Muñoz.

The winner of that primary will face Public Regulation Commissioner Pat Lyons, a Republican and  former two-term State Land Commissioner, in the November general election.

In the final days of the primary conservative PACs with ties to prominent Republicans intervened in the race to support Muñoz.

The PACs received funding from energy companies and also the state’s largest electric utility, all of which  could clash with a conservation-friendly Land Commissioner.

Another PAC, the Santa Fe New Mexican reported, with ties to a conservative Republican state senator, went after VeneKlasen with a robocall.

Democrats will also have a choice in the race for State Auditor. Former Democratic Party of New Mexico chairman Brian Colón faces state Rep. Bill McCamley in the primary. Colón is considered the favorite in the Journal polling.

The winner will face State Auditor Wayne Johnson. Martinez appointed Johnson to replace Tim Keller after the Democrat was elected mayor of Albuquerque and vacated the State Auditor’s office.

Democrats will also choose between state Sen. Howie Morales, former House Majority Leader Rick Miera and Doña Ana County Commissioner Billy Garrett for lieutenant governor. Former Albuquerque mayoral candidate Michelle Garcia Holmes is the lone Republican seeking the position.

In New Mexico, the lieutenant governor is elected separately from the governor in the primary, then the two run as a ticket in the general election.

The other races do not feature more than one candidate.

Congressional races

The 1st Congressional District Democratic primary will drive voters to the polls.

Five candidates are seeking the nomination, with former U.S. Attorney Damon Martinez, former Democratic Party of New Mexican chairwoman Deb Haaland and former UNM professor Antoinette Sedillo-Lopez close in the Albuquerque Journal poll.

Haaland received a boost when Albuquerque City Councilor Pat Davis* dropped out of the race and endorsed her last week. Davis had the support of five percent of voters in the Journal poll, which could tip the race.

The Democrat who wins the race will face Republican Janice Arnold-Jones, a former state representative and Libertarian Lloyd Princeton Democrats are favored to win the seat, which has increasingly trended towards Democrats in the last decade.

There is one contested Republican primary. In the 2nd Congressional District, four Republicans are hoping to replace Pearce in Congress. Former Republican Party of New Mexico chairman Monty Newman and state Rep. Yvette Herrell are considered the frontrunners in what has been a hard-fought primary.

Former Donald Trump administration official Gavin Clarkson and digital marketer Clayburn Griffin are also seeking the position.

The Republican nominee will have a leg up in the state’s most conservative district in the general election this fall.

But two Democrats, water attorney Xochitl Torres Small and Coast Guard veteran Madeline Hildebrandt, hope to ride a possible Democratic wave into office. Torres Small has received the support of national Democrats.

Legislative races

Two of the biggest legislative races are in northern New Mexico.

State Rep. Carl Trujillo faces former Regional Coalition of LANL Communities Executive Director Andrea Romero in the Democratic Primary for House District 46. Romero is under fire for spending as head of the group. But Carl Trujillo is facing a sexual harassment investigation, the first under the new legislative process approved following the #MeToo movement.

Spending from outside groups and political donations became a last-minute campaign issue, with a supporter of Trujillo filing a complaint against liberal organizations* who called on him to resign. Those groups noted that oil and gas companies donated to Trujillo’s campaign.

Another incumbent facing a well-funded challenger is Debbie Rodella, in House District 41. Rodella has represented the seat that includes Española and northern New Mexico since 1993, but faces a serious challenger for the first time in over a decade. Susan Herrera, an executive director of the Los Alamos Laboratory Foundation, received national support from the liberal blog Daily Kos.

Rodella, meanwhile, raised tens of thousands of dollars to keep her seat.

In the Albuquerque area, Democratic state Rep. Patricia Roybal Caballero faces two challengers, including one, Robert Atencio, who has raised more money than the incumbent.

In all three cases, no Republican filed to run in the heavily-Democratic districts, so the winners of the Democratic primaries will almost certainly win the seats in November.

Other districts without incumbents running also have high profile, potentially competitive primaries.

In House District 43, the district’s representative, Garcia Richard, opted to run for State Land Commissioner instead of running for another term. Two Democrats, Los Alamos County Council Vice Chair Christine Chandler and Los Alamos County Councilor Peter Sheehey, are seeking the party’s nomination. The winner of that race will face Republican optometrist Lisa Shin in the general election.

McCamley opted not to run for another term in House District 33 and three Democrats are seeking the seat, including Young Women United research director Micaela Cadena.

In House District 22, two Republicans, UNM Hospital doctor Gregg Schmedes and public relations specialist Merritt Allen, are hoping to replace Jim Smith, who is now a Bernalillo County Commissioner. The winner will face Democrat Jessica Velasquez in the Republican-heavy district.

Voters in House District 40 will elect a new legislator for the first time since 1973 after Democrat Nick Salazar announced he would retire from the Legislature. Former Jemez Mountains Electric Cooperative CEO Joseph L. Sanchez, New Mexico Acequia Association executive director Paula Garcia and Rio Arriba County Commissioner Barney Trujillo are all seeking the Democratic nomination. No Republican filed to run in the district.

*Pat Davis is the former executive of ProgressNow New Mexico, which helps find funding for NM Political Report but has no editorial input on this or any other story.

**One of those organizations is ProgressNow New Mexico.

Update: Added info about the lieutenant governor’s race.