One of the less-surprising moments on Tuesday was when U.S. Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham won the Democratic primary for governor. A recent Albuquerque Journal poll showed Lujan Grisham more than 40 points ahead of former television executive and son of a past New Mexico governor, Jeff Apodaca. On Tuesday night, election numbers showed Lujan Grisham with more than 60 percent of the vote against Apodaca and state Sen. Joe Cervantes.
“You guys are awesome,” Lujan Grisham said to supporters Tuesday night during a victory speech in Albuquerque.
In the last several weeks, the race became increasingly contentious when Apodaca’s campaign criticized Lujan Grisham’s role in a private company that manages the state’s high risk insurance pool. Apodaca said Lujan Grisham, along with state Rep. Debbie Armstrong, were profiting from exploiting sick and vulnerable New Mexicans. Lujan said the high risk pool helped those without insurance and that she recently divested herself from the company she started with Armstrong.
Earlier this year, a former congressional intern claimed she was fired for being transgender in 2015. Lujan Grisham and her campaign have consistently denied the allegation. The young woman, Riley Del Rey, has since taken to publicly criticising the congresswoman and pledging her support to Apodaca.
Both Del Rey’s termination and Lujan Grisham’s healthcare work will surely come up sometime in the next five months leading up to the general election, but Lujan Grisham told supporters on Tuesday to be ready for them and more, particularly from right-leaning PACs.
“The false attacks and phony scandals, we need to talk about those for just a little. Poquito,” Lujan Grisham said during her victory speech.
“The truth is, they are nothing compared to the negative campaign of distortion and the lies we are likely to see from the national Republican Party.”
Lujan told Albuquerque radio station KANW-FM that Cervantes called her and was “gracious” in his concession. She did not know if Apodaca had reached out, but said she had not yet spoken to him.
At his campaign party, Apodaca stopped short of conceding but said he knew Lujan Grisham was going to beat him during early voting. He vowed to “keep the pressure on our political leaders” even if it’s through a private venture instead of public service.
Standing next to his wife, Apodaca said he wasn’t sure what was next for him.
“God always opens up our paths for us,” he said. “We don’t know what that is, but tomorrow’s a new day.”
Lujan Grisham will now face Republican U.S. Rep. Steve Pearce in the November election. The two currently serve in Congress together and their race will mark the first time two sitting Congress members have faced off against each other in a gubernatorial race.