March 16, 2021

What’s next for the First Congressional District seat

With U.S. Rep. Deb Haaland’s confirmation as Secretary of the U.S. Department of the Interior, her replacement in Congress will be chosen through a special election that will be held later this year.

State law says the Secretary of State must declare a special election within ten days of a vacancy. The election date will be held between 77 and 91 days after the declaration.

Major party candidates will be selected by the party’s central committees in the district, based on party rules.

Each party will inform the Secretary of State 56 days ahead of the election who will be that party’s nominee.

So far, at least eight Democrats and five Republicans have announced their intention to seek the seat. The Libertarian Party has major party status in the state as well.

Independents and minor party candidates would also be able to qualify for the ballot by collecting signatures 56 days ahead of the election. This would likely be 3,322 signatures from registered candidates in the district.

During the current legislative session, an effort to require that general election candidates be chosen via primary elections has not advanced since the first days in the session and is extremely unlikely to pass—and even if it does, it would be unlikely to do so with an emergency clause that would allow the bill to go into effect immediately, since that would require a two-thirds vote from each chamber. 

Otherwise, bills go into effect 90 days after the end of the legislative session.

This will be the second special election in the history of the 1st Congressional District. In 1998, Republican Heather Wilson won in a four-way race to replace Steve Schiff, who died while in office. Later that year, she won election to a full term, and served until 2009, opting to run for U.S. Senate in 2008, a race in which she lost in the Republican primary to Steve Pearce.

In 1997, a Republican won the northern New Mexico 3rd Congressional District seat in a special election. The seat was vacant after Bill Richardson was confirmed to the position of U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations.

Bill Redmond, the Republican, lost his reelection bid for a full term in 1998 to Democrat Tom Udall. Redmond’s time in office was the only time a Republican has held that seat.