November 8, 2022

What to watch on Election Day in New Mexico

A "Vote Here" sign at the Otero County Fairgrounds in Alamogordo.

Nicole Maxwell

A "Vote Here" sign at the Otero County Fairgrounds in Alamogordo.

After months of contentious campaigning, millions of dollars in TV ads and weeks of early voting, Election Day is here.

The main event in New Mexico this year with no president on the ballot is who will reside in the governor’s mansion, with incumbent Democrat Michelle Lujan Grisham facing a tough challenge from Mark Ronchetti, a former weatherman and former Republican U.S. Senate nominee. 

But there are many other races on the ballot. Every other statewide constitutional office is up for grabs, including an open race for attorney general and a potential second full term for the state’s top election official, the secretary of state. All three congressional districts, with newly redrawn district lines, will also be on the ballot, as will all 70 state House seats.

In other words, there’s a lot to watch at 7 p.m. when polls close and county clerks prepare to count ballots and release results.

The average of polls and analysts predict that Lujan Grisham is favored to win a second term in office. The last time a governor did not win a second consecutive term was when Bruce King lost his reelection campaign in 1994 to Republican Gary Johnson, with a strong candidate outside the Democratic and Republican parties, the Green Party’s Roberto Mondragón, who took 10.3 percent of the vote.

This gubernatorial election also features a third candidate who will be on the ballot, Libertarian Karen Bedonie. Polls have shown her below 5 percent. 

The other key race with potential national implications is the 2nd Congressional District race. After redistricting, the traditionally conservative seat in southern New Mexico became more friendly to Democrats, making a tough reelection campaign for Republican Yvette Herrell, who won in 2020 by nearly 7.5 percentage points. She faces Democrat Gabe Vasquez in the general election.

This year will feature the new district lines but also a national environment that looks likely to favor Republicans according to election analysts. 

The other two congressional districts, which were made less favorable to Democrats, appear to favor the Democratic incumbents, Melanie Stansbury in the 1st Congressional District and Teresa Leger Fernández in the 3rd Congressional District.

In a year with many incumbents running, the race for Attorney General features two candidates seeking to replace the term-limited Hector Balderas. Democrat Raúl Torrez, the current 2nd Judicial District Attorney, faces Republican Jeremy Gay, a former U.S. Marine Corps judge advocate. 

Another key race to watch is the race for secretary of state, where incumbent Democrat Maggie Toulouse Oliver faces Republican Aubrey Truhillo. Toulouse Oliver became secretary of state in 2017 after winning a 2016 special election to replace Republican Dianna Duran, who resigned in 2015 when pleading guilty to campaign finance violations.

The races for state treasurer, state land commissioner and state auditor are also on the ballot this year.

The state House in New Mexico has only been held by Republicans for one term in recent history. That likely would not change without a massive Republican wave in New Mexico; Democrats currently hold 45 seats, to 24 Republicans and one decline-to-state member who caucuses with Republicans.

But Republicans could cut into the majority, particularly in areas of Bernalillo County. The lines for the state house districts have been changed because of decennial redistricting, but largely to favor incumbents rather than either party.

While there are three constitutional amendments on the ballot, the most attention will be on the first proposed amendment, which would take an additional 1.25 percent from the Land Grant Permanent Fund and put it towards early childhood education and K-12 public education. Polls have shown that it is likely to easily pass. If voters approve the amendment, it would require an act of Congress to go into effect.