Democrats kept two U.S. House seats Tuesday night. And in a third, hotly contested race, the Republican leads, but thousands of uncounted of votes in a key county could flip things.
The 2nd Congressional District race still isn’t over, thanks to approximately 8,000 absentee ballots whose results haven’t been posted. Out of those, 4,000 are yet to be counted. And, as journalist Heath Haussamen noted, approximately 1,000 provisional ballots also remain.
Election workers in Doña Ana County called it a night late Tuesday, with approximately 4,000 absentee votes left to count. The Secretary of State’s office said all Election Day and early in-person votes were counted and the unofficial results posted online. As of 1:00 a.m. Wednesday, Republican Yvette Herrell led by just under 1,986 votes. The Democrat, Xochitl Torres Small, would need to win about 62.5 percent of the absentee ballots to overtake Herrell.
Torres Small won 62.09 percent of the votes in Doña Ana County posted on the Secretary of State’s website.
The vote counting will begin at 10:00 a.m.
Several media outlets called the race for Herrell earlier in the night, when the lead as closer to 5,000, but doubts remained as the total number of ballots remaining was unclear.
The race generated massive interest even before the close ending, and drew tens of thousands more voters to the polls than in 2014 when Steve Pearce easily won reelection against Democrat Rocky Lara.
While Torres Small received the high turnout she needed to make it close in Doña Ana County, the four big red counties in the district—Chaves, Eddy, Lea and Otero—delivered for Herrell.
The seat is New Mexico’s most conservative, and the only seat a Republican has held since 2010.
The state Republican Party declared victory Tuesday night.
“Yvette Herrell talked directly to voters about her vision for our state and our country while Xochitl Torres Small and her liberal backers worked overtime to hide her radical agenda,” Republican Party of New Mexico chairman Ryan Cangiolosi said. “Congresswoman-elect Herrell will continue Steve Pearce’s legacy of principled leadership on behalf of her constituents and will serve the Second District, not shady special interest groups.”
Torres Small, however, said Tuesday night she would wait for more votes to be counted.
If Herrell does prevail, she will serve in the minority, as Democrats nationwide had a strong night in the U.S. House (even as they stumbled in the U.S. Senate). That included success in New Mexico’s other two districts.
In the 1st Congressional District, Deb Haaland made history. The Democrat was among the first Native American women elected to U.S. Congress. She shared the distinction with Democrat Sharice Davids of Kansas who also won a US. House seat Tuesday night and possibly Herrell, who is an enrolled member of the Cherokee Nation.
Haaland emphasized her Laguna heritage throughout the campaign.
Introduced by her daughter Somah, Haaland took the stage in Albuquerque at the Democratic Party of New Mexico’s watch party to cheers from the audience.
Growing up, she said, “I never imagined a world where I would be represented by someone who looks like me,” adding, “You are sending one of the very first Native American women to Congress.”
Haaland easily won a three way race, defeating Republican Janice Arnold-Jones and Libertarian Lloyd Princeton.
“Congress has never heard a voice like mine,” Haaland said. And come next year, she said, “It will hear my voice, it will hear your voice, it will hear all of our voices.”
Arnold-Jones conceded Tuesday night.
“I am honored to have been able to carry a message about reasonable, reasoned, rational responsible government,” Arnold-Jones said. “A government that is based on listening to people, not just cramming an agenda down your throat.”
She also told NM Political Report that she tried to get other Republicans to run for the seat, but none wanted to, telling her it was too hard.
The district was once a Republican stronghold, but Democrats have won every election since 2008. And the district has been a stepping stone for previous Democrats. Martin Heinrich served two terms before winning a U.S. Senate seat in 2012, and Michelle Lujan Grisham served three terms before winning the governorship on Tuesday night.
Heinrich also won reelection Tuesday night.
U.S. Rep. Ben Ray Luján won a sixth term in office, defeating Republican Jerald Steve McFall and Libertarian Christopher Manning. Luján has never received less than 55 percent of the vote in a general election and received over 60 percent in the last string of elections beginning in 2012.
Andy Lyman and Laura Paskus contributed to this report.
Update: The Secretary of State’s office originally said there were 4,000 remaining absentee ballots to be counted. About half an hour later, the office clarified there were an additional 4,000 votes that were tabulated but results not posted online. This story has been changed to reflect this.
Correction: The lede was changed to reflect that the uncounted votes could still flip the election.