New Mexico elected a Democratic governor Tuesday, and she will have an expanded Democratic majority in the New Mexico state House at her side. Democrats have held a majority in both houses of the legislature since 2016 and after Tuesday night’s wins, they could hold up to 47 seats in the 70-member chamber, the most in decades, depending on several close races, including some that will trigger automatic recounts. With no changes from the recounts, Democrats would hold 46 seats. The victories were especially widespread in Bernalillo County, where Democrats defeated several Republican incumbents, including Jim Dines and David Adkins. Incumbent Republican Jim Dines trails retired engineer Abbas Akhil in House District 20 by 0.68 percentage points.
Fresh off re-election, New Mexico Rep. Ben Ray Luján is seeking a position in U.S. House leadership. The day after Democrats took control of the U.S. House of Representatives, Luján announced he now wants to become Assistant Democratic Leader, the fourth-highest position in Democratic leadership. For the last two election cycles, Luján was chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, which helps elect Democrats to the U.S. House. Currently the New York Times reports Democrats won 27 House seats, for 22 total seats, with 17 races, including one in southern New Mexico, undecided. With the majority, Democrats will elect a Speaker of the House, opening up another leadership position.
U.S. Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham will take on a new title in January when she becomes New Mexico’s next governor. Ending the nearly two-year-long campaign for governor, Lujan Grisham and her opponent Republican U.S. Rep. Steve Pearce each addressed their respective supporters Tuesday night. Calling out to the crowd in Albuquerque, Governor-Elect Lujan Grisham pointed out that the state has more opportunities than challenges. “This state is so ready to lead,” she said. “We will lead from today, and on renewable, clean energy we will be known as the clean energy state of America.”
At the Republican Party of New Mexico watch party, Pearce had similar thoughts about the state’s ability to succeed.
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.
Democrats swept statewide races on Election Day, and will control not just the governor’s office and all of the executive agencies, but also independent state agencies that oversee everything from state funds to state lands. Democratic incumbent Tim Eichenberg easily won the race for State Treasurer over Republican Arthur Castillo and Democrat Brian Colón defeated Republican Wayne Johnson for State Auditor. In the three-way race for Attorney General, Democratic incumbent Hector Balderas beat Republican Michael Hendricks and Libertarian Blair Dunn. And another Democratic incumbent, Maggie Toulouse Oliver defeated Republican Gavin Clarkson and Libertarian Ginger Grider to hold on to the Secretary of State seat. The closest statewide race on Election Day was for State Land Commissioner.
New Mexico Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver said that “false claims of voter fraud” by President Donald Trump and U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions “are yet another disgusting attempt at voters suppression.”
Toulouse Oliver encouraged New Mexicans to vote on Election Day despite the statements. “The President is only trying to degrade confidence in our elections and discourage eligible voters from casting their ballots,” Toulouse Oliver said. “There is no evidence of widespread voter fraud anywhere in New Mexico or the United States, and when it does occur it is prosecuted swiftly and vigorously. I encourage all eligible New Mexico voters to get to the polls today and make their voices heard.”
In a release, the Secretary of State linked to a Washington Post article from Monday night that said Trump and Sessions warned about voter fraud without providing any evidence. Trump made the claims about the alleged voter fraud ahead of a campaign rally in Cleveland on Monday.
While most of the votes may have already been cast before Election Day, hundreds of thousands of New Mexicans will go to the polls today and decide the next governor—as well as a number of other races. Note: NM Political Report will have a live blog beginning at 5:00 p.m. Come back to NMPoliticalReport.com or see our Facebook or Twitter page around that time for a link to the live blog. The gubernatorial contest between Democrat Michelle Lujan Grisham and Republican Steve Pearce is surely the marquee matchup to watch. Polling shows Lujan Grisham with an edge, but Republicans insist the race is closer than the public polling has shown. The winner will replace Susana Martinez, the term-limited Republican who has seen her approval rating fall precipitously since her easy reelection in 2014.
More people cast ballots by the end of early voting than ever before in a New Mexico midterm election. Between early and absentee ballots, the Secretary of State reported 430,796 votes by the end of early in-person voting on Saturday. That’s thirty percent more than in 2010. NM Political Report dug into the numbers provided by the Secretary of State,and just a reminder that absentee numbers can still increase, as any ballots returned before close of polls on Election Day will be counted. 0.56: Percent of voters who cast ballots who are registered Libertarians.
A recent poll shows Democrats are poised to clinch most statewide races, while a congressional race remains too close to call and one expensive state race leans towards Republicans. A poll by Research and Polling, Inc. for the Albuquerque Journal shows Democrat Michelle Lujan Grisham leads Republican Steve Pearce 53 percent to 43 percent in the race for governor. The ten point lead is an increase from the 7 percent race found in a September poll. The same poll found incumbent U.S. Senator Martin Heinrich, a Democrat, leading in the three-way race against former Gov. Gary Johnson, a Libertarian, and contractor Mick Rich, a Republican. Heinrich is 20 points ahead of Rich and almost 40 ahead of Johnson.