Important dates in special congressional election

New Mexico’s special election for Congressional District 1 has an expedited timeline compared to other elections. 

State law dictates that the New Mexico Secretary of State’s Office holds an election within 90 days after a congressional seat is left vacant. That means a whole election cycle was crammed into a matter of weeks after former congresswoman Deb Halaand was confirmed as the U.S. secretary of interior. 

Here is some information for this special election. 

May 4 – Limited early voting starts

Voters have about a week left to register to vote or change their registration. After May 4 voters can still register to vote at certain in-person voting locations. May 4 is also when county clerks can begin mailing ballots to registered voters who requested an absentee ballot

May 15 – Expanded early voting starts 

On this day more early voting locations will open 

May 18 – Last day to submit a request for absentee ballots and the last day for Military-Overseas voters to request a mail-in absentee ballot.May 25 – Last day to request electronically submitted Military-Overseas ballots.  May 29 – Last day of early voting.June 1- Election Day

Polls will be open from 7:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. and anyone in line before the polls close will be allowed to cast a vote. If you requested and plan to use an absentee ballot, you can also return it at any polling location on Election Day.

NM congressional candidates take part in the New Mexico Black Voters Collaborative forum

Three candidates running in the race to fill the 1st Congressional district vacancy fielded questions on Tuesday night in the election’s first public forum. The New Mexico Black Voters Collaborative organized and moderated the forum, which took place just hours after a Minnesota jury found former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin guilty of murdering George Floyd. 

Democratic candidate and current state Representative Melanie Stansbury, Libertarian candidate Chris Manning and independent candidate and former state Land Commissioner Aubrey Dunn took part in the forum. Republican candidate and current state Senator Mark Moores was notably absent from the forum. According to a press release from the Black Voters Collaborative prior to the forum, Moores originally agreed to participate but later withdrew. 

Questions for the candidates mostly covered ongoing issues in the state and country and how they impact people of color. While the candidates kept a civil tone with one another, they still had different opinions on the issues. 

When asked about police brutality towards people of color and the high rates of death at the hands of police, all three candidates said they were in favor of ending qualified immunity, a judicial doctrine that is often used to protect police from facing civil legal action. 

Dunn said he thinks money towards police training should be a priority and that police who violate the law should be held accountable. 

“I know we have a serious problem and we need to make it a priority and it’s gone for years,” Dunn said. 

Manning said in addition to ending qualified immunity, he would like to see more trust from the public in the justice system. 

“We also need to have faith in our system, that even those who are accused of the most egregious crimes, they get their day in court,” Manning said.

Court throws out challenge of Libertarian congressional candidate

A New Mexico state district judge ruled on Thursday that a Libertarian candidate for Congress will remain on the ballot for the June 1 special election to fill a 1st Congressional District vacancy. 

Santa Fe judge Glenn Ellington ruled from the bench that claims challenging the validity of the Libertarian Party of New Mexico’s major party status were not sufficient enough to remove the party’s candidate from a special election ballot. 

Chris Manning is the state’s Libertarian Party nominee for the special congressional election to fill the vacant seat after former congresswoman Deb Halaand was confirmed as U.S. Secretary of Interior. Ginger Grider and James Clayton, both members of the Libertarian Party of New Mexico filed a legal challenge, arguing that the Libertarian Party should not have been granted major party status and that the party broke its own rules by nominating Manning. Ellington ruled Grider and Clayton did not have standing to challenge the Libertarian Party’s major party status and that her claim that Manning was nominated against the party’s rules was not substantial enough to move the case forward. 

Grider and Clayton’s attorney, Blair Dunn, told NM Political Report that he plans to appeal Ellington’s ruling and accused the court of being steeped in partisan politics. 

“We’re concerned that the court system is continuing to prop up the party system and the denial of standing to members of the party, and denying them even the opportunity to present the evidence is part of why political parties have become such a problem in this country,” Dunn said. 

Dunn’s father Aubrey Dunn is also running for the 1st Congressional District seat, but as an independent candidate. Aubrey Dunn’s campaign ads position him as a candidate tired of partisan politics. Dylan Lange, general counsel for the New Mexico Secretary of State’s office, praised the court’s decision in a statement on Thursday. 

“We are pleased that the Court’s ruling affirms that the Secretary of State’s Office appropriately followed the law,” Lange said. 

Manning also said he was pleased with Ellington’s decision and that he’s ready to move on and focus on his campaign.  

“I’m glad the judge saw what we saw and this case had no merit,” Manning said. 

The crux of Grider and Clayton’s challenge of the Libertarian Party’s major party status was that no Libertarian received at least five percent of the vote in the last general election.

NM’s congressional race is on a tight deadline

In about three weeks, registered voters in the 1st Congressional District can start casting ballots to fill the vacant seat. The rushed and non-traditional nature of this election could prove difficult for the candidates. 

Complicating issues, the state is still recovering from the COVID-19 pandemic that emerged last year, meaning candidates may not see the normal kind of campaign rally turn-out and some will likely not hold in-person rallies at all. Of the candidates for the Albuquerque-area seat that NM Political Report spoke to, only one cited the expedited timeline as a possible challenge to their campaign. Others anticipated their biggest challenges will be getting the word out about their campaigns and raising money. 

Melanie Stansbury, who currently serves as a Democratic legislator in the New Mexico House of Representatives, said the short election period may end up being her biggest challenge. 

“It is a scramble to get out the vote and help educate the public to know that a special election is happening, to introduce ourselves to the broader community and make sure that people know the election is happening and when and how to vote,” Stansbury said. 

Stansbury is currently serving her second term in the state Legislature, but previously worked in the White House as well as a U.S. Senate staffer. 

Republican candidate Mark Moores also serves in the Legislature, as a state senator. Despite numerous scheduling attempts from NM Political Report, Moores could not be reached for an interview. 

Aubrey Dunn, who is running as an independent candidate, seemed to agree that getting people out to vote would also be a challenge, but he said he thinks his biggest challenge will be fundraising.

Republicans name Moores as CD1 nominee

Republicans picked State Sen. Mark Moores as the party’s candidate for the upcoming special election to fill the 1st Congressional District vacancy. Moores, a Republican from Albuquerque, announced his entry into the race in mid-March. Moores owns a laboratory that, over the last year, collected samples of COVID-19 testing. The election will take place on June 1. Democrat Deb Haaland resigned from the seat earlier this month after she was confirmed to the position of Secretary of the Department of the Interior in the Joe Biden administration.

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.

Voters would get to pick Haaland’s replacement in a special election

Almost as soon as the news came out that President-elect Joe Biden chose Deb Haaland as his choice to head the Interior Department, attention turned to what would happen to the 1st Congressional District seat. If Haaland is confirmed to the cabinet-level position and resigns from the U.S. House, it would trigger a special election for her replacement. 

Related: Report: Biden chooses Haaland for Interior Secretary

At the time of a vacancy, the Secretary of State would order a special election to be held between 77 and 91 days after the vacancy occurs. There would be no primary, instead the state central committees of the major parties would choose their nominees. If confirmed, this will be the first special election in New Mexico for a congressional seat since 1998—which was also in the 1st Congressional District, when Republican Heather Wilson defeated Democrat Phil Maloof and Green Party candidate Bob Anderson. At the time, the 1st Congressional District was held by Republicans from the time the state earned a second congressional district in 1969 until 2009, when Democrat Martin Heinrich won.