Recently completed recounts in three state legislative races didn’t result in any changes to the election night winners. In the closest race, Republican state Rep. David Adkins kept his Bernalillo County seat by defeating Democrat Ronnie Martinez by just nine votes. This is the closest legislative race since 2012, when Las Cruces Republican Terry McMillan defeated Joanne Ferrary by eight votes. Ferrary lost again to McMillan in 2014 before defeating him in this November’s election. The other House race close enough for an automatic recount saw Democrat Daymon Ely defeating Republican incumbent Paul Pacheco by 105 votes.
Hillary Clinton officially won New Mexico and its five electoral votes, after certification of results by the State Canvassing Board Tuesday. The board also certified the need for three recounts in legislative races, one of which heads into the recount with just a nine vote advantage. In the official results, 804,043 voters cast ballots, or 62.4 percent of the 1,289,414 voters who were registered in time to vote in the general election. Hillary Clinton received 48.26 percent of the votes cast in the presidential race, while Republican Donald Trump received 40.04 percent. Trump, however, received the most votes in enough states to win the presidency.
Gov. Susana Martinez took out her major target in Tuesday’s election, Democratic Senate Majority Leader Michael Sanchez. But that single victory came at a cost. Republicans lost the state House after two years in control, while Democrats strengthened their margin in the state Senate. The Democrats will control the House by at least a 37-33 margin, with an outside shot at a 39-31 split. Two races are going to recounts.
While it’s clear after election night that Democrats took back control of the state House of Representatives from Republicans and expanded their lead in the state Senate, to what extent won’t be known until recounts take place. The preliminary unofficial results show three races, two for House seats and one for a Senate seat, within 1 percent, which means there will be automatic recounts. These recounts are paid for by the state. If a candidate who lost by more than 1 percent wants a recount, that candidate would need to pay for it themselves. Joey Keefe, a spokesman for the Bernalillo County Clerk’s office, told NM Political Report that the Bernalillo County Board of Commissioners will meet Thursday to convene the canvassing period, where official vote-tallying will take place.
In a disastrous night for Democrats nationwide that saw Republican Donald Trump win the presidency, the state party actually did well, retaking the House of Representatives and expanding the party’s majority in the state Senate. The scope of the advantage in both chambers isn’t yet known, as there could be up to four automatic recounts, two in each chamber. Democrats also won back the Secretary of State seat when Bernalillo County Clerk Maggie Toulouse Oliver easily defeated Republican Nora Espinoza. “What a difference two years makes,” Toulouse Oliver told a crowd of supporters Tuesday night, referring to her 2014 loss to Republican Dianna Duran. Duran resigned last year hours before pleading guilty to counts of misusing campaign funds, for which she spent 30 days in jail.
More than a year before announcing his candidacy in a high-profile race for a state senate seat, Diego Espinoza filed a defamation lawsuit against a 2014 Republican candidate for U.S. Senate. The lawsuit alleged that Espinoza experienced “public and personal humiliation,” among other damages, after candidate David Clements accused him of hacking his campaign email account. Now, nine months after a judge dismissed the case with prejudice, Clements can still publicly make the allegation against Espinoza. “If there’s any benefit or silver lining to deal with Espinoza’s frivolous lawsuit, it’s that to the day I die I can tell anyone who asks me, ‘Yeah, he hacked me,’” Clements, who ran for the GOP nomination for U.S. Senate in 2014 on a libertarian-minded platform, said. Espinoza was campaign manager for Clements’ Republican primary opponent Allen Weh.
One of the key districts New Mexico Republicans need to take the state Senate back sits just north of Albuquerque in Rio Rancho, where incumbent Democrat John Sapien faces GOP challenger Diego Espinoza. Sapien, an insurance salesman who is running for his third term, won both the 2008 and 2012 elections on narrow margins—by just 121 votes and 161 votes respectively. Sapien’s latest challenger, Espinoza, has so far outstripped him in fundraising, gathering roughly $153,000 as of press time compared to Sapien’s $126,000. Both speak of job creation as the top priority of their candidacies. But each have different solutions.
A national Republican group highlighted four high priority state races in the upcoming elections. The Republican State Leadership Committee put four New Mexico races in their “16 in ‘16: Races to Watch” list earlier this week, including the high-profile Secretary of State race. Outside of the presidential race, election to replace Dianna Duran as Secretary of State is the lone statewide non-judicial race this fall. That race pits Republican State Representative Nora Espinoza against Democratic Bernalillo County Clerk Maggie Toulouse Oliver. The other three races on the list are legislative races.
A politically connected Republican announced on Wednesday that he will be challenging a state senator in a key swing district next year. Diego Espinoza announced that he will seek the District 9 seat currently held by Democrat John Sapien. Espinoza, a program director for CSI Aviation, has experience in running campaigns, if not his own. Espinoza was the campaign manager for Allen Weh’s unsuccessful campaigns for U.S. Senate in 2014 and governor in 2010. Weh owns CSI Aviation and Weh is the father of current Republican Party of New Mexico chairwoman Debbie Maestas.