With five out of seven grassroots challengers winning seats in the state Senate, some of which were historic upsets, activists said on Wednesday the wins are a “mandate” for reproductive healthcare. With most precincts reporting for the primary, five grassroots progressive Democratic challengers won over mostly long-established incumbent Democrats who were moderate or conservative-leaning, according to unofficial results. All seven of the incumbent state Senate Democrats voted against HB 51, a bill that would have repealed the 1969 abortion ban.
Marshall Martinez, New Mexico field director for Forward Together Action, said that the challengers openly spoke about HB 51 and publicly supported it, which now that so many of the challengers have won, makes abortion rights a “mandate” for the next legislative session.
“The challengers named HB 51 as a key reason they ran. New Mexicans have said very clearly access to reproductive health, including abortion, is a priority,” Martinez said. Sarah Taylor-Nanista, executive director of Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains Action Fund, called the five wins “an important step” toward repealing the 1969 law. Abortion rights activists are concerned that with a conservative majority on the U.S. Supreme Court, the court will overturn Roe v. Wade.
In a historic defeat, Neomi Martinez-Parra won Senate District 35, defeating state Senator Sen. John Arthur Smith who has held the seat for 32 years. Martinez-Parra’s win did not come as a surprise Wednesday. She pulled ahead of Smith in the Democratic primary late Tuesday night and appeared to be the presumptive winner. She won by 500 votes. She received 2,793 votes to Smith’s 2,293 in unofficial results.
Planned Parenthood, through its various PACs, is spending $390,000 on the New Mexico primary, and the bulk of that on three races. Sarah Taylor-Nanista, executive director of Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains Action Fund, said the nonprofit organization is “laser focused” on the progressives running against the seven Democratic incumbents who voted against HB 51 last year. HB 51 would have repealed a 1969 abortion law that abortion rights supporters worry will become law again if Roe v. Wade is overturned. But of the seven, there are three races in particular where Planned Parenthood is spending the bulk of its money. Those are Neomi Martinez-Parra’s race against state Sen. John Arthur Smith for Senate District 35; Siah Correa Hemphill’s fight to unseat state Sen. Gabriel “Gabe” Ramos for Senate District 28; and Pam Cordova’s challenge against state Sen. Clemente Sanchez for Senate District 30.
District Senate 38 Democratic candidate Carrie Hamblen got a boost last week in her bid to defeat incumbent state senate candidate and President Pro Tem Mary Kay Papen. That’s because the race narrowed to two candidates – Papen and Hamblen – last week when healthcare professional and entrepreneur Tracy Perry dropped out, citing health reasons. Hamblen, who was the morning radio host for National Public Radio local member station KRWG for 20 years, would have likely split the more left leaning Democratic voters in District 38 with Perry. But Hamblen said the race is now, “more of a challenge for Senator Papen.”
Perry’s name will remain on the ballot. Hamblen is one of seven progressive Democrats running for state senate seats in the upcoming June 2 primary against a group of more conservative-leaning Democrats.