A bell on a desk greeted visitors to the lieutenant governor’s office during Howie Morales’ first couple weeks on the job. Ring for service, a sign said. Not particularly glamorous, it seemed to sum up the office of lieutenant governor, which comes with few official duties and even fewer prospects for higher office. But Democratic Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham in her early days in office has handed Morales a more expansive profile than many of his predecessors. She asked the former state senator, teacher and high school baseball coach to oversee the Public Education Department until she names a cabinet secretary.
The state Senate on Saturday took action to lessen the chance that voters could choose a political odd couple as nominees for governor and lieutenant governor. Senators voted 20-10 for a bill that would do away with primary election for lieutenant governor. Under Senate Bill 178, a major party’s gubernatorial nominees would get to choose their own running. The bill is sponsored by Sens. Mark Moores, R-Albuquerque, and Daniel Ivey-Soto, D-Albuquerque.
U.S Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham reported raising nearly $900,000 since announcing her candidacy for governor in December. The reports came in the first mandated campaign finance filings since she announced she would leave her congressional seat to run for governor of New Mexico. Gov. Susana Martinez is term-limited and cannot run for a third-consecutive term. So far, Lujan Grisham is the first major candidate to announce she will run for the position. Lujan Grisham also spent over $150,000, including $31,719.35 to the Washington D.C.-based Anne Lewis Strategies.
Gov. Susana Martinez and Lt. Gov. John Sanchez are among the most influential Latino Republicans in the country according to a national conservative outlet. Earlier this week, Newsmax named Martinez as the fourth-most influential Latino Republican, up from 16 last year. Sanchez came in 15th, up from 23rd last year. The two top spots went to U.S. Senators, with Ted Cruz of Texas leading the way and Marco Rubio coming in second. The Newsmax list gets part of Martinez’s background wrong, saying she is the chair of the Republican Governors Association.
After U.S. Sen. Tom Udall said he would not run to be the next governor, some Democrats released statements about potentially running for the state’s highest office. A spokeswoman for Hector Balderas, the state’s Attorney General, said he is considering a run for governor in 2018, and the mayor of Santa Fe says supporters have asked him to run. This is on top of U.S. Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham, who previously said she would decide whether or not to run for governor by the end of the year. Related: Tom Udall says he will not run for governor in 2018
Caroline Buerkle, who worked on campaigns for Balderas in the past, sent a statement to media Wednesday afternoon after Udall’s announcement that he would remain in the US Senate. “Attorney General Balderas is seriously considering a run for governor and has deep concerns about the future of our state,” Buerkle said.
The results of the 2016 elections have barely come in and already attention is turning toward 2018. There is no presidential election in 2018, but New Mexico will elect a new governor and many statewide elected officials will be up for reelection. U.S. Sen. Tom Udall is perhaps signalling an end to his time as an elected official in Washington D.C. and a run for governor. “I’ve heard from many New Mexicans who are urging me to run for governor. I’m flattered by their support; I have an open mind, and I’m considering it,” Udall, a Democrat, said in a statement.
A night that ended with one of the most stunning upsets in modern presidential history began, in Albuquerque and likely in many other cities throughout the country, with Democrats feeling optimistic about the country on the cusp of electing its first female president. At the Hotel Andaluz in downtown Albuquerque, an enthusiastic crowd of state Democrats gathered to watch the election results and, they thought, to welcome Hillary Clinton to the White House. Congresswoman Michelle Lujan Grisham, a Democrat who easily won reelection to represent the Albuquerque area, showed up wearing a white pantsuit. She also wore a button bearing Clinton’s face on her chest. She called her outfit “my white suffrage Hillary Clinton pantsuit.”
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.
Over 600 Republicans gathered for what on its face would be a non-controversial, easy convention on Saturday. The Republican presidential primary is all but over, there are very few primaries for Republicans in legislative races (and none involving incumbents) and the party has already coalesced behind the three statewide candidates. But the increasingly ugly race for the position of Republican National Committeeman between veteran Republican politicos Pat Rogers and Harvey Yates took center stage. It also turned out not to be very close. Yates easily won election to the position on a 278 to 195 vote.
When asked about who voters would prefer in a very-early look ahead to the 2018 gubernatorial elections, two names jumped out as frontrunners. Attorney General Hector Balderas is the favorite among Democrats, while Albuquerque Mayor Richard Berry is favored among Republicans. Gov. Susana Martinez is in her second term. She is not able to run for a third term. See Also: Martinez approval rating below 50 percent
The poll question asked about four politicians named as possible 2018 candidates.