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.
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.
In a campaign season dominated by Donald Trump’s comments on groping women and several allegations against him of doing so, media attention on traditionally hot-button electoral issues like abortion access has been relegated to the side. But that doesn’t mean advocates aren’t using the issue of abortion to influence elections this year. On the local level, two political action committees on opposing sides of abortion rights are injecting thousands of dollars to influence down-ballot races. Planned Parenthood Votes New Mexico, for example, raised $10,000 to target four hotly contested state legislative races that could help decide which party controls the state House of Representatives and state Senate. The Right to Life Committee of New Mexico PAC, on the other hand, has spent more than $4,500 in the primaries and general election to encourage its base, which opposes abortion rights, to vote in a year that’s expected to be an uphill climb for Republicans.
While Democrats and Republicans in New Mexico began casting ballots weeks ago with early and absentee voting, today is election day where tens of thousands more are expected to cast their ballots. While much of the attention will be focused on Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders duking it out in the presidential primary, there will be a number of down-ballot races with big implications going forward. We took a look at the thirteen races you need to watch tonight when polls close at 7:00 p.m.
Senate District 17
Democratic incumbent Sen. Mimi Stewart’s runs to retain the senate seat in SD17. In 2014, the Bernalillo County Commission appointed her to fill the vacancy left by Tim Keller when he became State Auditor. Former State Senator Shannon Robinson, who held the SD17 spot for 20 years before losing to Keller in 2008, will face Stewart and try to reclaim his old Senate seat.
Today is the day that candidates for state House and Senate file to say that they are, indeed, running. As candidates file their intention to run for public office, we decided to take a look forward a few months to what districts the two parties will be focusing on come November and the general elections. The top of the ticket matters. Two years ago, Republicans took the state House of Representatives for the first time in a half-century. That same election saw Gov. Susana Martinez, a Republican, trounce Democratic opponent Gary King by more than 14 points statewide.
Two campaign ethics bills moved forward from a Senate panel on Monday as the end of the legislative session neared. The Senate Rules Committee passed both bills, but they received very different receptions. Sen. Lee Cotter, R-Las Cruces, had a bill that would give the Secretary of State’s office access to campaign banking records to better accomplish audits. “It allows the Secretary of State to go into my account, your accounts, and check what the checks were written for and how the deposits were without getting a court order,” Cotter said. The proposal passed with no recommendation after Senators expressed concerns that it would provide access to campaign banking records by political appointees in the Secretary of State’s office.
State Rep. Jeff Steinborn announced on Tuesday that he will run for State Senate in 2016. The Democrat from Las Cruces will be running for District 36, the seat currently held by Sen. Lee Cotter, a Republican. New Mexico Political Report spoke to Steinborn on the phone Tuesday night about his decision to run for a seat in the state Senate. He admitted that it was a “big decision” but said it was one he was ready to make. “This was an opportunity to kind of take that to the next level.
Republican Party of New Mexico chair Debbie Maestas outlined four Democratic targets in the party’s quest to take control of the state Senate. Included is the largest thorn in the side of Gov. Susana Martinez, herself a Republican, Senate Majority Leader Michael Sanchez of Belen. The Roswell Daily Record reported on comments Maestas made to the Chaves County Republican Women. Maestas said Republicans are targeting the seats of Sen. Daniel Ivey-Soto of Albuquerque, Sen. John Sapien of Corrales, Sen. William Soules of Las Cruces and Sen. Michael Sanchez of Belen. Sapien has already received a challenger, Diego Espinoza.
As New Mexico Political Report mentioned earlier this week, we will be highlighting some coverage of old legislative sessions and how they compare to today’s. The obvious start of our look back at old legislative sessions were the two in 1979 and 1981. These were the two years that right-to-work legislation passed both the state House and state Senate. The legislation was vetoed by then-governor Bruce King, a Democrat who was a close ally of labor, both times. Neither chamber had the votes to override the veto.
Ever since November’s elections, Republicans have tabbed right-to-work legislation as a priority. The renewed attention comes as Republicans took control of the House for the first time in decades, giving rise to the possibility that right-to-work legislation would pass in New Mexico, making it the 25th state to pass such legislation. The legislation would forbid unions from collecting dues from non-union members or require employees to be a member of a union. Unions say this is needed because the union agreements cover all employees. Those critical of unions say it is unnecessary.