NM-1: Candidates Begin to File
Though Rep. Deb Haaland (D-NM) is weeks away from being confirmed as Interior Secretary and resigning from the House of Representatives, candidates for the all-but-certain special election sometime early next year are already filing campaign committees with the Federal Election Commission.
State Sen. Antoinette Sedillo Lopez (D-Albuquerque), a retired law professor, and state Rep. Melanie Stansbury (D-Albuquerque), a consultant, have filed congressional committees. So has former state Land Commissioner Aubrey Dunn, the Republican-turned-Libertarian. He will run as an Independent candidate. Democrats will have the clear advantage to retain this seat, but a competitive special general election could occur.
New Mexico US Rep. Deb Haaland (D-Albuquerque), the former chair of the New Mexico Democratic Party and one of the first Native American females to be elected to the House of Representatives, has been nominated as President-Elect Joe Biden’s Secretary of the Interior. Upon confirmation and resignation from the House, a special election will be scheduled to replace her in the New Mexico congressional delegation.
Rep. Haaland will be the third Democratic House member to join the Biden Administration. She will join Reps. Cedric Richmond (D-LA) and Marcia Fudge (D-OH). Mr. Richmond has been appointed as the director of the White House Office of Public Engagement, while Ms. Fudge is slated to become Secretary of the Department of Housing and Urban Development.
Unlike the other two vacancies, there is potential for a competitive special election in NM-1. Though a Democratic seat, Republicans will have at least two potential candidates capable of running competitive campaigns, ex-Albuquerque Mayor Richard Berry and 2020 US Senate nominee Mark Ronchetti, a former television weatherman. A strong Democratic field is sure to form. It appears that President-Elect Biden carried the 1st District by a substantial margin, but the seat has been hotly contested in previous elections.
At this point, only three states saw incumbent Senators being defeated: Doug Jones (D-AL), Martha McSally (R-AZ), and Cory Gardner (R-CO). Under Georgia law, since both of their Senate races, the regular cycle campaign and the special election, failed to produce a majority winner, a runoff election will be held for each position on January 5th.
In races of note, Maine Sen. Susan Collins (R) defied pollsters projecting a Democratic victory for state House Speaker Sara Gideon (D) and won by nine percentage points. Despite over $100 million being spent against both Sens. Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and Lindsey Graham (R-SC), both were re-elected with victory percentages exceeding 58 and 54%, respectively. Democratic Sen. Gary Peters (MI) scored a close win over GOP challenger John James; Sens. Joni Ernst (R-IA) and Steve Daines (R-MT) recorded strong victories despite polling suggesting that both could lose.
In the four open seat campaigns, the incumbent party won each. The new Senators are Roger Marshall (R-KS), Ben Ray Lujan (D-NM), Bill Hagerty (R-TN), and Cynthia Lummis (R-WY).
Two races, in addition to both Georgia Senate seats going to runoffs, remain uncalled but with a clear trend. With only 50% of the votes counted in Alaska, Sen. Dan Sullivan (R) has a strong 62-32% lead. In North Carolina, with the post-election ballot reception period closing on November 12th, Sen. Thom Tillis (R) looks to have a small lead that won’t be surpassed, again despite polling projecting a Democratic victory for party nominee Cal Cunningham.
Assuming the uncalled races remain Republican, the GOP will have a 50-48 advantage heading into the Georgia runoffs, meaning they will retain the majority with a win in at least one of the two Senate races to be decided January 5th.
NM-2: Ex-Dem Congressional Endorsement
Democrat Harry Teague won New Mexico’s 2nd District in 2008 but was bounced out in 2010 when former Rep. Steve Pearce (R) decided to make a political comeback. Now, Mr. Teague is remerging in a 2nd District congressional campaign, but not in the way most people would have believed. Recently, Mr. Teague announced that he was endorsing Republican former state Rep. Yvette Herrell. Now, he is appearing in a new television ad for Ms. Herrell, going all the way to make his endorsement count.
In this super partisan political climate, a political party figure crossing over to actively endorse the opposite party’s nominee is a major factor. In a race as close as this one in southern New Mexico, drawing even a few votes from the other side could make the difference. Ms. Herrell is challenging freshman Rep. Xochitl Torres Small (R-Las Cruces) in a re-match of their close 51-49% contest of 2018.
NM-2: Continuing as Even
The Tarrance Group released a survey on Friday (9/26-29; 400 NM-2 likely voters; live interview) that finds New Mexico Republican challenger Yvette Herrell slipping past freshman Rep. Xochitl Torres Small (D-Las Cruces) by a 48-47% margin. This toss-up margin is consistent with three other polls released since June that respectively showed Herrell up two points, Torres Small ahead by the same margin, and the two candidates exactly even.
New Mexico: Surprisingly Close
Public Opinion Strategies ran a research study for New Mexico Republican Senate candidate Mark Ronchetti and finds that this thought-to-be safe Democratic race is turning more competitive. The POS survey (9/26-28; 500 NM registered voters; live interview) projects Mr. Ronchetti to be pulling within six percentage points, 46-40%, of Rep. Ben Ray Lujan (D-Nambe), who was originally thought to be the prohibitive favorite in this open seat race.
The present polling trend is favoring Mr. Ronchetti after initially posting Rep. Lujan to a favorable advantage. The very first survey conducted here in June found the spread to favor Rep. Lujan by 14 percentage points, which surprised no one. Another ballot test made public at the beginning of September produced a nine-point Lujan lead, and now we see the advantage dwindling yet again. Expect more money and activity to come into this seat if this closing trend continues.
NM-2: Another Tight One
If the Republicans are to even have the slightest chance of re-capturing the House majority, they must win the 2nd District of New Mexico, which occupies the state’s southern sector. In 2018, now-freshman Rep. Xochitl Torres Small (D-Las Cruces) won the open seat contest with a 51-49% margin over then-state Rep. Yvette Herrell (R). The re-match appears just as close. A new Research & Polling, Inc. survey (8/28-9/2; 404 NM-2 likely voters) finds Rep. Torres Small clinging to a 47-45% lead over Ms. Herrell.
New Mexico: Surprising Poll
The open New Mexico Senate race has attracted very little national attention, but a new Research & Polling firm study (8/26-9/2; 1,123 NM likely voters; live interview) finds the race a bit closer than presumed. The R&P data finds Rep. Ben Ray Lujan (D-Nambe) outpolling former Albuquerque television weatherman Mark Ronchetti (R), 49-40%. Perhaps more disconcerting to the Congressman, Mr. Ronchetti actually leads in the critical Independent sector, 38-36%. The race still must be considered as a clear Democratic favored open seat hold, but more polls such as this will bring more attention to this race.
New Mexico: Lujan Cruising
Public Policy Polling, surveying for the New Mexico Political Report (6/12-13; 740 NM registered voters) and this time using no push questions, finds Rep. Ben Ray Lujan (D-Nambe) establishing his expected strong lead over new Republican nominee Mark Ronchetti, a former Albuquerque television weatherman. The ballot test breaks 48-34% for Rep. Lujan, who was unopposed in the Democratic statewide primary held June 2nd. The same sampling group posts Joe Biden to a 53-39% lead over President Trump, which is no surprise in a state easily projected for the Democratic column. The November Senate winner succeeds retiring two-term incumbent Tom Udall (D).
Primary Results: New Mexico
Rep. Ben Ray Lujan (D-Nambe) was unopposed in the open US Senate Democratic primary. The Republican winner is Albuquerque television weatherman Mark Ronchetti in a race that clearly favors the Congressman. Sen. Tom Udall (D) is retiring after serving two terms.
In the southern 2nd District, 2018 Republican nominee Yvette Herrell, in what became a nasty primary battle, defeated New Mexico Oil & Gas Association president Claire Chase, to again oppose freshman Rep. Xochitl Torres Small (D-Las Cruces). Democrats believed Herrell would be the weaker general election opponent, so Congresswoman Torres Small starts out as a favorite in a district that President Trump will carry by a substantial margin.
In the open safely Democratic 3rd District, former Clinton Administration White House Fellow and attorney Teresa Leger Fernandez won the Democratic primary and a ticket into the next Congress with a victory over former CIA agent Valerie Plame and state Rep. Joseph Sanchez (D-Alcalde). The northern 3rd CD that Mr. Lujan currently represents is safely Democratic meaning last night’s primary election was the deciding factor.
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