Promoted from the diaries by streiff. Promotion does not imply endorsement.
This is the 40th state covered in this series and it seems strange that it would be so late in the series. However, the series was laid out in a particular order for a reason. And the political dynamics in New Mexico are interesting regardless.
Martin Heinrich is the Democratic incumbent with decent approval numbers and lack of controversy. On the GOP side is little-known Mike Rich. This race was relatively overlooked by both parties. However, when Land Commissioner Aubrey Dunn who was elected as a Republican but had won the Libertarian Party nod for Senate, dropped out, speculation ran that former Republican Governor Gary Johnson would jump in. When those rumors were confirmed by Johnson who will run as the Senate candidate for the Libertarian Party against Heinrich and Rich, most polls showed him jumping ahead of Rich.
Although Johnson gives the Libertarian Party their best chance to win an important statewide elected office, those chances still remain slim. A couple of polls after his announcement and entry into the race show that collectively Rich and Johnson polled at around 38-40%. When the deadline passed for Rich to potentially drop out of the race, he decided to stay put. Hence, it is likely that Johnson and Rich will split some votes and Heinrich will breeze back to the Senate.
At the Congressional level, the current delegation favors the Democrats 2-1, but the First and Second District are open races and represented by a Republican and Democrat, respectively. They are open because both incumbents are their respective Party’s candidates for the open gubernatorial race. Current GOP Governor, Susana Martinez, leaves office with a fairly low approval rating. Before we get to that race, there is one Congressional race of interest and that is the Second being vacated by Republican Steven Pearce.
This seat went for Trump in 2016, 5-40%. On the GOP side is Yvette Harrell and Xochitl Torres Small on the Democratic side. This race is attracting a lot of money with a gaggle of liberal groups pooling their resources attempting to flip this seat. Small is portraying Harrell as the consummate political insider while Harrell is portraying Small in the mold of Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren and Nancy Pelosi. That is, she is too liberal for the district. At this point, one would have to call this one a close call for the GOP, but they should eke out a victory here.
In that Governor’s race is the aforementioned Steve Pearce for the GOP from the Second District and from the First District, Michelle Lujan Grisham, for the Democrats.
Pearce has been on the attack describing one of Grisham’s former company as participating in shady deals. That company- Delta Consulting Group- is accused of, by Pearce, increasing insurance premiums on poor residents of New Mexico. From 2014 to 2017, Delta received a contract to run the state’s high risk health insurance premium pool. She co-founded the company along with state representative Deborah Armstrong. The company received the contract estimated at $2 million. In June 2017, Grisham divested from the company though it is still run by Armstrong who also happens to be Grisham’s former campaign treasurer.
On other issues, outside groups are on the attack against Pearce for his environmental record. For example, they point to his statements and votes that would open up more public lands for gas and oil exploration and drilling. They also insist he is in the pocket of Big Oil. Pearce has been running positive adds portraying himself as more moderate than most believe, although he is a member of the House Freedom Caucus.
On the money front, they are about equal in fundraising, but Pearce has a decided advantage in cash-on-hand. That is because Grisham faced a more competitive primary where she defeated Jeff Apodaca decisively. However, he has failed to endorse Grisham and is, in fact campaigning with Pearce. Apodaca’s father- Jerry- is a rich operator in New Mexico and he too has sung the praises of Pearce.
This is a tougher one to predict than most would think. However, at this time, given the recent blue streak among New Mexico voters, and the fact they are coming off eight years with Martinez as Governor (a Republican) who leaves not that popular, this writer gives the nod to the Democrats taking this office.
After this entry, the numbers are:
US Senate 45-35 Republican, US House 133-140 Democratic, and Governors 25-15 Republican.
Next in the series: my home state of New Jersey.