ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – One week out from the 2020 general election, ballots being cast by New Mexico voters may reshape state government in significant ways. Depending on the outcome of several close races, Democrats in the New Mexico Legislature could gain or lose key votes surrounding a host of issues the legislature hasn’t been able to pass in recent years.
All 112 seats in New Mexico’s House and Senate are up for election on November 3. While many lawmakers are expected to return to positions they’ve held before, a handful of so-called progressive Democrat challengers have shaken up the incumbency in the New Mexico Senate.
Five long-time, powerful moderate Democrats who at times voted with Republicans were defeated in the 2020 primary election by the “progressive challengers” in Deming, Las Cruces, Silver City, Grants, and Española. If those five Democrats win on Election Day, victory could help fast track some of the big issues on Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham’s agenda. Meanwhile, Republicans are hoping the results of the election will ensure a continued conservative voting bloc in the Senate.
“(Republicans) are looking at it as, look, you think about it as our firewall, said Gabe Sanchez, a KRQE Political Analyst and University of New Mexico political science professor. “That would be an opportunity to really slow down or block or some of, let’s be honest, it’s the governor’s big agenda item that she’s campaigned on and consistently tried to get through, and I think that’s part of their logic.”
Some key races to watch on election night include Senate District 35 in the southwest part of the state, otherwise known as the race for Senate Finance Chair John Arthur Smith’s old seat. Democrat Neomi Martinez Parra is facing Republican Crystal Diamond in that race, which has also become one of the top financed races in the state.
Senate District 30 is another so-called “race to watch” on election night. The district covering areas near Grants is up for grabs between Democrat Pamela Cordova and Republican Joshua Sanchez are vying for the post that was held by Democrat Senator Clemente Sanchez from 2013 to 2020.
With nearly 100,000 more Democrats than Republicans casting ballots so far, Sanchez expects it will be tougher for Republicans. Sanchez thinks Republicans stand the best chance to win in Senate districts 30 and 35, however, the party may stand to lose seats in other districts.
“Best case scenario for republicans, you pick up a couple seats,” Sanchez said. “For Democrats, you could actually see that gap widen in the senate, and then again a third scenario would be Democrats maybe pick up one, maybe pick up two, and kind of maintain the same advantage that they have now, maybe increase it slightly.”
Sanchez is predicting Democrats could pick up as many as five state senate seats. If they do, Democrats may have the votes needed to approve the long-discussed, possible use of permanent fund dollars for early childhood education. Other Democratic agenda items include possible legalization of recreational marijuana and repealing the state’s old, enforced abortion ban from the 1960s. The law is not enforced based on the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling on abortion in the 1970s.
Some analysts say Republicans are looking to nab 18 seats to Democrats 26 in order to maintain a block against the above-mentioned Democrat agenda items. Since 2016, Democrats held 28 Senate seats to Republicans 16 in the Roundhouse.
Other key Senate races to watch on election night include:
- The open Senate district 9 seat between Brenda McKenna (D) and John Clark (R,) a seat vacated by retiring Democrat John Sapien.
- Senate district 23 between incumbent Sander Rue (R) and Harold Pope Jr. (D.)
- Senate district 10 between incumbent Candace Gould (R) and Katy Duhigg (D.)
- Senate district 18 between incumbent Bill Tallman (D,) Ryan Chavez (R,) and Michael Cordova (L.)
- The open Senate district 20 seat between John Morton (R) and Martin Hickey (D,) a seat vacated by retiring Republican Bill Payne.
Many of the above races were discussed at length during KRQE’s new live-streaming, digital news show “Your Local Election Headquarters” on Tuesday.
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