SANTA FE, N.M. (KRQE) – President-elect Joe Biden has chosen New Mexico’s Democratic Congresswoman Deb Haaland to be the next Secretary of the Interior. If the U.S. Senate confirms her, she would have to leave her district seat in New Mexico. Who will replace Representative Deb Haaland for New Mexico’s 1st Congressional District if confirmed by the US Senate for Interior Secretary and how would it work?
How the vacant 1st Congressional District seat will be filled
Within ten days after the vacancy occurs (which will presumably be Congresswoman Haaland is confirmed by the Senate and vacates her House seat), the New Mexico Secretary of State will call a special election:
- The election will be held no less than 77 days or more than 91 days after the vacancy date. (NMSA 1-15-18.1)
- There will not be a primary election; instead, the state’s major political parties’ central committees will select a candidate who they nominate to represent their party. That includes the Republican, Democratic, and Libertarian parties.
- Each major party’s “central committee” is comprised of a select number of members elected to their position by fellow party members.
- A spokeswoman for the Democratic Party of New Mexico tells KRQE News 13 the Central Committee is comprised of around 180 party members.
- A spokesman for the Republican Party of New Mexico tells KRQE News 13 the party’s Central Committee is comprised of around 119 people.
- Independent candidates must gather a specific number of signatures from registered voters to get their name on the ballot. The number of signatures required is based on the “standard calculation” of the number of voters who participated in the 2018 and the number of days between the vacancy and candidate’s “declaration of candidacy.” According to the New Mexico Secretary of State’s Office, there were 240,701 ballots case in the 2018 election.
- If a vacancy were to occur in CD1, the number of signatures needed for an independent candidate to file would be:
- 4,814 – based on NMSA 1-8-51 (D) – the standard calculation.
- 3,177 – based on NMSA 1-8-51 (F)(1): If less than 60 days from announcement of vacancy to last day to file a declaration of candidacy.
- 1,589 – based on NMSA 1-8-51 (F)(2): If less than 30 days from the announcement of the vacancy to the last day to file a declaration of candidacy.
- All registered voters in District 1 will be eligible to vote in the expected special election.
- According to state law, the state will pay for the cost of the election to fill the vacancy of a U.S. Representative as it falls within a timeframe “when the election is not held on the same ballot as a statewide election.” (NMSA 1-15-18.1-J)
- A special election for Congressional District 1 is expected to cost a fraction of the usual roughly $6-million it costs to run a statewide election, according to the New Mexico Secretary of State’s Office. However, COVID-19 considerations may also impact the total cost. A spokesman for the Secretary of State, Alex Curtas says the office is estimating a CD1 special election cost of $3 to $3.5-million.
After 40 years of Republican control between 1969 and 2009, New Mexico’s first Congressional district has remained in Democratic control. In a recent interview with KRQE News, University of New Mexico Political Science Professor Gabe Sanchez projected the possibility for a more competitive race for the seat than in recent years.
“This has traditionally been a Democratic-leaning seat over the past few election cycles, but you’re opening the door for an open race,” Sanchez said. “That means Republicans have a greater opportunity to steal this seat than they would if Congresswoman Haaland was to retain her seat as an incumbent for it.”
Candidates who have announced thus far that they are running for the 1st Congressional District seat:
New Mexico Congressional District 1
4,601 sq miles