November election may produce an all-time high of voter turnout in New Mexico

Local Elections

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – With a number of wins in Tuesday’s primary in New Mexico, it’ll be a tight race to public office, come November. The stakes are especially high with the presidential race and congressional seats, including the open U.S. Senate seat with Sen. Tom Udall retiring. KRQE political expert Dr. Gabe Sanchez says voter turnout may come to an all-time high.

“I would expect extremely high turnout,” said Sanchez, a professor at the University of New Mexico. “I anticipate we will break records in November in this context and a very, very competitive presidential election. Most of us think this presidential election is the election of our lifetime.”

Former Vice President Joe Biden captured 73% of the state’s Democratic votes. Incumbent President Donald Trump got 92% of Republican votes here in the state.

Now, eyes are turning to the open U.S. Senate seat between former KRQE meteorologist Mark Ronchetti for the GOP nomination and longtime U.S. Rep. Ben Ray Lujan for the Democrats. Sanchez says it’s tough for Republican candidates when President Trump’s approval rating is lowering across the country, including here in New Mexico. With Lujan having a clear advantage in Northern New Mexico, Ronchetti will need to make up ground in Bernalillo County where voters have leaned heavily Democrat. He also needs to do well in Southern New Mexico.

“Huge night for Mr. Ronchetti,” said Sanchez. “I am not surprised that he won. I am surprised by the wide margin of victory. I think when you look at the full slate of candidates, keep in mind that Mr. Clarkson raised and spent more money than Ronchetti did.”

Sanchez says the stakes are also high with an intense race as Republicans look to take back that spot in the U.S. House of Representatives in Southern New Mexico. You can expect to start seeing some nasty campaign ads because the real race begins today.

“This sets up Xochitl Torres Small vs. Yvette Herrell 2.0,” said Sanchez. “Incredibly tight race back in 2018. Remember we could not call that on Election Day, and in fact, that lasted a few days later before we could actually declare a winner.”

Sanchez says the District Two race for the U.S. House in Southern New Mexico is, once again, between Yvette Herrell for the Republicans and Xochitl Torres Small for the Democrats. It was arguably the race most people were tuning in for and most expecting a tighter race.

“This is an incredibly tight district, one of the top districts across the United States, so all eyes were on this,” said Sanchez. “To be honest, I thought Yvette Herrell was going to pull this out. But to be honest I thought it would be a little bit of a barn burner until the end of the evening.”

New Mexico is also seeing a big jump in the way people are voting. Absentee turnout this primary was more than 10 times those who voted absentee in the 2016 primary, seeing 238,000 people voting absentee this year.

With the impacts of COVID-19 and the potential for a second wave of outbreaks, it’s far too early to tell if November will see this high absentee ballot turnout or if more people will show up in-person to the polls. This year’s primary saw just under 400,000 New Mexicans casting their ballot, with more than 63% of them absentee.

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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