By Jim Ellis
June 25, 2018 — The Utah state primary is tomorrow, and we have finally seen a poll testing former presidential nominee Mitt Romney in his run for the open Senate seat that the venerable Orrin Hatch (R) is vacating after what will be 42 years of legislative service. In New Mexico, Carroll Strategies released a statewide survey last week of 1,199 of the state’s registered voters and segmented the respondents into the state’s three congressional districts. We look at the upcoming primaries in both states:
According to the Hinckley Institute at the University of Utah (June 11-18; 654 registered Utah voters, 356 likely Utah Republican primary voters), Romney has a commanding lead as the campaigns enter the final days before Republican voters choose their nominee. In late April, state Democratic convention delegates nominated Salt Lake County Councilwoman Jenny Wilson as the party standard bearer, so there is no Democratic Senate primary on Tuesday.
The polling results find the 2012 Republican presidential nominee leading state Rep. Mike Kennedy, a Provo physician who outpaced Romney among delegates at the Republican state convention, by a whopping 65-23 percent margin. Therefore, little doubt exists that we will see a sizable Romney victory this coming Tuesday night.
Looking at Romney and Wilson in a general election pairing, the former presidential nominee easily tops the Democratic candidate, 58-20 percent. Even in open status, the Utah Senate seat will be rated as safely Republican.
In the open New Mexico governor’s race, which features two of the state’s three congressional members, Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham (D-Albuquerque) begins the general election with a 50.5 – 42.7 percent advantage over Southern District Rep. Steve Pearce (R-Hobbs). Such a margin is not particularly surprising before the candidates swing into prime campaign season since New Mexico, while voting Republican from time to time, typically elects Democrats to statewide office.
In the Senate race, first-term Sen. Martin Heinrich (D) posts a similar-sized lead over state Labor Commission member Mick Rich (R), 50-39 percent, a margin slightly closer than expected, particularly this early in the general election campaign cycle. Typical New Mexico voting trends favor the Democrats and the senator’s incumbency numbers appear sound; therefore, one could have reasonably expected Heinrich’s standing to be at least slightly stronger.
Since Reps. Grisham and Pearce are running for governor, their respective 1st and 2nd Congressional Districts are open in the 2018 cycle.
According to Carroll Strategies, former state Democratic Party chair and Tribal Administrator Deb Haaland (D) posts a surprisingly competitive 47-43 percent mark over former state representative and Albuquerque City Council member Janice Arnold-Jones (R) in Grisham’s 1st District. But, with only a little over $20,000 in her campaign account through the May 16 pre-primary reporting period, it does not appear that Jones will have the resources to compete, nor will the Republican Party national apparatus challenge for the seat.
In Pearce’s 2nd District, it is the Republican nominee who opens with a lead. The Carroll poll finds state Rep. Yvette Harrell (R-Alamogordo) topping attorney Xochitl Torres-Small (D), 48-35 percent. Though the 2nd District has a 45.2 percent Hispanic voting age population factor as compared to the Non-Hispanic White number of 46.0 percent, the voting patterns here trend Republican. President Trump carried the seat 50-40 percent, while Mitt Romney posted a 52-45 percent victory over President Obama. In 2008, John McCain held the seat with 50.2 percent of the vote. In its current configuration, Rep. Pearce has averaged 62.1 percent over the past three elections.
Finally, testing Rep. Ben Ray Lujan (D-Nambe/Santa Fe), in what is a safe northern New Mexico Democratic district, the congressman leads farmer and businessman Steve McFall (R), 58-30 percent.