By Jim Ellis
New Mexico Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver (D) announced yesterday that the candidates from the 1st Congressional District, open since former Rep. Deb Haaland (D-Albuquerque) resigned the seat upon her confirmation as US Interior Secretary, will go to a vote on June 1. This will be the only election for the seat since New Mexico election law allows the political parties to choose special election nominees internally.
Each party will vote through their state central committees. These are political party governing boards where party members elect those serving from each of the state’s 33 counties.
Both major party committees will have many candidates from which to choose. At this point, eight Democrats, including four sitting state legislators, and eight Republicans are announced candidates. Libertarian Aubrey Dunn, a former New Mexico Land Commissioner where he served as a Republican, is also running.
Others still have time to join the race, and we may see a few more since there is no primary and campaigning among a finite group of party insiders is not particularly expensive. Therefore, more than an average number of individuals would be inclined to run since they would perceive the political risk as minimal.
The eventual Democratic nominee will be a heavy favorite for the June 1 election. Though the Albuquerque-anchored seat was competitive even at the beginning of the current decade, it no longer appears so. The last Republican to hold the seat was Heather Wilson who vacated to run unsuccessfully for US Senate in 2008. The CD-1 electorate then chose Democrats in the person of Martin Heinrich, now US senator; Michelle Lujan Grisham, now governor; and Haaland, now Interior Secretary; since Wilson left the House.
The district started to turn heavily Democratic with the first Obama presidential campaign in 2008. Obama scored a 60-40 percent victory within the 1st District confines. Four years later, he won 55-40 percent. In 2016, Hillary Clinton carried the seat with a 52-35 percent margin, and Joe Biden did best of all, recording a 60-37 percent spread last November.
In the subsequent House races, Heinrich averaged 54 percent in his two congressional elections; Grisham, 61 percent in her three campaigns; and Haaland 59 percent in her pair of victorious congressional contests.
The 1st District house 95 percent of Bernalillo County, and the state’s top city of Albuquerque. CD-1 also contains all of Torrance County and small portions of Sandoval, Valencia, and Santa Fe Counties. The district is basically a majority Hispanic seat with over 49 percent of the citizen population being recorded as such. The non-Hispanic white percentage is just under 41.
The other four special congressional elections are also scheduled, or virtually calendared. Voters will go to the polls in the two Louisiana seats — LA-2 and LA-5 — this Saturday, with the latter district having the chance of electing a new member outright.
Julia Letlow (R), the widow of Congressman-Elect Luke Letlow (R), is in strong political position and clearly has the opportunity to break the 50-percent threshold on Saturday night. This would elect her for the balance of the current term.
The other seat, the New Orleans-Baton Rouge 2nd CD, is likely to advance to an April 24 runoff election with the participants being Democratic state Senators Troy Carter and Karen Carter Peterson, both from New Orleans.
The race to succeed the late Congressman Ron Wright (R) in Texas will be held on May 1. Chances are strong, with 23 candidates, that a runoff election will also become a necessity to determine the eventual winner. Like in Louisiana, Rep. Wright’s widow, Susan Wright, is an active top-tier candidate.
Under Texas law, a special election runoff is scheduled after the primary when it becomes evident that a secondary vote becomes necessary for a candidate to receive majority support.
Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine (R) has yet to schedule the special election in the state’s 11th Congressional District that covers parts of Cleveland and Akron. It is likely, with municipal elections already scheduled through most of the state on May 7th, that the special congressional primary will also be called for that day.
If precedent is any indication from previous Ohio special elections, a May primary has been followed by an early August special general. This seat is vacant because former Rep. Marcia Fudge (D-Cleveland) was confirmed last week as the Housing and Urban Development Secretary.