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.