2012 elections preview: New Mexico voters to select winners in congressional, state legislative primaries

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June 4, 2012

By Ballotpedia's Congressional and State legislative teams

The fast-moving primary season of May and June continues tomorrow with elections in New Mexico. Tomorrow is Super Tuesday for congressional and state legislative primaries, with six states holding primaries -- the most of any Tuesday in the 2012 election season.

Here's what to watch for in New Mexico, where polling places will be open from 7:00 am to 7:00 pm Mountain time.

Contested Primaries in New Mexico -- June 5, 2012
U.S. House
(3 seats)
State Legislature
(112 seats)
Total Democratic Contested Primaries 1 (33.33%) 37 (33.04%)
Total Republican Contested Primaries 1 (33.33%) 15 (13.4%)

U.S. Senate

United States Senate elections in New Mexico, 2012

With Senator Jeff Bingaman (D) retiring, his Senate seat is open and up for election this year. Two Democrats and two Republicans face off in their parties' primaries tomorrow.

In an understated primary, Democrats Martin Heinrich and Hector Balderas are saving their intensity for the general election.[1] U.S. Representative Heinrich is polling well ahead of New Mexico State Auditor Balderas.[2] and has spent more than twice what Balderas has.[3] Yet pollster Brian Sanderoff notes, "Heinrich has more name recognition and more money, but typically Spanish surnames on Election Day do a little better than expected in a Democratic primary."[4]

On the Republican side, former congresswoman Heather Wilson is seen as offering Republicans a "fighting chance" to take a long-Democratic seat.[5] She is polling ahead of Sowards, as a mid-May poll has her defeating Sowards in the Republican primary 66 percent to 20 percent.[2] Wilson has outraised and outspent Sowards leading up to the primary.[3] On the other hand, Sowards was endorsed by the likes of Rep. Rand Paul.[6]

U.S. House

United States House of Representatives elections in New Mexico, 2012

New Mexico has three U.S. House seats, all up for election in 2012. Only one primary is contested for each party. There is one open seat, meaning the incumbent is not running for re-election.

Thus far, 57.26% of possible primaries nationwide have been contested. New Mexico's contested figure of 33.33% (2 of 6 possible party primaries) is less competitive than the national average.

New Mexico's 1st District is an open seat, with incumbent Martin Heinrich running for U.S. Senate.

Democratic voters will have a choice in the 1st, where county commissioner Michelle Lujan Grisham, state Senator Eric Griego and former Albuquerque mayor Marty Chavez are competing. A poll puts Grisham and Griego neck and neck, with Chavez trailing.[7] The poll shows Griego leading among Hispanics, women, and liberals, while Grisham leads among men and Anglos.[7]

The Super PAC Progressive Kick spent $1,000 to oppose Grisham, while Super PAC Women Vote! spent $21,305 supporting her.[8]

The only contested Republican primary is in the strongly Democratic[9] 3rd District. Rancher Jeff Byrd and consultant Rick Newton compete to see who will take on Democratic incumbent Ben Ray Luján in the general election in November.[9] While the two candidates agree on many issues, Byrd supports Social Security privatization while Newton calls for using proceeds from oil drilling on federal lands to pay for the program.[9] Newton wants a national sales tax, in contrast to Byrd's preference for a flat income tax rate.[10]

Members of the U.S. House from New Mexico -- Partisan Breakdown
Party As of November 2012 After the 2012 Election
     Democratic Party 2 2
     Republican Party 1 1
Total 3 3

State legislatures

New Mexico State Senate elections, 2012 and New Mexico House of Representatives elections, 2012

There are 112 total legislative seats with elections in 2012 -- 42 Senate seats and 70 House seats.

There are 37 (33.04%) contested Democratic primaries and 15 (13.4%) contested Republican primaries. Thus, there will be 52 races tomorrow with at least two candidates on the ballot. The 23.2% figure of total contested primaries in New Mexico is higher than the current national contested average of 22.84% for states that have had filing deadlines.

Heading into this fall's elections, both chambers of the legislature should see a hotly contested tug-of-war for partisan control.


Incumbent Republican Senators Bill Burt and Rod Adair were thrust into the same district via the redistricting process. However, after initially declaring to run, Adair withdrew in advance of the primary.[11]

Here are some primary races to watch tomorrow:


In 2010, two incumbents were defeated in the state house primary. Another seven lost in the general election as Republicans closed the gap in the Democratic majority in the chamber. There are 12 incumbent house reps not running for re-election in 2012 -- nine Democrats and three Republicans. Districts 15, 23, 25, 26, 50, 68 are all open seats with large fields of candidates running. Here are some other races to watch tomorrow:

  • Democratic Party District 46: Santa Fe Mayor David Coss faces Carl Trujillo in a race to replace outgoing Speaker of the House Ben Lujan, Sr. (D). No Republican candidates filed in the district.
  • Republican Party District 66: Incumbents Bob Wooley and [Dennis Kintigh]] will battle each other in a district with no Democratic candidates.
New Mexico State Senate
Party As of November 5, 2012 After the 2012 Election
     Democratic Party 28 24
     Republican Party 14 17
Total 42 42

New Mexico House of Representatives
Party As of November 5, 2012 After the 2012 Election
     Democratic Party 36 38
     Republican Party 33 30
     Independent 1 0
Total 70 70

See also

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