Correction: New Mexico Primary story
Jun. 06, 2018
SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — In a story June 6 about New Mexico's primary election, The Associated Press erroneously attributed a quote. The quote, "In the race for governor, there will be two very different visions for New Mexico's future. My vision brings people together to fix New Mexico's most urgent problems. From Day One, I will work to create jobs, fix our schools, attack the root causes of poverty and stop crime" was in a written statement by Congressman Steve Pearce, not Congresswoman Michelle Lujan Grisham.
Lujan Grisham to face Pearce in November race for governor
New Mexico Democrats have chosen three-term U.S. Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham as their nominee for governor in hopes of reclaiming the state's top office after two terms of Republican control
By MORGAN LEE
SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — New Mexico Democrats chose three-term U.S. Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham as their nominee for governor Tuesday in hopes of reclaiming the state's top office after two terms of Republican control.
U.S. Rep. Steve Pearce ran unopposed for the Republican nod and moved on to November's general election. Lujan Grisham could become the nation's second elected Latina governor if she succeeds GOP Gov. Susana Martinez, who cannot run for a consecutive third term.
Democrats in the nation's most Hispanic state accounted for about two-thirds of Election Day balloting as voters decided competitive primary races for two wide-open congressional seats and several statewide offices.
Lujan Grisham campaigned on making a clean break with the state's Republican administration to dramatically expand early childhood education, boost public and private investment in renewable energy, and make it easier for immigrants in the country illegally and others to obtain state driving credentials.
Her victory against two primary opponents set up a showdown between an outspoken critic of President Donald Trump on immigration issues and a member of the hard-right Freedom Caucus in Congress who campaigned for Trump in 2016.
Largely rural New Mexico has shifted between Republican and Democratic governors for decades — though registered Democrats outnumber Republicans by 15 percentage points. Hillary Clinton won the state by 8 percentage points in the 2016 presidential election.
A switch to a Democratic governor in November likely would shut Republicans out of redistricting decisions in 2021 and consolidate Democrats' control for a decade.
As Democrats battled in the primary, Pearce conserved $1.9 million in campaign contributions. In late May, Lujan Grisham reported campaign cash reserves of $1.1 million.
The state's lagging economy, dissatisfaction with public education and concerns about urban crime took center stage in the Democratic primary and in Pearce's early campaigning.
New Mexico is one of 33 governor's offices nationwide held by Republicans, and 26 of those are up for election this year. New Mexico's race devolved into attacks about private business dealings and trustworthiness in the final days of campaigning.
Primary challengers had called on Lujan Grisham to drop out because she profited from state contracts until mid-2017 as a partner in a business that runs New Mexico's high-risk insurance pool. It's an insurance plan of last resort for severely ill patients and immigrants who don't qualify for federally subsidized health care.
Lujan Grisham says her involvement in Delta Consulting enabled her to help the sick and vulnerable.
Pearce said he wants to help people "achieve the dignity that comes from having a good job."
"I know what it takes to get our state on track," he said in a statement. "Other politicians see government service differently. They see cronyism and personal gain as a fact of life in governing."
Pearce also said that "in the race for governor, there will be two very different visions for New Mexico's future. My vision brings people together to fix New Mexico's most urgent problems. From Day One, I will work to create jobs, fix our schools, attack the root causes of poverty and stop crime."
At a Santa Fe voting precinct, former college professor Steve Van Luchene said Trump was on his mind. He said he wants the next governor to "get away from a highly polarized approach to politics" and concentrate on the fundamentals of government finances and basic services.
The 70-year-old voted for Lujan Grisham, citing her experience.
"I think that Michelle came up from grass roots, worked through various positions and showed herself to be responsible," Van Luchene said.
The governor bids of Pearce and Lujan Grisham left their congressional seats open.
Former state Democratic Party leader Debra Haaland won the nomination for Lujan Grisham's seat in the district encompassing the Albuquerque metro area. She's trying to become the first Native American congresswoman.
She faces former Republican state lawmaker Janice Arnold-Jones, who ran unopposed in the primary, and Libertarian candidate Lloyd Princeton. A Republican hasn't represented the 1st Congressional District since 2009.
In the 2nd Congressional District along the U.S.-Mexico border, Republican state Rep. Yvette Herrell will take on Democratic attorney Xochitl Torres Small in the general election. That means the most Hispanic congressional district in New Mexico will be represented by a woman for the first time.
For the Senate, incumbent Democratic U.S. Sen. Martin Heinrich and GOP challenger Mick Rich both ran unopposed in Tuesday's primary and moved on to the November election.
In the lieutenant governor race, Democrats nominated state Sen. Howie Morales. Pearce's Republican running mate is former law enforcement officer Michelle Garcia Holmes.
Democrats also were defending a 38-32 majority in the state House.
An incumbent Santa Fe-area representative who fought accusations of sexual misconduct lost a primary bid to a Democratic challenger.
Democratic voters nominated Andrea Romero of Santa Fe to replace Rep. Carl Trujillo in a race with no Republican challenger. Trujillo denies a former lobbyist's 2014 harassment allegations, which a panel of four lawmakers and an outside attorney are investigating.
Sarah Pierpont, 43, of Santa Fe, said she deferred judgment on the harassment allegations but voted for Romero and Lujan Grisham for governor in an effort to support qualified female candidates.
"I think it's important right now that our Statehouse should look like our state, and that's at least half women," she said.