New Mexico re-elects Democratic US Sen. Martin Heinrich
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — Democratic U.S. Sen. Martin Heinrich won re-election to a second term Tuesday in a three-way race against a Republican political newcomer and a Libertarian former governor.
The 47-year-old engineer and former congressman finished ahead of construction contractor Mick Rich and former New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson.
Heinrich’s victory further solidified Democratic control over the state’s Senate delegation. Democrats have won every Senate election in New Mexico since the final re-election in 2002 of Sen. Pete Domenici.
Heinrich cast himself as a vigorous adversary of President Donald Trump’s policies and campaigned on promises to defend federal health care and retirement programs.
Acknowledging victory Tuesday evening, Heinrich said voters “responded to a vision that was actually positive and was about unifying our state.”
He said the top priority for his second term will be initiatives that can improve the state economy.
“I’m still going to be working for our (federal) laboratories and military bases, for our outdoor recreation economy,” Heinrich said. “I’m going to be working to protect Social Security and Medicare.”
Democrats swept a long list of statewide political contests, including the race to succeed Republican Gov. Susana Martinez. Beyond New Mexico, Republicans retained majority control of the Senate, as they ousted Democratic incumbents in Indiana, North Dakota and Missouri.
Heinrich recently became an advocate for decriminalizing marijuana, co-opting one of Johnson’s signature Libertarian issues against government interference. He derided Johnson’s proposals to slash federal spending on Medicare, Medicaid and the military.
Rich ran unsuccessfully on his reputation as a businessman while embracing Trump — echoing the president’s dire warnings about a migrant caravan approaching the United States from Mexico — and voicing anti-abortion sentiments.
In 2012, Heinrich won his first Senate race after the retirement of Democratic Sen. Jeff Bingaman.
New Mexico’s senior senator is Democrat Tom Udall, whose second term ends in 2020. He has not indicated whether he will seek re-election.
Udall and Heinrich have been prominent figures in Democratic resistance to Trump’s effort to shrink national monuments and unravel environmental protections.
Tuesday’s election adds a new defeat to Johnson’s political resume, after two bids for president under the Libertarian banner in 2012 and 2016. Johnson served two terms as a Republican governor starting in 1994.
On Tuesday, he congratulated Heinrich without renouncing his dedication to the Libertarian cause.
“Ours is a difficult task,” Johnson said. “Third-party candidates have a critical role to play in our increasingly partisan political and policy landscape.”
Johnson’s 2016 campaign for president won 9 percent of the vote in New Mexico, as Hillary Clinton cruised to victory in the state with an 8 percentage point margin over Trump.
Albuquerque-based pollster Brian Sanderoff said Heinrich’s hold on the Senate seat never truly came into contention.
“His opponents were underfunded, couldn’t get their message out,” he said.
For AP’s complete coverage of the U.S. midterm elections: http://apne.ws/APPolitics