SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) – New Mexico Democrats rallied around progressive female candidates in Tuesday’s primary – including the party’s nominee for the Albuquerque area’s U.S. House seat who will try to become the first Native American congresswoman.
The primary also set up a November race that will mean the most Hispanic congressional district in the most Hispanic state in the nation will be represented by a woman for the first time.
Michelle Lujan Grisham, a three-term congresswoman who won the Democratic nomination for governor, said political currents in the state have shifted dramatically since Republican Gov. Susana Martinez cruised to re-election in 2014.
Lujan Grisham could become the nation’s second elected Latina governor if she succeeds Martinez, who cannot run for a consecutive third term.
With people frustrated over lagging economic opportunity and employment, Lujan Grisham hopes to offer distinct solutions in the general election against Republican U.S. Rep. Steve Pearce, who ran unopposed for the Republican nomination.
“We’re going to have a very different approach,” Lujan Grisham said of her campaign and Pearce’s. “Creating a strong, sound economy is not mutually exclusive with taking care of our most vulnerable.”
Pearce has highlighted his own childhood brushes with poverty as the son of failed Texas sharecroppers. He said he wants to help people “achieve the dignity that comes from having a good job.”
The state’s weak economy, dissatisfaction with public education and concerns about urban crime took center stage in the Democratic primary and in Pearce’s early campaigning.
With Lujan Grisham’s central New Mexico seat open, former state Democratic Party leader Debra Haaland won the Democratic nod in her push to become the first Native American woman elected to Congress.
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. The congressional race is one of many expected to draw national attention because it may help determine which party controls the U.S. House.
State Rep. Stephanie Garcia Richard won the Democratic nomination for New Mexico public land commissioner. She would be the first woman in the state to hold the job if she beats Republican Patrick Lyons of Cuervo in the general election.
For the Senate, incumbent Democratic U.S. Sen. Martin Heinrich and GOP challenger Mick Rich both ran unopposed in the primaries and moved on to the November contest.
An incumbent Santa Fe-area representative who fought accusations of sexual misconduct lost his 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 opponent. 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.