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Lujan Grisham cruises at Dem convention

Michelle Lujan Grisham left her Democratic rivals in the dust on Saturday, winning 66.9 percent of the votes cast by New Mexico Democratic Party delegates in a four-way race for governor.

A third-term congresswoman and former state Cabinet secretary, Lujan Grisham brushed aside allegations of favoritism and rules violations levied by her Democratic foes in the run-up to Saturday's pre-primary nominating convention.

“I am honored to have received such resounding support from Democrats across all of New Mexico,” Lujan Grisham said in a statement after the votes were announced.

NM District 1 Congressional Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham

Her victory also ensures she will have the top spot on the June 5 primary election ballot. Whoever wins the Democratic Party's nomination for governor would face off against Republican Steve Pearce, who is running unopposed, in the November general election.

Former Democratic Democratic Party Chair Debra Haaland

Former Albuquerque media executive Jeff Apodaca came in second among Democratic gubernatorial candidates with 21.2 percent of delegate votes. State Sen. Joseph Cervantes of Las Cruces got about 10 percent of the votes cast and political outsider Peter DeBenedittis of Santa Fe received slightly less than 2 percent after urging his supporters to cast their votes for Apodaca.

Candidates who fail to win 20 percent of the delegate vote are required to submit a larger number of voter petition signatures if they still want to qualify for the ballot.

Cervantes told the Journal he has no plans to drop out of the race, and intends to turn in additional signatures in the coming days.

“It's a big state and there are a lot of people who are going to decide the race other than the couple hundred who were at the convention,” Cervantes said.

He also described the convention as a “fiasco” – a reference to long lines to vote and alleged bribes made to delegates.

Nearly 1,500 Democratic Party delegates from all 33 New Mexico counties attended Saturday's event, which was held at the Albuquerque Convention Center. The state's other two main parties, Republicans and Libertarians, have already held their own conventions.

New Mexico Democrats are feeling the wind at their back in this year's election cycle, banking that a strong field of candidates and local voter discontent with President Donald Trump will translate to favorable results come November.

But there were also signs of discord on Saturday, as a protester was escorted out of the venue after interrupting the start of Lujan Grisham's speech.

There are contested Democratic primary races in several open statewide races, including a six-way contest for the Albuquerque-based 1st Congressional District seat that Lujan Grisham has held since 2013.

In that race, former state Democratic Party chairwoman Debra Haaland led the pack with 34.8 percent of the delegate vote, with former law school professor Antoinette Sedillo Lopez coming in second with about 25.1 percent of the votes cast.

“We were able to break through,” Haaland, who would be the first Native American woman elected to Congress, told reporters after the final votes were announced. “I think we'll gain some momentum going forward.”

None of the other four candidates in the race reached the 20 percent threshold, with Albuquerque city councilor Pat Davis coming closest at 13.6 percent.

In the state auditor's race to challenge Republican Wayne Johnson, state Rep. Bill McCamley of Las Cruces won 60.5 percent of the delegate vote with Albuquerque attorney Brian Colón getting the remaining 39.5 percent of the vote.

In the land commissioner race, state Rep. Stephanie Garcia Richard of White Rock posted a strong showing, winning 43.7 percent of the votes cast by more than 1,400 delegates. Garett VeneKlasen was close behind with 39.1 percent, while state Sen. George Munoz of Gallup got 17.2 percent of the vote.

Meanwhile, state Sen. Howie Morales of Silver City cruised to victory in the lieutenant governor race, winning nearly 50.3 percent of the delegate vote. Former state Rep. Rick Miera of Albuquerque came in second with 27.8 percent of the delegate votes, with ex-Public Education Commissioner Jeff Carr of Eagle Nest and Doña Ana County Commissioner Billy Garrett failing to reach the 20 percent mark.

Hitting that threshold has traditionally been seen as a sign of candidate strength, but some candidates have gone on to victory in the primary election despite falling short at the pre-primary convention.

Most recently, former Attorney General Gary King won the Democratic party nomination for governor in 2014, despite falling short of the 20 percent mark at that year's convention. King went on to lose in the general election to Gov. Susana Martinez, a Republican who was running for re-election. Martinez is barred from seeking a third consecutive term in office and will step down at the end of this year.

Several incumbent Democrats were unopposed in winning primary ballot designations Saturday. That list includes Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver, Attorney General Hector Balderas, state Treasurer Tim Eichenberg, U.S. Sen. Martin Heinrich and U.S. Rep. Ben Ray Luján.