WASHINGTON — Deb Haaland, a former New Mexico Democratic Party chairwoman who would be the first Native American woman elected to Congress, won a hard-fought Democratic primary election in the state’s 1st Congressional District.
Haaland held a 15-point lead over her nearest rival, former U.S. Attorney Damon Martinez, late into the evening.
Haaland had 41 percent of the vote, compared with 26 percent for Martinez. Antoinette Sedillo Lopez, a former University of New Mexico law professor, was at 21 percent support, according to results from the Secretary of State’s office.
Haaland will face Janice Arnold-Jones, a former Albuquerque city councilor and state representative, in the November general election. Libertarian candidate Lloyd Princeton is also on the general election ballot. He and Arnold-Jones were unopposed in Tuesday’s primary election.
More than 150 supporters gathered at Haaland’s Nob Hill campaign headquarters and chants of “Deb! Deb! Deb!” broke out intermittently as votes continued to pour in for Haaland throughout the evening. Tears streamed down the faces of many of her supporters as Haaland took the stage after the race was called.
“Tonight, we made history,” Haaland said, to roars from the crowd. “Our win is a victory for working people, a victory for women and a victory for Indian Country.”
“Never, ever in my wildest dreams did I think this could happen to a Native,” said 75-year-old Charlene Castillo, a member of Laguna Pueblo, as is Haaland.
In a statement emailed to the press, Haaland thanked her supporters and sent a warning to President Donald Trump about the midterm general elections in November.
“Tonight, New Mexico made history,” Haaland said. “Thank you to the tens of thousands of volunteers, grassroots donors, and supporters who won this election today. I’m honored and humbled by your support. Our win is a victory for working people, a victory for women, and a victory for everyone who has been sidelined by the billionaire class.
“Donald Trump and the billionaire class should consider this victory a warning shot: the blue wave is coming,” she added.
Martinez, a U.S. Army reservist and former congressional staffer for then-Sen. Jeff Bingaman, cast himself as the most experienced candidate and the best prepared for federal office. Martinez was widely considered the most moderate candidate in the 1st District race, although he repeatedly described himself as progressive to appeal to the left-leaning voters who tend to vote in Democratic primary elections.
He conceded at 10:15 p.m., telling supporters, “We have a lot to be proud of.”
“Tomorrow, when we wake up, I hope we have no regrets,” he told about 80 supporters at Seasons Restaurant in Old Town Albuquerque.
Sedillo Lopez campaigned as a champion of women, while also calling for Medicare for all. She vowed to help impeach President Donald Trump and said her expertise in constitutional law would help her fight back against the Republican president.
Late Tuesday night, she said she called Haaland to congratulate her.
“I feel good,” she said. “We ran a great race. I never expected to be a politician but I enjoyed it.” She also hinted at the possibility of running for a different position in the future.
Albuquerque City Councilor Pat Davis, who dropped out of the race last week and endorsed Haaland, had 4 percent support with absentee and early votes and 16 of 468 precincts reporting; Paul Moya had 5 percent of the vote and Damian Lara won 3 percent of the votes counted.
The highly competitive Democratic contest marked the first time in six years that the Albuquerque-based 1st District seat was open. It also triggered a flood of out-of-state spending by special interests with more than $2 million in outside advocacy for various candidates paid for by political action committees representing veterans, Native Americans, women and others.
“It’s been super intense,” said Gabriel Sanchez, a University of New Mexico political science professor. “That’s primarily because of all the outside spending from super PACS (political action committees). It’s been a really hard-fought race.”
Democratic Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham, the incumbent now in her third term, was unable to seek re-election because she’s running for governor of New Mexico. She will face Republican Rep. Steve Pearce, currently the state’s 2nd District representative.
Sanchez said Haaland now needs to mend fences with Democrats who supported her opponents.
“None of the top three was able to galvanize a majority of the Democratic base so the winner will have a lot of work to do to solidify those folks” before the general election in November, Sanchez said.
New Mexico’s 1st Congressional District includes almost all of Bernalillo County, all of Torrance County, and small portions of Sandoval, Valencia, and Santa Fe counties.
Journal staff writers Jessica Dyer, Maddy Hayden and Shelby Perea contributed to this report.