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NM Dems call for party unity after primary battles

Copyright © 2018 Albuquerque Journal

After a hard-hitting primary election cycle that featured a slew of contested races, New Mexico Democrats began the healing process Wednesday with a hefty helping of carne adovada.

Party leaders and candidates gathered at a popular South Valley restaurant on the morning after election night to rally behind their nominees, tout their unity and begin setting their sights on a common foe – Republicans.

 Democratic Party Chairwoman Marg Elliston

Democratic Party Chairwoman Marg Elliston

“The game is on,” state Democratic Party Chairwoman Marg Elliston said, referring to the general election cycle, which officially began Wednesday.

“It’s time we come together and unite as one,” added Howie Morales, who won a three-way primary race for lieutenant governor and will be Michelle Lujan Grisham’s running mate in November.

But some Democrats still appeared wary of toeing the party line after a primary cycle that featured intraparty attacks and complaints in several races about favoritism.

Jeff Apodaca, a former media executive from Albuquerque who came in a distant second in the governor’s race won by Lujan Grisham, did not attend Wednesday’s breakfast. He said during an election night interview that he planned to reach out to the race’s winner in the coming days, but stopped short of pledging to endorse her.

He also vowed to support all Democrats in November but criticized the party establishment, saying, “It’s time we start representing all New Mexicans.”

In addition to the races for governor and lieutenant governor, Democrats also had contested races this year for two open congressional seats, land commissioner, auditor, two Public Regulation Commission seats and 10 state House seats.

By comparison, Republicans faced little internal competition. There were just three contested GOP state House primaries and a few other contested races – including a four-way primary for an open southern New Mexico-based congressional seat.

Meanwhile, the governor’s race between Lujan Grisham and Republican Steve Pearce drew immediate attention Wednesday from national Democratic and Republican groups.

The Republican Governors Association launched an online video and digital campaign that highlighted Lujan Grisham’s past ties to a health care consulting company with a hefty state contract to help run New Mexico’s high-risk medical insurance pool.

Lujan Grisham has defended her past work with Delta Consulting and said Wednesday that she has not been involved with the company’s day-to-day operations since being elected to Congress in 2012.

“We will do our job to make sure voters understand there was no wrongdoing,” she told reporters.

She and other Democrats also indicated they plan to take the fight to Republicans in November in an attempt to win back control of the Governor’s Office and several other GOP-held seats.

“This is one of the strongest tickets I have ever seen,” Lujan Grisham told a crowd of about 50 fellow candidates and supporters at Barelas Coffee House.

The Democratic Governors Association also released an online video Wednesday highlighting some of Pearce’s past votes on federal health care and immigration bills.