ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Voters in New Mexico’s 1st Congressional District are sending Democrat Deb Haaland to Washington, D.C., to represent the Albuquerque-area district, and Republican Yvette Herrell appeared on her way to winning the hotly contested battle in the race for the 2nd Congressional District seat.
Incumbent Rep. Ben Ray Luján, a Nambé Democrat, easily won a sixth term representing the state’s northern District 3.
The election of Haaland and Herrell would not affect the balance of power in the House since Haaland is replacing a Democrat and Herrell would replace a Republican.
Haaland’s and Herrell’s victories would be historic because a Native American woman has never before been elected to the U.S. House of Representatives. Haaland is a member of Laguna Pueblo. Harrell is a member of the Cherokee Nation. A third Native American woman, Sharice Davids, also won her race Tuesday for a place on Kansas’ congressional delegation.
Journal pollster Brian Sanderoff, in the first hour after the polls closed, projected Democratic political organizer Deb Haaland’s runaway victory for the 1st Congressional District open seat. Haaland, according to partial unofficial results, handily defeated Republican Janice Arnold-Jones, a former legislator, capturing about 59 percent of the vote to 36 percent for Arnold-Jones.
“Growing up in my mother’s pueblo household, I never imagined a world where I would be represented by someone who looks like me,” Haaland said to hundreds of supporters at a watch party Tuesday night at Hotel Albuquerque in Old Town. “I am so proud to represent this beautiful state and every New Mexican here in District 1.”
Haaland, 57, reiterated her intent to represent disenfranchised groups, including LGBT, single mothers and Native Americans.
“I see you, I’m listening, I love you,” she said. “We fight together, and I will bring that fight to Congress.”
Haaland, a former state Democratic party chairwoman, offered a progressive tilt to keep the 1st Congressional District seat in Democratic hands after U.S. Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham opted to run for governor. Republican Arnold-Jones stressed her government service and acumen as a retired businesswoman.
Running as a Democrat-turned-Libertarian, political newcomer Lloyd Princeton billed himself as an independent answer to gridlock in Washington and partisanship in Congress. He appeared to have garnered about 5 percent of the vote, according to the Secretary of State’s Office.
The campaign, often low-key, was distinguished by Haaland’s heritage as a member of the Laguna Pueblo and her often repeated campaign mantra, “Congress has never heard a voice like mine.”
Arnold-Jones called Haaland a “formidable opponent” and lamented that the Democrat outspent her “ten to one.”
Haaland’s campaign, which has received nearly $2 million since the primary election, was fueled by hefty contributions from various out-of-state groups, including Native American tribes and organizations.
Democrats have held the 1st Congressional District for about 10 years. It covers almost all of Bernalillo County, all of Torrance County, and small parts of Sandoval, Valencia and Santa Fe counties.
Republican Yvette Herrell was the projected winner in southern New Mexico’s 2nd Congressional District race against Democrat Xochitl Torres Small, with Sanderoff calling the contest for Herrell late Tuesday.
She credited her victory to an emphasis on “conservative values.” She said southern New Mexicans were “voting for experience and the person who would best represent their values in Washington.”
“I stayed true to who I was,” Herrell said.
Herrell was ahead by fewer than 2,000 votes as of 1:30 a.m. Wednesday.
Election officials said Dona Aña County had about 4,000 absentee ballots still to be counted. The absentee precinct board was to reconvene at 10 a.m. to continue the tabulation.
In addition, there are another 4,000 votes that haven’t been added to the published results yet, for a total of 8,000 votes outstanding, officials said.
Torres Small had not conceded by 1 a.m., and instead said she would wait for the final tally.
“We’ve seen people waiting in lines for a long time to make sure their voice is heard and it is just not right at this time to cut that short. That is why we are waiting until every single person’s voice is heard. Because people worked hard.”
Herrell, a state representative from Alamogordo, touted her support for the president and his policies. Donald Trump won the district by 10 percentage points in 2016. Early polling showed Herrell may have benefited from name recognition and a conservative legislative record.
Torres Small, a Las Cruces water rights lawyer, closed the gap in the final weeks of campaigning by reaching out to the large number of independent voters and moderate Republicans in the district.
Republicans have held the seat for all but two years since 1981. The seat is being vacated by Republican Rep. Steve Pearce, who chose to run for governor. The race attracted national attention and big money from both political parties’ election committees, which paid for a slew of attack ads.
“We got outspent but nobody was going to out work us,” Herrell said.
The district, one of the largest in the country, stretches across the southern half of the state, from chile fields to oil fields, and is home to New Mexico’s second-largest city, Las Cruces.
In the final weeks of campaigning, Vice President Mike Pence visited Roswell and Kellyanne Conway, counselor to President Trump, was in Ruidoso for get-out-the-vote rallies that may have boosted turnout for Herrell. The high-profile appearances were designed to build a “red wall” to stop a blue wave from reaching southern New Mexico.
In northern New Mexico’s 3rd Congressional District, Democrat Ben Ray Luján of Nambé has won a sixth term in the U.S. House.
Sanderoff, president of Albuquerque-based Research & Polling Inc., called the race for Luján shortly after the polls closed.
Republican Jerald Steve McFall, a farmer and ski instructor, and Libertarian Chris Manning, who works for his family’s auditing firm, were on the ballot against Luján, who spent Tuesday night in Washington, D.C., in his role as chairman of the national Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.
About 9:30 p.m. MST, Luján appeared on stage — and before national news cameras — with Democratic House leader Nancy Pelosi as their party celebrated its takeover of the House Tuesday.
“Aren’t we proud of Ben Ray?” Pelosi proclaimed shortly after she and Luján joined hands and raised them above their heads to cheers from the crowd.
Back in New Mexico, Luján had about 63 percent of the vote in incomplete returns.
In monetary terms, there was no real race in the district and Luján felt no need to be part of the campaign season’s advertising barrage. Luján raised more than $1.8 million, sent $800,000 to other campaign committees and still had $566,000 cash on hand as of mid-October. Manning raised $7,800 and McFall didn’t raise the $5,000 threshold for filing a report.
McFall had tried for the seat in the past, but had never made it onto the ballot. Manning is a veteran who served in Afghanistan.