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Democrat Heinrich cruises to second term in Senate

Martin Heinrich brushed aside challenges from two opponents Tuesday to win a second term in the U.S. Senate.

Longtime New Mexico political observer Brian Sanderoff, the president of Research & Polling Inc., projected Heinrich as the race’s winner shortly after polls officially closed statewide.

Heinrich, a Democrat, defeated Republican Mick Rich, an Albuquerque contractor making his first run for elected office, and Libertarian Gary Johnson, a former state governor who entered the race in August as a fill-in candidate.

“I am deeply grateful to the people of this state for once again putting your confidence and your trust in me to represent you in the United States Senate,” Heinrich said at his victory speech in Albuquerque.

He significantly outraised both his rivals in the race and aired political ads that touted his commitment to alternative energy, affordable health care and New Mexico’s national laboratories and military bases.

Heinrich was first elected to the U.S. Senate in 2012 and previously served two terms representing the Albuquerque-area 1st Congressional District in the U.S. House of Representatives.

He spent the run-up to Election Day crisscrossing the state alongside gubernatorial candidate Michelle Lujan Grisham and other Democratic candidates.

His re-election bid was largely without political drama, though Rich criticized him for relocating his family to suburban Washington D.C. several years ago and questioned his commitment to New Mexico.

In an Election Night interview, Heinrich said voters statewide had rejected divisiveness, adding, “They were embracing a campaign in our campaign that was heavy on vision and really positive.”

Johnson, who was a Republican when he served as New Mexico’s governor from 1995 through 2002, embraced the underdog label in the three-way race but struggled to find traction as a Libertarian candidate in a state dominated by Democrats and Republicans.

“I think the two-party system is really flawed and I don’t expect that to change in my lifetime,” Johnson told the Journal in an Election Night interview.

He also said he would not run again for elected office — though he made a similar vow after running for president as a Libertarian in 2016.

As for Rich, he told onlookers at a Republican election party in Albuquerque that he had called Heinrich to offer his congratulations.

“I did everything I could with what I had,” said Rich, who noted he was outfunded by a hefty margin in the race. “I’m proud to be a New Mexican. I’m proud to be a Republican. And I’m proud to support my president.”
Nationally, Republicans entered Election Night with a 51-49 advantage in the U.S. Senate, with 35 seats up for election Tuesday. New Mexico’s other U.S. Senate member, Tom Udall, was not up for election Tuesday. His current six-year term expires in 2020.

With Heinrich’s victory, Democrats have won every U.S. Senate election in New Mexico since Republican former U.S. Sen. Pete Domenici’s final re-election victory in 2002.

Journal staff writers Maddy Hayden and Shelby Perea contributed to this report.

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