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The race for Supreme Court — one of the closest races in the state during campaigning — remained very close throughout vote counting, stretching long past most other closely contested races in the state and ending with a history-making win for Republican Judith Nakamura.
It’s rare in New Mexico for a Republican to gain traction in the race for a seat on the court, let alone win.
“I’m pretty excited. And I am pleasantly surprised. I worked really hard. A lot of people in New Mexico worked really hard,” Nakamura said, before claiming victory Tuesday night.
She said she is most looking forward to a chance to “serve our state and improve the efficiency of the judiciary. I am really excited to be given this opportunity.”
The long-time Republican judge bested her Democratic challenger, Court of Appeals Chief Judge Michael Vigil. Vigil plans to retain his seat on the Court of Appeals.
Nakamura’s win makes history.
She is the first female Republican elected to the court.
And she continues contributing to the court’s first female majority.
Journal and historical archives show the last Republican majority court was in 1929. Victors in races for a seat on the court since then have been consistently Democratic, except a blip in 1980.
That year, William Riordan, an Albuquerque attorney, defeated a Democratic justice to fill out an unexpired term, said Journal pollster Brian Sanderoff, president of Research & Polling Inc.
Nakamura’s background as both a longtime Metro Court judge and a District Court judge in Albuquerque gave her inroads in and around Bernalillo County during the campaign, Sanderoff said. Nakamura was appointed to the Supreme Court by Gov. Susana Martinez in November 2015.
“I’m proud that, along with my opponent, we ran a really positive campaign,” Nakamura said, of Vigil.
Vigil, a Santa Fe native who is the chief judge on the state Court of Appeals, received strong support from Albuquerque-area voters, Journal polls found. In addition, he held an edge in the Las Cruces area and a strong lead in northern New Mexico during the campaign.