Thursday, August 27, 2020

Race of the Day- New Mexico U.S. Senate

New Mexico U.S. Senate

68 Days Until Election Day

Status: Democrat Open
2016 Presidential Result: Blue State (West)

Outlook: Likely Democrat

Once, a prime swing state, New Mexico has become bluer in the post George W. Bush era. It was noteworthy when the Democrat incumbent announced his upcoming retirement, setting the stage for an open seat, only the most rose colored glasses wearing Republicans thought that the GOP really had a decent chance of a pickup.

After two terms in the Senate, and a decade before that in the House, Democrat Tom Udall is stepping away from politics, amazingly at an age where he is still somewhat younger than both Presidential nominees. The son of former Interior Secretary Stewart Udall, Tom was elected to both the House and Senate on the same day as his cousin Mark Udall of Colorado, the son of the even better known Mo Udall, a longtime Congressman from Arizona. Mark would lose reelection in Colorado six years later while Tom would easily win a second term. For a time, the cousins also served in the Senate with their second cousin, Gordon Smith, an Oregon Republican, before he lost reelection. Clearly, the Udalls are one of the most prominent Mormon political families in the West. Despite that, Tom Udall was one of the least visible Senators nationally. Perhaps, that was something to be proud of.

One Udall made his announcement, the party seemed ready to turn to Congressman Ben Ray Lujan of the Third District. who was first elected in 1998 and has served in his party's leadership. Lujan, who is not related the state's Governor and his former House colleague, Michelle Lujan Grisham, does come from a prominent political family. His father, Ben Lujan, was a longtime party leader who rose to be Speaker of the State House. When then younger Lujan entered politics, his Democrat opponents complained he was benefiting from his father's name. For a time, it looked like the Congressman might face primary opposition from Maggie Toulouse Oliver, the New Mexico Secretary of State, but she dropped out of the primary last October, leaving a clear path.

Three Republicans, none of whom having ever held elective office, competed in the June primary. In the end, it was an easy win for Mark Ronchetti, formerly the lead television meteorologist for an Albuquerque news station. The high name recognition he had from that career enabled him to defeat Pro-Life activist Elisa Martinez, a member of the Navajo Nation,  56-26. A third candidate, Gavin Clarkson, a cowboy hat wearing professor who had lost two years earlier for Secretary of State received 17 percent. I can surmise that Ronchetti must have been a very good weatherman to have been that trusted.

If elected, Lujan would be one of just a handful of Latinos ever to serve in the U.S. Senate. There is no doubt he is a heavy favorite to do so, with a large fundraising advantage, and in a state that is expected to go solidly for the Democrat in the Presidential contest (though Trumpists protest and think New Mexico is in play.) The state has three Congressional districts, and in recent history, one was heavily Democrat, one was heavily Republican, and one was a swing district. Currently, all of those districts are held by Democrats. Lujan hails from the most pro-Democrat part of the state, so he may not do as well in the other districts. Irregardless, this is clearly his race to lose, unless weatherman Ronchetti can summon up a forecast of at least some light frost in hell.

U.S. Senate races predicted thus far:

12 D (4 Safe, 3 Likely, 3 Lean, 2 Tossup) 
12 R (3 Safe, 4 Likely, 3 Lean, 2 Tossup)

Total with predictions thus far:

47 Democrats (35 holdovers, 4 Safe, 3 Likely, 3 Lean, 2 Tossup)
42 Republicans (30 holdovers, 3 Safe, 4 Likely, 3 Lean, 2 Tossup)


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