Tuesday, September 11, 2018

New Mexico Governor- Race of the Day

56 Days Until Election Day

New Mexico Governor

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

Outlook: Leans Democrat

Time will tell if this race is as close as a couple of independent polls have pegged it. Democrats have long expected this to be a prime pick-up opportunity and their own polls are giving a larger lead to their party's nominee. For all intents and purposes, this should be a victory for the Democrats, but sometimes there are surprises in politics.

One of those surprises eight years ago, was the election of the previously little known Republican Susana Martinez, who defeated a better known Democrat, to capture the open Governorship. The office has recently flipped between parties every eight years. Martinez became a rising star in the GOP, as a visible Hispanic female, and was heavily featured at the 2012 Republican National Convention. She had little trouble winning reelection two years later, but seemed to take no interest in the opportunity to perhaps seek national office. For whatever reason now though, as her last allotted term is about to expire, her personal and political fortunes have soured and her approval rating is pretty low. A lot of partisan Democrats in a state that is traditionally leaning towards that party may never have liked her, and many in the Republican Party who stand without exception with Donald Trump may also have turned on her. She had a spotty relationship in 2016 with the Presidential candidate, eventually declaring she could not vote for him. As Governor, she has tried to work with his administration on issues such as immigration, but has criticized his rhetoric on the matter.

It is worth noting that by virtue of the result received in 2016 by the state's former Governor Gary Johnson, as the Libertarian Presidential nominee, that party has major party status this cycle in the state. Johnson declined the chance to run again for Governor though under its banner (and is now running for the U.S. Senate instead) and the party has basically punted on the race, leaving the contest between the two major parties.

Three major Democrats ran, all of them Hispanic but the frontrunner early on was Congresswoman Michelle Lujan Grisham. Long active in state government, she lost a primary bid for Congress in 2008, but ran for and won in 2012, and has since held what was typically been the most politically competitive district in the state. In the June primary this year, she captured 66 percent of the vote, well ahead of businessman Jeff Apodaca, the son of a former Governor, who received 22 percent. State Senator Joe Cervantes received a bit over 11 percent. While Apodaca seemed to run in the primary as the more progressive alternative to Grisham, he has declined to endorse her since the primary. His father, the former Governor, has even endorsed the conservative Republican nominee.

The Republican field was left alone to Congressman Steve Pearce, after other political figures decided this might be too uphill of a race to win. A wealthy businessman and Air Force veteran, Pearce was elected to the state legislature and soon set his sights higher. In 2000, he spent a lot of money to run for the GOP U.S. Senate nomination but finished far behind, Two years later though, he was elected to the U.S. House, from the traditionally conservative one of New Mexico's districts and held that before making another attempt for the Senate in 2008. This time, he won a competitive primary against a colleague considered more electable for a general election, and then Pearce proceeded to lose in a landslide to a Democrat. Two years later, he won the House seat back, over a Democrat who had surprisingly won in the interim. Now, Pearce is leaving Congress again to make another statewide bid, this his first one for Governor.

In New Mexico, the winners of the primaries for Lt. Governor are matched up on tickets with the Gubernatorial nominees. On the GOP side, the one candidate was Michelle Garcia Holmes, a former police detective who had served as Chief of Staff to a Democrat Attorney General of New Mexico, Last year, she unsuccessfully ran for Mayor of Albuquerque. Like the contest for Governor, three Democrats ran, and the winner with 47 percent was State Senator Howie Morales, who ran for Governor and lost in the primary in 2014. Former State House Majority Leader Rick Miera received 32 percent and Dona Ana County Commissioner Billy Garrett took 21 percent.

On paper, this is a general election that should favor Congresswoman Grisham over her district neighbor. She has represented a more politically competitive area in Congress and he might have baggage from his previous statewide runs and the general perception that he may be too conservative to win a state that has so many Latino and Native American voters. A poll from last month though, accounting for many undecided voters, had the Democrat's lead at just two percent however. Previous partisan Democrat and independent polls have shown Grisham with a larger lead.

There are significant ideological differences between the candidates and they have different styles as well. Pearce will probably need a break or two to really have a realistic chance of winning this purple to blue state in a midterm election of a polarizing Republican President.

Gubernatorial Races predicted thus far:

11 D  (2 Safe, 1 Likely,  5 Leans, 3 Tossup) 
12 R   (2 Safe, 5 Likely, 3 Leans, 2 Tossup)

Total with predictions thus far:

18 D (7 holdovers, 2 Safe, 1 Likely, 5 Leans, 3 Tossup)
19 R (7 holdovers, 2 Safe, 5 Likely, 3 Leans, 2 Tossup)


At 9:35 AM, Blogger Steve Boudreaux said...

Grisham wins by double digits!


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