At a glance
Electoral votes: 3 | Obama
D Bingaman R Domenici
New Mexico State House:
New Mexico State Senate:
Presidential election history:
New Mexico was trending Democrat in the presidential race until September, when it went back to being a toss-up. In 2000, Gore won the state by a mere 0.1%, and Bush eked out a victory by about 0.7% in 2004. Because the state is frequently so close, Native Americans, who make up 11 percent of the population and tend to vote Democrat, could help swing the vote to Sen. Barack Obama this year. Third-party candidates Ralph Nader, Independent; Cynthia McKinney, Green; Chuck Baldwin, Constitution; and Bob Barr, Libertarian, could also divide the vote and help determine the outcome.
When Pete Domenici, R, announced his retirement from the U.S. Senate seat he’s held since 1973, all three of the state’s U.S. representatives abandoned their seats to run. Heather Wilson, R, of the 1st Congressional District, which includes Albuquerque and other parts of central New Mexico, lost to the more conservative Steve Pearce, R. Pearce spent a lot of his campaign money in the primary, leaving him with less to go up against Tom Udall, D. Udall has a sizeable lead and about $2 million more, but Pearce has been slowly but steadily closing the gap. Top contributors to Pearce’s campaign come from the oil and gas industry, while Udall’s top funders are lawyers. Additionally, about 56 percent of Udall’s money is coming from out of state (mostly New York, D.C. and Chicago), compared to just 26 percent for Pearce, whose outside dollars are flowing largely from Houston, Dallas and Odessa-Midland.
Pete Domenici’s 36 years in the U.S. Senate were marked by funneling federal money into the state for myriad projects, from Indian health, education and roads initiatives to major projects at Sandia and Los Alamos national laboratories. Domenici helped push New Mexico into the number-one spot in the country for the ratio of federal dollars coming into the state to tax dollars paid, per capita. During his long tenure, Domenici staunchly supported oil and gas development, and pushed nuclear energy and, to a lesser extent, biofuels. If Tom Udall, who promises to end subsidies for big oil, invest in alternative energy and who has a strong track record on environmental issues, succeeds him, then New Mexico could see dramatic policy shifts in those areas. If Pearce pulls out a victory, however, he will likely continue to carry Domenici’s nuclear and fossil fuel banner.
The closest House race in the state is unfolding over Wilson’s vacant seat, which has been held by Republicans for at least 40 years. But in the 2006 election, State Attorney General Patricia Madrid, D, came within less than 1 percent of taking the seat. Democrat Martin Heinrich, Albuquerque City Councilman, now has a narrow lead over Republican Darren White.
The U.S. House seats for the 2nd (mostly southern New Mexico, also oil country) and 3rd (mostly northern New Mexico) Congressional Districts will likely remain Republican and Democrat, respectively. But Harry Teague, the conservative Democrat who’s running against Ed Tinsley, R, for the 2nd District seat, still has a fighting chance of becoming the first Democrat to hold that seat in more than 30 years.