While social media seems almost united in calling last night a “disaster” for Democrats nationwide, but here at home the results were a huge disaster for Governor Martinez and the Republican agenda.
The State House is now led by a Democratic majority that includes the largest progressive caucus in history.
Governor Martinez is now a lame duck forced to work with a larger caucus of progressives in the State Senate. They will decide which issues and bills define her final years in office.
And voters finally sent a competent, responsible person to lead the Secretary of State’s Office. Maggie Toulouse will take office once the results are certified later this month.
Read more on how we built a progressive infrastructure to win in times like these: Last night proved that New Mexico voters are smarter than the rest of the country.
So what happened? Here’s our quick recap and how these races impact New Mexico politics.
Republican Leader Nate Gentry got a little big for his britches, voters said. Instead of treating their narrow 2014 majority as an opportunity to govern, Gentry led State Republicans to push a laundry list of corporate bills and played “gotcha” politics with House schedules and votes to punish Democrats.
And Governor Martinez and Republican leaders spent millions on negative attack ads to distract from some serious ethical and criminal issues their candidates faced.
Voters had had enough and picked Progressive champions in nearly every tight race.
Democrats clearly won at least 3 seats to take back control of the House and they appear to have expanded their majority by 3-4 more seats.
Democrats picked up a top-tier seat in House District 23. Corrales-area Republican State Rep. Paul Pacheco proudly ran on his record sponsoring anti-immigrant and many of the governor’s pet agenda items. Popular County Commissioner Daymon Ely narrowly beat Pacheco by 72 votes as of this morning. This race will likely go to a recount but making up a 72 vote difference will be tough for Pacheco.
Progressive Champion Liz Thomson heads back to her State House seat in House District 24 in Albuquerque’s Northeast Heights. She proudly talked about her opposition to reinstating the death penalty and called out the Republicans’ failed economic record.
And in Doña Ana County, progressives won BIG.
City Councilor Nathan Small defeated embattled State Rep. Andy Nuñez in great part because of a ProgressNow investigation into Nuñez campaign spending. The attorney general is still investigating. Small ran on his record supporting local minimum wage hikes and environmental responsibility.
The third time was the charm for JoAnne Ferrary in her campaign to unseat House District 37 Republican State Rep. Terry McMillan. JoAnne also ran on her record advocating for workers and minimum wage issues. McMillan doubled-down on Tea Party strategies and told an NRA group he started hoarding guns when President Obama was elected.
Long-time Progressive Champion Rudy Martinez made State Rep. John Zimmerman (HD39, Las Cruces) a one-term legislator. Zimmerman was picked by the governor to run in that seat in 2014 and won with the aid of a last-minute barrage of negative ads from the governor’s Super PAC that year. This year, those same ads came but voters rejected them and Zimmerman’s anti-environmental and “all crime, all the time” partisan record.
Many seem surprised that retired firefighter Ronny Martinez started the night off ahead of Republican David Adkins in HD29. This morning, that race is headed to a recount as Adkins defends a 2-vote lead. This could be another pickup for Democrats.
Community organizer Angelica Rubio easily won her bid to keep State Rep. Jeff Steinborn‘s HD35 seat in progressive hands.
As of this morning, Democrats will clearly take back the State House and all signs point to Rep. Brian Egolf taking over as Speaker of the House in 2017. He’ll be aided by the largest progressive caucus in state history.
State Rep. Jeff Steinborn, for his part, ousted the governor’s incumbent in State Senate District 36 in Las Cruces. That’s just one of several good pickups for Democrats in the State Senate this cycle.
Las Cruces voters also kept education champion Sen. Bill Soules who faced a tough challenge from the governor’s PACs. Soules heads back to Santa Fe to represent Senate District 37 for another 4 years.
Former Democratic State Senator Liz Stefanics seems to have ousted the governor’s Republican appointee in Senate District 39. Stefanics was defending a narrow 334 vote lead this morning, just outside the recount range with a few provisional ballots left uncounted.
And, in a surprise to many, Democrat Bill Tallman bested State Sen. Lisa Torraco by 462 votes in SD18. This was Tallman’s second run for this seat and he has always proved to be a disciplined campaigner and well-versed public administrator.
In all, voters sent 3 new Senators to expand the progressive caucus fighting Governor Martinez from the Senate.
But the biggest loss of the night is undoubtably in Valencia County. In 2012, Governor Martinez is estimated to have spent more than $1 million to unseat her biggest opponent, Sen. Michael Sanchez. This year, she vowed to spent twice that and her Super PAC, Advance New Mexico Now, had so much money they couldn’t make enough factual negative ads. They literally made up attacks that news outlets reported were untrue. Yet, the governor didn’t stop them. Sanchez lost a heart-breaking race and the State Senate lost a lion.
(Don’t county Sanchez out, yet. He’s long been a fighter and there are still fights unfinished)
The State Senate is comfortably in Democratic hands still, though the loss of Sanchez means a behind-the-scenes power play is already underway to fill leadership positions.
What next? (is 2018 already in trouble?)
Governor Martinez will enter 2017 with limited time and a House and Senate sore from millions of dollars in made-up negative attacks from her PACs and caucus campaigns.
Candidates for governor are already lining up to lay out their own alternatives to her failed mess and strong Democratic majorities in each house of the legislature will surely help to expose those opportunities.
And in 2018, Progressive Champions like Sen. Martin Heinrich will need our help to fend off challengers (maybe Susana?) riding a pro-Trump bandwagon to Washington, DC.
You’ve just shown the country what progressives can do when we get excited and turn out. Let’s not let this momentum die like it has before.
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