There were record numbers of New Mexicans voting in this midterm election compared to 2014 and many of the races turned out in the ways that families needed them to- there were 163,347 more voters this midterm than in 2014, with 54% of eligible voters casting their ballots.
What’s more, people who are truly representative of New Mexico’s diversity won last night. Women from all different backgrounds ran in record numbers and won: state House races, judge seats, and the governor’s mansion. The state has its first female Land Commissioner, Stephanie Garcia Richard, and is sending one of two of the first Native American women to Congress, Deb Haaland, elected the first openly gay sheriff, Kim Stewart, in state history, and after a grueling recount, Xochitl Torress Small managed to flip the NM’s 2nd District and become the first woman to represent that area in Congress!
The Blue (and pink) Wave in New Mexico
Common sense was on the ballot yesterday. There were House races all over the state we watched closely and last night Progressive candidates were swept into office. By our count, and barring at least one recount, at least 9 seats (House Districts 4, 15, 20, 27, 28, 29, 30, 53, 68) appear to have flipped from Republican to Democrat. Conversely, it appears only HD 63, the last Democratically-held seat on the eastern part of the state held by Democrat George Dodge, has fallen to the Republican challenger Martin Zamora. But at the time of publication, that race was less than 30 votes apart.
Newcomers like Melanie Stansbury (HD 28) and Dayan Hochman (House District 15) were elected, women who brought with them experience and compassion. Educators on the ballot with Joy Garratt (HD 29), Natalie Figueroa (HD30), and Willie Madrid (HD53) who made sure to let voters know that they know firsthand what teachers and professors experience and how valuable it will be in the Roundhouse.
Christine Chandler (HD 43) defeated Lisa Shin and Joanne Ferrary (HD 37) retained her seat against perennial arch conservative Bev Courtney; both women faced opponents who perpetuated hateful rhetoric against people of color (POC), pushed ridiculous conspiracy theories about the Girl Scouts, and are vehemently against a woman’s right to choose what she does with her body. For the first time since 1966, there is a female majority in the Court of Appeals, and 4 Republicans have been replaced by Briana Zamora, Kristina Bogardus, Megan Duffy, and Jacqueline Medina. It’s also worth noting that many of the women on the ballot are Emerge New Mexico alumnae.
Oh, and Monica Youngblood lost her seat to Karen Bash, a former minister. Youngblood was convicted of a DWI in September and it’s ironic, albeit unsurprising, that she attempted to use her position to get out of her DWI after having sponsored some of the most strict DWI bills, one which would have held people without bond before seeing a judge.
At local levels, there were some pretty amazing results as well.
- In Doña Ana County voters elected the first woman to the Sheriff’s office in Kim Stewart, who is, as mentioned above, also the state’s first openly gay Sheriff.
- Voters also returned Democrats to fill out the County Commission, which has had two Martinez-appointed Republicans holding seats there for years.
- Christine Lowery (Paguate Village, Laguna Pueblo) won her bid for Cibola County Commissioner after defeating Robert Armijo in the 2018 primary.
- Also notable that with the exception of an unchallenged Republican running for Public Education Commission, both Cibola County and Grant County voted in ALL Democratic candidates countywide, joining Doña Ana and Los Alamos counties which both elected literally zero Republicans anywhere on the ballot.
What does this all mean?
It means that first and foremost, we will continue to hold these new officials’ accountable to New Mexico families who depend on the government to work for the people, the families who voted for them. But with between Lujan Grisham’s stated priorities and a newly energized progressive slate of legislators in the Roundhouse it feels like 2019 could be a real new beginning for New Mexico.
In healthcare, we can count on Medicaid being protected and there may be a good chance of a reintroduction of a public buy-in option for New Mexicans who may not meet the requirements to receive Medicaid. This also means that abortion, which is healthcare, will likely be protected by having the state constitution amended to remove a provision that criminalizes OBGYNs that perform abortions. That option will have to be placed on a statewide ballot but getting that amendment proposed should now be a priority for our new leadership.
At a time when the Trump administration is implementing the conservative right’s long-term, extremist agenda, LGBTQ+ people are increasingly seeing their rights and liberties eroded. Because of attempts to erase our identities at the federal level, it’s more important than ever that states elect people who will protect our LGBTQ+ family. Here at home, organizations like Equality New Mexico are leading the fight to secure economic liberation and self-determination for the LGBTQ+ community–an agenda that is supported by the newly elected governor and legislature. Especially in a time when trans women of color are murdered at disproportionate rates and many LGBTQ+ folks, especially transgender people, are pushed out of the workforce because of discrimination, we must keep up that fight.
New Mexico has a better chance of investing more into pre-K education, K-12, and higher education. After the debacle last legislative session where Susana Martinez vetoed all the funding for higher education because her picks for regents were not brought forward for nomination, New Mexico can now breathe a little easier knowing that what schools need, they may get. In 2017, the Albuquerque Public Schools, all sports for middle schools were cut. With some key leadership from actual educators now being seated in the legislature and a Lt. Governor who has a Ph.D. in education, New Mexico can hopefully start a bold climb out of the Martinez-era pit the state has struggled in for years.
Stephanie Garcia Richard is the state’s first female Land Commissioner. She has been very vocal that she will not allow corporations to destroy our public lands and revenue must be used to fund hospitals and schools. The Land Commissioner also oversees land leases and mineral rights. Many State House candidates had renewable energy on their platform this year so we are excited to see the collaboration between state entities to protect the environment and work to help protect sacred sites where they can. While the Trump administration continues to hack away at clean energy initiatives and loosening regulations on Oil and Gas, New Mexico is poised to fight back in big ways to protect our air AND bring in more revenue by enforcing stricter methane standards, implementing a progressive Clean Power Plan, instituting smart Renewable Portfolio Standards, and allowing Securitization for common sense adaptation of renewable energy by major utilities.
Representative Angelica Rubio (House District 35) has been a vocal advocate as an elected official, working in the past to push back against Trump’s wall by securing state land from being built on and working to make the state a welcoming place for immigrant communities. We know that in Southern New Mexico, we have Progressive representatives like Rubio, Ferrary, Nathan Small, and Representative-elect Micaela Lara Cadena (House District 33) who know what’s at stake for families living along the border and that increased federal militarization is not a New Mexico value.
New Mexico is a rural state where even Democrats tout their guns but that doesn’t mean the state can’t make desperately needed common-sense gun reforms. Private sales, often called the “gun show loophole,” are still legal in New Mexico and that’s one verifiable way to keep guns from getting into the hands of children and others who wish to do harm. More holistic background checks and waiting periods are also viable options in terms of keeping responsible gun owners able to exercise their rights but again, making sure those who shouldn’t possess firearms are more closely scrutinized. And of course increased funding for and access to mental healthcare is necessary for many reasons, but certainly a part of this dialog as well.
No matter what this election was New Mexico’s answer to Trump’s so-called referendum. It’s clear how we feel about that. Flipped seats, progressive wins, and clear margins show New Mexico’s real values but it’s up to us to hold our newly elected officials to their word. ProgressNow New Mexico will continue it’s role of ensuring our values are being pursued. We hope you’ll join us.