NM Voters Send Clear Message: Conservative Dems Out. Progressives In.

NM Voters Send Clear Message: Conservative Dems Out. Progressives In.

Voters overwhelmingly backed progressive candidates in Tuesday’s primary election, sending a clear signal that they’re ready for more of the already popular policies related to worker protections; reproductive freedom and gender affirming care; continued investment in healthcare and education; and ensuring a just transition from fossil fuels to clean/renewable energy.

Among the winners were trusted progressive leaders like Patricia Roybal Caballero, Susan Herrera, Shannon Pinto, Linda Lopez, and Angelica Rubio, who all won by significant margins. Voters also rejected corporate and conservative Democrats Harry Garcia and Willie Madrid, both of whom voted against people-centered policies in areas like comprehensive healthcare and environmental protections.

The election also saw corporate special interest groups once again attempting to influence our elections, with the most egregious example being NM’s own billionaire oilman Harvey Yates and legacy wannabe politico Jeff Apodaca teaming up to pour money into corporate democrats with multiple reported corruption and ethics violations. That attempt backfired spectacularly via the biggest upset of the night in Senate District 15 where long-time incumbent Daniel Ivey-Soto was easily ousted by challenger Heather Berghmans (more on that in a bit).

Primaries play a key role in most states, but that’s especially true in New Mexico, where having a majority of Democrats in our state’s House and Senate chambers over the last several years has meant that primary elections are where our communities have immense power to set priorities and elect candidates that align with New Mexican values.

For example, four conservative Democrats lost their re-election bid in the 2020 primary election, largely due to repeatedly voting against repealing a decades-old state abortion ban. Voters in that election advanced candidates who supported reproductive freedom who then went on to repeal the abortion ban in 2021, just before Roe fell. This is the power of primaries.

This year’s key issues included Paid Family Medical Leave, common sense gun legislation, affordable housing, and environmental protections. Yesterday’s results will also have an unusual impact on the legislature’s special session in July. While Senator Daniel Ivey-Soto, multiple times accused of ethics violations and harassment, was ousted in SD 15, he’ll still be seated next month. If you thought he was an obstructionist before, we can’t imagine what that will look like in July! 

Without further delay, here’s a breakdown of how New Mexico fared…

Progressive incumbents maintain their seats

The big takeaway? Voters once again advanced champions for progressive policies from throughout the state to the general election.

  • Shannon Pinto is queued up for Senate District 3, where she’ll be running on a record that includes supporting education reform, tribal sovereignty, affordable housing, healthcare access and gender affirming care, and economic development. 
  • Linda Lopez, the incumbent in Senate District 11, has a strong record of championing reproductive freedom, including co-sponsoring the repeal of our state’s 1969 abortion ban and more recently the passing of shield laws, and is also well known for advancing worker protections, ensuring educational equity, and working on issues impacting the families of missing and murdered Indigenous persons.
  • Eliseo Alcon’s work on veteran issues and his strong support for progressive policies including voting rights, worker protections, clean energy, and reproductive freedom and gender affirming care are likely to return him to the House District 6 seat in November’s general election.  
  • Patricia Roybal Caballero, recognized for her groundbreaking work on key issues like fair wages and workplace safety, renewable energy, economic development, access to healthcare, and affordable housing, is slated to vie for House District 13.
  • Yanira Gurrola Valenzuela’s track record of supporting clean energy and reproductive and gender affirming healthcare, along with co-sponsoring bills requiring affirmative consent and menstrual products in public schools, set her up to compete again in House District 16
  • Angelica Rubio, one of our state’s most recognizable champions for working families, is once again returning to compete for House District 35 in the general election. 
  • Susan Herrera, an equally consistent champion for working and middle class New Mexicans, will once again be up for re-election to the House District 41 seat. 

Challengers knock off (most) conservative Dems

In welcome news, progressive newcomers also made inroads on seats held by traditionally more conservative Democrats.

We’ve been keeping an eye on six Democratic primary races where longtime, conservative, or problematic incumbents faced a challenge from progressives. Of those six races, only two incumbents advanced to November’s general election to maintain their seats. Oil and Gas candidate Patty Lundstrom and Marian Matthews, who successfully worked to kill the comprehensive Paid Family Medical Leave Act during the 2024 legislative session.

However, in four races the more progressive candidates prevailed.

As mentioned already, in closely watched Senate District 15, challenger Heather Berghmans soundly defeated 10-year incumbent Daniel Ivey-Soto, who faced multiple allegations of harassment, abuse, improper financial and ethical conduct, and conflicts of interest since 2022. Berghmans, who previously worked closely with NM House Speakers Javier Martinez and Brian Egolf in multiple policy/research roles, was instrumental in passing policies related to protections for abortion access, gun violence prevention, access to education, working families rights, voting protections, and more. Voters overwhelmingly rejecting Ivey-Soto sends a clear message that the legislature is a workplace not a playground for predatory behavior, and this change will make the Roundhouse a little safer.

In two of the most surprising incumbent upsets of the election, Dr. Jon Hill defeated Willie Madrid for House District 53 and Michelle ‘Paulene’ Abeyta defeated Harry Garcia for House District 69. While the challengers were relatively new to politics and went up against longtime and well known candidates, it’s clear that the districts rejected Madrid and Garcia based on their past votes against abortion access, gun safety, and environmental protections, and instead opted for candidates that would prioritize the health, safety, and needs of their communities.

In House District 70, Anita Gonzales, who has a long track record of advocacy on education, conservation, and the environment and experience in community outreach and engagement, defeated Ambrose Castellano who is currently under investigations for misuse of campaign funds. Gonzales’ dedication to child well-being and education, her passion for water and acequias, her focus on worker’s rights, and her attention to increasing representation in STEM all set her up to be a champion for New Mexican values.

Progressives pick up opportunities and open seats

A surprising number of open Democratic seats were up this year as long-serving incumbents chose not to run for re-election and a number of brave Democratic candidates stood up to try to take on GOP members in November in seats traditionally held by Republicans. In all seven races that were open seats or Democratic pick up opportunities, progressive candidates won. So please, GOP, tell us again how New Mexicans aren’t progressive. Read below for highlights!

Cindy Nava, who recently vacated her appointment by the White House as Senior Policy Advisor to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development in order to run for this seat, won the democratic primary election for Senate District 9. If Nava wins against conspiracy theorist, election denier, and MAGA Republican Audrey Trujillo in November, she will be the first Dreamer elected in the country at a state level. If this doesn’t perfectly highlight New Mexican values, we don’t know what does.

Athena Christodoulou, a strong climate justice advocate, secured the win for Senate District 21. If elected in November, Christodoulou will help move progressive policies that will benefit New Mexico’s transition to clean energy. 

In Senate District 24, Linda Trujillo, a past Representative in the NM Legislature, has won the democratic primary. During her previous terms, Trujillo sponsored and cosponsored legislation to modernize elections and increase accessibility, create the Early Childhood Education and Care Department, and remove barriers for individuals 65+ years of age to attend higher education courses. We welcome Trujillo back into the state legislature!

Angel Charley won her race handily against former Corporate Democratic Senator (read, already rejected once) Clemente Sanchez in Senate District 30 which is a huge win for everyone in the state. Charley is an Indigenous leader here in New Mexico as well as nationally, who campaigned on expanding community health centers as well as updating NM’s Renewable Portfolio Standards. Her track record as an organizer and leader from her community is welcomed in the Roundhouse, and we’re excited to see her continue for election in November.

We’re so excited to see that Joseph Hernandez has won his three-way primary in House District 4! A long time community activist from the Four Corners area, Hernandez will bring a wealth of lived experience and professional knowledge to the Roundhouse should he win in November. A staunch supporter of real climate action and workers’ rights, Hernandez will be a welcome addition to the House in 2025!

Marianna Anaya, a well-known advocate in the progressive sector, secured the win for House District 18. A staunch supporter of unions, reproductive and LGBTQ+ advocate, and past employee of ProgressNow NM, we know Anaya will do great things if elected in November and continue her legacy of fighting for the most vulnerable New Mexicans.

Gabby Begay, a long time educator and school board member, secured the win for House District 39 over her fellow school board member Gilbert Guadiana. Begay will now face conservative Luis Terrazas in the November 2024 election in what is certain to be an interesting race.

County Commissions

In county commission news, Adrian Barboa secured the Democratic primary for Bernalillo County Commission 3 which will allow her to continue the amazing work she’s done in that role. Frank Baca, longtime community advocate, secured the primary for Bernalillo County Commission 2. In Santa Fe, long time public health advocate, Lisa Cacari Stone secured the democratic spot for Santa Fe County Commission 2, and for Santa Fe County Commission 3, Adam Johnson, an environmental champion, walked away with the win.

NM Republicans continue trending MAGA

Over in the Republican primaries, far-right MAGA candidates continued to maintain their hold over the party, with multiple candidates picking up the primary win and now slated to go up against their Democrat counterparts in November 2024.

Among the notable GOP candidates who won their primary are Audrey Trujillo in Senate District 9, recognized far and wide for her past and ongoing attempts to undermine voting and democracy, along with Jay Block in Senate District 12, who is well known in Sandoval County for caring more about guns than people. Add to this grotesque group one Nicole Tobiassen in Senate District 21, who appeared on a podcast in April and May spreading inaccurate (at best) information about crime and the border along with bringing up bizarre conspiracies about grooming.

These candidates join unchallenged incumbents like John Block in House District 51 and Randall Pettigrew in House District 61 (both are election deniers) — along with far-right hardliners Stefani Lord in House District 22 and House Minority Leader Rod Montoya in House District 1 — all of whom are likely, based on their past history and current activities, to spread mis/disinformation on a range of topics between now and November’s general election.

The mis/disinformation they spread include in false claims about voting, ballots, and elections, despite New Mexico continuing to lead on secure and transparent election administration and recently being named #1 in the nation by the nonpartisan MIT Election Data and Science Lab. Additionally, we expect continued falsehoods about immigration and lots of standing around, pointing, and talking tough with no real solutions to the serious issues our state is facing.

While we all know the lead up to the November election will be rocky, right now we’re celebrating and we’re celebrating BIG. New Mexico voters made their voices heard, rejecting the status quo and opting for leaders who will protect reproductive freedom, strengthen our public schools, advocate for hardworking families, and build a better New Mexico.


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