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Stories about New Mexico

New Mexico sees the fewest candidates running for the U.S. House since 2016

The filing deadline for candidates running for Congress in New Mexico this year was March 24, 2022. Eight candidates are running for New Mexico’s three U.S. House districts, including four Democrats and four Republicans. That’s 2.67 candidates per district, less than the 6.3 candidates per district in 2020 and the five in 2018.

Here are some other highlights from this year’s filings:

  • This is the first election to take place under new district lines following the 2020 census. New Mexico was apportioned three districts, the same number it was apportioned after the 2010 census.
  • The eight candidates running this year are the fewest candidates running for New Mexico’s U.S. House seats since 2016, when seven candidates filed.

  • All three incumbents are running for re-election, meaning there are no open seats. 
  • There are two contested primaries this year, the fewest since 2016, when there was one contested primary.
  • Candidates filed to run in the Republican and Democratic primaries in all three districts, so no seats are guaranteed to either party this year. 
  • No incumbents are facing primary challengers this year. The last year an incumbent was in a contested primary was 2014, when then-incumbent Rep. Ben Ray Lujan (D) and Robert Blanch ran in the 3rd Congressional District. 

New Mexico and six other states — California, Iowa, Mississippi, Montana, New Jersey, and South Dakota — are holding primary elections on June 7. In New Mexico, the winner of a primary election is the candidate who receives the greatest number of votes, even if he or she does not win more than 50 percent of votes cast.

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Percentage of New Mexico state legislative incumbents facing primaries at its highest since 2014

Twelve of the 57 New Mexico state legislators running for re-election—eight Democrats and four Republicans—face contested primaries. That equals 21% of incumbents seeking re-election, the highest rate since 2014. The remaining 45% of incumbents are not facing primary challengers.

While there are fewer incumbents in contested primaries this year than in 2020 (12, down from 20), a higher percentage of incumbents running for re-election face contested primaries than in 2020.

The state House of Representatives holds elections in its 70 districts every two years. The state Senate, on the other hand, holds elections every four years to coincide with presidential elections. Only the House districts are up for election this year.

Despite the fact that only one chamber is holding elections this year, the number of open districts is at its highest since 2014. An open seat is one where no incumbents filed to run. This means 18.6% of the districts holding elections this year will be represented by newcomers.

Open districts most commonly exist when an incumbent chooses not to seek re-election. During redistricting, open districts might also exist if an incumbent is drawn into a new district, leaving their old district open.

In New Mexico, all 13 open districts were caused by incumbents choosing not to seek re-election. Every incumbent who filed for re-election did so in the district he or she represented before redistricting.

The filing deadline for candidates running for state legislative office in New Mexico this year was March 24. Candidates filed to run for all of the state’s 70 House districts.

Overall, 129 major party candidates filed to run: 69 Democrats and 60 Republicans. That’s 1.8 candidates per district, down from 2.1 in 2020 but up from 1.7 in 2018.

New Mexico has been a Democratic trifecta since voters elected Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham (D) in 2018. Democrats currently hold a 26-15-1 majority in the Senate and a 44-24-1 majority in the House.

New Mexico’s state legislative primaries are scheduled for June 7, the sixth statewide state legislative primary date of the 2022 election cycle.

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New Mexico governor signs bond package for senior citizen facilities, libraries, and public education, sending three measures to voters in November

On Mar. 9, New Mexico Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham (D) signed House Bill 153 (HB 153), a bond package passed by the legislature in February. The bond package authorizes the state to issue a total of $259,722,000 in general obligation bonds.

The bond package will appear as three separate ballot questions in November. The ballot questions will ask voters to approve the following amounts:

  1. $24,470,000 in bonds for senior citizen facility improvements;
  2. $215,986,000 in bonds for improvements to higher education, special public schools, and tribal schools; and
  3. $19,266,000 in bonds for public library improvements.

In New Mexico, both chambers of the New Mexico State Legislature need to approve a bond issue by a simple majority during one legislative session to send a bond measure to the governor’s desk. On Feb. 12, the state House passed HB 153 in a vote of 66-2, with two excused. On Feb. 15, the state Senate passed HB 153 in a vote of 37-0, with five absent or excused. 

New Mexico voters cast ballots on 28 bond issues, totaling approximately $1.4 billion in value, from January 1, 2006, through January 1, 2022. All but one bond issue, a 2010 measures that would have issued $155.57 million in bonds for higher education and special school capital expenditures, was approved. This means that voters in New Mexico approved 96.4% of bond issues on the ballot between 2006 and 2020.

Including the bond questions, there are six legislatively referred measures on the ballot in New Mexico. During the 2021 legislative session, the legislature referred a constitutional amendment that would allocate 1.25% of the five-year average of year-end market values of the money in the Land Grant Permanent Fund to early childhood education and public education. This would increase the total annual distribution to 6.25%. 

In its most recent session, the legislature referred a constitutional amendment that would authorize the legislature to appropriate state funds for infrastructure that provides services primarily for residential use—such as internet, electric, natural gas, water, and wastewater—through a majority vote in each chamber. The legislature also voted to refer a constitutional amendment that provides that an appointed judge be up for election at the first general election one year after being appointed. 

Between 1995 and 2020, voters approved 87% (89 of 102) and rejected 13% (13 of 102) of the ballot measures that appeared on New Mexico ballots.

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New Mexico legislature sends constitutional amendments on household service infrastructure and judicial vacancies to the ballot, three bond measures to the governor’s desk

The New Mexico legislature adjourned on Thursday. During the 2022 session, the legislature referred two additional constitutional amendments to the Nov. 8 ballot to join one put there during the 2021 session. The legislature also approved three bond questions that the governor must sign before they also go before voters.

One constitutional amendment would provide that a judge appointed to fill a vacancy be up for election at the first general election one year after the appointment. The judge elected to replace the appointed judge would serve the expiration of the term in effect at the time of election. Currently, the state constitution requires a judge appointed to fill a vacancy to be up for election at the next general election.

The other amendment would authorize the legislature to appropriate state funds for infrastructure that provides household services, including internet, electric, natural gas, water, and wastewater. Such appropriations would require a majority vote in each chamber. Currently, the state constitution prohibits the state from lending or pledging credit or donating to any person, association, or public or private corporation. It contains a list of specific exceptions that does not include paying for infrastructure for household services.

When a vacancy occurs, the governor appoints a judge from a list of candidates recommended by a judicial nominating commission.

To put a legislatively referred constitutional amendment before voters, a simple majority vote is required in both chambers of the state legislature.

The amendment on elections for appointed judges was introduced as Senate Joint Resolution 3 (SJR 3) on Jan. 18, 2022. The state Senate passed SJR 3 on Feb. 5 in a vote of 33-1, with eight absent or excused. The sole “no” vote was Sen. Jeff Steinborn (D). The state House voted on Feb. 15 to pass the measure by a vote of 58-0 with 12 excused or absent.

The amendment on funding infrastructure for household services was introduced as House Joint Resolution 1 (HJR 1). The state House passed HJR 1 on Feb. 10, 2022, in a vote of 43-23 with four absent or excused. The state Senate passed HJR 1 on Feb. 16, 2022, in a vote of 25-14, with three absent or excused. Both votes were along party lines with Democrats in favor and Republicans opposed.

During the 2022 legislative session, the state legislature also passed a bond package totaling $258.8 million for (1) senior citizen facility improvements, (2) public education, and (3) public libraries. Voters will decide each bond issue as a separate ballot question if the governor signs the bill.

During the 2021 session, the legislature referred another amendment to the 2022 ballot, which means voters will see three constitutional amendments and, pending the governor’s signature, three bond questions on Nov. 8. The amendment from the 2021 session would allocate an additional 1.25% of the five-year average of year-end market values of the money in the Land Grant Permanent Fund (LGPF) to early childhood education and the public school permanent fund increasing the total annual distribution to 6.25%.

Between 1995 and 2020, New Mexico voters approved 87% (89 of 102) and rejected 13% (13 of 103) of the ballot measures that appeared statewide.

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New Mexico enacts new state Senate map

On Jan. 6, 2022, New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham (D) signed a new state Senate map into law, which will take effect for New Mexico’s 2022 legislative elections.

The New Mexico State Senate voted 25-13 to approve the map on Dec. 16, 2021, and the New Mexico House of Representatives approved the map 38-22 on Dec. 17. State Sens. Daniel Ivey-Soto (D) and Linda Lopez (D) introduced the map bill on Dec. 8 during a special session of the state legislature.

Lujan Grisham previously signed a new state House map into law on Dec. 29. New Mexico was the second state this cycle to approve a state House map on a different date than its state Senate map. The first was Connecticut, which approved its House map on Nov. 18, and its Senate map on Nov. 23. New Mexico completed its congressional redistricting on Dec. 17.

As of Jan. 7, 29 states have adopted new state legislative maps for both chambers and 21 states have not yet adopted state legislative maps. As of Jan. 7, 2012, 32 states had enacted legislative redistricting plans after the 2010 census.

Nationwide, state legislative redistricting has been completed for 1,120 of 1,972 state Senate seats (56.8%) and 2,776 of 5,411 state House seats (51.3%).

New Mexico enacts new congressional map

On Dec. 17, 2021, New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham (D) signed new a congressional map into law, which will take effect for New Mexico’s 2022 congressional elections. 

The New Mexico State Senate approved the map 25-15 on Dec. 10, and the New Mexico House of Representatives approved the map 44-24 on Dec. 11. The votes were largely along party lines. In the Senate, no Republican lawmakers voted to approve and no Democratic lawmakers voted against the map. The same was true in the House, with the exception of Rep. Candie Sweetser (D) who voted against the map, making her the only Democrat in the legislature to do so.

Rep. Georgene Louis (D), Sen. Joseph Cervantes (D), and Sen. Daniel Ivey-Soto sponsored the enacted map bill, which they introduced on Dec. 7 during a special session of the state legislature. The map was based on the Concept H proposal submitted to the legislature by the New Mexico Citizen Redistricting Committee. Concept H was selected for transmission to the legislature on Oct. 15 along with two other proposals, and was drawn by the Center for Civic Policy on behalf of the People’s Power, People’s Maps Coalition. 

The New Mexico Citizen Redistricting Committee was made up of three citizens appointed by the State Ethics Commission, two appointed by Republican state legislative leaders, and two appointed by Democratic state legislative leaders. The committee was established by SB304, which Grisham signed into law on April 6. The legislation bars public officials, candidates, political party officeholders, federal legislative or state employees, and the relatives of federal or state officeholders from serving on the commission. The commission’s proposals do not bind the state legislature, which retains the authority to adopt, amend, or discard the proposals as it sees fit.

New Mexico is the 20th state to complete congressional redistricting. During the 2010 redistricting cycle, New Mexico enacted congressional maps on Dec. 29, 2011, twelve days later than their congressional map enactment date this cycle. The state legislature has not yet voted to approve new legislative maps.

New Mexico Sen. Jacob Candelaria leaves the Democratic party

New Mexico state Sen. Jacob Candelaria announced that he was leaving the Democratic party and would register as decline to state on Dec. 1.

The Santa Fe New Mexican reported that Candelaria cited redistricting as the reason for changing his party affiliation. He said, “I don’t think that the decisions we make should be based on partisan ambitions, and it broke my heart to see already that the Senate maps deliberately dilute and gerrymander the west side of Albuquerque to preserve perceived partisan advantage for some members of the Democratic Party. You would strip representation from people that I represent, many of whom are Hispanic, simply because it benefits you at the ballot box.”

Candelaria was elected to the state Senate in 2012 and was last re-elected in 2020. Of the 42 members in the New Mexico Senate, 26 are Democrats, 15 are Republicans, and one is independent.

Ballotpedia has been tracking state legislators who have switched parties since 1994. Candelaria is the fourth state legislator in New Mexico we’ve identified who has switched parties. Three legislators switched to independents, and one switched to the Democratic Party.

Across the country, Ballotpedia has identified 24 state legislators who have switched from the Democratic Party to independent since 1994.

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Fiebelkorn and Grout win Albuquerque City Council seats in Dec. 7 runoff election

The nonpartisan general runoff election for Albuquerque City Council Districts 7 and 9 in New Mexico was on Dec. 7. The general election was held on Nov. 2, and the filing deadline for publicly funded candidates passed on July 5. The filing deadline for privately funded candidates passed on Aug. 24.

Tammy Fiebelkorn defeated Lori Robertson for the District 7 seat with 61.8% of the vote, and Renee Grout defeated Rob Grilley for the District 9 seat with 51.7% of the vote.

Odd-numbered seats on the nine-member Albuquerque City Council were up for election on Nov. 2. Only the races for District 7 and District 9 advanced to a general runoff. Two of the three incumbents running for re-election to the city council were defeated outright in the general election.

Albuquerque is the largest city in New Mexico and the thirty-second largest city in the U.S. by population.

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Redistricting committees appointed, adjourned, and change in Ohio, New Mexico, and Utah

Here’s a summary of recent redistricting committee updates from Ohio, New Mexico, and Utah.

In Ohio, the state legislature announced members of the Joint Committee on Redistricting, which will be holding two hearings on congressional redistricting proposals before the Nov. 30 deadline for map enactment. The committee’s members are Sen. Theresa Gavarone (R), Sen. Rob McColley (R), Sen. Vernon Sykes (D), Rep. Beth Liston (D), Rep. Scott Oelslager (R), and Rep. Shane Wilkin (R). Sykes is the only member of the joint committee who was also a member of the Ohio Redistricting Commission.

The New Mexico Citizen Redistricting Committee adjourned on Oct. 29 after submitting its final set of map recommendations to the legislature. The commission’s proposals do not bind the state legislature, which retains the authority to adopt, amend, or discard the proposals as it sees fit. Additionally, Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham (D) has veto authority over the maps. The legislature is expected to convene in December to begin considering proposals.

In Utah, former U.S. Rep. Bob Bishop (R-Utah) resigned from the state’s Independent Redistricting Commission on Oct. 26. Bishop said the commission favored urban areas and that the commission “is a metro-centric group. […] The majority are from Salt Lake County, we see things in a different way.” The executive director of Better Boundaries, an organization that supported the ballot proposition creating the commission, said: “We are encouraged by the work of the remaining six commissioners to suggest objective and qualified maps to the state legislative redistricting committee through this fair and transparent process.” On Oct. 29, Utah House Speaker Brad Wilson (R) appointed former Utah Commissioner of Agriculture and Food Logan Wilde (R) to replace Bishop on the commission.

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New Mexico county commission recall effort fails to collect enough signatures to get on ballot

An effort to recall Couy Griffin (R) from his position as the District 2 representative on the Otero County Commission in New Mexico did not collect enough signatures to get on the ballot. Recall supporters had to collect 1,574 signatures from registered voters in District 2 by Sept. 28, but they announced that they had fallen short by 345 signatures.

Recall supporters said Griffin had used the office for personal gain. Griffin said the allegations against him were baseless and politically motivated.

Griffin, who founded the organization Cowboys for Trump, was arrested in Washington, D.C., on Jan. 17, for his alleged role in the breach of the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6. He was charged with “knowingly entering or remaining in any restricted building or grounds without lawful authority,” according to the Alamogordo Daily News. Griffin was released from federal prison on Feb. 5.

After Griffin was arrested, District 1 Commissioner Gerald Matherly (R) and District 3 Commissioner Vickie Marquardt (R) called for his resignation, as did New Mexico Attorney General Hector Balderas (D). Griffin said he would not resign. He said he was accused of crimes but not convicted. “I just want those that have already come to the conclusion that I’m guilty, I just again ask you to put the brakes on a little bit and let the legal process take place,” Griffin said.

Griffin was elected to the three-member commission in 2018, defeating Democratic candidate Christopher S. Jones with 65% of the vote.

New Mexico allows recalls at the county level for “malfeasance or misfeasance in office or violation of the oath of office by the official concerned.” Those actions must have occurred during the official’s current term of office in order for a recall effort to be approved to circulate petitions.

Recall supporters filed paperwork to start the recall process on March 11. District Court Judge Manuel Arrieta ruled on April 8 that the recall effort could move forward. Griffin appealed that decision to the New Mexico Supreme Court on April 19. The New Mexico Supreme Court affirmed the lower court’s ruling on June 28, allowing the recall effort to move forward.

In the first half of 2021, Ballotpedia tracked 164 recall efforts against 262 officials. This was the most recall efforts for this point in the year since the first half of 2016, when we tracked 189 recall efforts against 265 officials. In comparison, we tracked between 72 and 155 efforts by the midpoints of 2017, 2018, 2019, and 2020.

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