Mora County voting precinct one off NM Highway 518. (Photo by Shaun Griswold / Source NM)
As Primary Election Day dawned, firefighting crews battle historic blazes around the state. Many people haven’t voted yet in the primary, and early turnout’s been fairly low statewide.
But the people who are elected this cycle will have a lot to do with recovery efforts as whole regions of New Mexico rebuild in the coming years.
The polls are open despite the disaster. In Mora County, as ash drifted down, the county clerk there told Source Reporter Shaun Griswold that eleven polling locations will be up and running.
Source NM journalists will be focusing their reporting about the primary election on documenting this moment in state history in a fire season that started way too early and burned way too much.
If you’re voting in the primary today, scope the list of polling locations or find the one nearest you at the Secretary of State’s site.
The polls are open 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. In line to vote when the polls close tonight? They’ve still got to let you cast your ballot.
If you’ve still got that absentee ballot floating around the papers in your house, fill it out and hand-deliver it to your county clerk’s office or any polling location before 7 p.m.
Know your rights as a voter. Observers will be helping out around the state. If you run into trouble, call these nonpartisan hotlines: (866) OUR-VOTE (866-687-8683) or, for Spanish speakers (888) VE-Y-VOTA (888-839-8682).
You can call the Secretary of State’s Office, too, at 1-800-477-3632.
Redistricting changed the races this year. Be sure of the choices before you go by checking out a sample ballot using the state’s Voter Information Portal.
We’ve got a rundown featuring some of names you’ll see in the voting booth today:
Democratic Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham has led New Mexico through the pandemic, rolling out some of the most rigorous public health policies of all 50 states — though many have since ended, and COVID is on the rise here and around the nation.
Lujan Grisham also continues to push the federal government to take responsibility for and respond to the ongoing wildfire disaster in northern N.M. Both the Calf Canyon and Hermit’s Peak blazes started as prescribed burns lit by the United States Forest Service, investigators concluded.
She’s been vocal in her commitment to protecting abortion rights, saying after a draft of a Supreme Court opinion was leaked indicating conservative justices would overturn Roe v. Wade that she was “outraged and horrified … New Mexico will continue to be a state that protects and preserves the rights of women and their families to make their own decisions about health care.”
She pushed for an expansion of voter rights and access with a slate of policy proposals that included extending timelines for early and absentee voting, making it easier for people convicted of felonies to restore their voting rights and allowing 16-year-olds to participate in municipal elections. Legislators tanked the package using procedural tactics earlier this year.
Lujan Grisham backed tough-on-crime measures during the legislative session, including changes to pre-trial release, beefed-up penalties for gun crimes and raises for State Police. The latter passed, along with boosted funding for police departments.
Despite drying rivers and a megadrought — the results of which we see unfolding with the massive fires — the governor’s State of the State address in January included no mention of climate change. Her proposal to create a hydrogen hub in New Mexico met stiff resistance from environmental advocates and also failed during the legislative session.
Lujan Grisham is uncontested in the Democratic primary.
Five GOP contenders have lined up during the primary to take on Lujan Grisham in November. After losing a bid for U.S. Senate in 2020, longtime TV meteorologist Mark Ronchetti, a Republican, pulled ahead during this year’s primary campaign season, according to a late-May poll from the Albuquerque Journal. He was cornering 45% of likely GOP voters. He’s running a campaign focused on blasting Lujan Grisham’s decisions. Of six key policy write-ups on his campaign website, four mention the governor.
He also commits to opposing abortion rights, vows to fight voter fraud and implement voter ID, champions gun-owners’ rights, and promises to order the National Guard to New Mexico’s border with Mexico again. Former Republican Gov. Susana Martinez did the same years ago.
Ronchetti says he will decrease the number of people released before their trials and better fund law enforcement — efforts similar to Lujan Grisham’s during the 2022 legislative session. His tough-on-crime stance lists ending what he calls state “sanctuary” policies for undocumented immigrants, though repeated studies show the relationship between immigrants and crime is largely imagined.
GOP contender Rebecca Dow was second in the poll, with 17% of likely voters throwing their support behind this state House representative. Like Ronchetti, she bashes COVID shutdowns in her economic platform, which also includes eliminating some business taxes. She defends the right to gun ownership as “God-given,” opposes abortion rights, and promises to keep fighting back regulation of the oil and gas industry.
Polling with much lower numbers: GOP candidates Gregory Zanetti (an Army National Guard brigadier general from Albuquerque), Jay Block (an Air Force veteran and Sandoval County commissioner from Rio Rancho) and Ethel Maharg (a former mayor of Cuba, New Mexico).
CONGRESSIONAL DISTRICT 1
Congressional district maps were redrawn in a kind of pinwheel shape coming out of December’s redistricting session. CD 1 includes parts of Albuquerque, along with central and southeastern parts of the state, like Santa Rosa, Fort Sumner and Carrizozo.
Republicans Louie Sanchez and Michelle Garcia Holmes, both of Albuquerque, are competing in the primary for the Congressional District 1 seat.
Sanchez, a business owner, told BallotPedia that his three priorities are creating a community where everyone feels safe, supporting police and fighting to secure the border with Mexico.
Garcia Holmes is a retired Albuquerque Police Department detective and a former chief of staff in the New Mexico Attorney General’s Office under Gary King between 2007 and 2014. She told the League of Women Voters that her priorities if elected would be crime, the border and inflation.
Independent candidate Cameron Chick, of Belen, is a small business owner originally from Nashville, Tenn. His campaign Twitter account describes him as an abortion rights opponent who’s “pro-Constitution, pro-2A (Second Amendment), for God and Country.”
Democratic incumbent Melanie Stansbury, of Albuquerque, is running unopposed in the primary. She won a six-way race for the seat in the 2021 special election when then-Rep. Deb Haaland became U.S. secretary of the Interior Department. Before that, Stansbury was a lawmaker in the N.M. House of Representatives.
CONGRESSIONAL DISTRICT 2
Incumbent U.S. Rep. Yvette Herrell, a Republican, may see a tougher Democratic challenge come November in her newly redrawn district, which now includes a chunk of Albuquerque — the Westside and South Valley — along with Las Cruces, Deming, Carlsbad and Hobbs.
Herrell is known for objecting to the certification of the presidential election results in 2020, and she’s campaigning on a platform of fighting for gun owners’ rights, opposing abortion and increasing border security.
Meanwhile, two first-generation Americans are competing today to challenge Herrell in November, Democrats Darshan Patel and Gabe Vasquez.
Patel, a physician in Lovington, N.M. told the Journal that working in medicine in one of the least vaccinated counties in the state prompted his run. As a union president, he vows to fight for a living wage and health care access.
Gabe Vasquez, a Las Cruces city councilor, champions the contributions of migrants to building communities and industries in the state. He supports abortion rights and access to reproductive health care.
CONGRESSIONAL DISTRICT 3
There is no primary fight in CD 3.
SECRETARY OF STATE
Democratic incumbent Maggie Toulouse Oliver, Republican Audrey Trujillo and Liberterian Mayna Myers are all running unopposed in the primaries for secretary of state.
Toulouse Oliver has held the position since 2016. Before that, she worked as the Bernalillo County Clerk for over a decade, beginning in 2007. She’s worked to expand voter access, including via absentee ballots, through the COVID-19 pandemic.
A package of reforms meant to expand voter rights in New Mexico supported both by Toulouse Oliver and the governor was ultimately halted by Republicans and filibustered in the final hours of the 2022 session.
Trujillo is campaigning against voter fraud and is included in a roundup of election-denying and conspiracy-minded candidates highlighted by the New York Times on Sunday, June 5 . Trujillo has said the pandemic allowed for election manipulation through software and vote-counting machines.
An asset protection manager for Walmart, Myers expresses support for voter transparency and accessibility, according to an interview with The Paper. With a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice from Provo College, Myers has worked for Utah prisons and as a high school suspension officer.
Brian Colón, a Democrat and attorney from Los Lunas, has been state auditor since 2019.
Colón told the League of Women Voters that if elected, his top priorities in office would be to create a criminal prosecution division for “violent offenders harming children,” stop corporations from harming the environment, and advocate for people through the office’s Consumer Protection Division.
In 2017, Colón unsuccessfully ran for mayor of Albuquerque. He won the Democratic nomination for lieutenant governor in 2010 on a ticket with Diane Denish, but they lost the election to GOP challengers Susana Martinez and John Sanchez.
Raúl Torrez, a Democrat and prosecutor from Albuquerque, has been Bernalillo County district attorney since 2017. He ran unopposed for re-election in 2020, and his term there continues through Jan. 1, 2025 — unless he captures the AG’s Office.
Torrez told LWV that if elected, his priorities would be to bring his experience and “modern approach” to prosecuting crime and corruption. He said he would also use the office to take on corporations who target workers, elderly people and the environment.
Torrez previously worked as an assistant district attorney, an assistant state attorney general, and an assistant federal prosecutor, according to his LinkedIn profile.
Jeremy Michael Gay, a Republican from Gallup, is running unopposed for the GOP nomination. He will face whoever wins the Democratic primary Tuesday in the General Election in November.
Incumbent Attorney General Hector Balderas, a Democrat, is term-limited and cannot run for re-election.
Democrats Heather Benavidez and Laura Montoya are vying for the nomination to run against unopposed Republican candidate Harry Montoya in the general election. The first-ever female state treasurer could be elected if the Democrats win in November.
Both women have around 20 years of government experience. Benavidez is the chief of staff for the N.M. Treasurer’s Office and, although Montoya is an independent contractor, she spent eight years as the Sandoval County treasurer.
Benavidez largely credits her treasuring experience with why she’d be better in the job, where Montoya spoke to her love for New Mexico, according to the Santa Fe New Mexican.
Democrats Joseph Maestas and Zack Quintero ran feisty primary campaigns against each other in hopes of securing the nomination. Either would so far face only the write-in candidate and Libertarian Robert Vaillancourt in the General Election in November.
Maestas and Quintero are largely focused on fending off fraud, waste and financial abuse.
With a 30-year age gap, 61-year-old Maestas boasts his government experience as a Public Regulation commissioner, former Española mayor and former Santa Fe city councilor. The younger Quintero served as state ombudsman in Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham’s administration during the pandemic and emphasized in the Journal that age doesn’t equal qualification.
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