Since the January 5th Georgia Senate run-offs closed out the 2020 election cycle, the landscape has been relatively quiet.
Now the eyes of the nation shift to Albuquerque, as we turn to the next contest on the calendar.
On June 1st, the residents of New Mexico’s 1st Congressional District will vote to fill the seat left vacant by President Biden’s new Interior Secretary Deb Haaland. It comes at a particularly pivotal time for House Democrats, with their 219-212 advantage being stretched to the limit.
Since the 1st district contains most of Albuquerque and its suburbs it’s a fairly blue seat, with the Cook Political Report rating it at D+9. Last November, Biden carried the district by a 60% to 39% margin, while Haaland won re-election 58% to 42%.
Given the Democratic lean of NM-1, and the party’s narrow majority, a defeat would be a severe blow for them. On top of that, this is scheduled to be the final special election until November, so this result will loom over potential 2022 candidates as they decide whether to run.
In this case, both parties got to choose their nominees through conventions. Possibly as a result, each one sought out a moderate with previous political experience. Democrats went with State Rep. Melanie Stansbury, while the GOP nominated State Sen. Mark Moores.
Despite their shared experience in Santa Fe, the nominees have disparate backgrounds. Stansbury is a New Mexico native who majored in human ecology and natural science, then got her Masters from Cornell. Moores was born in D.C. and moved to the state to play football for the University of Mexico, later earning a political science degree and a MBA.
Both candidates, however, quickly jumped into politics. Stansbury served as a White House fellow, and later an OMB employee, in the Obama White House. She won her State House seat in 2018. Meanwhile, Moores was the Chief of Staff for New Mexico’s then-Lt. Governor before joining the State Senate in 2012.
The Republican is basing his attack on Stansbury’s statement of support for the Breathe Act, a proposal being pushed by the Movement for Black Lives. Over their past three debates, Moores has attempted to use many of the group’s statements to portray them, and by extension Stansbury, as extremists.
The Stansbury campaign quickly responded with a TV ad featuring a testimonial from a retired officer who asserts that Moores attacks are “lies”. The spot also hits the GOP nominee for opposing President Biden’s rescue plan.
In fact, the Democratic nominee has been quite eager to associate herself with the Biden White House, and the feeling appears to be mutual. When First Lady Jill Biden visited Albuquerque last month she made sure to publicly praise Stansbury. Furthermore, Stansbury isn’t steering clear of the House Democratic leadership either. She is proudly touting an endorsement from Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
At the same time, Moores isn’t reluctant to embrace Donald Trump in a state Biden won by eleven points. “I’ll take support from anyone, anyone who helps us to victory,” he replied when asked by Dave Weigel of the Washington Post if he’d accept Trump’s endorsement.
Early voting numbers suggest good news for Democrats, but a heavy Republican turnout on Election Day can’t be discounted.
Of course, there’s only so much one special election can tell us. As many have pointed out, they’re far from a reliable indicator of the future. Nevertheless, the Democrats find themselves in a bit of a no-win situation with NM-1. A victory will be greeted as uneventful, while a loss will be received as catasphrophic.