Democrats Retain New Mexico House Seat in Special Election

Democrats held off a Republican challenge in New Mexico’s 1st Congressional District special election thanks to support and money from the national party.

State Rep. Melanie Stansbury was projected to win the seat, which Republicans had eyed as bellwether to a red wave in the 2022 midterm elections, the Washington Examiner reported Wednesday.

The Democratic National Committee, Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., and other prominent party figures used their email lists to appeal for funds to support Stansbury as they aimed to prevent a surprise Republican victory.

Stansbury had more than 60% of the first-counted early votes, enough for Decision Desk HQ to project her as the winner over State Sen. Mark Moores, R, less than an hour after polls closed Tuesday.

Moores, former University of New Mexico football player, had blasted Stansbury for expressing support for the BREATHE Act, a Black Lives Matter-crafted “reimagining of public safety” federal policy proposal.

With defunding the police considered a core campaign message for Republicans seeking to regain the House, party members hoped Moores will close the margin as remaining votes are accounted and validate the law enforcement issue enough as a potentially winning strategy in 2022.

Stansbury aligned her campaign closely with White House initiatives on pandemic relief, infrastructure spending, and interventions to slow climate change.

Second gentleman Doug Emhoff, husband of Vice President Kamala Harris, and House Democratic Caucus Vice Chair Pete Aguilar, R-Calif., visited New Mexico to campaign for Stansbury in the last week.

The special election came after Republican’s surprise House gains in 2020, when some Democrats blamed their losses on the far-left wing of the party giving fuel to “defund the police” and socialism attacks.

Stansbury will fill the seat formerly held by Deb Haaland, who left to become President Joe Biden’s Interior secretary.

New Mexico’s 1st Congressional District historically is a launching pad for politicians. Other previous representatives including Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham, D; Sen. Martin Heinrich, D; and former Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson, R, who in 2006 was the last Republican to win the seat.

Libertarian Chris Manning and independent and former state land commissioner Aubrey Dunn trailed Moores, with each receiving single-digit support.

A New Mexico native, Stansbury previously worked in the Obama administration Office of Management and Budget. She received a bachelor’s degree in ecology from Saint Mary’s College of California and a master’s in sociology from Cornell University.

Four more House special elections remain this year. There will be 2 in Ohio (11th and 15th Congressional Districts), and 1 each in Florida (20th District) and Texas (6th District). It is expected that none of the seats will flip to the opposition party.

Stansbury’s victory gives the Democrats a 220-211 majority in the House.

In May, Roll Call reported the National Republican Congressional Committee was targeting 10 additional Democrats in the House for 2022 as the GOP looks to regain control of the chamber. All 10 of the incumbent Democrats are in states set to lose a House seat as a result of the 2020 census.

Those seats are in addition to the 47 Democrat-held seats the NRCC announced it was targeting in February.

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