House Democrats will keep their seat in New Mexico’s First Congressional District after state Rep. Melanie Stansbury (D) notched a clear victory in Tuesday’s race to fill the vacancy of former Rep. Deb Haaland (D-NM), who left her post in March to become Interior Department secretary.
Stansbury defeated state Sen. Mark Moores (R) by 25 points, with all votes counted as of early Wednesday morning.
Haaland in 2020 had won the district — which includes much of the state’s most populous city, Albuquerque — by 16 points, while President Joe Biden defeated former President Donald Trump in the district by 23 points. Stansbury’s win therefore came unsurprisingly, and it allows House Democrats to continue holding a seat they have occupied for a dozen years.
After the outcome became clear Tuesday night, Stansbury posted a photo and brief thank you note to social media:
Thank you New Mexico! ❤️❤️ pic.twitter.com/p0VnZvAg66
— Melanie Stansbury (@MelanieforNM) June 2, 2021
While the Democrat candidate was heavily favored to win, the race marked the sole albeit unlikely chance for Republicans to make a gain through a special election this year and was widely viewed as one of the first glimpses at the political landscape for next year’s midterms.
National campaign committees stayed mostly out of the race, but the Democrats’ victory did not come without substantial spending and a behind-the-scenes push from Democrat leadership in Washington to ensure the race outcome came as expected.
A New York Times report suggested House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) — who is barely hanging on to a four-vote Democrat House majority — was “not taking any chances” and quoted the speaker as saying, “This race is the highest priority for us.” The outlet reported she told “nearly a thousand national progressive activists on a conference call Thursday night” that “any victory is good, but we want a nice, decisive victory.”
In the lead-up to the race, Democrat concern was also visible through visits from high-profile names including first lady Jill Biden and second gentleman Doug Emhoff.
Although Moores had demonstrated he was competitive fundraising-wise as the race started to take shape in April, Stansbury — with the push from national figures — ultimately outspent Moores by nearly double. Federal Election Commission records show that as of May 12, Stansbury spent $874,861 to Moores’ $469,868 while leaving more than half a million dollars in cash on hand to Moores’ $125,555.
Stansbury throughout her campaign promoted views that align closely with those of Biden on issues such as gun control, abortion, gender and racial “equity,” and immigration. Moores took particular aim, however, at Stansbury’s views on police reform after she once advocated for a bill that includes “divesting in the police.”
Moores, a former college football player and state senator since 2013, slammed the New Mexico Democrat in his final ad for calling to “defund the police” amid Albuquerque’s sky-high crime rate. Moores zoned in on Stansbury’s support for the BREATHE Act, police reform legislation introduced by the Movement for Black Lives and pushed by Squad members Reps. Ayanna Pressley (D-MA) and Rashida Tlaib (D-MI). The BREATHE Act proposal includes “divesting” in the police and abolishing the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency.
Moores had told Breitbart News ahead of the election, “The BREATHE Act is one of the most radical and progressive, anti-police, anti-law enforcement, and it even calls for a ten percent reduction in military spending. And in a military-rich state like New Mexico and also with the incredible crime rate like New Mexico, it just proves how out of touch she is with the district.”
Stansbury’s victory comes after Democrats saw a disappointing lockout nearby in Texas’s Sixth Congressional District special election in May, which is heading for a runoff in July between two Republicans.
While the Texas district leans red, Democrats’ failure to make the runoff was a blow to the party, which had reason to be optimistic about the race after Biden came within three points of flipping the district in 2020.
Write to Ashley Oliver at firstname.lastname@example.org.