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Justin Schatz is The Paper's daily news reporter. He has reported on New Mexico for KRQE News, Searchlight NM and the Santa Fe Reporter.

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Democrat Melanie Stansbury will be the next U.S. House Representative from New Mexico’s First Congressional District. Out of more than 131, 000 votes cast, Stansbury received 60 percent of the vote, besting her nearest opponent, Republican Mark Moores, by 24 points. With Stansbury’s win, New Mexico maintains its all-female House delegation.

Stansbury and Moores both ran well-funded campaigns. New Mexico’s 1st Congressional District leaned Democrat and has not been won by a Republican since 2009 when Heather Wilson held the seat from 1998 to 2009. Deb Haaland, who vacated the seat after being appointed Secretary of Interior by President Joe Biden, comfortably won the seat by 22.8 points in 2018. The seat has also been held by Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham and Senator Martin Heinrich. 

Checking the political pulse of this election also gives an idea of how midterm elections will play out next November. With Haaland’s vacancy, Congressional Democrats hold a slim majority of eight seats in the House and are keen to maintain their majority. Stansbury adds a critical extra vote to Speaker Pelosi’s majority.

The special election also gave national Democrats a bit of a morale booster and momentum heading into next year’s Congressional elections. In 2020, President Donald Trump lost the 1st District by a gap of 23 percentage points and reelected Haaland with a margin of 16 percentage points as voter participation reached an all-time high. Stansbury’s win expanded on both, outperforming both Biden and Haaland, a sign that Democratic voter participation remains high. Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney, chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, said from New Mexico that enthusiasm is up among Democrats and that Stansbury’s win helps ensure work can continue in Washington on the Democratic agenda.

Stansbury and Moores come from competitive legislative districts. Stansbury defeated a seven-term Republican state senator to win her seat in 2018 and defended that seat in 2020. Moores defeated appointed Democrat State Senator Lisa Curtis to win his first seat in the State Senate in 2012. In the 2020 election, he outperformed the trend of poor Republican performances and won his seat again, despite Donald Trump losing the district.

Libertarian nominee Chris Manning and independent Aubrey Dunn Jr. campaigned unsuccessfully to represent the 1st Congressional District, which encompasses Albuquerque, rural Torrance County and other outlying areas that include the Indigenous community of Sandia Pueblo.

Campaign Spending

Both candidates spent heavily on campaign ads. According to the polling and analysis website, FiveThirtyEight, Moores spent nearly $164,000 back in April on TV ads, just shy of $40,000 more than Stansbury. His ads focused on public safety and curbing crime in Albuquerque. His attacks on Stansbury, most notably accusing her of supporting a measure to defund the police, placed her on defensive foot the first month. In May Stansbury stepped up her media presence while Moores’ declined. Stansbury spent a reported $194,000 to Moores $18,000 between May 1 and May 19. Moores’ initial sprint in the election has slowly eroded as Stansbury’s financial war chest only increased as the race progressed. All in all, Stansbury outspent Moores $875,000 to $470,000 as of May 12. FiveThirtyEight also reported that Stansbury had a sizable lead in available cash on hand, with an estimated $525,000 to Moores’ $126,000. Final campaign finance reports for several weeks.

“We have had great energy and great crowds over the last four days with campaign stops from Douglas Emhoff, Representative Pete Aguilar, Senator Ben Ray Luján, Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham, Representative Teresa Leger Fernandez and all of our amazing local elected officials,” said Stansbury.

The State Canvass Board will meet on June 22 to certify the election.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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