New Mexico’s fall congressional races came into focus Tuesday night after the candidates marched to respective victories in the contested primaries in the state’s 1st and 2nd congressional districts.
With about 29% of precincts fully reporting at press time, Michelle Garcia Holmes, a Republican candidate in the 1st Congressional District, was leading 59% to 41% over Louie Sanchez, a medical sales representative and the owner of Caliber’s Indoor Shooting Range. Gabe Vasquez, a Democrat in the 2nd Congressional District, had amassed a 76% to 24% advantage over Darshan Patel, a family medicine physician in Lovington, based on partial, unofficial election results.
Journal Pollster Brian Sanderoff called the races for Vasquez and Garcia Holmes late Tuesday.
Those were the only contested races across the state’s three congressional districts.
Garcia Holmes, a retired Albuquerque police officer who ran unsuccessfully for the seat in 2020, will take on Democratic Rep. Melanie Stansbury, who was not challenged in the primary.
The GOP candidate said the biggest issues facing the district are crime and what she calls a “southern border crisis.” She said inflation will be a point of emphasis during her general election campaign.
“I think New Mexico has a tremendous opportunity to turn red this year because we had the pendulum swing in our favor,” she said. “The voters want something different. … They want somebody who is going to do something about crime, about gas prices, about inflation.”
She celebrated her nomination in a conference room near Downtown Albuquerque with her family and supporters.
Voters want “common sense solutions to the problems we have,” she said.
After securing his party’s nomination, Vasquez will take on Rep. Yvette Herrell, the state’s lone Republican member of Congress, in the 2nd Congressional District, which includes much of southern New Mexico and stretches into Albuquerque’s West Side and the South Valley. Herrell had no primary challenger.
Vasquez, a Las Cruces city councilor and first-generation American, celebrated his victory at a bar in Downtown Las Cruces with his supporters, a mariachi band and members of his “mixed-status” family, some of whom crossed the border for the festivities.
“I think voters are looking for (a) candidate that will fight for them everyday, a candidate that they can trust isn’t beholden to special interests, that isn’t going to Congress to grow their wealth, or to enrich their corporate lobbyists and donors,” he said in an interview. “And I think that’s who they have in Gabe Vasquez as a candidate.”
Vasquez said the biggest issue facing the district is the economy. To address that issue, he said he would work to raise the minimum wage, lower health and child care costs and prioritize the transition to renewable energy.
Meanwhile, the state’s 3rd Congressional District — which represents the northern New Mexico and the eastern part of the state to Hobbs — will be a rematch of the 2020 race. Democratic Rep. Teresa Leger Fernández is currently in her first term after being elected in 2020. She will again face Republican Alexis Martinez Johnson, who ran for the seat in 2020.
Both Leger Fernández and Martinez Johnson ran unopposed in Tuesday’s primary.
This year’s primary and general elections are being fought in new battlegrounds. The candidates are facing off in a recently redrawn congressional map, which was passed by Democrats in the Legislature on a party-line vote and signed by the governor late last year.
FiveThirtyEight.com, owned by ABC News, after the redistricting ranked New Mexico’s 2nd and 3rd congressional districts, held by Herrell and Leger Fernández, respectively, as highly competitive.
Herrell’s district, previously rooted in southern New Mexico, now includes parts of Albuquerque’s West Side and the South Valley. Fernández’s district, previously based in the northern part of the state, now includes typically conservative strongholds in eastern New Mexico.
The 1st Congressional District is more rural than it was prior to redistricting.
The general election is Nov. 8.