SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — Early voting begins Tuesday at county clerk’s offices and by mail in New Mexico’s hotly contested primary elections for two open congressional seats and the governor’s office.
Voting at precincts does not take place until June 5 in primary races that also will help determine the balance of power in the state House of Representatives and narrow the competition for state land commissioner, lieutenant governor and utility commission posts.
Direct early voting starts Tuesday at county clerk’s offices across the state and through mail-in absentee ballots that can be ordered online this year for the first time. Tuesday is also the final day to register to vote in the primary.
Republican U.S. Rep. Steve Pearce of Hobbs and Democratic Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham are campaigning for governor while leaving their congressional seats wide open to competition. Second-term Republican Gov. Susana Martinez cannot run for re-election this year.
In the three-way race for the Democratic nomination, Lujan Grisham has the backing of major public employee and teachers unions and has gathered more campaign contributions than rivals Jeff Apodaca, a former media executive and son of a governor, and state Sen. Joseph Cervantes of Las Cruces, an attorney with business interests in real estate and agriculture. Pearce is the lone Republican candidate.
Democrats have piled into the primary race for the open Albuquerque-based congressional seat, with candidates that include former U.S. attorney Damon Martinez, law professor Antoinette Sedillo Lopez and former party chair Debra Haaland. Janice Arnold-Jones is the only Republican running there.
Republicans are waging a four-way primary in the state’s southern congressional district where party delegates favor state Rep. Yvette Herrell of Alamogordo and former state GOP chairman Monte Newman of Hobbs. Another GOP candidate, Gavin Clarkson, resigned from the Bureau of Indian Affairs late last year after a harsh inspector general report into the loan program he directed.
Las Cruces water attorney Xochitl Torres Small and U.S. Coast Guard veteran Madeline “Mad” Hildebrandt are seeking the Democratic nomination. Registered Democrats slightly outnumber Republicans in the majority-Hispanic district that has major oil and natural gas reserves.
Democrats currently hold a 38-32 majority in the state House of Representatives. State Senate elections take place in 2020.
Republican chances for seizing the House majority are clouded by the retirement of minority leader Nate Gentry and Rep. Sarah Maestas Barnes in districts where Democrats can compete on a relatively even footing.
Santa Fe-area Democratic Rep. Carl Trujillo is fighting for his political life after being accused of sexual harassment by a former lobbyist, while competing against Democratic challenger Andrea Romero, with no Republican contender in the fall general election.
Three Democrats are competing for the nomination to lead the State Land Office that oversees multi-billion oil and mining reserves on vast New Mexico trust lands that generate money for public schools, hospitals and prisons.
They are state Sen. Garcia Richards of White Rock, Sen. George Munoz of Gallup and New Mexico Wildlife Federation President Garrett VeneKlasen of Santa Fe.