How key 2020 wins gave progressives unprecedented influence in New Mexico state legislature

How key 2020 wins gave progressives unprecedented influence in New Mexico state legislature

Daily Kos Elections has calculated the 2020 presidential results for every state Senate and state House district in New Mexico, where Democratic primary wins against several conservative state senators removed a huge roadblock for progressives. You can find all of our district-level data nationwide at this bookmarkable permalink.

We’ll start with the 42-member state Senate, where members are elected to four-year terms during presidential cycles. Joe Biden carried 29 seats to Trump’s 13 as he was prevailing statewide by a wide 54-43 margin, and Democrats won a similar 27-15 majority after netting one seat. That small shift, though, obscures just how much more progressive this Senate is compared to the one it replaced.

While Democratic Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham’s 2018 win gave her party the state government trifecta for the first time in eight years, conservative Democrats in the upper chamber spent the next two years weakening legislation to increase the minimum wage and blocking efforts to legalize marijuana and to repeal a 1969 law that made it a felony to perform an abortion in most cases. (Anti-abortion laws like this are currently unenforceable because of Roe v. Wade, but the conservative U.S. Supreme Court threatens to change all that.)

In June 2020, though, five of those conservative Democratic incumbents lost to progressive primary foes. Republicans managed to flip two of those districts in November, but Democrats more than made up for it by taking three GOP-held seats. Team Blue then used their newfound influence this year to finally do away with the abortion ban, institute paid sick leave, and legalize marijuana.

Democrats were able to do this in large part because, while they weren’t able to win any Trump seats last year, Republicans only prevailed in two Biden districts. One of those two Republicans is Mark Moores, who won re-election 53-47 as Biden was taking his Albuquerque-based seat 51-46. Moores’ crossover appeal didn’t translate to a wider stage when he ran in last month’s special election for the 1st Congressional District, though, as his 60-36 defeat against Democrat Melanie Stansbury was slightly wider than Trump’s loss in that seat.

The other Republican on blue turf is Joshua Sanchez, who beat Democrat Pamela Cordova 51-49 in a nearby district that voted for Biden 51-49; Cordova had won the Democratic nomination several months earlier by unseating conservative incumbent Clemente Sanchez.

We’ll now turn to the House, which is up every two years and where Biden won 47 districts compared to 23 for Trump. Democrats won a 44-26 majority in 2020 after the GOP netted two seats, but Republican state Rep. Phelps Anderson became an independent in February after he voted to repeal the state’s anti-abortion law.

Altogether, there are three Republicans in Biden seats. The one with the toughest turf is William Rehm, who won another seat around Albuquerque 53-44 even as his constituents favored Biden 51-46.

Unlike in the Senate, though, one Democrat does represent a Trump seat: Candie Sweetser won her third term 54-46 while Trump scored a 54-44 victory in her seat in the southwestern corner of the state. Anderson, meanwhile, won re-election as a Republican without opposition last year in a Roswell-area seat that Trump took by a giant 74-23.

While Land of Enchantment Democrats have had majorities in both chambers of the legislature for decades with only a few interruptions, Lujan Grisham’s presence gives the party control of the redistricting process for the first time since the early 1990s. Lawmakers this year created a bipartisan advisory redistricting commission to propose maps for Congress, the legislature, and other posts, but legislators still can amend these proposals or reject them entirely and draw their own maps from scratch.

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