SANTA FE – Former Vice President Joe Biden on Tuesday won the Democratic nomination for president in New Mexico, where President Donald Trump held a campaign rally last year in hopes of making political inroads.
Hillary Clinton beat Trump by about 8 percentage points in the 2016 statewide vote, and Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham has pledged her support to Biden this year.
Trump insisted during a rally last year in Rio Rancho that New Mexico was within Republicans’ reach.
Democratic contenders for Congress, including a former CIA operative, district attorney and professional advocate for Native American communities, were facing off in a congressional primary in northern New Mexico.
The winner of that seven-way contest will compete against a Republican in the 3rd District dominated by registered Democrats to take the place of U.S. Rep. Ben Ray Luján, the presumptive Democratic nominee running to succeed retiring Sen. Tom Udall.
Republicans were picking candidates with the hope of winning back a congressional swing district in southern New Mexico and to seize control of Udall’s Senate seat in the November general election.
Valerie Plame, a former U.S. intelligence operative whose secret identity was exposed shortly after her diplomat husband disputed U.S. intelligence used to justify the 2003 Iraq invasion, aimed to make it to the November election in the crowed primary in the northern district.
Attorney Teresa Leger Fernandez, a longtime consultant for voting rights initiatives and Native American communities, was embraced in her campaign by numerous groups representing progressive causes, including the abortion rights group Emily’s List. Rival candidates included Santa Fe-based District Attorney Marco Serna, Sandoval County Treasurer Laura Montoya and former Obama administration official John Blair.
By Tuesday afternoon, more than 53,000 people had cast ballots in person. Overall voting by absentee, early and Election Day voting exceeded 355,000, according to the secretary of state’s office.
Three contenders vied for the GOP nomination in the 3rd District where registered Democrats outnumber Republicans nearly 2-1. They included Navajo Nation member Karen Evette Bedonie of Mexican Springs, environmental engineer Alexis Johnson of Santa Fe and former Santa Fe County commissioner Harry Montoya.
In the Republican primary for U.S. Senate, former television weatherman Mark Ronchetti of Albuquerque was competing against anti-abortion activist and Navajo Nation member Elisa Martinez, also of Albuquerque, and Las Cruces-based professor and perennial political candidate Gavin Clarkson.
In the 2nd Congressional District in southern New Mexico, former state Rep. Yvette Herrell of Alamogordo was competing for the nomination against oil executive Claire Chase of Roswell and Las Cruces businessman Chris Mathys.
Chase had to fend off a barrage of attack ads surrounding previous social media posts where she attacked then-presidential candidate Donald Trump. Herrell lost an open race for the seat in 2018 to Democrat Rep. Xochitl Torres Small.
In New Mexico’s metropolitan 1st Congressional District, three Republicans sought the nomination to take on first-term Rep. Debra Haaland. Bernalillo-based attorney and former police detective Michelle Garcia Holmes is competing against attorney Jared Vander Dussen of Albuquerque and businessman Brett Kokinadis of Santa Fe.
The compact district overlapping Albuquerque hasn’t been represented by a Republican since 2009.
Associated Press reporter Cedar Attanasio contributed to this report from Santa Fe.