A special election in New Mexico’s 1st Congressional District gives Republicans a long-shot chance to add a seat in the House, further squeezing House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s slim majority.
The New Mexico Republican state central committee selected Mark Moores, a state senator since 2013, as its nominee for the June 1 special election.
“I’m the kind of leader who is willing to work across the aisle and work with my other side of the partners in the Democrat Party, or any other for that matter, if it doesn’t conflict with my very strong faith and convictions,” Moores told KOB4.
Moores will face Democratic state Rep. Melanie Stansbury, who has been in the legislature for only two years and was formerly an aide to the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee.
The election will determine a replacement for Deb Haaland, the former Democratic representative for the district who left Congress after being selected by President Joe Biden to lead the Department of the Interior. She was confirmed 51 to 40.
Outside the state legislature, Moores’s professional life is highly applicable to one of the biggest issues facing the state today: COVID-19. He and his wife are partners at a laboratory that has been involved in testing since early in the pandemic. Moores has deep family roots in the state dating back to the time of the early Spanish settlers, and he was a football player at the University of New Mexico.
After Republicans made gains with Hispanic and Latino voters in 2020 election, the June 1 special election could be an early test of Biden’s strength with that portion of the electorate. About 49% of New Mexico’s population identifies as Hispanic or Latino.
Moores and the state Republican Party reportedly plan to focus their messaging in the race on energy issues.
“New Mexico has really suffered a lot because of the Biden administration ban on oil and gas drilling. We need those resources,” Moores told the Santa Fe New Mexican. “The radical agenda of the defund-the-police effort has really scared a lot of people, so we’re really going to be talking about that.”
But while a low-turnout special election gives Republicans a better chance at flipping the seat, they still have a tough task in flipping the district, which encompasses the state’s largest city of Albuquerque and the surrounding metropolitan area.
The party last won an election for the seat in 2006. In the 2020 election, Biden won the district 60.2% to Trump’s 37.4%, representing an increase from Hillary Clinton’s 51.6% in 2016 and Obama’s 55.3% in 2012.
Another complicating factor could be whether a candidate from the Libertarian Party is on the ballot, siphoning away some support that might otherwise go to a Republican. The New Mexico Libertarian Party selected Chris Manning as its nominee, but a group of other libertarians has filed a lawsuit saying that he should not be on the ballot.
The seat has been a political launching ground. Before Haaland, the seat was held by Democratic Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham (who Biden considered as a potential running mate) and Democratic Sen. Martin Heinrich. Though Heather Wilson, the last Republican to hold the seat, lost two Senate bids, she later became the secretary of the Air Force under former President Donald Trump. Republican Manuel Lujan, who held the seat from 1969 to 1989, later became the interior secretary for President George H.W. Bush.
If Stansbury wins, New Mexico will keep return to its unusual all-female U.S. House delegation. Republican Rep. Yvette Herrell represents the state’s southern 2nd District and Democratic Rep. Theresa Leger Fernandez represents its northern 3rd District.
And regardless of the outcome, the special election will also be unusual in that all three representatives will be first-time freshman members.