Editor's Note: SolveClimate News political reporter Elizabeth McGowan traveled to New Mexico to cover the 2010 elections there. This is the second installment in a three-part series. Read part 1.
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M.—An apparently resurgent GOP is intent on upsetting New Mexico’s seemingly shaky Democratic apple cart on Election Day.
Some New Mexico handicappers are predicting Republicans have the momentum to gain at least two or perhaps all three U.S. House seats, as well as the governorship. If a total turnover happens, it would leave only two federal legislative positions in Democratic hands because neither Sen. Jeff Bingaman, in his fifth term, nor Sen. Tom Udall, in his first term, is up for re-election this year.
A three-seat sweep in the Land of Enchantment also would give the GOP a significant boost in netting the 39 seats it needs to wrest control of the House away from the Democrats.
The House contest with the least amount of daylight between the candidates pits two oil and gas entrepreneurs vying for the chance to represent the 2nd Congressional District, an enormous and mostly rural district covering the southern half of New Mexico that includes communities such as Carlsbad, Las Cruces, Roswell and Truth or Consequences.
Several political handicappers are categorizing the race between incumbent Rep. Harry Teague, a moderate Democrat, and former Rep. Steve Pearce, the Republican and a climate change denier, as a “toss-up.” Pearce represented the district for six years before making a losing quest for the U.S. Senate in 2008.
Green groups have rallied around Teague for refusing to duck and cover when explaining his vote for the American Clean Energy and Security Act. But that vigilant support has put the Democrat in the crosshairs of the Pearce campaign, which has hammered Teague as a job killer.
Like Teague, the other two Democratic House incumbents are also first-termers. However, political prognosticators don’t see their races as being quite as tight. For instance, the nonpartisan and independent Cook Political Report says the Albuquerque-centric 1st Congressional District “leans Democratic.” It features Rep. Martin Heinrich, who won with 56 percent of the vote in 2008, against Republican Jon Barela.
The northern 3rd Congressional District, which includes the capital city of Santa Fe, is “likely Democratic,” according to Cook. Republican Tom Mullins is challenging Rep. Ben Ray Lujan, who garnered 57 percent of the vote in 2008.