Race for Roundhouse control heating up in New Mexico

The New Mexico State Capitol, known as 'The Roundhouse.'
The New Mexico State Capitol, known as 'The Roundhouse.'

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – While most have their eyes on Clinton vs. Trump, state legislative races in New Mexico could provide the drama come election day with both the Senate and House up for grabs.

In the Senate, Republicans are seeking to take control of the chamber for the first time since the 1980’s, when they held a 22-20 edge for a short time. In the House, Democrats are trying to regain control two years after the GOP broke six decades of Democratic control.

UNM political science chair Tim Krebs says national politics can have its effect on down ballot races.

“It gives them again an electoral advantage,” said Krebs. “It’s hard to put a precise number on that but in a typical year those candidates are going to have something of an advantage just in terms of voter interest and voter turnout.”

That would appear to give the edge to Democrats with polling in New Mexico showing Hillary Clinton in the lead to win the state’s five electoral votes.

But local issues do play a factor in these races. Republicans have been attacking Senate Democrats for being soft on crime, with a number of ads attacking a lack of action on a proposed reinstatement of the death penalty during the special session. Democrats have fired back, pinning the bad state economy and budget crisis on the Governor Susana Martinez and Republicans.

“There are going to be their own unique dynamics to those down ballot races,” said Krebs.

A key race to watch is the battle between Senate majority leader Michael Sanchez, D-Belen, and Republican challenger Gregory Baca. Both have recently put out ads.

An attempt to unseat Sanchez during the 2012 election fell short with Sanchez getting 9,001 votes to then-challenger David C. Chavez’s 7,231.

On the House side, an intriguing race is the contest between Republican Rep. Terry McMillan, R-Las Cruces, and Democrat Joanne Ferrary. In 2012, McMillan beat Ferrary by just 8 votes.

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