Democratic state Rep. Melanie Stansbury won the New Mexico special congressional election Tuesday, beating back Republican challenger Mark Moores to fill the seat of Deb Haaland, President Joe Biden’s interior secretary.
The race to represent New Mexico’s 1st Congressional District, which includes Albuquerque, was called by The Associated Press after polls closed at 9 p.m. ET. Stansbury prevailed in a four-way contest after campaigning in support of major initiatives of the Biden administration. Her victory shores up the Democrats’ narrow 219-211 majority in Congress ahead of the 2022 midterm elections.
Critics argued that Moores, a state senator, exploited the rising murder rate in Albuquerque and called Stansbury soft on crime for supporting the BREATHE Act, which has provisions to cut federal funding from police departments. She, however, stood by the bill and touted her state legislative work to fund public safety — hoping to deflate the GOP’s law-and-order attacks. Stansbury, who was an aide to President Barack Obama, was also endorsed by Haaland, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and first lady Jill Biden.
The district, which Biden won by 23 points and Haaland won by 16 points last year, was seen as a potential pickup for Republicans. Moores campaigned as a champion of police and the oil and gas industry — notably because of Biden’s order in January suspending new drilling permits on federal land, which included a number of oil and gas wells in New Mexico.
But the district has a 9 percentage-point Democratic advantage, according to the Cook Political Report. Democrats appeared to have had an advantage in early voting, which ended Saturday, according to data from the state secretary of state’s office. More than 54,000 registered Democrats voted early, compared to about 28,000 Republicans, according to the Albuquerque Journal. About 10,700 voters with no political party also voted early.