Election

Democrat Melanie Stansbury wins US House race in New Mexico

Democratic congressional candidate Melanie Stansbury speaks during a campaign rally in Albuquerque, New Mexico, on May 27, 2021. (AP Photo/Susan Montoya Bryan)

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — Democrat Melanie Stansbury has won election to Congress for New Mexico to fill a vacant seat previously held by Interior Secretary Deb Haaland.

Stanbury prevailed Tuesday in a four-way race after campaigning in support of major initiatives of the Biden administration.

Stansbury closely aligned her message to voters with proposed and enacted Democratic legislation on pandemic relief, infrastructure spending and interventions to slow climate change. Her victory shores up the Democratic majority in Congress ahead of 2022 midterm elections.

“Our leadership in the House and Senate is working really hard to make sure that we can actually pass something this year so that we can bring money home for critical infrastructure,” Stanbury said during the final hours of voting. “And this is especially important for New Mexico because it includes funding for things like broadband and clean energy.”

Stansbury defeated third-term Republican state Sen. Mark Moores to fill an Albuquerque-based seat that has been held by Democrats since 2009.

Moores highlighted concerns about crime in Albuquerque and has painted his Democratic opponent as a progressive with a radical agenda to defund traditional police agencies.

Stanbury’s victory preserves an all-female House delegation for the state.

Libertarian nominee Chris Manning and independent Aubrey Dunn Jr. campaigned unsuccessfully for the vacant 1st Congressional District seat.

The 1st Congressional District encompasses Albuquerque, rural Torrance County and other outlying areas that include the Indigenous community of Sandia Pueblo.

The district’s voters have heavily favored Democratic candidates in recent years, shunning former President Donald Trump with a gap of 23 percentage points in 2020 and reelecting Haaland with a margin of 16 percentage points as voter participation reached an all-time high.

Tuesday’s election is among a handful of races to fill vacancies in Congress ahead of 2022 midterm elections. Democrats held a 219-211 majority in Congress going into Tuesday’s vote in New Mexico.

New Mexico’s 1st District seat has consistently been a stepping stone to higher office for Republican and Democratic politicians, including now-deceased Interior Secretary Manuel Lujan Jr., former U.S. Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson, U.S. Sen. Martin Heinrich and Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham.

The district relies heavily on federal military and research funding as home to Kirtland Air Force Base and Sandia National Laboratories.

Trump in 2020 fell flat with Albuquerque-area voters after he sent federal agents to bolster local law enforcement efforts.

Republicans last year flipped the state’s sprawling 2nd Congressional District in southern New Mexico as Yvette Herrell of Alamogordo ousted incumbent U.S. Rep. Xochitl Torres Small.

Lee reported from Santa Fe, New Mexico.

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