A look at the numbers in NM’s swing districts — some races may be tighter than we think
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Republicans are within striking distance of taking the majority in the House of Representatives for the first time since 1953 and while Democrats have a 28-14 lead in the state Senate, the GOP is counting on gaining ground this fall.
Throw in districts that have been reapportioned after the once-a-decade redistricting fight and you can see why Democrats and Republicans are going through their own versions of trench warfare, fighting for every foot of territory as the Nov. 6 election date draws near.
With all that in mind, let’s take a look at some numbers in selected “swing districts” across New Mexico, based on what’s called “performance numbers,” i.e., how demographers in the redistricting battles determined how likely voters favor Democrats or Republicans in respective districts.
The figures show that a number of sitting legislators — some of whom have been in the Roundhouse for multiple terms — may have some tough fights on their hands, at least statistically.
All told, there are 15 House races where the performance numbers are between 47-53 percent and seven Senate races between 46-54 percent.
Here’s a look at the swing districts in the House of Representatives, with the incumbents highlighted in yellow:
The numbers offer some insight into why Democrats, Republicans and outside political action committees are pouring money into selected races.
For example, Senate pro tem Tim Jennings and upstart Republican Cliff Pirtle are locked in an expensive, sometimes nasty fight in Senate District 32 in the Roswell area. With Democrat performance numbers at 45.4 percent, you can see why Republicans are looking at that seat as a winnable one for the GOP, despite Jennings’ high name recognition in a district that he’s represented since 1979.
Jennings has raised a whopping $203,485 in this election cycle while the 27-year-old Pirtle has raised $35,756 and outside groups such as the conservative-backed Reform New Mexico Now has spent thousands in direct mailers going after Jennings.
And long-time Senate Majority Leader Michael Sanchez is running for re-election and facing a general election opponent for the first time since 2004. While considered the favorite to win in District 29 in Valencia and parts of Bernalillo County against David Chavez, the fact that Democrat performance numbers are 53.1 percent indicates that the race is in play.
On the other side, Democrats can look at a number of races — especially in the House of Representatives — and believe they’ve got good chances to oust some sitting Republicans and widen the Dems’ 36-33 lead in the Roundhouse.
For example, Rep. Conrad James (R-Albuquerque) ran unopposed two years ago but due to redistricting, House District 24 is now a 50-50 split in Democrat/Republican performance numbers and now he and Democrat Elizabeth Thomson are battling door-to-door in Albuquerque’s Northeast Heights. James has raised $62,529 while Thomson has raised $45,769.
And in Doña Ana County, incumbent Republican Dr. Terry McMillan is getting challenged by Democrat Joanne Ferrary in a district that leans Republican by the slightest of margins (it has a Democratic performance number of 49.4). McMillan has raised $58,400, and Ferrary has raised $34,825.