Eric Griego established himself as the frontrunner in the Democratic 1st Congressional District primary at this weekend’s preprimary nominating convention. Martin Heinrich kept his frontrunner status in the Senate race, but Hector Balderas did better than many expected.
“Many thought the progressive state senator wouldn’t be able to launch a serious congressional campaign. Some view him as undisciplined. He was facing the possibility of another progressive candidate getting in the race. And, ultimately, he’s running in a moderate district and he’s a lefty’s lefty.
“But Griego has run a surprisingly disciplined campaign. He’s working hard. He hired a good campaign manager. His media has been polished. Griego gathered enough early support to keep other progressives out of the race and win the backing of a high-profile national progressive group.”
That’s what builds the organization necessary to make a candidate the frontrunner in his race – and Griego earned such status this weekend.
Griego won the Democratic Party’s preprimary nominating convention, getting the votes of 41 percent of State Central Committee members to Marty Chávez’s 33 percent and Michelle Lujan Grisham’s 26 percent.
Griego’s win doesn’t ensure victory in the June 5 primary by any means, but it proves that he has built the type of strong, enthusiastic organization a candidate needs.
“My victory today reinforces the Democrats’ desire to nominate a candidate with the broadest Democratic coalition, solid progressive record and strong campaign organization,” Griego said in a news release following the vote.
Chávez Campaign Manager Alan Packman said in a news release that his campaign was “pleased with the strong show of grassroots support for Marty’s campaign.”
“These conventions have always been dominated by the types of insiders most likely to support Sen. Griego,” Packman said. “Marty’s strength is with everyday people who know his record delivering results for New Mexico’s families as mayor.”
Lujan Grisham characterized her support at the convention as “solid,” saying, “We are in a great position, with the most money and resources, to surge into the June primary election.” She promised “an aggressive primary campaign.”
The 1st District primary remains winnable by any of the three, but Griego’s efforts have put him in just about the best position he could hope for at this stage in the game.
Balderas can’t be counted out
Meanwhile, in the U.S. Senate primary, Martin Heinrich did exactly what he needed to do at the convention – win – but Hector Balderas did better than many anticipated and proved he can’t be counted out.
Heinrich won 55 percent of the vote to Balderas’ 45 percent.
The New Mexico Telegram’s Matthew Reichbach, who was at the convention, wrote that Balderas’ “passionate base” of supporters ensured that Heinrich’s victory was “smaller than expected.”
The Balderas campaign touted quotes like that in a news release. The candidate took a shot at Heinrich, who has raised lots of money from political action committees.
“I am so honored and humbled by this tremendous outpouring of support,” Balderas said. “New Mexicans from across the state stood up today and sent a message that they wanted a senator who was going to fight for them, not for the special interests.”
Heinrich went to Facebook to say, “Momentum is on our side, and I just know that we are going to win this race.”
The reality? Time is on Heinrich’s side, as are the majority of people who voted in the preprimary on Saturday. Heinrich remains the frontrunner and has the advantage.
But Balderas’ supporters showed more enthusiasm. That, coupled with the good press about his showing, presents Balderas with an opportunity.
Expect Balderas to start raising more money and gaining in the polls. But he’s currently way down in the fundraising race. He doesn’t have to raise as much as Heinrich, but he has to raise enough for TV ads. And he has to start doing it now.
My prediction: The race will tighten before June 5. The only question is how much.
Here are the other results from the convention:
- In the 3rd Congressional District, incumbent Ben Ray Luján won the votes of 92 percent of delegates. Harry Montoya failed to get the 20 percent needed to win a spot on the primary ballot, getting 8 percent. If Montoya wants to stay in the race he will have to gather additional signatures.
- In the 2nd Congressional District, the same is true of Frank McKinnon, who won the support of 12 percent of delegates to Evelyn Madrid Erhard’s 88 percent. But McKinnon isn’t going to try to stay in the race. He pledged support for Madrid Erhard on Facebook after his loss.
- In the Democratic Court of Appeals primary, both candidates won a spot on the ballot. Monica Zamora won 63 percent to Victor Lopez’s 37 percent.