Blowout in New Mexico special election a hopeful sign for Democrats

Melanie Stansbury’s success may point to a winning strategy for the midterms.

June 2, 2021, 2:47 PM

Democrat Melanie Stansbury won the special election in New Mexico’s 1st Congressional District on Tuesday night, cinching a landslide victory for her party.

The state congresswoman outpaced her closest rival, state senate Republican Mark Moores, by more than 32,000 votes in the solidly blue district previously occupied by Interior Secretary Deb Haaland.

Going into election night, Democrats were optimistic that their past sweeping leads in the district could indicate a similar outcome for Stansbury as they faced pressure to parallel previous winning margins to avoid speculation that the district could flip in 2022.

In November, President Joe Biden won the district by nearly 23 points, while Haaland sailed to victory by over 16 points. Stansbury followed suit and topped Moores by 24 points, according to the tally conducted by the New Mexico secretary of state’s office.

Stansbury gave a nod to Haaland in her victory speech, saying she "literally weeped" watching the secretary get sworn in by “[the country’s] first woman and woman of color vice president."

Rep. Deb Haaland during a Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources hearing on her nomination to be Interior Secretary on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, Feb. 23, 2021.
Graeme Jennings/Pool via Reuters/FILE

"This moment is not just about standing up, but about leaning into the moment and bringing fundamental change to our politics and to our country, and to the kind of world that we want to see in these historic and unprecedented times," Stansbury said.

The race also offered an opportunity for both parties to test drive potential political messaging themes ahead of next year’s midterm elections. Stansbury largely aligned her campaign to the post-pandemic recovery and policy-oriented messaging coming out of the White House, while Moores attempted to spotlight "law and order" rhetoric echoed by Republicans across the country.

Throughout his campaign, Moores painted Stansbury as a radical and pointed to her indication of support for the BREATHE Act -- a proposal associated with the Black Lives Matter movement that aims to reform policing -- as evidence of his claim. To date, the proposal has never been formally introduced in Congress.

In the aftermath of the election, Democrats appear to be seizing on the rhetoric from across the aisle as fodder for future campaign battles.

"This victory should serve as a cautionary tale to Republicans across the country. Standing in the way of delivering for the American people is not what voters are looking’s going to be an easy choice for the American people come these midterm elections," said Democratic National Committee Chair Jaime Harrison in a statement.

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