Friday, June 06, 2008

New Mexico 2: Turnout Down in Competitive District

By Nathan L. Gonzales

There has been plenty of talk about Democratic excitement and turnout exceeding Republican turnout this year and how that bodes well for Democratic prospects in November. But in New Mexico’s open 2nd Congressional district on Tuesday, something odd happened: Republican turnout remained largely unchanged, while Democratic turnout slid.

In 2002, both parties had competitive primaries when the seat became open. More than 43,000 people voted in the Democratic primary (won by John Arthur Smith) compared with 35,182 on the Republican side. Despite the primary difference, now-Rep. Steve Pearce (R) won the general election easily, 56 percent to 44 percent.

On Tuesday, Democratic primary turnout in the district was down by about 5,000 voters from six years ago, while Republican turnout was up by a few hundred. There was a competitive GOP race for the Senate on Tuesday, featuring the 2nd district’s outgoing Congressman, Pearce. But Democratic turnout statewide was actually up from the Feb. 5 presidential primary, while it dropped in the 2nd district. Almost 145,000 people voted statewide in the presidential race on the Democratic side compared to more than 151,000 Democratic primary voters in Tuesday’s congressional races.

Restaurateur Ed Tinsley finished second to Pearce in the 2002 primary but is this year’s GOP nominee. He starts the general election as the favorite over former Lea County Commissioner Harry Teague (D). Republicans certainly can’t take the seat for granted, but Democrats should have plenty of other better opportunities this fall.

This item first appeared on June 4, 2008. 2008 © Roll Call Inc. All rights reserved. Reprinted with permission.