NM State Election Priorities & Toolkit

How We Developed Our Election Priorities

This page will be updated periodically, with notice of that update appearing in our blog posts. Updates will be necessary to respond to shifting trends in campaigns. For example, it may become clear that a candidate has such a strong position that our support is no longer critical, or a race we thought was hopeless could have tightened and might be won. Revisit this page periodically to stay current.

The races below are listed in priority order. Priorities are based on the candidate’s need for Retake support and the potential impact of a win in that district. This campaign effort is about shifting the political composition of the legislature to create an environment conducive to passing progressive legislation in the 2021 legislative session.

These priority rankings are based on conversations with numerous election operatives during the first half of July, assessments of the districts’ Democratic Performance Index (see below), and other factors. DPI is a measure, not of Democratic Party voter registration strength, but of the Party’s performance in elections: how does the percent of actual votes compare with voter registration. The DPI is intended to assess districts in which Democrats frequently vote for GOP candidates. The higher the rating, the more strongly Democratic the vote is in any given district.

Generally, our focus remains on Fixing the Senate. Five DINOs were unseated in the June primary, and four of the winning challengers look to be in reasonably safe races. But in Senate Dist 35, Neomi Martinez-Parra faces a formidable challenge from her GOP opponent. There are also two Senate races where Democratic challengers have a good chance of replacing Republicans. Ensuring wins for our five successful primary challengers while also ousting two GOP Senate incumbents will vastly change the political calculus of the Senate.

In the House, there are both opportunities and threats. As it stands, the House is solidly Democratic (46-24) and legislation tends to move through that chamber with some ease. Nonetheless, there are five incumbent Democrats who face formidable opposition and there are two House districts held by young GOP leaders who are vulnerable and worth challenging.

Below we identify our top priority races. As noted above, we will update these priorities as campaign dynamics shift. After our top six priorities, we list the Senate districts of interest and the House districts where newly elected House Reps face challenges. Before we get to our priority races, here’s how you can support these candidates.

The ToolKit: How You Can Become Involved

Historically, there have been five primary means of supporting a candidate:

  • Making financial contributions — still a critical strategy that is essential to countering the influence of “dark,” out-of-state donations that often flow from corporations, industries groups, and conservative PACs;
  • Canvassing is one of the most powerful means of supporting a candidate, as it is the most effective way to strengthen candidate support.
  • Hosting a House Party to raise funds and awareness about a candidate.
  • Making phone calls to identify supporters and, for those who get trained, to try to persuade voters who are undecided.
  • Writing letters to encourage voters to support your candidate and often enclosing campaign materials with the letter.

Due to COVID-19, canvassing and house parties are not likely this year, although there may be campaigns that will ask volunteers to host Zoom-based House Parties. All campaigns will be in great need of donations and people to make calls or write letters. Each campaign will emphasize different volunteer roles, so the best way to find out how to help a candidate is to reach out to their campaign directly.

Before you do, we’d like to emphasize a few things. First, please try to get out of your comfort zone. We’ve had so many people say, “I want to help, but I really don’t like to canvass…or to make calls.” Many times, it turns out folks have never canvassed or called, they just figure they won’t like it.

The truth is, the act of supporting a candidate is not really about how much fun you have. It is about doing what is needed to get your candidate elected. If you set aside a specific amount of time each week to make calls or to write, you may just find that it is something you find gratifying. However, even if you don’t look forward to these tasks, you can take pride and pleasure in knowing that come November, if your candidate wins by 115 votes, as Abbas Akhil did in 2018, you may have made a critical difference in the outcome.

One way to make your support of a candidate more gratifying is to identify 2-3 or more friends who might be open to joining you. A team approach does several things that makes calling or writing more sustainable. If you schedule weekly phone or Zoom meetings, you can set goals for how many letters or calls you will make that week, you can share success stories, and you can turn a solitary activity into a social one. You can even write letters “together” on a Zoom call.

But whatever you do, please understand that this election is critical to the future of New Mexico. Transformational legislation will be introduced in 2021, and our success in November will have a good deal to do with our success in January – March 2021.

While I haven’t spoken with all the campaigns, I am quite sure that all need people to make calls and most will have some kind of writing campaign. And they need that help NOW, so please don’t delay. Take a look at the priorities below, pick a race, sign up on their campaign page, and get started. Make a commitment to spend 5, 10, 20 or more hours each month to doing whatever is asked.

Contribute. Most likely you will make calls or write letters for one, at most two candidates, but you can impact multiple races by donating to multiple campaigns. If it is easier, make it a monthly contribution, but know that there are only four months left, so be as generous as you possibly can.

Our Priority Races

Priority # 1. SD 35, Las Cruces, Deming, TorC. DPI 47.80%, Neomi Martinez-Parra has unseated the powerful Senate Finance Committee chairman John Arthur Smith. This is a huge win for progressives. But of all the successful DINO challengers, Neomi faces the biggest general election challenge by far. As the ratings below indicate, Neomi’s district is the only one on our list with a DP rating of under 50%. What’s more, her opponent Crystal Diamond has raised a substantial amount of money and is viewed by the GOP as a rising star in a party with few stars at this time. This will be a very tough race and to a degree the reputation of the progressive movement in NM is on the line. Go to neomi4nmsenate.com to learn how to help with the campaign. 

Priority # 2. SD 23, DPI 52.40%, Albuquerque. Harold Pope (D) vs. Sen. Sander Rue (R), incumbent. There are far worse Republicans in the Senate, but Sen Rue, while reasonable, still votes the GOP party line 100% of the time. On the other hand, Harold Pope is a tremendous candidate, has been working hard for months, and would be the only African American NM State Senator. We still have work to do in the Senate. Winning this race would be huge and would send a message to the Democratic Party that progressive candidates don’t have to always have a moderate message to win a tough district. To sign up for updates on Pope’s campaign, to read about his positions, and to volunteer, click here.

Priority # 3. SD 9, DPI 53.40%, Corrales. Brenda McKenna (D) vs. John Stahlman Clark (R). This seat is vacant after retirement of John Sapien (D). Brenda McKenna is from the Nanbé Pueblo (in Tewa, Nanbé is spelled with an “n,” not an “m”). She is currently a field aid to US Rep. Deb Haaland. She is challenging John Stahlman Clark in a race where we have the opportunity to elect an Indigenous woman to the State Senate. We are told this will be a very tight race with volunteers needed to keep this seat Democratic. Brenda favors a swift transition to renewables, full funding of after school programs, paid sick leave, electrification of transportation, and tuition free college, among other progressive stances. To find out more about her positions, her endorsements, and how you can support her campaign, click here.

Priority # 4. SD 30, DPI 52.70%, Cibola, Valencia, Socorro, and McKinley counties, essentially west of ABQ to the AZ border. Pam Cordova (D) vs. Joshua Sanchez (R).  Pam Cordova defeated Sen. Clemente Sanchez in the June primary. While she should be safe in this race, the GOP and the gas and oil industry will pour money into this race, along with a healthy dose of misinformation. Go to  pamcordovaforsenate.com to learn how you can help with the campaign. 

Priority # 5. HD 38, DPI 49.40%, TorC, Las Cruces. Karen Whitlock (D) vs. Rebecca Dow (R). MLG won this district in 2018. Rebecca Dow is a rising GOP star and very conservative, so defeating her is a double win. With a 49.40% DPI, this is a winnable race and a win would send a big message to the GOP and to moderate Dems. Volunteer effort will be huge. Click here to read about Whitlock’s positions, endorsements, and to get involved in her campaign.

Priority # 6. HD 57, DPI 48.70, Rio Rancho. Billie Healan (D) vs. Jason Harper (R) incumbent. Healan is a very hard worker, and progressive. Rep. Harper is very conservative, is known as one of those GOP legislators who will drag on a committee discussion to ensure that less can be accomplished, and is also somewhat of a rising GOP star. Healan’s campaign needs volunteers and donations. Despite a DPI of 48.70%, she lost to Jason Harper by only 217 votes in 2018.  Because of his narrow win in 2018, Rep. Harper will take this race very seriously. As with Dist 38, this would send a huge message. Click here to find out more about Healan’s positions and endorsements and to volunteer for her campaign.

We are also assessing an open seat in HD 12, in the South Valley. The seat became open when incumbent Patricio Ruiloba misfiled his petitions.  Brittney Barreras is a DTS candidate who we want to find out more about. She’s running against corporate Democrat former Bernalillo County Commissioner Art De La Cruz, who’s running as a write in.  Stay Tuned.

Other Senate Races of Interest

We are reasonably confident that these races will be won by our challengers, but that could change, depending upon campaign dynamics. Plus, some of you may live in these districts and so should continue to support your candidate.

In District 28 in southwestern New Mexico, Siah Correa Hemphill easily defeated Gabe Ramos in the June primary. With a reasonably comfortable 54.30% DPI and one of the best campaign managers in NM, Neri Holguin, this race should be safe. But if you want to continue your support for Siah, go to siahforsenate.com to learn how you can help with the campaign. 

In District 38 in Las Cruces, Carrie Hamblen defeated Senate President Pro Tem Mary Kay Papen. This race should be very safe with a 65.10% DPI, but if you are in Las Cruces and want to continue your support for Carrie, go to hamblennmsenate38.com to learn how you can help. 

In District 5, Rio Arriba County commissioner Leo Jaramillo easily defeated Richard Martinez. This is the safest race for any of the challengers who defeated DINOs in the primary. But if you live in Rio Arriba County and want to supportLeo Jaramillo, go to leojaramillo.com to learn how you can help with the campaign. Or find him on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/Leo-Jaramillo-for-NM-Senate-104681024398788/.

Other House Races of Interest

We have important Democrat allies who won seats in 2018 and are facing formidable challenges in 2020. For now, we believe most all of them will emerge victorious, but we want to identify these Democrats and offer links to their races, just in case you have a soft spot for one or more of them.

From our perspective, if we were to win all of the races above, we would very likely win all of the races listed below. But we will be constantly monitoring the races as we move toward November and will issue an alert to urge you jump into one of these races if you’re needed.

  • Dist 68. Karen Bash, a real hero who needs to be returned for another term, solidly progressive.
  • Dist. 29, Joy Garrett, another solid progressive.
  • Dist. 28, Melanie Stansbury, a leader on water issues and renewable energy.
  • Dist 15, Day Hochman Vigil, a consistent and very accessible ally.
  • Dist. 20, Meredith Dixon, fighting to hold Rep. Abbas Ahkil’s seat for the Democrats.

Again, it would be a surprise if we lost even one of these seats, but the dynamics change quickly and the GOP is playing the 2nd Amendment card in a huge way. We will keep you posted if we feel one or more of these allies needs urgent support.

Democratic Performance Index

Eric Shimamoto compiled a list of all Senate and House districts with the name of the current incumbent and the districts “DPI” rating. Remember, the DPI rating is not based on the percent of registered Democrats in the district, it is based on how the district performs in elections. In many NM districts, the registration may be strongly Democratic, but those Dems may vote as often for Republicans as for Democrats. So the DPI represents a far more honed tool for determining how strongly a district votes Democratic. The higher the score, the safer that district is. This rating does not necessarily convey how progressive a district is, as some districts may be comprised of many Democrats, but with most being more moderate Dems. In any case, this is one of the factors we take into account as we prioritize races.


SD 24, 80.30% Nancy Rodriguez
SD 25, 80.10% Peter Wirth
SD 12, 78.30% Gerald Ortiz y Pino
SD 16, 75.80% Antoinette Sedillo Lopez
SD 6, 74.00% Bobby Gonzalez
SD 11, 69.80% Linda Lopez,
SD 5, 69.40%, open seat — Sen. Richard Martinez was defeated by Leo Jaramillo. This race should be in the bag.
SD 22, 69.20% Benny Shendo
SD 13, 66.80% Bill O’Neill
SD 4, 66.40% George Munoz
SD 31, 66.10% Joseph Cervantes
SD 26, 65.70% Jacob Candelaria
SD 3, 65.50% Shannon Pinto
SD 38, 65.10% open seat — Sen. Mary Kay Papen was defeated by Kerry Hamblin….note the high DP score, hence our not prioritizing this race highly.
SD 14, 64.70% Michael Padilla
SD 8, 64.00% Pete Campos
SD 17, 64.00% Mimi Stewart
SD 15, 58.90% Daniel Ivey-Soto
SD 39, 57.90% Liz Stefanics
SD 36, 57.10% Jeff Steinborn
SD 37, 55.30% William Soules
SD 28, 54.30% open seat — Sen. Gabe Ramos was defeated by Siah Correa Hemphill. The relatively high DP and the strength of her campaign team makes us confident enough to not prioritize this race more highly…for now.
SD 9, 53.40% open seat, held by retiring Sen. John Sapien.
SD 18, 53.00% Bill Tallman
SD 10, 52.80% Candice Gould
SD 30, 52.70% open seat — Sen Clemente Sanchez was defeated by Pam Cordova.
SD 23, 52.40% Sander Rue is challenged by Harold Pope.
SD 29, 52.30% Gregory Baca
SD 20, 51.10% open seat, held by retiring Sen. William Payne (R).
SD 35, 47.80% open seat — Sen. JA Smith was defeated by Neomi Martinez-Parra.
SD 40, 46.90% Craig Brandt
SD 21, 45.90% Mark Moore
SD 19, 43.20% open seat — held by retiring Sen. James White
SD 32, 42.80% Cliff Pirtle
SD 41, 40.00% open seat
SD 34, 35.00% Ron Griggs
SD 33, 34.80% William Burt
SD 27, 30.50% Stuart Ingle
SD 1, 30.10% William Sharer
SD 7, 29.70% Pat Woods
SD 2, 23.00% Steven Neville
SD 42, 21.70% Gay Kernan


HD 48, 82.00% Linda Trujillo recently resigned from the highest Democratic Performing House District in the state. Candidates to replace Lopez are surfacing. Stay tuned.
HD 18, 80.80% Gail Chasey
HD 42, 79.20% open seat
HD 47, 79.10% Brian Egolf
HD 46, 78.70% Andrea Romero
HD 65, 78.20% Derrick J. Lente
HD 45, 77.70% open seat
HD 11, 77.10% Javier Martínez
HD 19, 74.70% Sheryl Williams Stapleton
HD 41, 74.50% Susan K. Herrera
HD 14, 73.50% Miguel Garcia
HD 9, 70.60% Patricia Lundstrom
HD 5, 70.10% Doreen Wonda Johnson
HD 40, 68.90% open seat
HD 12, 68.80% open seat
HD 13, 68.60% Patricia Roybal Caballero
HD 70, 68.10% open seat
HD 6, 67.50% Eliseo Alcon
HD 34, 67.50% Raymundo Lara
HD 69, 66.60% Harry Garcia
HD 17, 65.40% Deborah A. Armstrong
HD 52, 65.40% Doreen Gallegos
HD 25, 65.20% Christine Trujillo
HD 10, 65.00% G. Andrés Romero
HD 26, 63.60% Georgene Louis
HD 21, 63.50% Debra M. Sariñana
HD 33, 63.00% Micaela Lara Cadena
HD 16, 62.20% Moe Maestas
HD 35, 61.90% Angelica Rubio
HD 43, 58.10% Christine Chandler
HD 36, 56.60% Nathan Small
HD 24, 56.50% Elizabeth Thomson
HD 50, 56.30% Matthew McQueen
HD 39, 56.00% Rodolpho Martinez
HD 37, 55.60% Joanne Ferrary
HD 30, 55.40% Natalie Figueroa
HD 15, 54.70% Dayan Hochman-Vigil
HD 23, 54.40% Daymon Ely
HD 53, 53.60% Willie D. Madrid
HD 29, 52.90% Joy Garratt
HD 4, 52.40% Anthony Allison
HD 20, 51.90% open seat
HD 32, 50.70% Candie Sweetser
HD 68, 50.60% Karen C. Bash
HD 7, 50.50% Kelly Fajardo
HD 28, 49.80% Melanie A. Stansbury
HD 38, 49.40% Rebecca Dow, challenged by Karen Whitlock. MLG carried this district in 2018
HD 27, 49.20% Marian Matthews, one of our most progressive allies, in a tough district.
HD 57, 48.70% Jason Harper being challenged by Billie Healan who lost to Harper by just 217 votes in 2018. Healan is a very strong campaigner, too!
HD 49, 48.40% Gail Armstrong
HD 63, 47.30% Martin R. Zamora
HD 8, 47.10% Alonzo Baldonado
HD 60, 46.90% Tim Lewis
HD 22, 46.70% Gregg Schmedes
HD 44, 45.90% Jane Powdrell-Culbert
HD 31, 44.80% Bill Rehm
HD 58, 44.30% Candy Ezzell
HD 67, 37.20% Jack Chatfield
HD 51, 36.80% Rachel A. Black
HD 56, 36.30% Zachary Cook
HD 61, 34.40% David Gallegos
HD 54, 31.80% James G. Townsend
HD 55, 30.70% Cathrynn Brown
HD 2, 30.10% James Strickler
HD 59, 29.40% Greg Nibert
HD 64, 27.00% Randal Crowder
HD 66, 26.50% Phelps Anderson
HD 3, 24.30% Paul Bandy
HD 1, 23.80% Rod Montoya
HD 62, 22.30% Larry R. Scott

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