CD 1 voting trends favor Lujan Grisham

Democrat Michelle Lujan Grisham leaves the stage after her victory speech for U.S. Congress at the Doubletree Hotel in Downtown Albuquerque on Tuesday, Nov. 14, 2014. (Mia Clark/NM News Port)

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CD 1 voting trends favor Lujan Grisham

Analysis of voter registration trends and recent campaign finance data suggests that New Mexico’s 1st Congressional District again will belong to Democrat Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham in the Nov. 4 elections.

Brian Sanderoff, an Albuquerque pollster and political analyst who conducts frequent polls for The Albuquerque Journal and KOAT-TV, said voter registration data is a strong indicator of Democratic pull in the district.

The Voter Registration Statistics Report from the NM Secretary of State’s office indicates that as of October, 453,000 out of 700,000 people living in the district are registered voters. Of those, 46 percent are Democrats, 31 percent are Republicans, 20 percent declined to state and 4 percent chose other parties.

Voter registration, however, is not necessarily the most important factor. The district has been held by Republicans in the past, from 1969 to 2009.

Instead, incumbency may be the key, Sanderoff said.

“It’s had five incumbents since its inception back in 1969. And all five of those incumbents, none of them lost their election.”

Besides past advantages for incumbents, Sanderoff said the election will ultimately be decided by independent voters — the 20 percent of voters listed as “declined to state.”

“The battleground is with those middle groups, the independents, the people who decline to state a party affiliation, the people who are conservative democrats who sometimes vote Republican.”

However, Sanderoff says, Frese has yet to mount a competitive race.

“A disadvantage of his is that his name recognition is low.”

Sanderoff says it has been smooth sailing for Lujan Grisham.

“This has been a quiet race. It’s been quiet because Frese doesn’t have a lot of money and Michelle doesn’t feel like she has to spend any of hers right now.”

For this election year, Lujan Grisham’s campaign has raised $196,705. Adding in $235,961 from the end of last year, Lujan Grisham has $433,434 in the bank, according to Follow the Money, a non-partisan campaign watchdog. This is compared to Frese’s campaign which has $58,588 on hand.

Sanderoff indicates that Frese might have had an easier time if he was running in a more rural area.

“The Albuquerque metro, as it grows, starts behaving more like a big city. Big cities tend to vote more Democratic. Rural areas tend to vote more Republican.”

The voting trends in the district, which encompasses parts of Bernalillo, Sandoval, Santa Fe, Torrance and Valencia counties, vary according to local demographics.

“There are pockets of Republican strength, absolutely, in the city and outside of the city. It’s just there are more Ds than Rs.”

For example, Sanderoff says, Albuquerque’s Northeast Heights, which had a more suburban feel, often times votes Republican.

“Basically as you move further north and further east within the NorthEast heights, the homes get a little pricer. The income levels of the residents and the voters gets a little higher, it’s a little less Hispanic and for all of those reasons become a large support system for the Republicans.”

Sanderoff says that Republicans tend to be more straightforward in their voting while Democrats are a little harder to gauge.

“The Democratic party is more of a big tent with diverse Democrats. Republicans are a little more homogenous.”

Gabriel Sanchez agrees. Sanchez, an associate professor of political science at the University of New Mexico, says that though New Mexico has a majority of registered Democrats, they are not always partisan.

“I think people forget that in New Mexico, it’s a very sophisticated electorate. We tend to have a lot of crossover voting. You can see a huge support for a democratic presidential candidate and then two years later elect a republican for a statewide office. I think folks out here really are savvy and they make different calculations.”

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