Following the 2010 Census, Hispanics now represent a plurality of the population in New Mexico, but Republicans and Democrats are both set to nominate white candidates on Tuesday in the state's Senate primaries. Democratic Rep.Martin Heinrich and former GOP Rep. Heather Wilson -- both strong contenders supported by the establishment wings of their parties -- are set to cruise to victory in their respective primaries, according to recent polling. Both fields once included once-promising Hispanic contenders who either failed to gain momentum or fizzled out altogether.
On the Republican side, Lt. Gov. John Sanchez jumped into the race in May of 2011, arguing that Wilson was insufficiently conservative. For Wilson, his entrance represented the possibility of a repeat of her disappointing 2008 Senate campaign -- when a more conservative Republican (Rep.Steve Pearce) won a nasty primary victory after painting Wilson as a moderate. A win for Sanchez, meanwhile, would have marked a second consecutive major victory in a row for a Hispanic Republican in the Land of Enchantment, following Gov. Susanna Martinez's win in the 2010 gubernatorial race.
But Sanchez struggled badly to raise money or otherwise gain traction, and he dropped out of the race in February. That left underfunded and unknown Greg Sowards as the only other Republican in the race, allowing Wilson to survive the primary almost completely unscathed.