Of all the marquee House primaries taking place across six states Tuesday, none has gone to the wire like the three-way Democratic race in New Mexico's 1st District. Former Albuquerque Mayor Marty Chavez was the early favorite to replace Rep. Martin Heinrich, who is running for the Senate, but recent polling showed that the primary has become a two-way contest between state Sen. Eric Griego and Bernalillo County Commissioner Michelle Lujan Grisham.
Both have benefited from strong fundraising, help from outside groups, and escalating momentum as June 5 drew near. Now both will try to close the deal with turnout.
Griego and his allied national progressive groups have confidence in his get-out-the-vote operation, as do a number of unaffiliated local observers. In the available independent polling, Griego has held small leads among self-identified liberal primary voters, and he believes that will carry him through. "The majority of the electorate identifies as liberal or progressive, and a majority of primary voters are women; they tend to lean progressive, so there's some overlap there," Griego said. "We have to do well with those groups."
As Lujan Grisham made her charge from the back to the front of the pack over the last few months, many speculated that she was taking advantage of being the only woman in the primary during a period of national focus on women's political issues. But her support is based more in the middle of the primary electorate, in the ideological territory between Griego and the more moderate Chavez. "Michelle really appeals to all types in the electorate," said Lujan Grisham's campaign manager, Dominic Gabello. "We dug into our data and looked where we were weak, and we have tried to go there and fix that."