On March 11 of this year, the first case of Covid-19 was reported in the state of New Mexico. Two weeks later, on March 25, the first coronavirus-caused death in the state was recorded. Since then, it is fair to say, nothing about life in the Land of Enchantment has not been affected.
On May 25, Memorial Day, an African-American named George Floyd was killed by a Minneapolis Police officer named Derek Chauvin, who kept his knee on Floyd’s neck for almost nine minutes, until he was dead. Since then, who – in NM or anywhere – could claim to be unaffected.
So, the votes cast in the New Mexico primary elections on June 2 or in the days before, were made in the shadows of those two powerful influences … the menace of Covid-19 and the brutal – on video tape it sure looked like – murder of a Black man by a White policeman.
The urgency of current events seems to have been reflected in a record-setting vote. Although some will say the highest-ever turnout for a primary election had as much to do with how voting was done – easily, from home, with mail-in absentee ballots, mailed out to all registered New Mexico voters on request. This, of course, was an accommodation forced by the threat of Covid-19 and the strong desire to minimize physical contact among voters and election personnel.
More than 401,000 New Mexicans voted, a record for a primary. This represented a bit over 40 percent of eligible voters, which was six points higher than in 2016 and 15 points higher than in 2012. Only once in state history, in 1992, did a higher percentage of those eligible vote.
So, what did all those voters do with their votes? The Republicans had to choose among candidates who had all sworn allegiance to President Trump, who chiefly disagreed about who loved their leader best. This produced selections probably more personal than ideological, although in two State Senate districts moderate Republican incumbents were beaten by much harder-right candidates moving up from seats in the State House.
And Democratic voters? Well, among other things, they mandated what respected pollster Brian Sanderoff called nothing less than “a changing of the guard in the [State] Senate,” Five Democratic incumbents, including the Senate’s leader, the most powerful committee chair and two others went down, all ousted by opponents well to the left of them.
This sounds like good news for Progressives, and great news for New Mexico’s Democratic Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham because the defeated senators had often blocked important items on her agenda.
Trip Jennings runs the fine regional online news organization NM In Depth, a leading source of investigative reporting on issues relating to governance, the criminal justice system, the environment, public education and the fraying social safety net in New Mexico.