Two weeks before the GOP had its first chance to pick up a seat in Congress since Joe Biden became president, the Republican Party of New Mexico hosted a three-day event dubbed “Operation Freedom.” State Sen. Mark Moores, who was running for the open seat, addressed a crowd of a few hundred party leaders, activists and donors in a hotel conference center. Afterwards, he left the hotel and drove nearly 300 miles back to Albuquerque, where he was actually competing for votes.
New Mexico Republicans had opted to hold their marquee event in Amarillo, Texas.
When the votes came in, Moores had lost to Democratic State Rep. Melanie Stansbury by 24 percentage points—even more than the margin by which Joe Biden had won the district. Nationally, it was seen as a referendum on Biden’s first months in office. But in New Mexico, the story is longer and more complex. For some frustrated New Mexico Republicans, the Amarillo episode and Moores’ loss last Tuesday highlight deeper problems with the state party’s leadership and direction over the last few years—including a turn towards Trumpism that has galvanized some of the party’s base but has seemingly turned off swing voters in the state’s traditionally purple electorate.
As recently as 2016, Republican Gov. Susana Martinez had just won re-election, Republicans had won the state House and Republican Richard Berry was in his second term as Albuquerque mayor. In the years since, the Republican party’s position in Bernalillo County—the anchor of the first congressional district, where the special election was held—has gradually eroded, taking the party’s chances statewide with it. Today, Democrats hold the governor’s mansion and a near-supermajority in the state House. [Continue reading…]