August 7th, 2010
09:42 AM ET
12 years ago

CNN 100: As Albuquerque goes, so goes New Mexico 1st

[cnn-photo-caption image= caption =" The CNN 100 takes a look at the top 100 House races, from now until Election Day."]Editor's Note: In the final 100 days before Election Day, CNN has been profiling one race at random each day from among the nation's top 100 House races, which we've dubbed "The CNN 100." Read the full list here. Today's featured district is:

New Mexico 1st – Rep. Martin Heinrich (D) is seeking a 2nd term
Primary: June 1, 2010
Location: Central New Mexico
Days until Election Day: 87

Republicans see an opportunity to knock off a freshman Democrat in New Mexico's 1st district and reclaim a seat they had held for 40 years.

Rep. Martin Heinrich was elected to the House in 2008, one of 33 Democratic freshmen sent to Congress that year. He was a member of the Albuquerque City Council when he announced he would challenge incumbent GOP Rep. Heather Wilson, who had held the seat since 1998. Wilson narrowly won her 2006 re-election bid with 50 percent of the vote and eventually opted to run to replace retiring GOP Sen. Pete Domenici in the U.S. Senate rather than seek a sixth full term. Heinrich went on to win the House seat with 56 percent over Republican Darren White.

In Congress, Heinrich serves on the Armed Services and Natural Resources committees. He voted in favor of the major initiatives of the Democratic majority of the past two years: the economic stimulus plan, health care reform, the "cap and trade" energy proposals, and Wall Street reform.

The Republican nominee is businessman Jon Barela, a former assistant state attorney general who once worked for former GOP Rep. Joe Skeen from the neighboring 2nd district. He has also served on the Albuquerque Hispano Chamber of Commerce and the Albuquerque Public Schools Board.

As of mid-year, Heinrich had $1.3 million in cash available to spend on the campaign. Barela trailed with $537,000. Heinrich raised $271,000 in contributions from April through June, compared to $185,000 for Barela.

New Mexico's 1st district, located in the center of the state, is dominated by Albuquerque, although it spills into nearby Torrance County as well. Albuquerque is a college town with a lot of businesses that rely on government contracts – two factors that typically turn a district blue. But it also has a streak of Sunbelt politics that tend to turn a district red – although some of the most prosperous (and conservative) suburbs in Valencia and Sandoval Counties lie outside the boundaries of the 1st. Hispanics make up 45.1 percent of the district's population, the largest of any group. Whites are a close second at 44.7 percent.

Heinrich is the first Democrat to represent the district since it was drawn over 40 years ago. Yet voters here have been much kinder to Democrats in presidential elections. President Obama won the district in 2008 with 60 percent of the vote, better than the 57 percent he received statewide. Democrats John Kerry, Al Gore, Bill Clinton also carried the district in their races, although by narrower margins.

This race may get overshadowed by the contest in the 2nd district, in which freshman Democratic Rep. Harry Teague faces a very strong challenge from former GOP Rep. Steve Pearce. But although the race may not be competitive, Heinrich - like any freshman Democrat elected to a long-held GOP seat - is considered vulnerable. If Barela chips away at Heinrich's financial advantage or if he strikes a chord with the district's large Hispanic population, the race could tighten up very quickly.

- CNN Polling Director Keating Holland contributed to this report

Filed under: 2010 • CNN 100 • New Mexico • Popular Posts
soundoff (4 Responses)

    Why doesn't the News Media call on big corporations to hire
    people, rather than hoard money? They brag every day about all the money they have on the balance sheet. They have a responsibility
    to the working people of America to turn the buck loose and let it
    do its job. Read more internetfreepress.

    August 7, 2010 09:59 am at 9:59 am |
  2. Jane

    We are fed up in NM with the democarts; Martinez will be the next gov and Heinrich will find his "good looks and charm" out of office. We just elected a rep mayor in abq this past year and are tired of the antics being played by the current governer and the lets not listen to the people in washington.

    August 7, 2010 10:32 am at 10:32 am |
  3. Anonymous

    A vulnerable demorat who voted for nobamma's, pelosi and reid's massive spending. It would appear he will be back home from DC after the election and deservedly so.

    August 7, 2010 10:47 am at 10:47 am |
  4. Michael

    She wants to return our country to greatness? You mean like the greatness we had under Bush & Chaney? The people who agve you this eceomic disaster? The people who gave us this costly and unwinnable war based on lies? The people who efectively eliminated the middle class? No thank you.

    August 7, 2010 11:10 am at 11:10 am |