Rep. Steve Pearce narrowly won the Republican primary for retiring GOP senator Pete Domenici’s seat, defeating his more-moderate opponent, Rep. Heather Wilson (R-N.M.), 51 to 49 percent.
Pearce withstood a late comeback from Rep. Heather Wilson (R-N.M), who scored a key endorsement from Domenici in the race’s final weekend. But Pearce benefited from running as an unapologetic conservative in a low-turnout Republican primary – and received key assistance from the anti-tax Club for Growth, which aired $600,000 ads attacking Wilson as a tax-hiker.
He handily carried his home district, winning over 90 percent of the vote in his home county (Lea County).
Pearce will now face Rep. Tom Udall (D-N.M.) in the general election. Public polling shows Pearce begins the general election campaign trailing Udall by a sizable double-digit margin.
Albuquerque city councilor Martin Heinrich easily won the Democratic nomination for Wilson’s House seat, and will face a highly-touted GOP recruit, Bernalillo County sheriff Darren White in the general election.
In Pearce’s district, Democrats believe they have a shot at an upset in this expansive Republican-leaning southern New Mexico district. Oil services company owner Harry Teague, who has can self-finance a campaign, narrowly defeated a more-liberal challenger, Dona Ana County Commissioner Bill McCamley, 53 to 47 percent.
Meanwhile, restaurateur Ed Tinsley finished first in a crowded Republican field, winning 31 percent of the vote in the five-way primary. Tinsley got key assistance from the National Restaurant Association, which aired television advertisements on his behalf.
And Udall is likely to be succeeded in the House by Ben Ray Lujan, who dispatched a well-funded primary challenge from real estate developer Don Wiviott, 41 to 27 percent. Lujan, the son of state House Speaker Ben Lujan, was the establishment favorite and won a key, late endorsement from Gov. Bill Richardson (D-N.M.). Wiviott spent over $1.3 million of his own money, but his deep pockets failed to stop Lujan’s momentum.
The Democratic primary in the solidly-Democratic northern New Mexico Third District is usually tantamount to victory in the general election.