Ex-Senate aide narrowly wins Democratic nod for Haaland seat in New Mexico

Melanie Stansbury previously flipped state House seat in 2018

A June 1 special election will determine the successor to Interior Secretary Deb Haaland in New Mexico’s 1st District. (Caroline Brehman/CQ Roll Call file photo)
A June 1 special election will determine the successor to Interior Secretary Deb Haaland in New Mexico’s 1st District. (Caroline Brehman/CQ Roll Call file photo)
Posted March 31, 2021 at 9:48pm

By a six-vote margin, New Mexico state Rep. Melanie Stansbury won the Democratic nomination Wednesday in the special election to replace former Rep. Deb Halaand, a major step in securing the heavily Democratic 1st District seat. 

Stansbury defeated law professor and state Sen. Antoinette Sedillo López, 103 votes to 97 votes, in a runoff decided by 1st District members of the Democrats’ State Central Committee. Eight candidates competed on the first day of balloting Tuesday. 

“It is a testament to the grit, determination, and hard work of our team and everyone cross the state who has worked so tirelessly on this campaign,” Stansbury said in a statement after her win. “I am running because I believe deeply in our communities and our ability to bring meaningful change, and I am looking forward to getting it done in the general and holding CD-1!”

She will face Republican state Sen. Mark Moores, a former University of New Mexico football player, in the June 1 special election for the Albuquerque-area seat. Moores was chosen by district members of the GOP State Central Committee at a virtual meeting Saturday.

A former science educator, Stansbury worked in the White House Office of Management and Budget during the Obama administration and on the staff of Washington Sen. Maria Cantwell, when she was the top Democrat on the Energy and Natural Resources Committee. 

After her return to New Mexico, Stansbury defeated a seven-term Republican incumbent to become  the first woman to represent her legislative district. 

“I flipped a red district, unseating a seven-term Republican because I know New Mexico, I know the system, and I know the science,” she said in a March 28 tweet

Haaland resigned earlier this month after being confirmed as the first Native American secretary of the Interior.  She won reelection by 17 points in November. 

The 1st District, which is New Mexico’s only urban seat, backed Joe Biden over Donald Trump by 23 points last fall.

Inside Elections with Nathan L. Gonzales rates the special election Solid Democratic.