I’ve got great news for you!
Yesterday was the special election for New Mexico’s 1st congressional district, now Interior Secretary Deb Haaland’s former seat. There were 3 things I was looking for with the results: who won, what was the margin, and what did that mean for messaging.
Melanie Stansbury (D) won over the Republican challenger. Yeah!!!
What was the margin?
In November 2020, Deb Haaland won this seat by 16 points. So, if Stansbury won the seat (and the Democrat was favored), it would have still been hugely problematic if she won the seat by a smaller margin than Haaland had, only 7 months ago. The Republicans could easily have claimed that Democratic enthusiasm going into the midterms was dampened and used that to put rocket fuel in their donation appeals.
As it turns out, Stansbury will easily surpass Haaland’s margin. In fact, late into the evening, she was looking at as much as a 26 point margin! The Democrats spent time and money in this race, and it shows. Congrats to everyone who donated and volunteered!
What messaging worked?
Well, the Republicans were hoping a message of them being “tough on crime,” fear-mongering, and attacking Stansbury for her support for police reform would help them. As expected, they labeled her a “radical” and tried to slap the “defund the police” on her. She had shown support for both the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act and also the Breathe Act (supported by the Black Lives Matter movement), but was also careful to do ads and interviews with the police and prosecutors to emphasize her support for funding law enforcement.
Clearly, it did not work.
There was much more to this election than just that one issue, but from all the media pieces I’ve read, it was the central issue.
So what have we learned?
We’ve only had 4 special elections so far this cycle, and the Democrats have won 2 decisively, just as the Republicans have won 2 decisively. So it’s too early to tell. But, New Mexico does teach us that investing early in these races, both with volunteer hours and donations, makes a big difference. Let’s keep it up!
Know someone who might appreciate this post? Please share it. And then: