Old men, students and children danced onstage, some of them teary eyed, at the New Mexico Democratic Party’s watch party Tuesday night as they belted out the words to a popular Black Eyed Peas song.
“I got a feeling, that tonight’s gonna be a good night,” hundreds sang. And it was more than just a feeling for the Democrats, who will see four more years of President Barack Obama. New Mexico Democrat Martin Heinrich took the U.S. Senate seat, earning 50 percent of the vote. Republican candidate Heather Wilson received 45 percent and independent candidate Jon Ross Barrie received 3 percent.
“The Senate race is now over,” Heinrich said as he addressed supporters at the Embassy Suites. “You can turn your televisions back on and not see those ads. But this journey has just begun.”
While supporters applauded and screamed, Heinrich said he will continue to tackle progressive nationwide issues, such as higher education funding, same-sex marriage and immigration laws. In his speech, Heinrich thanked his wife and children, his supporters and the people who donated funds for his campaign.
He said his win was also a huge victory for the people. “It is people — not just money and not just PACS — who decide our elections here in New Mexico,” he said. “And I would say … with great humility that I will be the senator of New Mexico.”
The night began optimistically enough at the local Republicans’ Marriott headquarters when the party took an early lead in the general election. While most supporters recognized that New Mexico has recently leaned Democratic, they stayed positive throughout the night. Married couple Larry and Leonor Reisch came to the city’s Republican headquarters with confidence Tuesday night.
Larry Reisch, a veteran, dressed as Uncle Sam; Leonor Reisch, a Las Lunas substitute teacher who uses a wheelchair, carried a sign that read “‘All in’ for Obama out.”
When Obama’s re-election was first announced, Larry Reisch disregarded the news. “Until I see him give a speech, it ain’t over,” Larry said. Twenty minutes later, Larry’s Uncle Sam hat drooped as he wheeled his wife out of the ballroom’s side exit.
The moment of the announcement was shared disappointment. A group of attendees held similar small dishes of taquitos and salsa when the announcement was made. The group paused mid-bite, as one woman exclaimed, “Are you serious?”
At the Democratic headquarters, 14-year-old Heinrich supporter Delaney Heileman cheered for Heinrich he took the stage.
Delaney Heileman, who is the youngest intern in Heinrich’s campaign, said she decided to volunteer because she wanted to help put Heinrich into the Senate. She said she shares Heinrich’s views on important social issues.
“Because I can’t vote, it’s really important that I volunteer so that my voice will be heard,” she said. “He would be a very strong advocate for the middle class, for women’s rights and for equality.”
Delaney Heileman’s father and UNM’s Associate Provost for Curriculum Greg Heileman said he supports Heinrich because the senator-elect prioritizes higher education.
“His policies related to education and research is in line with what I believe is the right direction,” he said. “I think there’s sensitivity nationally about the cost of education … and it’s getting more and more difficult to pay for those grants. I think his priority will be education.”
According to a press release from Heinrich’s campaign, Heinrich has fought to counter the Ryan Budget, which was proposed by Republican vice-presidential candidate Paul Ryan last year. The budget, according to the press release, would aim to cut $21 million from Pell Grant spending and would result in 3,000 college students losing financial aid.
At the Marriott, Pat Dalla, a volunteer for GOP congressional candidate Janice Arnold-Jones’ campaign said that after a long race, she was tired. Arnold-Jones lost to Democratic opponent Michelle Lujan Grisham. “I walked Saturday seven hours by myself and I said ‘No more,’” said Dalla, a Wilson supporter.
Wilson addressed the half-empty ballroom late last night, and thanked her volunteers. “You stood proudly by the virtues of free enterprise and against big government that takes away our freedoms and our personal responsibility and opportunity and accomplishment,” Wilson said. “You fought hard for what you believed in, and you worked diligently for righteous liberty and for life. Those are all ideals worth fighting for.”
After Wilson’s speech, Arnold-Jones told reporters she had to take a few days to consider her next move as a politician. “Whether you are serving from the inside and fighting from the outside, if you believe that you have something to contribute to make things better, you have to go do that and so we will see that, and if not, I’ll go work on my garden,” she said.
Heinrich said that in the following years, he is going to focus on long-term solutions to social and economic issues around the country. He said he will work to promote economic recovery throughout the country, work which “started four years ago.”
“Together we will prove that the Land of Enchantment can be the land of opportunity,” he said.