As election day nears, abortion rights are primed to remain a hot campaign topic. Even in states like New Mexico where there are no restrictions on the medical procedure, candidates can count on voters taking their stance on the issue into consideration, according to University of New Mexico political science professor Gabriel Sanchez.
“Local elected officials using this as a mechanism to win votes: that's the reality. Because typically, to be honest with you, abortion has not been a top voting issue for a large segment of voters in New Mexico as long as I've been tracking … That might change in November because the Supreme Court decision just made it much more of a big topic,” Sanchez said.
Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham (D) holds a narrow 3% lead over Republican opponent Mark Ronchetti as of June 20, according to the New Mexico Political Report. Ronchetti is opposed to abortion and has made campaign promises to limit access in the state. Erica Davis-Crump’s, the co-founder of the NM Black Central Organizing Committee, biggest fear in the upcoming election is Ronchetti, who is a familiar face to many and has “been in their homes for years.”
“The biggest concern that I do have is people voting off of name recognition and not knowing what the other people you know, stand for … People be like, ‘Oh it's the weather man,’ and not knowing he's a monster,” Davis-Crump said.
Other factors that come into play in the state’s election is the large pro-life, Democratic, Catholic voting block in the state. In states like Colorado, Catholic churches have formally taken stances in elections and, while that hasn’t happened in New Mexico, it is something to watch, according to Sanchez.
“We don't think of (churches) as elected official stakeholders, but in reality they think they have a lot of sway,” Sanchez said.
Other elections aside from the Governor’s race to pay close attention to are county races.
“I mean, the question is, what can a county do? You're already starting to see those battle lines, right, on other issues: voting rights, gun rights,” Sanchez said. “The history of New Mexico conservative counties doing all they can to just be a kind of impediment to Democratic government. So I would anticipate that happening here in New Mexico.”
Commissioner races specifically are something to pay attention to as abortion, while historically may not have been a key issue in these elections, will be now.
“I can imagine a conservative county commission maybe finding ways to limit funding as it relates to abortion. Taking more, probably symbolic than anything, stances on this issue, just trying to win political points,” Sanchez said.
Rural counties in the state have the most limited abortion access, which specifically impacts people of color, queer individuals and people of lower socioeconomic status.
“(Barriers to access) will be exacerbated as people from other states are forced to seek care even farther from their homes. Despite the favorable political landscape, broad network of providers and rich supportive culture in New Mexico, actual access to abortion care outside of Bernalillo county has been difficult to access for years,” Angelique Karnes, communications associate for Bold Futures, wrote to the Daily Lobo.
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Davis-Crump mentioned candidates like Gabe Vasquez (D) who are looking to flip the 2nd Congressional District in order to protect access. Davis-Crump is consolidating most of her concerns, though, to the governor’s race.
“If there's any changes whatsoever (to the governor), where we leave more to the GOP of New Mexico, we're fucked. But if we can maintain — like putting Gabe Vasquez in CD two — if we can flip the seats that need to be flipped … if we can keep this up, I think we'll be alright. But if this goes in any other direction, we’re gonna be messed up,” Davis-Crump said.
The effects of the GOP winning would be felt by people beyond New Mexico, as many individuals are coming to the state to seek care.
“(For many Southern states), the closest place to access is us. So, we can absolutely not afford to lose this election. And so the progressives, the left-leaning, they have to show up (to vote),” Davis-Crump said.
Madeline Pukite is the managing editor at The Daily Lobo. They can be contacted at email@example.com or on Twitter @maddogpukite