Rep. Martin Heinrich (D) and former Rep. Heather Wilson (R) easily won their respective primaries and will now face off in one of the most competitive Senate races in the country.
Wilson, who preceded Heinrich in the House and lost her first primary bid for Senate in 2008, defeated wealthy businessman Greg Sowards, 70 percent to 30 percent, with 48 percent of precincts reporting, according to the Associated Press. Heinrich dispatched with state Auditor Hector Balderas, a rising star in the party, 59 percent to 41 percent.
In a state that President Barack Obama won by 15 points in 2008, Republicans successfully recruited a candidate who could keep the seat of retiring Sen. Jeff Bingaman (D) in serious play. Wilson is a tough and disciplined campaigner who can raise money and has a proven track record of winning a competitive House district.
Heinrich was one of the few success stories for national Democrats in 2010, holding off a stiff Republican challenge. In this statewide race, he’ll have the added benefit of the Obama campaign’s ground game and efforts to turn out Latino voters.
Wilson didn’t wait to take a shot at her next opponent, indicating what’s to come over the next five months. “Washington politicians like Congressman Heinrich have made things worse for New Mexicans because he believes Washington knows best,” Wilson said in a statement.
“In sharp contrast to Congresswoman Wilson, who voted to raise her own pay six times while voting against raising the minimum wage, I’ve always stood up for what’s right for our country and for the people of New Mexico,” Heinrich said in a statement.
Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee spokesman Matt Canter said “Wilson’s misplaced priorities put millionaires ahead of the middle class, and that is simply wrong for New Mexico.”
National Republican Senatorial Committee Chairman John Cornyn (Texas) said Heinrich “is even more liberal than President Obama and believes we should focus on growing government in Washington, instead of jobs in New Mexico.”
Roll Call rates the race as a Tossup.