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Meet Two Likely New Members of the 116th Congress

South Dakota’s Dusty Johnson and New Mexico’s Deb Haaland are solid favorites for the fall

Deb Haaland won the Democratic primary for New Mexico’s 1st District and is strongly favored to win in November. (D.A. Banks/CQ Roll Call file photo)
Deb Haaland won the Democratic primary for New Mexico’s 1st District and is strongly favored to win in November. (D.A. Banks/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Tuesday night’s winners of two open-seat primary contests are likely heading to Congress next year, with their general election races rated safely their party’s column.

Democrat Deb Haaland in New Mexico’s 1st District and Republican Dusty Johnson in South Dakota’s district at large are in strong positions to win in November. Both seats opened up when the female incumbents opted to run for governor.

New Mexico’s 1st District

Democratic incumbent Michelle Lujan Grisham’s decision to run for governor opened up her Alburquerque-based 1st District seat, sparking a crowded primary field. (Lujan Grisham won her party’s gubernatorial nod Tuesday night.)

With 99 percent of precincts reporting, Haaland led a six-candidate field with 41 percent of the vote, according to The Associated Press. Trailing behind were former U.S. Attorney Damon Martinez with 26 percent and retired law professor Antoinette Sedillo Lopez with 21 percent.

If elected in the fall, Haaland could make history as the first Native American woman elected to the House. She is an enrolled member of the Pueblo of Laguna.

A former chairwoman of the state Democratic Party, Haaland got her political start volunteering for former President Barack Obama’s 2008 campaign. She previously attended law school and had her own salsa company called “Pueblo Salsa.”

She will be in a strong position heading into the general election against 2012 nominee Janice Arnold-Jones, who ran unopposed in the GOP primary. Inside Elections with Nathan L. Gonzales rates the race Solid Democratic. Hillary Clinton carried the district by 16 points in 2016.

South Dakota’s district at large

Johnson won the Republican primary for South Dakota’s at-large House seat Tuesday night with 47 percent of the vote. The seat opened up after GOP incumbent Kristi Noem decided to run for governor — she won the party nomination Tuesday.

Secretary of State Shantel Krebs finished in second place with 29 percent while state Sen. Neal Tapio took 24 percent. Krebs’ loss means Noem will not be succeeded by a woman in a year when female GOP lawmakers could see their ranks shrink following a slate of retirements.

ICYMI: Already Small in Number, GOP Women Incumbents Could Be In Jeopardy

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Johnson served six years as South Dakota public utilities commissioner before working as Republican Gov. Dennis Daugaard’s chief of staff. He then joined the private sector, working as a telecommunications company executive before running for Congress. He also has ties to South Dakota GOP Sen. Mike Rounds, having served on his staff when he was the state’s governor.

Johnson outraised his the other contenders in the GOP race, pulling in $686,000 over his campaign. He had $306,000 on hand at the end of the pre-primary reporting period.

Heading into November, Johnson will be the heavy favorite against former federal circuit court judge Tim Bjorkman, who ran unopposed in the Democratic primary. President Donald Trump won South Dakota by 30 points in 2016. Inside Elections rates the race Solid Republican.

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