N.M. 1st District incumbent Martin Heinrich, a Democrat, might have to battle against the general anti-incumbent sentiment that mars the 2010 midterm election. But his ability to raise funds late in the game could just give him the edge he needs over Republican Jon Barela.
Recapping the New Mexico 1st District race
Known as the freshman Democrat, Heinrich won his seat in 2008 when beating Bernalillo County Sheriff Darren White. At that time he received 56 percent of the vote, which made for a solid lead. Barela believes that he may have a better chance than White did in 2008, and with his laurels of having being the state's Republican Party vice-chair and assistant attorney general firmly in place, he makes for a formidable opponent.
Back in February, Public Policy Polling apportioned Heinrich a slim but measurable nine-point lead over Barela. Highlighting that 72 percent of likely New Mexico 1st District voters have not actual opinion about the work done by Barela, the challenger's relative anonymity worked greatly in the incumbent's favor. A nagging bit of polling data, however, revealed that Heinrich has only a slim positive spread to the tune of 40 over 38 percentage points.
Although the group's president considers Heinrich "good for reelection," later poll results beg to differ. A subsequent Survey USA poll in July showed that Barela appears to have left behind his anonymity and actually pulled ahead of the incumbent with a 51 percent to 45 percent lead. Even so, with a 4.2 percent margin of error and four percent of voters still unsure which way to vote, the race is still close but the numbers are shifting. The Heinrich campaign countered these figures and released its own polling data, which apportioned a 12-point lead to Heinrich and a spread of 53 percent to 41 percent over the Republican.
Money issues and rank breaks
With Hispanic voters favoring the Anglo Heinrich, Republican Barela went on record with Real Clear Politics in stating that he chooses to break ranks with the Republican Party when it comes to immigration and border enforcement, a popular hot button topic for the 2010 Election Day races. Citing personal experience as a catalyst for this development, the 1st district challenger calls for a more accommodating system for any immigrant.
Since polling data is unclear and the contenders' positions make it virtually impossible to second-guess the outcome of the New Mexico race, it may simply come down to money. According to the New Mexico Independent, Heinrich was able to greatly augment his third quarter war chest, which of course translates into last minute spending opportunities against the challenger. The $590,000 that the incumbent raised also bespeaks his popularity as more voters are placing their bets on the (perhaps) winning candidate. Of course, the $470,000 raised by Barela also translates into last minute spending opportunities.
In the final analysis, the heat between Martin Heinrich and Jon Barela for the hotly contested New Mexico 1st district seat is still on.