Democrats narrow congressional nomination to 2 contenders

SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — Two state legislators advanced to a runoff for the Democratic nomination to defend an Albuquerque-based congressional seat left open by newly confirmed Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland.

State Sen. Antoinette Sedillo Lopez and Rep. Melanie Stansbury were the top two contenders on Tuesday as members of the Democratic Party central committee narrowed an initial field of eight candidates.

A second vote takes place Wednesday to decide on a nominee to confront Republican state Sen. Mark Moores in a June 1 special congressional election.

Democrats have held the 1st Congressional District seat since 2009. Of 199 central committee votes, Sedillo Lopez receive 74 endorsements and Stansbury got 43.

The seat will not pass to another woman of Native American descent like Haaland after Democratic leaders passed over state Rep. Georgene Louis, a tribal member of Acoma Pueblo.

Stansbury, a two-term legislator, has worked in Washington at the White House budget office and as a Senate committee staffer.

In 2018, Stansbury defeated a seven-term Republican incumbent as a wave of progressive female politicians joined the state House.

Sedillo Lopez is a retired law professor who won reelection to the state Senate last year after her initial appointment by Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham.

The district is seen as increasingly progressive. Republicans say they’ll seize on an opportunity to win in a possible low-turnout election.

In Bernalillo County, the district’s core population base, former President Donald Trump won just 36% of the vote in November. The district also encompasses rural Torrance County and portions of Sandoval and Valencia counties.