For a while, Mark Ronchetti’s campaign seemed almost certain it could win over a majority of voters and be one of the few Republicans in the country to oust an incumbent Democratic governor in a red wave that ultimately never came. There were even polls (by Republican-leaning firms) showing Ronchetti within striking distance of Democrat Michelle Lujan Grisham just a few weeks before Election Day. But, in the end, all the panicked email solicitations for last-minute donations and Democratic hand wringing were for naught. Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham sailed to re-election 52-46%, a comfortable statewide margin of 6%. Libertarian Karen Bedonie secured 2% of the statewide vote.
But here in Sandoval County, the governor’s margin was just half of her statewide total. Of 61,090 votes cast from Sandoval County for governor, just 1,412 (less than 3%) separated Lujan Grisham and Ronchetti. By comparison, Lujan Grisham earned 55% support in Sandoval County in 2018 against Republican Steve Pearce (44%).
That narrow margin mirrors urban vs. rural differences seen in counties statewide. A 2020 report on the growing partisan divide in New Mexico featured in New Mexico In Depth, an online non-profit news outlet, found that “voter registration data from the last 10 years reveal a Democratic party losing ground as a share of registered voters in most New Mexico counties, but gaining strength in growing urban centers. The Republican party has made modest gains in its share of registered voters in rural counties with declining populations.”
That divide even played out this year between different precincts in Sandoval County. Take precincts 8 and 9, for example. Those precincts include most of San Felipe and Cochiti Pueblos along I-25 and the Rio Grande in eastern Sandoval County. The 459 voters there went for Lujan Grisham 92% and 93%, respectively. On the other end of the spectrum, just 34% of 533 voters in precinct 138 near Southern and Unser Blvds. in Rio Rancho voted for Lujan Grisham.
In the Town of Bernalillo, the governor carried all six of the largest precincts by an average of 59.5%, an analysis by the Sandoval Signpost found. The 8 precincts covering Placitas averaged 62% for the Democrat. Precincts covering Corrales just barely preferred the Democrat with an average of 52%.
The communities along Highway 4 and the Santa Fe National Forest, including Zia Pueblo, San Ysidro and Jemez Springs were almost evenly split, but averaged a 54% preference for Republican Ronchetti. In Cuba and the western edge of Sandoval County, just 40% of voters supported the governor’s re-election.
See more election results online from the Secretary of State here.