With Latinos accounting for nearly one-third of registered voters in New Mexico, a new report finds they are poised to play a decisive role in the states primary elections being held Tuesday.
The report was released this week by the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials (NALEO) Educational Fund. It finds that the Latino population in New Mexico has rapidly increased, as has their participation in elections.
New Mexico is now home to 979,724 Latinos, up from 765,386 in 2000. With 47 percent of the New Mexicos population being Hispanic, the state has the second largest Hispanic population share nationally.
The report also finds that the Latino voter turnout in the New Mexico mid-term Congressional elections has also increased over the years, growing from 122,038 in 2002 to 158,953 in 2010. Thats an increase of 30 percent.
When it comes to party affiliation, the report finds that 60 percent of Latino registered voters in New Mexico are Democrats, compared to 41 percent of non-Latinos, and 18 percent of Latinos are Republicans, compared to 37 percent of non-Latinos. Twenty-two percent of both Latinos and non-Latinos in the state are not registered with either major political party.
NALEO Educational Fund Executive Director Arturo Vargas said in a statement that these numbers equate to real political power.
In the coming days and months, it will be critical for campaigns and candidates to actively engage New Mexico Latino voters on the issues that matter most if they want to gain the support of this increasingly influential electorate, Vargas stated.
New Mexico primary races to watch
According to the NALEO report, Latino voters will play a big role in determining the nominees for a number of races during Tuesdays primary elections in New Mexico.
One of the more contested races to watch is the contest between five Democrats who are running to replace Republican Gov. Susana Martinez. The one-term governor is unopposed in the Republican primary.
Martinez is a rising star in the Republican Party. She became the nations first Latina governor when she was first elected in 2010.
The five Democrats who are competing for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination are Attorney General Gary King, businessman Alan Webber, longtime government agency administrator Lawrence Rael and state Sens. Howie Morales and Linda Lopez. The winner of that five-way contest will go on to challenge Martinez in the general election.
New Mexico voters will also determine the nominees for statehouse and statewide races, including state treasurer.
When it comes to Congressional races in New Mexico, two Republicans will compete for the Republican nomination on Tuesday to go on to challenge Democratic U.S. Sen. Tom Udall in the general election.
Both of New Mexicos Latino members of Congress are running for re-election. According to the NALEO report, they both face excellent prospects of winning their primary and general election contests. Those two Latino members of Congress are Democrats Ben Lujan and Michelle Lujan Grisham.
In addition to providing a profile of Latino voters and candidates running for office in New Mexico, NALEO states it has been actively working to ensure that the states Latino community has the information necessary to make their voices heard at the ballot box.
These efforts include operating the toll-free bilingual hotline 1-888-VE-Y-VOTA (1-888-839-8682) and the www.yaeshora.info website. Through these resources, New Mexico Latino voters are provided with information on various aspects of the electoral process, from registering to vote, to voter ID requirements, to finding their polling place on Election Day.