- Associated Press - Friday, November 13, 2015

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) - Some of New Mexico’s top Democrats are throwing their support behind former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton for the party’s presidential nomination.

The Associated Press surveyed the state’s nine superdelegates about which candidate they plan to support at the party’s national convention next summer. Of the seven who responded, four named Clinton as their choice and three were uncommitted.

The AP reached out to all 712 superdelegates nationally during the past two weeks, and heard back from more than 80 percent of them. The delegates were asked which candidate they plan to support at the convention next summer, and 359 of them said they plan to commit to Clinton. Eight said they’ll support Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, two said they’ll support former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley and 210 wouldn’t commit to a candidate.

Superdelegates can support the candidate of their choice, regardless of what happens in the primaries and caucuses.

U.S. Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham, one of New Mexico’s superdelegates, was an early endorser. She described Clinton as a capable and credible candidate and said she was excited about the prospect of another historic election.

“As I’m working to get more women appointed and more women in leadership positions in corporate America and more women elected, having a woman president - particularly with her resume - that is for me a very valuable, important candidate to have an opportunity to support,” she said in a phone interview.

Sens. Tom Udall and Martin Heinrich also back Clinton along with party insider and former state lawmaker Raymond Sanchez.

U.S. Rep. Ben Ray Lujan has yet to commit, but he said the Democratic candidates are exciting voters with agendas that touch on the struggles of the middle class as well as the economy and opportunities for higher education.

Juan Sanchez III with the Democratic Party of New Mexico said he’s talking with fellow Democrats and students around the state about income equality, college debt and pathways to citizenship for immigrants who were brought to the country illegally as children. His goal is to gauge support for the various candidates before making a decision.

“I think it’s important that I talk to people my age and see where they stand on these issues,” said the 23-year-old Sanchez.

It’s too soon to speculate how the early endorsements will reflect on the rest of New Mexico’s registered Democrats come primary season. Some party leaders are questioning whether a nominee would have already been chosen by the time New Mexico holds its primary in June.

Still, one concern for both parties is voter turnout.

Albuquerque pollster Brian Sanderoff said turnout for primary elections has dropped in recent years, and the more liberal Democrats and more conservative Republicans appear to be the ones participating.

Meanwhile, the number of independent voters has been growing, but the state has a closed primary system that prevents them from participating.

In the last presidential primary in 2012, turnout in New Mexico was below average with only one in four eligible Democratic and Republican voters casting ballots. Before that, turnout had averaged 28 percent in presidential election year primaries since 1996.

Deb Haaland, chairwoman of the state Democratic Party, said the grassroots organizing in New Mexico has been impressive so far.

“I just think the key is getting people excited about the election, and I hope we can do that,” she said.

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Follow Susan Montoya Bryan on Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/susanmbryanNM

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