- Associated Press - Wednesday, November 9, 2016

SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) - Democrats extended majority control across the New Mexico Legislature and won back the state’s third-highest elected office that oversees elections and campaign finances.

Tuesday’s results erased local political gains by Republicans in recent years, while the nation’s most Hispanic state also handed Hillary Clinton its five electoral votes.

The nation’s only Latina governor issued a congratulatory message to President-elect Donald Trump after refusing to endorse him before the election.

“I may have taken issue with some of the rhetoric on the campaign trail,” Republican Gov. Susana Martinez said in a statement. “But I believe that President-elect Trump was a better choice.”

New Mexico election officials indicated Wednesday that close results would likely trigger automatic recounts in three legislative races - without affecting the Democrats’ newly won majority in the House of Representatives. The party held on to a Senate majority as well.

Democrat Elizabeth Thomson, who was elected Tuesday to a House seat she lost in the 2014 vote, said the shift in power at the Statehouse reflected the public’s frustration with the economy and employment options.

“Voters are saying they’re not happy with the last two years, particularly the economic disaster that we’re in,” Thomson said Wednesday.

Across the country, the GOP picked up control of chambers in Iowa, Kentucky and Minnesota. Republicans lost the majority in Nevada and New Mexico.

Leading House Democrats in New Mexico are seeking out new state support for small businesses, an increased minimum wage and investments in early childhood education.

What happens when the Legislature convenes in January will depend on the level of cooperation from the Republican governor as she enters her final two years in office.

In a statement Wednesday, Martinez said she already was taking steps to work with House Democrats.

“I’ve had a split government the whole time I’ve been in office, and we were able to get things done,” Martinez said in a statement.

Martinez and state lawmakers will be working next year with depleted general fund reserves and a gloomy forecast for revenue.

New Mexico slashed state agency spending in October to shrink a major budget deficit. A downturn in the oil and natural-gas sector led to plunging state revenue. A credit agency has downgraded the state’s rating.

Gabriel Sanchez, a political science professor at the University of New Mexico, said Democrats are better-positioned to seek a unified government when a new governor is elected in two years and to influence legislative redistricting at the end of the decade.

In the Senate, a leadership shakeup looms with the defeat of Democratic Majority Leader Michael Sanchez. Attorney Greg Baca will replace Sanchez, who was targeted in a wave of attack ads from a political committee run by the governor’s top political adviser.

In legislative races where recounts are likely, Democrat Daymon Ely of Corrales held a lead over incumbent GOP Rep. Paul Pacheco of Albuquerque. Pacheco is a retired police officer at the forefront of anti-crime measures backed by the governor and her administration’s yearslong campaign to refuse driver’s licenses to immigrants in the country illegally.

Two-term Democratic Sen. John Sapien had the edge over Diego Espinoza of Rio Rancho in a contentious race for a district that sweeps from Corrales and Rio Rancho across Interstate 25 to Placitas.

Republican Rep. David Adkins of Albuquerque finished just two votes ahead of retired Bernalillo County firefighter Ronnie Martinez in the traditionally Republican district in western Albuquerque.

Voters chose a Democrat to be the state’s next secretary of state, electing Bernalillo County Clerk Maggie Toulouse Oliver to lead an agency shaken by scandal.

Voters also elected a Republican to the state Supreme Court for the first time since 1980.

Justice Judith Nakamura defeated Democrat Michael Vigil. She was appointed by the governor last year after the retirement of Justice Richard Bosson.

Copyright © 2018 The Washington Times, LLC.

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