- Associated Press - Saturday, June 6, 2020

SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) - Alexis Johnson of Santa Fe has won the Republican primary nomination in New Mexico’s 3rd Congressional District.

Johnson emerged victorious Saturday in the three-way primary amid a surge in absentee balloting that took several days to tally in the district’s most populous county.

Johnson will compete in the general election against Santa Fe-based attorney Teresa Leger Fernandez, a Democrat, to succeed U.S. Rep. Ben Ray Lujan as he runs for U.S. Senate. Sen. Tom Udall, a Democrat, is retiring.

Johnson defeated Santa Fe County Commissioner Harry Montoya and Navajo Nation member Karen Evette Bedonie of Mexican Springs.

An environmental engineer for oil producers, Johnson campaigned as a proponent of President Donald Trump’s border wall and an advocate for robust fossil fuel development, while Montoya highlighted his Christian, conservative values and professional background as a substance abuse counselor.

Lengthy delays in completing the district’s Republican vote tally have implications for the November election. A majority of New Mexico primary voters shifted to absentee ballots in response to concerns about COVID-19.

In Taos County, overwrought members of an absentee balloting board walked out on election night and had to be replaced the next morning to finish tallying votes. Both Taos and Santa Fe counties had to petition a district court to extend the initial 24-hour deadline for vote tabulation.

The Republican nominee confronts an uphill battle in the general election. Democrats have monopolized the 3rd District seat since its creation in 1982 with the exception of one special election, and registered Democrats outnumber Republicans nearly 2-1.

The 3rd District seat has been been a springboard for prominent Democratic politician including Bill Richardson, who went on to serve as U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, U.S. secretary of energy and governor of New Mexico.

The west end of the vast rural district has been hit hard by a coronavirus outbreak on the Navajo Nation and adjoining cities including Gallup. The district includes the state capital Santa Fe, a national defense laboratory at Los Alamos and the city of Rio Rancho - where Trump visited last year for a political rally.

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