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Democrats and GOP face off in New Mexico special congressional election

First Read is your briefing from "Meet the Press" and the NBC Political Unit on the day's most important political stories and why they matter.
Image: Rep. Deb Haaland speaks at a reception hosted by the Congressional Native American Caucus in Washington on Jan. 3, 2019.
Rep. Deb Haaland speaks at a reception hosted by the Congressional Native American Caucus in Washington on Jan. 3, 2019.Brian Snyder / Reuters

WASHINGTON — Today brings us the third round of special congressional elections in the Biden Era — this time the race to fill the seat of former Rep. Deb Haaland, D-N.M., who’s now serving as Biden’s Interior secretary. (Following the first two rounds of special elections in Louisiana and Texas.)

At stake in this contest between Democratic state Rep. Melanie Stansbury and Republican state Sen. Mark Moores is the Democrats’ narrow House majority (219-211), as well as a test of how potent the issue of crime might still be for the GOP.

“Mr. Moores has spotlighted the rising murder rate in Albuquerque and assailed Ms. Stansbury as soft on crime for supporting a little-known proposal in Congress that would cut funding for local police departments,” the New York Times’ Jonathan Martin writes.

More: “In an interview, Ms. Stansbury offered no regrets for her support of the measure, the so-called BREATHE Act, an expansive criminal justice proposal pushed by racial justice activists.”

(The BREATHE Act is backed by Reps. Ayanna Pressley, D-Ma., and Rashida Tlaib, D-Mich.)

National Democrats feel confident about their advantage in early voting, as well as the makeup of this district that Biden won by 23 points in 2020 and that Haaland won by 16 points.

“Through early voting, 54,111 registered Democrats had cast a ballot and 27,934 Republicans had voted, according to data from the Secretary of State’s Office. About 10,700 voters who don’t state a political party have also voted,” per the Albuquerque Journal.

So the question that could decide how close this contest is how many Republicans turn out on Election Day — the day after Memorial Day.

And keep your eyes on the margin, even if Democrats win.

After all, it was closer-than-expected margins in multiple GOP special-election victories in 2017 that gave us an indication of how the political winds were blowing before the 2018 midterms.

Polling places close in New Mexico at 9:00 p.m. ET.

Blame it on Texas

Over the long weekend, Texas Republicans saw one of their top legislative priorities stymied after Democrats staged a dramatic last-minute walkout that prevented passage of a stringent new voting restrictions bill.

The bill, which GOP Gov. Greg Abbott has pledged will be taken up again in a special session later this year, would ban 24-hour and drive-thru voting, add ID requirements for mail ballots and give protections to partisan poll watchers. It would also prohibit Sunday voting before 1:00 pm — which voting rights advocates call an affront to “Souls to the Polls” get-out-the-vote efforts in Black communities.

Democrats were also particularly alarmed by language inserted into the bill at the last minute that could have made it easier to overturn elections on suspicion of fraud.

The drama that unfolded late Sunday night was a high-wire act for Democrats, who were forced to leave other legislation unfinished and now face the threat that the governor will defund legislative pay after Democratic lawmakers broke quorum to kill the bill.

But it also underscored the lengths to which Democrats in one of the country’s largest and fastest-changing states are willing to go to preserve voting access — in a place where the GOP had plenty of success in 2020. And it increased pressure on national Democrats to pass voter protections at the federal level.

“Breaking quorum is about the equivalent of crawling on our knees begging the president and the United States Congress to give us the For the People Act and give us the John Lewis Voting Rights Act,” one Democratic lawmaker told the Washington Post.

Tweet of the day

Data Download: The numbers you need to know today

One week: How long the White House is giving Republicans to reach a deal on infrastructure

33,432,444: The number of confirmed cases of coronavirus in the United States, per the most recent data from NBC News and health officials.

598,313: The number of deaths in the United States from the virus so far, per the most recent data from NBC News.

294,928,850: The number of vaccine doses administered in the U.S.

37.5 percent: The share of all Americans who are fully vaccinated, per NBC News.

51.5 percent: The share of all American adults over 18 who are fully vaccinated, per CDC.

Remembering Tulsa

President Biden today travels to Oklahoma, where he will mark the 100th anniversary of the Tulsa Race Massacre — by touring Tulsa’s Greenwood Cultural Center at 2:45 p.m. ET and then delivering remarks in the city at 4:15 p.m. ET.

And Biden will use his trip to Tulsa to unveil measures his administration is taking to narrow the racial wealth gap.

And the number of the week is ... 15 percent

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