The Democratic Election Day script set up something like this: A blue wave of victories crashed westward across the country Tuesday, topping the Organ, Sacramento, Sandia and Sangre de Cristo Mountains, and washing over New Mexico.

It wasn't the wave Democrats hoped for. The O'Rourkes and Gillums and Abrams looked as though they'd fall short.

New Mexico, however, held up its end of the deal.

Democrats were poised to run the table in statewide races, recapturing the governor's mansion, state land office and the state auditor. They held onto all their federal offices and even picked up the traditionally conservative 2nd Congressional District, where Xochitl Torres Small defeated Republican Yvette Herrell to claim Steve Pearce's old seat in the US House of Representatives.

Democrats haven't held all statewide and federal offices, along with control of the state Legislature, since 1966.

As election night returns trickled in late into the night, Democrats knew they'd flipped the former state House Republican minority leader's seat, and several close House races seemed ready to go their way.

"How does it feel to win?" Speaker of the House Brian Egolf crowed to an ecstatic crowd at the Hotel Albuquerque.

Michelle Lujan Grisham easily defeated Pearce, opening an 11-point lead late in the evening in the race to succeed Gov. Susana Martinez. She performed strongly in the Albuquerque metro area and traditional Democratic strongholds like Santa Fe, bolstering her numbers against the red tide of votes from the southeast and northwest corners of the state.

Michelle Lujan Grisham knew by 9 pm that she had defeated Steve Pearce.
Michelle Lujan Grisham knew by 9 pm that she had defeated Steve Pearce. | Matt Grubs

"In order for us to succeed, we have to harness our most powerful resource," Lujan Grisham shouted to party faithful, "the potential, the faith we have in each other, and the pride and the unity that we have in this state."

Lujan Grisham delivered a stem-winding acceptance speech timed to coincide with the start of the late television news broadcasts, delivering large parts from memory and casually bantering with the crowd.

"We're going to make sure that our teachers and families know that the number one priority of this administration going forward is education," she added, laying out plans for her transition and agenda during her term that included raises in the minimum wage, renewable energy expansion and film incentives.

The three-term Albuquerque congresswoman ran a campaign that didn't feature any major gaffes, and the scandal Republicans hoped to pin on her—profits from a contract her former company had to run the state's high-risk insurance pool—didn't rise to that level of concern for voters.

Lujan Grisham was a fundraising juggernaut, doubling Pearce's take and topping $9.3 million, a total that might possibly reach eight figures by the time the final campaign finance reports are filed.

Pearce was indefatigable on the campaign trail, spending more than a year visiting counties where he knew he'd lose, trying to narrow the gap enough to slide into victory on the strength of turnout in the more conservative parts of the state.

Both candidates focused on the typical fare of gubernatorial campaigns, pushing their plans for job growth, education, public safety and a host of other familiar issues.

The national climate and the political mood set by President Donald Trump appeared to motivate many voters, whether they were staunch in their support of the president or eager to send a message about his politics.

"Having been able to vote and grow up in the Obama era, it's such a stark difference; a lot of millennials are particularly alarmed and disappointed and, honestly, angry," Julia Abbiss told SFR Tuesday. The 24-year-old volunteered for a Conservation Voters of New Mexico phone bank supporting land commissioner candidate Stephanie Garcia Richard.

But the nationwide blue wave wasn't the swell many Democrats had hoped.

Early in the evening at the Republican watch party at Albuquerque's Crowne Plaza, party chairman Ryan Cangiolosi told a crowd drinking in national returns from Fox News that "the blue wave everyone's been talking about hit a red wall."

As the night wore on, though, New Mexico returns looked azure.

"If they win all of the statewide races and they pick up seats in the House, that's a big deal," UNM Political Science Professor Tim Krebs told SFR. "It's a bit of a mixed bag, nationally. … It makes us a bit of an outlier in terms of the broader story. That sends a message that the state's trending more blue."

A decade ago, as Barack Obama swept into the White House, Democrats celebrated a similarly robust election cycle. They held 45 seats in the state House of Representatives that year, and Harry Teague became the only Democrat to hold the 2nd Congressional District in the three-seat era for New Mexico. Two years later, the situation changed on the rising tide of Tea Party sentiment. Teague lost, and Republicans would win the state House four years later.

EDITOR'S NOTE: This story has been corrected to reflect Xochitl Torres Small's victory in the 2nd Congressional District. Read more about Wednesday's dramatic vote count and how New Mexico's premier pollster mis-called the race for Yvette Herrell.