Stansbury, a scientist who has served in the New Mexico state House since 2019, defeated Republican state Sen. Mark Moores. Her victory for the seat, which had been vacant since March, will give the narrow Democratic majority in the US House a bit more breathing room.
While the election doesn’t alter the balance of power in the US House, it brings the Democrats’ narrow majority to 220-211, with four seats vacant.
State Democratic Party Chair Jessica Velasquez said in a statement late Tuesday that “Democrats sent a clear message during this election that we’re not taking anything for granted when it comes to electing leaders who truly represent our values.”
She added: “We know the importance of electing strong Democrats like Melanie Stansbury, and we will continue to build on that momentum as we look toward 2022.”
First lady Jill Biden visited New Mexico last month, and the White House dispatched Doug Emhoff, the second gentleman, to the state late last week to campaign for Stansbury.
“We need more women in government, we need more women in business and we need more men to step up and support them,” Emhoff said while campaigning with Stansbury.
The election also served as an early test to see whether Republicans’ strategy of latching Democratic candidates to their party’s most progressive police reform proposals will help the GOP win control of the House in next year’s midterms.
In ads and debates, Moores attempted to tie Stansbury to the BREATHE Act, a proposal drafted by Black Lives Matter activists that would slash spending on police and defense and instead offer grants to poor communities.
National Democrats had hoped the race would demonstrate that their voters are engaged after Democrats were surprisingly shut out of a runoff for a Texas congressional seat in early May, with Republicans finishing in the top two spots.
Stansbury had worked on environmental and community issues in the Obama administration and for the US Senate’s Energy and Natural Resources Committee.
This story has been updated with additional details.