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Primary turnout up from 2006

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The June 1 election drew 258,614 Democrats and Republicans to the polls

By Barry Massey

SANTA FE — More New Mexicans turned out to vote in the June primary than they did four years ago when Republicans and Democrats cast ballots in a gubernatorial election year, according to official results released Tuesday.

About 28 percent of registered Democrats and Republicans participated in the primary.

That’s up from 22 percent turnout in the 2006 primary election when both parties had uncontested races for the gubernatorial nomination. However, turnout was 34 percent in the 2002 primary when Democrat Bill Richardson first ran for governor and Republicans had a four-way gubernatorial contest.

The state Canvassing Board on Tuesday certified the results of the June 1 election, which drew 258,614 Democrats and Republicans to the polls.

In 2002, nearly 267,000 Democrats and Republicans voted in the primary. Almost 196,000 cast ballots in the 2006 primary.

New Mexico has a closed primary system in which only voters affiliated with the major political parties can participate.

Turnout in the Republican primary was 34 percent with 122,649 ballots — more voters than in any GOP gubernatorial primary in at least 40 years. The previous record was in 2002, when 98,320 Republicans voted in the primary.

The turnout rate in this year’s Democratic primary was 24 percent, down from about 25 percent in 2006 although about 4,300 more voters cast ballots this year than in 2006. Democratic turnout was 34 percent in 2002.

Top-of-the-ticket and highly competitive local races tend to draw people to the polls.

The June primary featured a hotly contested five-way contest for the GOP gubernatorial nomination and a five-way race for the Democratic nomination for lieutenant governor.

In the gubernatorial race, Republican Susana Martinez won with 51 percent of the vote and a margin of 28,279 votes, according to official returns. Former state GOP chairman Allen Weh got 28 percent, 12 percent went to Albuquerque businessman Doug Turner, 7 percent for Albuquerque lawyer Pete Domenici Jr., and 3 percent for state Rep. Janice Arnold-Jones.

Democrat Diane Denish ran unopposed for her party’s gubernatorial nomination. A write-in Democratic candidate for governor, Billy Driggs of Rodeo, in southwestern New Mexico, got 1,016 votes, or nearly 1 percent.