Democrats last lost control of the state House of Representatives in the 1952 election, when the GOP took a 28-27 advantage. Like modern-day New Mexico, that was a time when the state had a Republican governor.
But a big difference 60 years ago was that Republican Dwight Eisenhower was about to win the presidency in an avalanche. He took 39 of the 48 states, including New Mexico.
President Obama and Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Martin Heinrich lead in New Mexico polls, perhaps making life tougher on Republicans further down the ballot.
Democrats now have a slender edge in the state House of Representatives, 36-33. There also is one independent member, Rep. Andy Nunez of Hatch. He faces competition from candidates in both major parties this fall.
These half-dozen House races will help determine if Democrats build on their advantage or lose it.
Seven-term Democratic Rep. Ray Begaye of Shiprock has two challenges. One is from Republican Sharon Clahchischilliage. The other is in fighting to contain a scandal.
Begaye's troubles center on allegations that he sought and received two reimbursements for the same publicly financed trip to Phoenix in December 2010. Gadi Schwartz of Albuquerque television station KOB last month confronted Begaye on air with the travel records showing double billing by Begaye.
These days, phone calls to Begaye trigger a recording saying his message box is full.
Clahchischilliage, also of Shiprock, stands to benefit from the group Reform New Mexico Now, run by Gov. Susana Martinez's chief political adviser. It is pounding away at Begaye with ads sent through the mail. The headline on one says: "Ray Begaye caught scamming taxpayers."
Rep. Dianne Hamilton, a 78-year-old Republican, is running for an eighth term. Her challenger is Democrat Terry Fortenberry, a former mayor and former police captain of Silver City.
Fortenberry, 56, tried to knock Hamilton off the ballot last spring because of deficiencies in her nominating petitions. The state Supreme Court voted 3-1 to keep Hamilton on the ballot.
After that, Fortenberry resigned from the Silver City Police Department to focus his energy on defeating Hamilton.
"He had to make a choice. His choice obviously was for the campaign," Ed Reynolds, the Silver City police chief, said in an interview.
Fortenberry was on his second tour with the Silver City Police Department. He retired once, then returned.
Hamilton, also of Silver City, has shown streaks of independence in the Legislature.
She voted in 2011 to bar public school employees from paddling students, a measure sponsored by Democrats. In 2009, Hamilton joined a bloc mostly made up of Democrats to abolish the death penalty in New Mexico.
Her main interest in the last four years has been on her own bill to require photo identification to vote.
Democrats, angered and galvanized by her bill, have killed it each time. They say Hamilton's legislation would only make it harder for old people and low-income people to vote.
Republicans gained eight House seats in the 2010 election, and one of those pickups was by Rep. Rick Little of Chaparral. He defeated a two-term incumbent, Democrat Nate Cote of Las Cruces.
They are in rematch. Little said he was campaign hard and expected a tougher race than the one he won two years ago.
Democrats in the Legislature say they believe Cote has a good chance of recapturing the seat. Little won in a big year for Republicans, but the rival party says the tide could shift this time.
No bill sponsored by Little received approval during his first two years. But he has been a reliable vote for the legislative agenda pushed by Gov. Martinez. Little voted for bills for state-mandated retention of third-graders who read poorly, and to repeal a 2003 law that enables illegal immigrants to obtain New Mexico driver licenses. Neither was approved by the full Legislature, but they are high-profile measures that will be back in front of lawmakers next year.
Republican James W. Hall, an incumbent by appointment, hopes to hold onto this seat.
Hall, of Los Alamos, succeeded the late Rep. Jeannette Wallace, who died in 2011 during her 11th term in the House.
Democrat Stephanie Garcia Richard came within 190 votes of unseating Wallace two years ago. Now Richard, a teacher, is back to run against Hall.
Hall was a member of the Los Alamos County Council until Martinez appointed him to the House seat. He worked at Los Alamos National Laboratory and was the state's chief information officer under then-Gov. Gary Johnson in the 1990s.
Emily Kane, an Albuquerque fire captain, won a three-way Democratic primary and then a court case to make the November ballot for this open seat.
The city of Albuquerque fought her candidacy, citing its charter and personnel rules barring municipal workers from holding state office.
But state District Judge Beatrice Brickhouse ruled in July that the city's laws and rules were unconstitutional.
Victorious in court, Kane faces Republican Christopher Saucedo, an attorney, in the general election.
His campaign is the beneficiary of ads from Martinez's political associate attacking Kane. Kane served on boards and commissions in Democrat Bill Richardson's administration, and this has led to negative ads from backers of Saucedo
For her part, Kane said she already had struck a winning blow for the citizen Legislature of New Mexico. Teachers, a community college president and a school superintendent all served in the Legislature during the last session. For now, firefighters and other public employees can run too.
"We've already changed an outdated, unconstitutional standard through this campaign," Kane said in an interview.
For the moment, that is true. The city of Albuquerque's legal department last week filed notice that it would appeal Brickhouse's decision.
The District 15 seat now is held by Democrat Bill O'Neill. He decided to run for the state Senate instead of seeking re-election.
Senators get four-year terms, as opposed to two in the House. O'Neill had another practical consideration. In 2010, a fruitful year for Republicans, he retained his House seat by 163 votes of more than 10,600 cast.
Freshman Republican Rep. Conrad James won this seat without opposition two years ago. Now he faces competition and demographic changes that could be to his disadvantage.
Redistricting, in James' words, made the district "significantly less Republican." So much so that he considered running for the state Senate instead of seeking re-election to the House.
Democrat Elizabeth Thomson is challenging James in the redrawn district. She was among seven Democratic female candidates for the Legislature who last week publicly said that Gov. Martinez's political adviser had intentionally misrepresented their positions in campaign ads.
Martinez's call for state-ordered retentions of third-graders struggling to read has put her at odds with Thomson.
Thomson said no sweeping state policy should determine whether a child is held back. Instead, she wants school-based decisions involving parents and teachers.
James has backed the governor's retention initiative.
Thomson is a physical therapist. James is a scientist, holding a Ph.D in applied physics from Cornell.
Milan Simonich, Santa Fe bureau chief of Texas-New Mexico Newspapers can be reached at email@example.com or 505-820-6898. His blog is at nmcapitolreport.com