In one remarkable day, state Rep. Melanie Stansbury went from decided underdog to unquestioned favorite for a seat in Congress.
Stansbury, 42, began Wednesday with two enemies — the clock and arithmetic. She had 12 hours to make an improbable comeback.
Stansbury was in an unusual runoff election with state Sen. Antoinette Sedillo Lopez for the Democratic nomination in the 1st Congressional District.
The senator held a sizable lead after the first round of balloting. Sedillo Lopez received 74 votes from members of the state Democratic Central Committee. Stansbury was a distant second with 43 votes.
Another 82 votes were split between six other candidates.
Though Sedillo Lopez had broken away from the pack, she still had to contend with Stansbury.
Sedillo Lopez had not received more than 50 percent of the total votes, the threshold for victory. She would face second-place candidate Stansbury in the runoff.
The math might have looked daunting had Stansbury paid close attention to it.
If she and Sedillo Lopez each held her base, Stansbury would need to win about 70 percent of the votes that had gone to the other six candidates. Many in politics consider 56 percent to be a landslide.
Stansbury told me she never worried about statistical hurdles. What she calls a "small universe of voters" would pick the congressional nominee. She committed herself to winning over every one of them.
She and her campaign team worked the phones, calling and texting central committee voters who by now were familiar to them.
"The only assumption I made was every person's voice matters," Stansbury said in an interview.
I didn't believe she could win. Neither did state Sen. Mark Moores, the Republican nominee for the congressional seat.
Moores and I crossed paths Wednesday afternoon outside the state Capitol. He said Stansbury would need a near sweep of voters who previously had supported another candidate.
Moores figured he would be running against Sedillo Lopez in the special election June 1 to replace former U.S. Rep. Deb Haaland, now secretary of the interior.
Stansbury and Sedillo Lopez had much more to deal with Wednesday than their runoff election.
They were at work in the state Legislature's special session on legalizing recreational cannabis. Sedillo Lopez and Stansbury juggled the cannabis bill with their last-ditch calls and text messages to voters.
Against this frenzied backdrop, state Rep. Joy Garratt thought Stansbury would rally and win.
"Melanie takes nothing and no one for granted," said Garratt, D-Albuquerque. "She has a tremendous work ethic, and she practices good old-fashioned grassroots organizing."
Rep. Matthew McQueen, D-Galisteo, wasn't quite as confident Stansbury would win, but he thought she could.
"She seemed like she was in striking distance," McQueen said. "She is a hard worker, tough and bright."
Only one of the eliminated candidates, Francisco Fernández, endorsed Stansbury in the runoff. The rest stayed quiet.
Fernández had received just two votes from central committee members, but he was part of a movement for Stansbury.
Garratt said she knew the runoff would turn turn into a tight race based on the effort she saw from Stansbury.
In the end, Stansbury swayed far more voters than Sedillo Lopez did.
Stansbury received 103 votes to 97 for Sedillo Lopez. That breaks down to Stansbury winning 72 percent of the votes from people who initially had supported someone else.
By Thursday, in the heady glow of victory, Stansbury still hadn't broken down the numbers.
"Really, at the end of the day, politics is about listening to people," she said.
Her rise has been a speedy one.
Stansbury returned to her hometown of Albuquerque in 2016 after working in the White House Office of Management and Budget and for the U.S. Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources.
She made her first try for public office in 2018 a memorable one. Stansbury defeated Republican state Rep. Jimmie Hall, a seven-term incumbent, in a district stretching across Albuquerque's Northeast Heights.
Stansbury was the first Democrat to declare her candidacy for the congressional seat. She decided to run in December, right after President Joe Biden nominated Haaland for interior secretary.
With her tight win in the nominating election, Stansbury is a heavy favorite to defeat Moores.
No Republican has won New Mexico's 1st Congressional District since 2006.
In addition, voting patterns in Albuquerque have become more favorable to Democrats in the last five years. Moores is the only Republican state senator left in New Mexico's largest city.
Stansbury, more centrist than Sedillo Lopez, will be a tougher matchup for Moores in the special election.
Moores only launched his congressional campaign in March, but he says he can win.
If he does, there's one certainty: It won't be because Stansbury underestimated him.