Mexican candidates

(L–R:) Xóchitl Gálvez, Claudia Sheinbaum, Jorge Álvarez Máynez.

Explainer: Who’s Who in Mexico's 2024 Presidential Race?

By Chase Harrison

Learn about Claudia Sheinbaum, Xóchitl Gálvez, and Jorge Álvarez Máynez—the three rivals competing to succeed Andrés Manuel López Obrador.

Mexico is poised to make history come June 2, when its voters will more than likely pick a woman to don the presidential sash for the first time. That’s because two women, Claudia Sheinbaum and Xóchitl Gálvez, are the top contenders for the race.

Sheinbaum and Gálvez have other commonalities. Both aged 61, they both have STEM backgrounds. Both held political office for the first time after the country’s 2000 transition to democracy. Both governed Mexico City boroughs during the same period. And both women hold progressive views on social issues. But while Sheinbaum, who will represent the ruling Morena coalition, vows to continue the agenda of her political mentor, President Andrés Manuel López Obrador, Gálvez’s candidacy developed in opposition to the leader.

Campaigns officially launched March 1, but both women became the de facto candidates during the summer of 2023, when they participated in coalition primaries. Throughout the process, Sheinbaum has been the frontrunner; as of March, she polls at 60 percent, per aggregator Oraculus. By the same measure, Gálvez trails by roughly 25 percent. A third candidate, Jorge Álvarez Máynez of the Citizens’ Movement party, is polling in the single digits.

Who are the three candidates? What are they proposing? AS/COA Online explains each aspirant in the order they are polling.

Claudia Sheinbaum, Let's Keep Making History (SHH)
Claudia Sheinbaum

Sheinbaum’s political career has been tied to AMLO’s from the start. A scientist by training with a PhD in engineering, she served as his environmental minister (2000–2006) while he was mayor of Mexico City. From there, she served in her first elected role from 2015 to 2017 as mayor of Tlalpan, the geographically largest of Mexico City’s boroughs. Her 2018 victory to become Mexico City’s mayor made her the first woman to be elected to the position

Running the capital put her in pole position for a presidential bid. The fact that she was viewed as a chosen successor by AMLO, who has commanded high approval ratings throughout his tenure, was an inarguable boost to the front of the race.

Now Sheinbaum is campaigning on a pledge to continue AMLO’s legacy as the candidate for the Let's Keep Making History alliance—made up of the governing Morena party, the Workers’ Party, and the Green Party. One big question is the degree to which she would hew to his path should she be elected. In February, AMLO charted the course with 20 constitutional reforms that involve steps such as increasing pensions, making austerity a matter of state policy, and banning GMO corn. Other reforms would reshape Mexican institutions by trimming the number of congressional seats, allowing for popular election of Supreme Court justices and electoral agency commissioners, and eliminating autonomous regulatory agencies.

A March Reforma poll found that 51 percent of Mexicans want Sheinbaum to follow her own agenda compared with 40 percent saying she should support AMLO’s reforms. Sheinbaum, for her part, said the reforms would be part of her campaign and has pledged to maintain AMLO’s popular social programs that, among other things, boosted pensions for the elderly and scholarships for youth.

But a look at her track record as mayor could signal steps she will take, particularly in terms of a top voter concern: public security. Sheinbaum has trumpeted her government’s security successes while mayor, pointing to a 59-percent drop in high-level crimes during her time in office through measures such as increasing police salaries in the capital’s massive 90,000-strong force and expanding the use of surveillance cameras. From 2019 to 2023, residents’ perceptions of insecurity dropped roughly 13 points and the capital rose from spot 26 to spot 13 in terms of how safe inhabitants view their city. However, concerns have been raised about whether official statistics showing a decrease in homicides were, in fact, accurate or had been miscategorized as “undetermined causes." Sheinbaum has pledged to continue AMLO’s strategy of using the National Guard as a means of crime prevention while buffing out the country’s intelligence and investigation capabilities, as she did in Mexico City.

As mayor, Sheinbaum governed during the Covid-19 pandemic, when the capital had the highest number of cases per capita of any state and excess mortality statistics drew scrutiny. Still, while the president shunned mask use and was seen as minimizing the pandemic, Sheinbaum wore masks and was viewed as more proactive. Sheinbaum also governed during the 2021 collapse of the metro’s Línea 12, an accident that killed 26 people. In that case, she faced criticism over her government’s failure to maintain the metro line.

Looking ahead, Sheinbaum has set a goal of achieving a modest 3 percent economic growth. While she has said she would fall in line with AMLO’s moves to give the state electricity commission majority control of the market, she has proposed capping the heavily indebted state oil firm Pemex’s production. She has also indicated that she could be more open to private investment in energy than AMLO in addition to more firmly advocating for renewable energy.

Sheinbaum hopes that she can attract some of the private investment from the United States through nearshoring projects that could deepen North American integration. But she has also has spoken out against any bilateral relationship with the United States that sees Mexico in a submissive position. That includes on immigration. Instead of speaking about cooperating with U.S. efforts on the border, Sheinbaum has centered economic development as integral to her approach to managing migration. 

Xóchitl Gálvez, Broad Front for Mexico (FAM)
Xóchitl Gálvez

During her time in the Senate from 2018 to 2023, Gálvez made a habit out of finding headline-grabbing ways to protest policies and issues with which she disagreed. Once she wore a dinosaur suit to protest a bill she considered so retrograde it was Jurassic. On another occasion, she presented a Lego set of a Houston mansion at the center of a corruption scandal linked to AMLO’s son. 

The most famous of those episodes occurred in June 2023 when she secured a judge’s order to respond to the president—who had accused her of trying to cut social programs—during his morning press conference at the National Palace. When she arrived to give her response, she found the door locked. The press captured her knocking on the giant wooden doors, court order in hand.

A few weeks later, Gálvez launched her presidential bid for the Broad Front for Mexico coalition, which includes three opposition parties: the PRI, the PRD, and the PAN. Though she is not officially a militant of any party, Gálvez represented the PAN in the Senate, as well as when serving as mayor of Miguel Hidalgo, one of Mexico City’s boroughs. Moreover, she got her political start as director of the National Institute of Indigenous People under President Vicente Fox (2000–2006). Gálvez, a native of Hidalgo state, is herself indigenous and of Otomi descent. Before she ventured into politics, she built her career in computers, founding and running two successful tech service companies. Her background, along with her profile as a self-made woman, helped ignite her campaign.

Although she will be facing Sheinbaum on the ballot, her campaign largely involves running against AMLO’s political movement and policies. She, along with the opposition, argue that AMLO’s constitutional reforms—particularly those related to the judiciary and electoral agency—constitute a threat to Mexico’s democracy. She did indicate, however, that she would support his pension reform, which would allow retirees to earn 100 percent of their salaries at the end of their careers. 

Gálvez has also warned that the high levels of violence in Mexico pose a democratic threat. It’s also an area where the AMLO government has gotten particularly poor marks, with a February 2024 El Financiero poll showing 69 percent of Mexicans disapprove of how his government has managed it. Gálvez launched her campaign in Fresnillo, the city with the highest perception of insecurity in the country. She would shift the National Guard back to civilian control but would double its members, increasing its training and access to technology. She also wants to open a new high-security prison as a deterrent—a move that has drawn comparisons to hard-line policies carried out by Salvadoran President Nayib Bukele.

When it comes to the economy, Gálvez wants to modernize Pemex by opening it up to private investment and committing it to developing renewable sources.

On health, Gálvez has been outspoken in her criticisms of the AMLO government, noting that life expectancy in the country has declined by four years since he took office. She has also decried the fact that millions of Mexicans have lost access to healthcare since AMLO’s government ended the public health system Seguro Popular in 2020. She has pledged to revive it

Gálvez’s economic proposals bank on increasing nearshoring with the United States. However, she’s also called on Washington to supply more resources to Mexico to care for migrants trapped at the border while also laying out plans to modernize border crossings.

Jorge Álvarez Máynez, Citizens’ Movement (MC)
Jorge Álvarez Máynez

The Zacatecas native wasn’t supposed to be on the ballot. In November 2023, Samuel García took leave from his role as Nuevo León governor to be the MC’s presumptive presidential candidate. But after a battle with opposition state legislators over who might replace him, García gave up on his bid for the presidency, anointing Álvarez Máynez, his campaign coordinator, to run in his stead in January. That’s left Álvarez Máynez with a big electoral hill to climb, not just because of his late entry into the competition, but because he is relatively unknown compared with Sheinbaum and Gálvez. He polls in a distant third place, at 6 percent as of March 19. 

Still, his party has the possibility of playing a spoiler role in Mexico’s next Congress. While the MC has voted with the opposition alliance in recent key votes, it has more recently avoided criticizing Morena. When invited to join the FAM, the MC's party leader compared the alliance to a sinking Titanic. In the race for the lower house, the MC polls at 8 percent—single digits, but enough to make it a potentially important ally in a battle for or against Morena securing a two-thirds majority needed for constitutional reforms. If the MC fares poorly, its existence could be at risk; parties must win 2 percent of votes in federal elections to maintain party registration and the funding that comes with it. 

So who is Álvarez Máynez, the politician charged with being the face of the MC? The 38 year-old federal deputy leapfrogged between parties early in his political career before arriving at the MC in 2013. Over the years, he has backed progressive policies such as decriminalization of certain drugs, same-sex marriage, and abortion rights. As the youngest candidate by over two decades, his campaign and party seek to attract a new generation of voters. While he trails his rivals across demographic groups, he polls best among millennial voters.

Carin Zissis contributed to this article.