December 24, 2018

2018 Top Stories: Numbers 10-6

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Note: All week we will be counting down the top ten stories of 2018, as voted on by NM Political Report staffers. See them all here as they come in!

10) Cannon contamination

This summer, the Air Force announced it was sampling groundwater wells for traces of harmful chemicals found within firefighting foam used at the base from the 1970s until last year. The U.S. Department of Defense found that activities at 126 military bases had contaminated groundwater with per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, a class of human-made chemicals, often referred to as PFAS’s, that includes perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS).
Now, unsafe-levels of PFAS’s have been found in the groundwater below Cannon Air Force Base—and in wells that were tested off-base.

The state of New Mexico issued a notice of violation against the Air Force and some members of the congressional delegation met with the Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson.

-Laura Paskus

9) Progressives takes out moderates

Even before the general election, the state House was going to move to the left. The biggest victory for progressive came in a Northern New Mexico district which included much of Rio Arriba County—which Debbie Rodella held for over a decade. She lost in the primary to Susan Herrera, who ran to Rodella’s left.

-Matthew Reichbach

8) Right-to-work efforts go local

Right-to-work legislation, or a measure to ban labor unions from charging workers mandatory fees, was a major focus of the 2015 legislative session. The issue reemerged this year, but on a local level.

At the outset of 2018, groups like Americans for Prosperity, a group that’s part of the Koch network, successfully lobbied Sandoval County commissioners to pass a local-level right-to-work ordinance amid legal threats from the public sector labor union.  Despite a federal lawsuit against Sandoval County, and amid a U.S. Supreme Court decision deeming mandatory labor fees in the private sector unconstitutional, proponents of right-to-work successfully lobbied another handful of New Mexico county leaders to pass local right-to-work ordinances. Recently, the Libre Initiative, another Koch network group, ran Spanish-speaking radio ads in the Las Cruces area encouraging supporters to contact Doña Ana county leaders and ask them to pass a right-to-work ordinance there.

-Andy Lyman

7) Dems sweep statewide races

Democrats had a great Election Day in New Mexico at all levels—including winning every statewide race. Democrats were favored to win in most statewide races, but many political observers expected Republican Pat Lyons, a Public Regulations Commissioner, to retain the State Land Commissioner position for the party. Lyons had previously held the position for two terms—but he, too, lost to Democrat Stephanie Garcia Richards, completing a sweep for Democrats.

-Matthew Reichbach

6) #MeToo in New Mexico

In 2018, the #MeToo movement, which spotlighted sexual harassment and abuse in various industries and walks of life, touched down in New Mexico as well. Prominent union leader Jon Hendry lost his roles in state unions after allegations against him. John Vasquez resigned from the Doña Ana County Commission after allegations of sexual harassment by multiple women. And Richard Ellenberg resigned from his role as chairman of the Democratic Party of New Mexico because of criticism over how he handled both cases.

-Matthew Reichbach