Rep. Xochitl Torres Small offers lessons in rural politics

New Mexico’s 2nd Congressional District has elected Republicans for the past four decades (minus a two-year blip 10 years ago). That changed last fall, when Xochitl Torres Small, D, won. The former water rights attorney now represents one of the nation’s largest districts, which covers more than half of New Mexico, from the Albuquerque suburbs to the southern border. This story originally appeared at High Country News and is reprinted with permission. Torres Small attributes her success to her emphasis on issues her rural constituents care about, regardless of party.

Locking down revenue: Small towns profit from incarcerating migrants

ESTANCIA — Two years ago, the county jail in this small town shut its doors because it didn’t have enough inmates to lock up. Hundreds of jobs evaporated, and the town lost a million dollars in tax revenue and other payments. Then in May, Torrance County landed a contract with the federal government to re-open the jail — mostly to house migrants detained by Immigration and Customs Enforcement. The contract was a windfall for a town where steady, well-paying jobs are few and far between. “Now that it’s comin’ back, money’s comin’ again!” exclaimed Bo Bardy, who has worked at Gustin Hardware in Estancia for the past five years.

NM medical cannabis producer implores DOH to reverse stance on non-resident medical cards

A high-profile New Mexico medical cannabis producer still maintains a recent change in the wording of the state’s medical cannabis law means non-residents should be able to become patients. Brian Egolf, an attorney for medical cannabis producer Ultra Health, sent a six-page letter arguing that point to Medical Cannabis Program director Kenny Vigil on Wednesday. Egolf is also New Mexico’s Speaker of the House. In the letter, Egolf outlined five reasons why the state should allow non-residents to become patients in New Mexico’s medical cannabis program, including a straightforward reading of the law, the fact that other state programs include non-residents, that state law prohibits transporting cannabis across state lines and that the Department of Health cannot override state law. A DOH spokesman said the department received the letter late in the day on Wednesday and was still reviewing it at publication time.

Dismal Kids Count data tracks with Martinez administration

The easiest number to understand in the just-released 2019 Annie E. Casey Kid’s Count report is that New Mexico ranks 50th overall in child well-being. That’s a stark ranking, the second year in a row New Mexico earned that distinction. For detractors and supporters of former governor Susana Martinez, there’s a lot to digest in the numbers released Monday because they track with nearly her entire tenure. The chart below shows the Kids Count rankings in several categories for 2012-2019, but most of the data comes from 2010-17 (Rankings go back to 1990, but a different methodology was used in those years, making direct comparison difficult). New Mexico results in the annual Kids Count report prepared by NM Voices for Children

“It very much is a reflection of what happened, and more specifically, what didn’t happen during the Martinez years,” said James Jimenez, executive director of New Mexico Voices for Children, which monitors the indicators for New Mexico.

ABQ city council votes down ranked-choice voting

Albuquerque will not become the latest city in the state to adopt ranked-choice voting. The Albuquerque City Council voted 5-4 Monday night against implementing a ranked-choice voting system in time for the next municipal election in November. Ranked-choice voting is also known as instant-runoff, and is a process in which voters ranked their choices of candidates. In a ranked-choice election, if no candidate gets a majority of first-choice votes, the candidate with the least amount of votes is eliminated from the list and voters who chose that candidate have their second choice counted. That process continues until there is a winner with the majority of the votes.