Republican announces candidacy for Secretary of State

A Republican announced this week she will run for New Mexico Secretary of State. The Albuquerque Journal reported Wednesday that Albuquerque attorney JoHanna Cox plans to run for the position as a Republican. According to the Journal, Cox decided to run for Secretary of State to reform election policies and procedures. Cox, an attorney, has held leadership positions in both the Valencia and Santa Fe County district attorney’s offices, before opening her own private practice. Cox’s announcement comes days after former Democratic State Representative Sandra Jeff announced her intention to run for Secretary of State as a member of the Libertarian Party.

Sandra Jeff changes party registration to Libertarian, eyes Secretary of State position

Former State Representative and former State Senate candidate Sandra Jeff can now add one more “former” before her name: former Democrat. Jeff updated her voter registration to the Libertarian Party Thursday afternoon at the Bernalillo County Clerk’s Office with the intention of running for Secretary of State. “I want to stop corruption, and I feel that I have every right to work with the constituents within the state of New Mexico to bring forth a new horizon because that is what is needed in this state in order for us to move forward,” Jeff told NM Political Report. Jeff represented House District 5, which includes a large portion of the Navajo Nation in New Mexico, for two terms before she was kicked off the ballot during her run for a third term because she did not collect enough valid signatures. As a Representative, she sometimes voted against fellow Democrats on key issues, most notably when she skipped a vote to raise the minimum wage in 2014, even after then-Vice President Joe Biden called her personally and asked her to vote in favor of it.

Sessions’ marijuana decision likely won’t impact medical marijuana

The U.S. Department of Justice does not appear to be concerned with medical cannabis producers or patients, including those in New Mexico, despite a memo Thursday from U.S. Attorney General Jeff Session that signaled a federal crackdown on legal marijuana. Sessions’ memo officially rescinded guidance from the Justice Department under former President Barack Obama regarding cannabis. Instead, Sessions wrote, each U.S. Attorney has the discretion to determine which types of cannabis-related cases should be federally prosecuted. Acting U.S. Attorney for the District of New Mexico James Tierney did not respond to a request for comment. New Mexico law only allows for medical cannabis use, which was not specifically addressed in Session’s memo.

ICE ordered to release detained Iraqi refugees, including one New Mexican

Hundreds of Iraqi refugees currently detained by the U.S. federal government could be released as early as next month. A federal judge ruled Tuesday that U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement has until Feb. 2 to show “clear and convincing evidence” that Iraqi refugees being detained are a public safety or flight risk. U.S. Federal District Court Judge Mark Goldsmith wrote that while immigration proceedings are pending, “the aliens who were arrested have now languished in detention facilities — many for over six months — deprived of the intimacy of their families, the fellowship of their communities, and the economic opportunity to provide for themselves and their loved ones.”

The mass detentions go back to a travel ban implemented by President Donald Trump’s administration last year. While Iraq was one of the countries included in the ban, the U.S. government agreed to exclude Iraq from the ban in exchange for the Middle Eastern country allowing political and religious refugees back in the country when they are deported.

UNM blames settlement, defendant for lack of bonuses

The outcome of a recent lawsuit against the University of New Mexico and its medical school probably isn’t sitting well with some medical staff. A settlement over the university’s alleged mishandling of a reported rape cost staff their year-end bonus. That’s according to a department head who broke the news to his faculty, via email, about a month before Christmas last year. UNM settled a lawsuit filed by former anesthesiology resident Cynthia Herald in November for an undisclosed amount, but it was significant enough to impact her former department. A closer look at why that’s happening reveals that it may be unprecedented for an individual department to bear the brunt of a payout like the one Herald received.

2017 Top Stories #1: Guv’s office faces lawsuits

Next month marks the beginning of Gov. Susana Martinez’s last year in office. This year, though, was peppered with lawsuits against either Martinez’s office or state departments under her appointees. At least two of the three major suits will spill over to 2018, bookending Martinez’s tenure as governor. See all of our year-end stories

A lawsuit against the New Mexico Public Education Department for allegedly underfunding the state’s schools received significant media attention in 2017. The case goes back several years and consolidated three similar cases.

2017 Top Stories #2: Keller wins ABQ mayoral race

There’s no doubt the Albuquerque mayoral election stole headlines at NM Political Report this year. The list of candidates was long and at least one candidate got a significant head start raising money.  By April, 15 candidates announced their intention to run for mayor. In October, eight candidates faced off, and the top two would head to a one-on-one runoff election, unless one candidate received 50 percent of the vote. None did, and State Auditor Tim Keller faced off against Albuquerque City Councilor Dan Lewis in the runoff election.

Workforce Solutions settles year-old wage theft suit

A worker’s rights coalition and New Mexico’s Department of Workforce Solutions (DWS) settled a year-old lawsuit alleging the state agency failed to adequately investigate or take action on wage theft claims.

The settlement agreement outlines policy and procedural changes the state department will make. Wage theft claims against employers, for example, will now be investigated regardless of the dollar amount involved. The coalition accused DWS of avoiding  action on claims worth more than $10,000 and advising employees to instead file a lawsuit against their employer. DWS also agreed to implement a more comprehensive process for workers to file claims against employers who fail to pay minimum wages, especially workers whose first language is not English. Jose “Pancho” Olivas, a named plaintiff in the case, said in a statement, that he and others in his community depend ton DWS to keep employers accountable for fair working conditions.

A thorn in the side of UNM Athletics reflects as he prepares to move on

Love him or hate him, Chicago-based journalist Daniel Libit is set to soften his laser focus on the University of New Mexico athletics program. Libit said he hopes journalists, and the taxpayers and students who keep the school’s athletic department afloat, build on his work to hold Lobo leadership accountable on spending and transparency. NM Political Report met with Libit at Manny’s, a Jewish deli near downtown Chicago where former Barack Obama advisor David Axelrod reportedly holds court. While eating a pastrami sandwich and matzo ball soup, Libit had choice, and sometimes pointed, words for UNM, journalists covering the university’s athletics program, his critics and college sports in general. After running the website from his apartment overlooking Navy Pier for about a year, Libit is mothballing NM Fishbowl to expand his coverage beyond one relatively small fish in the pond of college athletics.

Judge: Guv’s office ignoring open records request violated law, but ignoring questions didn’t

A New Mexico district judge ruled Wednesday that Gov. Susana Martinez’s office violated the state’s public records law, but did not break the law when ignoring or refusing interview requests with a Santa Fe newspaper. The Santa Fe Reporter was first to report on the decision from Santa Fe Pro Tem District Judge Sarah Singleton. Singleton ruled that the governor’s office violated the state Inspection of Public Records Act (IPRA) three times by failing to respond or responding late to public records requests. But, Singleton ruled that the governor and her staff did not violate the U.S. Constitution by refusing to speak to or answer questions from Reporter staffers. She not only said existing case law does not support the paper’s arguments, but that the paper’s questions aimed at the governor’s office “were not comparable to the mundane requests made by other newspaper.”

“The Reporter was requesting special treatment,” Singleton wrote.