Rich, Johnson still support Kavanaugh but want to hear from accuser

Following an allegation of sexual assault, the confirmation of U.S. Circuit Judge and Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh became more controversial. Now some Democrats, including New Mexico’s two senators, want an investigation into what happened between Kavanaugh and college professor Christine Blasey Ford at a party in high school, where Ford alleged Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her.. New Mexico U.S. Sen. Martin Heinrich, a Democrat, issued a statement this week calling for an FBI investigation. “The sexual assault allegation made against Judge Kavanaugh deserves a thorough, professional investigation by the FBI before proceeding with any vote on his nomination to the highest court in the land,” Heinrich said. Heinrich is facing reelection this year and his two challengers both previously said they would vote to confirm Kavanaugh if given the chance.

Arnold-Jones apologizes to tribal leadership group for comments made on Fox News

A New Mexico congressional candidate publicly apologized to pueblo leaders for her comments on a national television news show. The apology came from Republican Congressional District 1 candidate Janice Arnold-Jones at an All Pueblo Council of Governors event on Thursday morning for state and federal candidates. Before the candidates’ speeches to the council began, tribal leaders brought up the comments Arnold-Jones made on a Fox News show weeks earlier about her opponent Deb Haaland. “Today, the All Pueblo Council of Governors addressed the recent remarks by Republican congressional candidate Janice Arnold Jones in which she questioned the ethnicity of her Democrat opponent, Deb Haaland of Laguna Pueblo,” according to a statement from the council. “The APCG took issue with her remarks and advised her that many of the Governors were offended.

UNM to reevaluate IPRA policy after NM Political Report complaint

The University of New Mexico is reevaluating its policy of charging for electronic copies of public records on a per-page basis in response to a reprimand from the New Mexico Attorney General’s Office. In an email to NM Political Report, the school’s Office of University Counsel said the UNM public records custodian is “evaluating the fee structure” for fulfilling requests of electronic records. Associate University Counsel Patrick Hart also wrote that the public records department will suspend the policy and practice of charging $0.38 a page for electronic records through the end of September. The change comes after the state Attorney General’s office issued a determination letter in response to a complaint filed by NM Political Report. NM Political Report filed the complaint after the UNM’s Custodian of Public Records billed $0.38 a page for an electronic file that contained more than 1,600 pages.

NM Supreme Court strikes down straight-party voting

The New Mexico Supreme Court unanimously struck down a controversial proposal to add a straight-party option to November’s ballot. Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver announced last month that she would reinstate an option on November’s ballot to allow people to vote for all candidates of a given party with one mark on the ballot. That decision was challenged by the Libertarian and Republican parties of New Mexico, along with a Utah-based political action committee, a non-profit advocate group for independent candidates and one Democratic write-in candidate. On Wednesday, Chief Justice Judith Nakamura called it a tough decision, but said only state lawmakers can add add straight-party voting to the ballot. “Until the legislature makes a decision one way or the other, the Secretary of State cannot,” Nakamura said.

On the (hiking) trail with Heinrich

Last weekend, U.S. Sen. Martin Heinrich and his wife Julie pulled up to an Albuquerque trailhead and were greeted by a group of eager supporters with hiking poles and hydration packs at the ready. Almost immediately, Heinrich became an impromptu trail guide, educating his constituents on the different native plants along the trail and which animals use them as food sources. At least twice, unsuspecting hikers recognized the affable sportsman who has worked in Washington, D.C. since 2009. One family hiking towards the top of the trail passed the Heinrich entourage on its way back to the trail head. As the two groups converged, one woman looked at Heinrich and asked, “Is it really you?

Former ABQ city council candidate suing current councilor for releasing personal information

Update: Added a response from Don Harris

Almost a year after the Albuquerque municipal election, a former city council candidate is suing his former opponent, who won the council seat. Byron Powdrell, who owns and operates a local, non-profit radio station, filed a lawsuit against City Councilor Don Harris and a private investigator hired by Harris during the 2017 mayoral and city council election season. Powdrell alleges Harris and private investigator Joe Fanseca published the radio station owner’s private information, including his Social Security number, to a campaign website aimed at disparaging Powdrell. The website, which was registered to an email address for Harris’ law firm, has since been taken down. Harris told NM Political Report he had no comment as he had not been served with the lawsuit at the time of publication.

UNM fees for public records violate law

The University of New Mexico violated state law when it didn’t properly fulfill records requests from NM Political Report, according to the New Mexico Attorney General’s office. A determination letter from Assistant Attorney General John Kreienkamp, in response to a complaint filed by NM Political Report, cited two violations of the state’s Inspection of Public Records Act (IPRA). In one instance, the university failed to provide records in the statutorily required amount of time. In another instance, the AG’s office determined that UNM violated state law by charging $0.38 per page to transfer more than 1,600 pages in a single electronic file. “Based on our review of the evidence and applicable laws, we conclude that the University’s proposed fees violated IPRA,” Kreienkamp wrote.

Straight party issue spurs Portales Libertarian to run for Secretary of State

New Mexico Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver’s decision to add straight-party ticket voting to November’s ballot has caused waves across the political party spectrum. But, besides uniting independents, Libertarians and Republicans in a state Supreme Court challenge, Toulouse Oliver’s proposed action has spurred one Portales woman to try and take over as the state’s election administrator. Libertarian Ginger Grider said Toulouse Oliver’s decision to put  a straight-party ticket option on the ballot in November “greatly influenced” her decision to run for Secretary of State. A straight-party option on the ballot would allow voters to mark a political party of their choice as an indication for votes further down the ballot. By marking a ballot for the Democratic Party, for example, every Democrat on the ballot receives a vote.

State tries to keep $2.5 million Corrections Dept. settlement under wrap

After almost two years of legal battles, the State of New Mexico agreed to settle a lawsuit filed against its Corrections Department. In 2015, six female employees at the state prison in Los Lunas sued the department, saying some of their male supervisors assaulted and sexually harassed them. The six women collectively received $2.5 million according to the settlement agreement signed in January. Their attorney, Laura Schauer Ives, said the women sued the Central New Mexico Correctional Facility to shed light on what they called a culture of demeaning female corrections officers. The 140-page lawsuit alleged a history of aggressively sexual comments and crass words directed at female officers.

Libertarian Secretary of State nominee drops out of race

The race for New Mexico Secretary of State is down to two candidates after the Libertarian nominee Sandra Jeff dropped out on Tuesday. In a letter to the New Mexico Libertarian Party of New Mexico, Jeff cited “unforeseen personal obligations” as the reason she is ending her campaign. Jeff did not answer calls from NM Political Report, but state Libertarian Attorney General nominee and de facto party spokesman Blair Dunn said Jeff plans to run instead for Vice President of the Navajo Nation. “Certainly from our party’s standpoint, she’s already been doing quite a bit to promote libertarianism in the [Navajo] Nation and we think it’s really cool and it’s a very big opportunity and big honor to have her take that over and to have that role, especially as a Libertarian,” Dunn said. Unlike when the Libertarian candidate dropped out in the race for U.S. Senate, there isn’t a high-profile replacement waiting in the wings.