The Hard Hat and The Beast: Mick Rich crisscrosses the state looking for votes

Just after 10 on a bright, but chilly Wednesday morning, Mick Rich strolled into a retro-looking coffee shop on historic Route 66 in Tucumcari. Making his way to the back of the restaurant, where the walls and windows were covered in “Mick Rich for Senate” campaign signs, he introduced himself to diners. “I’m Mick Rich and I’m running for Senate,” he said to a few people eating bacon, eggs and stacks of pancakes. Pushing 6 feet tall and bald, Rich made a point to stop at every table, both on the way in and out. After less than an hour talking to about 15 people in Tucumcari, and with a cinnamon roll to go, Rich climbed into the back seat of “The Beast,” a four-ton rig, wrapped with the words “Mick Rich for Senate” and an attached living space, for the two-hour trip to Las Vegas, NM.

State Dem chair resigns after questioning sexual harassment claim

The chairman of the Democratic Party of New Mexico resigned Tuesday amid criticism of his handling of recent claims of sexual harassment against a Doña Ana County Commissioner and a former New Mexico Federation of Labor president Jon Hendry. The labor organization is a key ally of Democrats in the state. Ellenberg announced his resignation with a letter to the party’s state central committee. “I regret the way in which I have managed complaints of survivors who have come forward about sexual harassment, and take full responsibility to continue to learn and grow so that I can be an advocate and ally in the future,” Ellenberg wrote. Last month, the state party’s vice chairwoman wrote a pointed letter to Ellenberg about how he dealt with her accusations of sexual harassment against former Doña Ana County Commissioner John Vasquez.

Dems select favorite candidates in state convention

Delegates for the Democratic Party of New Mexico chose their preferred candidates for statewide and federal races Saturday afternoon at the state pre-primary convention. But before candidates finished their stump speeches, a brief protest and an alliance between two gubernatorial candidates caused some excitement. The Democratic convention showed higher numbers of both the number of candidates and convention attendees than the recent Republican and Libertarian state parties. Six state and federal candidates emerged from contested races as party favorites for the Democratic primary election in June. While he denied rumors that he was dropping out, gubernatorial candidate Peter DeBenedittis used his speech to encourage delegates to cast votes for another candidate in the race, Jeff Apodaca.

Liberating New Mexico

Blair Dunn always knew he was a Libertarian, but instead registered as a Republican. Like Hermey the Elf in Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, Blair has found solace on his own island of misfits. Blair’s island is the Libertarian Party of New Mexico. At almost seven feet tall with his signature cowboy boots and bow tie, Dunn will never be mistaken for an elf. He’s easy to spot, even in the most crowded room.

At its first major party convention, New Mexico Libertarian Party picks primary candidates

For the first time in state history, the Libertarian Party of New Mexico held a pre-primary convention to vote nominees for state and federal offices. Because all six candidates were unopposed, there wasn’t the contention usually expected at major party nominating conventions. Instead, party members focused on celebrating the party’s move towards prominence and public visibility in the New Mexico political sphere. “This is, by far and away, the most visibility the party has successfully achieved in the state,” Libertarian Party of New Mexico Vice-Chair Helen Milenski said. Still, the group of about 100 attendees spent the day meeting the candidates and listening to their stump speeches.

Herrell, Newman guaranteed ballot spots in CD2 GOP primary

New Mexico state Rep. Yvette Herrell of Alamogordo and former Hobbs Mayor Monty Newman secured their places on the Republican primary election ballot for the state’s 2nd Congressional District race. That spot is currently held by U.S. Rep. Steve Pearce, the lone Republican running for governor. At the party’s state pre-primary convention Saturday, Herrell won the votes of 58 percent of delegates in the southern New Mexico district, and Newman won almost 26 percent of the vote. The other three candidates failed to reach the 20 percent threshold for automatic inclusion on the ballot, but can still secure a spot by gathering additional petition signatures within 10 days. Afterwards, Herrell said she’s grateful for the support and will continue “praying” and “working hard” as she’ll still face Newman and likely others in the primary.

Controversial county commissioner calls it quits

A Doña Ana County Commissioner mired in controversy over the past several weeks announced his resignation on Thursday. John Vasquez faced public criticism over social media posts and a sexual harassment allegation by a state Democratic Party leader in recent weeks. In a letter to Doña Ana County Commission chairman Benjamin Rawson, Vasquez said he suffers from post traumatic stress disorder and wants to focus on his health, family and marriage. His marriage in particular, Vasquez said, suffered from what he said was a false allegation from the Democratic Party of New Mexico Vice-Chairwoman Neomi Martinez-Parra. “I am amazed and disappointed how people like Neomi Martinez-Parra can make completely unsubstantiated claims,” Vasquez wrote.

Lawsuit: AG violated open records law

An Alamogordo resident filed an open records lawsuit against the New Mexico Office of the Attorney General Friday, alleging the office illegally redacted portions of legal invoices related to a U.S. Supreme Court case. Open records activist Wendy Irby filed the suit after she received significantly-redacted billing records for a contract between the Attorney General’s office and an Albuquerque law firm well-known in the state legal world for government contracts. According to court records, Irby asked the AG’s office for billing information from Robles, Rael and Anaya P.C. related to Texas v. New Mexico and Colorado, a case about the states’ water use and sharing. The private law firm argued the case on behalf of the AG’s office. Irby’s lawsuit says Attorney General Hector Balderas and his records custodian violated the New Mexico Inspection of Public Records Act (IPRA) by blacking out billing specifics from Robles Rael & Anaya.

NM Dems call for Doña Ana county commissioner to resign amid sexual harassment claim

Some Democratic elected officials from New Mexico and the party’s state chair called for a member of their party to step down as a Doña Ana County Commissioner on Thursday after allegations of sexual misconduct. A day after the Democratic Party of New Mexico Vice Chairwoman Neomi Martinez-Parra criticized party chair Richard Ellenberg for not doing enough to address Martinez-Parra’s allegations against Vasquez, Ellenberg issued an apology and called for Vasquez to resign. “While I can’t force his hand, I am calling on John Vasquez to resign from the County Commission and the County Central Committee, and I will repeat that call as often as is necessary until we are successful,” Ellenberg wrote in a statement Thursday. Following Ellenberg’s statement, U.S. Sens. Tom Udall and Martin Heinrich, along with U.S. Reps.

Democratic Party official says she was harassed by county commissioner

A Democratic county commissioner from southern New Mexico is in more hot water and may have pulled the state party in with him. The Democratic Party of New Mexico’s vice chairwoman said the head of the party encouraged her to stay quiet after she was allegedly sexually harassed by the Doña Ana County Commissioner. DPNM Vice Chairwoman Neomi Martinez-Parra sent a letter to state party Chair Richard Ellenberg on Monday asking that he take “corrective action” against Doña Ana County Commissioner John Vasquez for “inappropriate sexual misconduct.”

In her letter, Martinez-Parra said she previously alerted Ellenberg of her interaction with Vasquez. She also said the chairman implied she should stay quiet as long as the party could convince Vasquez to step down from a local Democratic veterans group. “Furthermore, you and I discussed these issues prior to Mr. Vasquez resigning as the DPNM Veteran’s Caucus Chair,” Martinez-Parra wrote.