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.

UNM pays $800K in settlement, still secretive on other details

The University of New Mexico paid out nearly $1 million to a former medical resident who accused medical school administrators of retaliating against her for reporting she was raped by a male resident. NM Political Report obtained the settlement agreement this week, nearly nine months after the case went to trial. The agreement, obtained by NM Political Report through a public records request, sheds some light on why the school settled with former University of New Mexico Health Sciences Center anesthesiology resident Cynthia Herald. But other specifics, like how much of the $800,000 settlement came from the school and how much from the state or what prompted the school to settle, remain murky at best. Herald now lives in Michigan, advocating for victims of sexual abuse and hopes to start a psychiatric residency program soon, according to her lawyer, Randi McGinn.

Republican U.S. Senate candidate loses campaign manager

Republican U.S. Senate nominee Mick Rich is down one major campaign staffer since Tuesday. Rich’s former campaign manager Evan Machan confirmed with NM Political Report that he left the campaign to “pursue other opportunities.”

Nathan James, the campaign’s spokesman, said the campaign would go back to its original staffing structure. “We’re returning to the non-traditional campaign strategies and team that we used to win the Republican nomination,” James said. Rich ran unopposed in the Republican primary. Machan came from Ohio to join Rich’s campaign last December after previously working on the presidential campaigns for former Florida Governor Jeb Bush in 2016 and former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney in 2012.

Democracy Dollars second attempt fails

For the second time this month, the Bernalillo County Commission voted against adding a campaign public financing question to the November ballot. The provision would have asked Albuquerque voters to decide whether voters would be able to give some additional public money to publicly-funded mayoral and city council candidates through a voucher program called Democracy Dollars. With only four of the five commission in attendance at Tuesday night’s meeting, the vote came down to a tied 2-2 vote, meaning the proposal failed. The special meeting  came after the commission voted 3-2 last week against adding Democracy Dollars and a provision that would lead to changing city election dates to the general election ballot in November. At the urging of Democracy Dollars supporters, four commissioners agreed to hold a special meeting to hear more public comment and reconsider adding the proposal to the ballot.

Johnson ready to shake up U.S. Senate race

Gary Johnson is mad as hell and he’s not going to take it anymore. At least that seems to be the message from the former two-term Republican governor, two-time Libertarian presidential candidate and now Libertarian U.S. Senate candidate in New Mexico. “I am angry at the two-party system, I think we’ve all been hoodwinked to believe these are our only choices,” Johnson said at a press conference on Thursday. The press conference was the first time Johnson spoke publicly as a U.S. Senate candidate since the Libertarian Party of New Mexico nominated him earlier this month. The party filed paperwork to formally nominate Johnson earlier this week.

Working Families Party wants to shake up New Mexico

Last year as hardcore band Cipher took the stage in Philadelphia, the group’s frontman, Maurice “Moe” Mitchell, took a moment to call for unity. “The hardcore scene, and I grew up in the hardcore scene, was a rare space where people of all different race, class, gender, expression, create a community together,” Mitchell told the crowd. That rare message in today’s political climate is one that Mitchell seems to take with him everywhere, including as an organizer for Black Lives Matter and, more recently, as the national director for the Working Families Party. Mitchell came to New Mexico this week as part of a “national blitz” and said he plans to take what he learned in the grassroots world of progressive organizing and apply it to the more-distinctly-organized world of political campaigns. “When you’re coming from a very, sort of, top-down staff model, it can be very scary to give that much latitude to people you may not even know,” Mitchell said of how political groups are typically structured.

BernCo Commission votes down Democracy Dollars ballot access

The Bernalillo County Board of Commissioners voted on Tuesday against adding a public finance proposal to the November general election ballot. The proposal, known as Democracy Dollars, would provide vouchers to citizens, who could apply them to publicly-financed candidates of their choice. While the commission only voted on whether the measure would be on the November 2018 ballot for Albuquerque residents, commissioners mostly criticized  the merits of the proposal itself. Executive Director of Common Cause New Mexico Heather Ferguson called the 3-2 vote an “overstep” and “overreach” by commissioners. “What the commission decided to do tonight is to question the will of the voters who knew and understood the program they were signing,” Ferguson said.

As Johnson ponders run for Senate, some call for Republican candidate to drop out

Gary Johnson, the Libertarian Party of New Mexico nominee for U.S. Senate, is still mum on whether he will run. But, that hasn’t stopped supporters and political adversaries from chiming in on his candidacy. Johnson has yet to even launch a campaign, but some of his supporters are calling for his possible Republican opponent, Mick Rich, to drop out of the race. Those supporters say internal polling suggests with Rich out of the picture, Johnson would win in a head-to-head race against U.S. Senator Martin Heinrich. Too much competition?