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.

Notes from the field: Candidate filing day

SANTA FE—It was a political nerd’s dream. Dozens of people aiming for state office filed through the elevator doors into the New Mexico Secretary of State’s office on Tuesday to navigate the three-stage process of declaring their candidacy. The day offered  a rare early opportunity for candidates and their staff to interact with one another—which included a lot of smiles and polite handshakes, even across party lines. The process was straightforward—there were three stations to verify and confirm paperwork and petition signatures—and took about 20 minutes for most candidates. Here are my notes from the field:
9:05 a.m.
I’m running late, because I’m from New Mexico.

Lujan Grisham, AZ congressman spar over his calls to arrest Dreamers at SOTU

Inflammatory words over immigration led to a heated back-and-forth this week between a New Mexico Congresswoman and an Arizona Congressman. It began after Democratic New Mexico U.S. Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham brought Dalia Medina, a woman who immigrated to the U.S. with her parents from Mexico as a child, as her guest to the State of the Union last week. Republican U.S. Rep. Paul Gosar from Arizona called for U.S. Capitol police to check immigration statuses of Lujan Grisham’s and others’, guests and possibly arrest them. Even those in his own party weren’t on board with the call for arrests. Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, R-Wisconsin, distanced himself from the proposal in the hours before the State of the Union.

Udall to push for more funds for NM tribes

New Mexico U.S. Sen. Tom Udall spent about an hour Saturday morning listening to members of tribal communities and health care experts talk about what matters most in some rural areas regarding health care. A common theme emerged among participants: the need for more funding for tribal health care programs. If they don’t get more money, the people who rely on them are in trouble, they said. Topics ranged from basic health care needs to healthy food options to those who already struggle with diabetes. Warlance Foster, a Special Diabetes Program for Indians (SDPI) coordinator, told of a family member who, despite a life of sports and other physical activities, suffered an amputated leg due to diabetes. “We’re not asking for millions of dollars so we can live large, buy big houses and cars,” Foster said.

PNM, enviro groups hammer out funding for ‘abandoned’ coal plant

A bill scheduled to come before the Senate Conservation Committee on Saturday has some environmental groups and the state’s largest electric utility facing off over financing the retirement of a coal-fired power plant. If passed, the bill would create a bond financing mechanism allowing Public Service Company of New Mexico, or PNM, to recover “stranded” costs associated with its planned closure of the San Juan Generating Station near Farmington. The bill would allow the utility to form a subsidiary that could issue low-interest “energy redevelopment bonds” and recover more than $300 million. Senate Bill 47 is sponsored by Albuquerque Democratic Sen. Jacob Candelaria, an attorney, and Republican Sen. Steven Neville, a real estate appraiser from Aztec. Its counterpart, House Bill 80, is also a bipartisan bill, sponsored by Rep. Roberto Gonzales, D-Ranchos de Taos, and Republican Minority Whip Rod Montoya, a miner from Farmington.