Kokinadis switches races, running for Congress in CD1 instead of CD3

In April, Brett Kokinadis announced he was switching from the Democratic Party to the Republican Party and running for the open 3rd Congressional District seat. Three month later, Kokinadis is switching which race he’s running for, and is seeking the Albuquerque-area 1st Congressional District seat held by Democrat Deb Haaland. “I know others have announced on the Republican ticket in CD3, and I’m certain more will. It’s important that we show unity within the Republican party and have strong candidates in each race to offer voters an alternative to the reckless ultra-progressive agendas,” Kokinadis said in a statement. Kokinadis is touting his ties to President Donald Trump and says he met with Trump’s deputy political director in May, while he was running for the 3rd Congressional District seat.

NM House delegation split on vote to raise minimum wage to $15 an hour

The U.S. House passed a measure that would increase in the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour by 2025, and New Mexico’s all-Democratic delegation was split on the vote. While Ben Ray Luján, who represents northern New Mexico, and Deb Haaland, who represents the Albuquerque area, voted for the increase, southern New Mexico representative Xochitl Torres Small voted against the proposed increase, which would be the first federal minimum wage increase since 2009, when the federal minimum wage was raised to $7.25 an hour. Fast food workers in New York City first began the widespread effort to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour in 2012. However, Republicans held a majority in the U.S. House from then until the 2018 elections and still hold a majority in the U.S. Senate. Nearly all elected Republicans oppose such a minimum wage increase.

Lujan Grisham’s approval ratings tepid, as many still have no opinion

Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham’s approval rating is barely above water according to a new poll, as her disapproval rating jumped since the poll’s last release. The Morning Consult poll found 44 percent of New Mexico voters approved of Lujan Grisham’s job performance while 43 percent disapproved. This gave Lujan Grisham the sixth-highest disapproval rating among all governors. It also found that 13 percent of registered voters had no opinion of her job performance. Participants were surveyed from the beginning of April through June and is part of the pollster’s quarterly review approval ratings of all 50 governors and 100 U.S. Senators.

Toulouse Oliver wants to abolish ICE

“It’s time to abolish ICE,” Democratic candidate for U.S. Senate Maggie Toulouse Oliver said Tuesday afternoon. Toulouse Oliver made the statement in a press release, saying, “ICE no longer prevents terrorism, instead it creates terror in the United States.”

She also said she supports comprehensive immigration reform. The Secretary of State, one of two top-tier Democrats seeking the party’s nomination to replace retiring U.S. Sen. Tom Udall, cited raids by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement over the weekend. The raids appeared to result in relatively few arrests after Donald Trump promised widespread arrests, which his administration said would target 2,000 recently arrived migrants and enforce deportation orders against them. This included many families who refused to open their doors to ICE agents.

Luján, Torres Small raise big money in 2nd quarter

U.S. Rep. Ben Ray Luján continues to lead the money race in the Democratic primary for U.S. Senate. The six-term congressman has over $1.1 million more money in his campaign account than his primary opponent, while outed CIA spy Valerie Plame narrowly led the fundraising in the latest quarter for the 3rd Congressional District race. At the same time, U.S. Rep. Xochitl Torres Small continued her impressive fundraising and now has over $1 million in her campaign account. Campaign finance reports for the 2nd quarter, which runs from April 1 to June 30, were due for federal candidates on Monday. While elections are not until next year, candidates will use campaign funds to hire staff and buy other campaign necessities.

Luján slams Trump for racist tweets

During an appearance on Fox News on Sunday morning, U.S. Rep. Ben Ray Luján slammed Donald Trump for a series of tweets he made, telling four Democratic representatives, “Why don’t they go back and help fix the totally broken and crime-infested places from which they came, then come back and show us how it is done.”

Screenshot of tweets by President Donald Trump on July 14, 2019. The four Democrats Trump appeared to reference—Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Ilhan Omar, Rashida Tlaib, and Ayanna Pressley—are all women of color. The four are also among the most liberal members of the chamber and frequent critics of Trump. Luján reacted with surprise when “Fox News Sunday” host Chris Wallace read part of Trump’s Sunday morning tweetstorm to him at the end of the interview. “Chris, that’s the first I’m hearing of that.

AG looking into potential Epstein crimes committed in NM

Attorney General Hector Balderas’ office is looking into whether convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein committed crimes in New Mexico. 

The newly renewed attention on the New York financier came after investigative work by the Miami Herald—and resulted in new federal charges on sex trafficking charges. Thanks to a sweetheart deal from Alex Acosta, who announced Friday morning that he would resign from his position as U.S. Labor Secretary amid criticism of the plea deal, Epstein only served 13 months in county jail, and was granted work release. The deal was kept sealed, including from his victims.

Last week, the federal government charged Epstein with sex trafficking. The indictment says Epstein “sexually exploited and abused dozens of minor girls at his home in Manhattan, New York, and Palm Beach, Florida, among other locations.” In addition to the homes listed by prosecutors, Epstein owned, and perhaps still owns, Zorro Ranch in New Mexico. And that ranch is where Balderas’ office is looking into allegations.

UPDATED: Trump backs off decision to abandon citizenship question

UPDATE: Wednesday afternoon, the federal government reversed their decision on whether to continue pursuing the controversial citizenship question on the 2020 Census. Trump wrote on Twitter, “We are absolutely moving forward, as we must, because of the importance of the answer to this question.” And attorneys for the federal government told the court they had not heard of Trump’s position on this before his tweet. Thomas A. Saenz, president and general counsel of MALDEF (Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund), which represents plaintiffs in the suit that reached the Supreme Court, reacted to the federal government’s reversal:

“Under this administration, there’s no accounting for doubling down on stupid. Unfortunately, and embarrassingly for our nation, today’s reversal from yesterday’s certainty repeats the pattern of this entire affair, which began with Secretary Wilbur Ross — who inexplicably remains in the Cabinet — lying to Congress and the public about the reason for the late attempted addition of a citizenship question to Census 2020.

State high court vacates death sentences of final two inmates on death row

The New Mexico Supreme Court vacated the death sentences of the final two inmates on death row Friday, ruling the sentences were not in line with sentences for similarly “horrendous” crimes. The court sent the cases of Timothy Allen and Robert Fry back to district court in San Juan County to instead impose sentences of life in prison. New Mexico last executed an inmate in 2001 when convicted murderer and rapist Terry Clark died by lethal injection; before Clark, New Mexico had not executed an inmate since 1960. In 2009, Gov. Bill Richardson signed a bill repealing the death penalty in New Mexico. Both Allen and Fry were sentenced under the 1979 law which allowed for prosecutors to seek the death penalty in certain cases.

SCOTUS says Trump administration can’t add citizenship question to Census—for now

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled against the Trump administration’s attempt to add a question to the U.S. Census inquiring about respondents’ citizenship—for now. The court released the ruling Thursday morning, on the final day of this year’s term. The high court instead remanded the question to a district court—and with the U.S. Census Bureau’s own deadline looming, there may not be enough time for the government to get the question added to the 2020 census. The question would depress Hispanic response to the census overall, according to U.S. Census Bureau data. The ruling, in which Chief Justice John Roberts was joined by the four liberal members of the court, says it did not believe the rationale the U.S. Commerce Department offered as to why it chose to add the question.