Welcome to our reproductive justice reporter, Susan Dunlap

We are happy to announce that we expanded our reporting team with a reproductive justice reporter: Susan Dunlap. Dunlap will lead our coverage of reproductive justice, a very important but undercovered story in New Mexico, which has been described in recent years as a central area in the debate over abortion rights and access. She will also write a twice-a-month newsletter on reproductive justice issues. Dunlap comes to NM Political Report from Montana, where she previously covered the environment at The Montana Standard. Prior to that, she worked at The Silver City Sun-News as a news reporter and now she’s returning to New Mexico.

‘Democracy Dollars’ voted down, but other public financing improvements, bonds pass

A high-profile ballot question in Albuquerque endorsed by three Democratic presidential candidates failed on Tuesday in a high-turnout election. With all precincts reporting, the unofficial results showed “No” winning with 51.25 percent of the vote in unofficial results. 

The Democracy Dollars ballot initiative would have shored up the city’s public financing program and allowed city residents to direct vouchers of $25 for qualified candidates. 

Related: Two ABQ council races likely headed for a runoff election

Democratic presidential candidates Julian Castro, Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren each lent their support to the proposal, with the latter two doing so on Election Day. And Castro endorsed it on Oct. 29, as early voting was about to end. By Election Day, nearly 44,000 voters had cast ballots on the question, either through early or absentee voting—more than cast ballots on Election Day.

State cancels grazing lease from company owned by Epstein

A company previously owned by the now-deceased and disgraced former financier Jeffrey Epstein will relinquish its grazing leases around its New Mexico ranch. The State Land Office announced in September it would cancel the leases. On Friday the office announced a settlement with the company, Cypress Inc.

“I am pleased that the State Land Office is no longer in business with Cypress Inc., and especially proud that we were able to save State resources by resolving this matter outside of the courtroom,” State Land Commissioner Stephanie Garcia Richard said in a statement. “My decision to cancel these leases stands, and my staff and I will move forward with our discussions for future uses of the 1,200 acres of state trust land located near the Zorro Ranch.”

The cancellation of the lease is effective as of October 4 of this year. Epstein died of an apparent suicide, though some say it was a homicide, while in jail awaiting charges of sex trafficking.

Members of NM House delegation vote to back impeachment investigation

House Democrats, including all members of New Mexico’s delegation, voted Thursday to approve rules related to the impeachment proceedings against President Donald Trump. The 232-196 vote was nearly on party lines, with ex-Republican, now independent Justin Amash voting along with the Democratic majority and two Democrats voting with Republicans against the rules. The vote outlined rules for the next phase of the impeachment proceedings, which has so far consisted of closed-door meetings with witnesses. At the same time, the House has been pushing for documents from Trump and testimony from those close to Trump. Republicans have criticized the process, saying it is not transparent.

Toulouse Oliver ends Senate run

Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver announced Tuesday that she is ending her U.S. Senate campaign. The Democrat announced her campaign in April of this year, a month after U.S Sen. Tom Udall announced he would not seek a third term. Toulouse Oliver said she was proud of her campaign and pledged to continue “protecting our elections from outside interference or voter suppression.”

She said her work as the state’s top elections official “protecting our elections from outside interference or voter suppression.”

Toulouse Oliver also endorsed U.S. Rep. Ben Ray Luján, now the lone Democrat in the race. Luján led Toulouse Oliver in fundraising in the most recent quarter. Luján said in a statement of his own that Toulouse Oliver “is a friend.”

“In this campaign, Maggie stood up for our values – like health care for all and addressing the climate crisis,” he said.

Poll: Latinx, Hispanic voters in NM sour on Trump

A tracking poll of Latinx and Hispanic voters showed weakened support for Donald Trump in New Mexico and other potential battleground states. The poll, conducted by Equis Research between Sept. 23 and 29, found support among the voters in New Mexico fell from 28 percent in July to 24 percent in the most recent poll. Both numbers are still the highest in the eleven states surveyed. Job approval among Latinx and Hispanic voters in New Mexico also dropped, from 35 percent to 29 percent.

NM won’t provide driver’s license data to Trump administration

The state of New Mexico will not provide driver’s license data to the Trump administration. The Associated Press reported Wednesday that the Trump administration asked states to provide driver’s license information data in another effort to get citizenship data. The administration sought to get the information through the 2020 Census for use in redistricting in 2021, but lost a court battle over adding a question to the decennial census. According to the AP, at least 13 states have denied the Trump administration’s request, 17 others are still deciding and 17 states haven’t received a request yet, while three states did not respond to questions. A spokeswoman for the governor’s office told NM Political Report about the decision on Tuesday after she spoke with the state Taxation and Revenue Department, which oversees the state’s driver’s license program.

City of ABQ sends $211K bill to Trump campaign for costs surrounding rally

The city of Albuquerque tallied up the costs incurred during a September Donald Trump campaign visit and invoiced the president’s reelection campaign $211,000. Most of the costs came for paying for time off for city employees, who received paid time off after leaving early on Sept. 16 and coming into work late on Sept. 17 while the president spent the night in a downtown hotel. Other costs included services from the Albuquerque Police Department and for barricades.

Lujan Grisham’s approval rating in new poll at 47 percent

A new poll shows nearly half of New Mexicans approve of the way Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham is doing her job. The poll from Morning Consult finds Lujan Grisham’s approval rating at 47 percent, while 37 percent disapprove of her job performance. Another 16 percent have no opinion. Lujan Grisham took office at the beginning of the year after easily defeating Republican Steve Pearce. Lujan Grisham was previously a U.S. Representative from the state’s 1st Congressional District, which is centered on the Albuquerque area.

Federal candidates raise big money ahead of next year’s elections

Some federal candidates continued to raise large amounts of money in the latest campaign finance reports. The campaign finance reports due on Tuesday included money raised and spent between July 1 and September 30. Democratic Senate candidate Ben Ray Luján raised the most money in the quarter, bringing in over $1 million. The U.S. Representative seeking to replace Tom Udall, who preceded him as as the representative for the 3rd Congressional District, has over $1.6 million cash-on-hand. Luján’s opponent in the Democratic primary, Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver, raised $205,000 and finished with $85,000 cash-on-hand.