Matthew Reichbach is the editor of the NM Political Report. The former founder and editor of the NM Telegram, Matthew was also a co-founder of New Mexico FBIHOP with his brother and one of the original hires at the groundbreaking website the New Mexico Independent. Matthew has covered events such as the Democratic National Convention and Netroots Nation and formerly published, “The Morning Word,” a daily political news summary for NM Telegram and the Santa Fe Reporter. Matthew has appeared as a panelist for the Society of Professional Journalists’ New Mexico Chapter’s panel on covering New Mexico politics and the legislature. A native New Mexican from Rio Rancho, Matthew’s family has been in New Mexico since the 1600s.
Almost half of New Mexicans approve of the way their U.S. Senators are doing their jobs, while less than a third disapprove. That’s according to the latest Morning Consult approval ratings. The poll conducted in late 2017 found that 49 percent of New Mexico registered voters approve of Tom Udall’s job performance, while 29 percent disapproved and 2 percent had no opinion. Martin Heinrich’s approval rating sat at 46 percent, while 29 percent disapproved and 24 percent had no opinion. The numbers do not always add up to 100 percent because of rounding.
New Mexico’s unemployment rate continues to fall, but is still second-worst in the nation. The latest numbers from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that New Mexico’s unemployment rate in December 2017 fell to 6 percent, down from 6.7 percent in December 2016. The state now has the same rate as the District of Columbia. Nationwide, the unemployment rate is at 4.1 percent. Hawaii has the lowest unemployment rate—2 percent—and Alaska has the highest, 7.3 percent.
Commissioners approved a county-level right-to-work ordinance even as detractors promised to sue. Early Friday morning, the Sandoval County Commission voted 3-1 to make the county the first to implement a right-to-work ordinance. Previous efforts at the statewide level repeatedly failed, while a citywide effort in Clovis decades ago was struck down by a federal court. “This is our time to lead the state,” ordinance sponsor Jay Block said in arguing for the ordinance. He said the bill would bring better wages, more jobs and would, in fact, help unions by increasing their rolls.
Santa Fe’s mayor has a message for the Trump administration after the Department of Justice floated the idea of arresting elected officials in charge of cities with “sanctuary policies”: You know where to find me. On Facebook Wednesday evening, Santa Fe Mayor Javier Gonzales linked to a Newsweek story about the controversial, and likely unconstitutional, idea. “The Trump administration can find me at the Santa Fe Mayor’s office from 8-6, Monday – Friday,” Gonzales wrote. “I will stand up for all New Mexicans keeping their families together.”
Gonzales, who is leaving the mayor’s office this year but running for the Democratic nomination for Lieutenant Governor, has been an outspoken supporter of sanctuary efforts. Santa Fe is one of the more progressive areas of the state.
New Mexico’s two U.S. Senators oppose any funding bill that does not include a fix for recipients of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals policy. The program, known as DACA, has been debated since September when President Donald Trump announced he would he end the Obama-era program. Trump also stopped the federal government from processing new applications. The short-term spending bill proposed by House Republicans lacks immigration provisions. U.S. Sen. Martin Heinrich, a Democrat, announced on social media he opposed the short-term 30-day spending bill.
Another Democrat is seeking the party’s nomination for the 2nd Congressional District seat. Xochitl Torres Small, a water attorney from Las Cruces, announced Wednesday that she is joining a shrinking field of Democrats. “As the daughter of a teacher and a social worker in Las Cruces, I learned early the values of hard work and having your neighbor’s back – something that seems long forgotten in Washington today,” Torres Small said. “To solve our greatest problems, we need a new crop of leaders ready to bring New Mexicans of all backgrounds together to find common sense solutions. I’m running to expand opportunities for hardworking families and to strengthen our rural communities with better access to healthcare, broadband service and good-paying jobs.”
She also announced a number of endorsements, including Democratic state representatives in the Las Cruces area Doreen Gallegos, Rudy Martinez and Joanne Ferrary.
Lawmakers voted to update the State Legislature’s sexual harassment policy, the first such change in a decade. The 15-0 Legislative Council vote came a day before the start of the 2018 legislative session. The council adopted the policy crafted by eight legislators who rewrote it at a time where many industries and organizations, including political institutions, are grappling with sexual harassment. The policy allows for an outside investigator to look into allegations of sexual harassment against legislators. It also calls for “outside counsel who is experienced in harassment matters” to determine in consultation with legislative leaders if a complaint merits an investigation.
Two election analysts say that New Mexico’s gubernatorial election is among the most-likely in the nation to switch parties. Politico and The Washington Post each recently highlighted the top ten gubernatorial races to watch. New Mexico ranked second for Politico and first for the Post. Incumbent governor Susana Martinez, a Republican, is term-limited and cannot run for a third consecutive term. She leaves office with low popularity and her party faces a headwind in the first general elections after the election of Donald Trump.
The Trump administration announced Thursday it would allow states to impose work requirements on “able-bodied” adults who receive Medicaid. In New Mexico, it’s not clear if the Martinez administration will pursue such requirements, but if so, it would likely take months to go through the process. “Medicaid needs to be more flexible so that states can best address the needs of this population,” Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) Administrator Seema Verma said in a statement. That center is part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. “Our fundamental goal is to make a positive and lasting difference in the health and wellness of our beneficiaries, and today’s announcement is a step in that direction.”
States would need to do so through a specific waiver with CMS.
New Mexico has been stopped from imposing such requirements in other programs. In 2016, a federal judge stopped the state from requiring people to work who receive Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits because of a long-running federal lawsuit over the state’s inability to process aid.
Santa Fe voters will rank their choices for mayor in a few months, avoiding the need for a runoff election. The State Supreme Court Tuesday denied an appeal of the city’s new ranked-choice voting system. This means the system will be in place for the upcoming March 6 election. Currently five candidates are vying for the position after Mayor Javier Gonzalez said he would not seek another term. Gonzalez is, instead, seeking the Democratic nomination for lieutenant governor.