Legislature OKs bill to merge various local elections

Vote early and vote less often. At least, that is the hope behind a bill that was headed to the governor’s desk on Thursday to consolidate various local elections in New Mexico. Under a compromise hashed out between the Senate and House of Representatives during the last couple hours of this year’s 30-day legislative session, election day for most cities, towns and villages — including Santa Fe — would not change from the usual date in March. Conversely, the state’s largest city, Albuquerque, would have to move its elections for mayor and city council. The bipartisan legislation’s backers say the goal is to boost turnout in local elections that often draw little attention and relatively few voters.

Los Alamos Republican to seek open House seat

Dr. Lisa Shin, a Los Alamos optometrist and daughter of Korean immigrants, is running as a Republican for the seat in the state House of Representatives currently held by Democrat Stephanie Garcia Richard. “As a successful small business owner and health care provider, I bring a pragmatic, common sense approach to the issues facing us. I believe that free market principles based on individual choice and personal responsibility can strengthen our schools, our health care system and our economy,” Shin, 49, said in a statement. Two Democrats, lawyer Christine Chandler and retired scientist Pete Sheehey, also are running for the seat. Both are members of the Los Alamos County Council.

House committee OKs bill to consolidate nonpartisan local elections

Election Day is not just a day in New Mexico. Between school boards, soil and water conservation districts, community college districts and hospital districts, it can seem like the voting never stops. “We have a vast number of small, rural elections in our state happening pretty much all the time,” Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver told a committee of the House of Representatives on Thursday. But whether people actually know about, much less participate in, these myriad elections is another matter. In response, the local government committee of the House approved a sweeping bill that would consolidate virtually all nonpartisan local elections on the same day.

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.

Libertarian Party gets a boost in NM

Something major happened with the Libertarian Party of New Mexico yesterday—it officially became a major party. After Gov. Susana Martinez issued her biennial primary election proclamation late Monday, the New Mexico Secretary of State announced that New Mexico’s liberty and limited government-minded group will have equal standing with the Democratic and Republican parties for the first time in New Mexico history. Monday, the Libertarian Party of New Mexico, on a rooftop deck in Old Town Albuquerque, officially announced its slate of candidates for everything from Congress to State Land Commissioner. In most of those races, candidates will be facing off against uncontested Republicans and lots of Democrats. With election day about eight months off, the Libertarian Party of New Mexico has three statewide and three congressional hopefuls collecting signatures to qualify as official candidates.

Rodella facing Dem primary challenge

State Rep. Debbie Rodella has competition for the Democratic nomination for a seat representing Española and a swath of Northern New Mexico where she has been a political force for decades. Susan Herrera, the former CEO of the Los Alamos National Laboratory Foundation and former director of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, announced Wednesday she is running for the seat in House District 41. The announcement is a challenge to Rodella, the second-longest-serving member of the House of Representatives, who, in 25 years, has developed a reputation as a conservative Democrat and seasoned legislator. “I think we need a more progressive Democratic Party at the state Legislature,” Herrera said Wednesday. “…

Water attorney running for Congress in CD2

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.

Analysts see NM as likely to flip in next gubernatorial race

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.

Sandra Jeff changes party registration to Libertarian, eyes Secretary of State position

Former State Representative and former State Senate candidate Sandra Jeff can now add one more “former” before her name: former Democrat. Jeff updated her voter registration to the Libertarian Party Thursday afternoon at the Bernalillo County Clerk’s Office with the intention of running for Secretary of State. “I want to stop corruption, and I feel that I have every right to work with the constituents within the state of New Mexico to bring forth a new horizon because that is what is needed in this state in order for us to move forward,” Jeff told NM Political Report. Jeff represented House District 5, which includes a large portion of the Navajo Nation in New Mexico, for two terms before she was kicked off the ballot during her run for a third term because she did not collect enough valid signatures. As a Representative, she sometimes voted against fellow Democrats on key issues, most notably when she skipped a vote to raise the minimum wage in 2014, even after then-Vice President Joe Biden called her personally and asked her to vote in favor of it.

Ranked-choice voting coming to Santa Fe, as state Supreme Court shoots down appeal

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.