ABQ mayoral candidates face off in forum

Six Albuquerque mayoral candidates faced off Tuesday evening in one of the the first forums of the campaign and answered questions on a wide range of issues like community policing, immigration and economic development. While there were many nuanced differences in the candidates’ answers, they also agreed on a number of issues. During a “lightning round” of yes or no questions in front of an audience of 250 people, all candidates agreed that the Albuquerque Police Department wasn’t doing enough to meet the Department of Justice consent decree and that the department’s chief, Gorden Eden, should be replaced. Each candidate also said they would support relocating Syrian refugees to Albuquerque. The forum was sponsored by the community group Dukes Up Albuquerque and the two moderators were from the Weekly Alibi and NM Political Report, which helped organize the event.

Dems targeting NM’s 2nd Congressional District

National Democrats announced Monday they will target New Mexico’s 2nd Congressional District in the 2018 elections. The move comes as part of an expansion of 20 more Republican-held House seats targeted by the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. Already, Democrats announced 59 other seats are in their electoral crosshairs. With this second round of targets, Democrats are targeting nearly one-third of all seats currently held by Republicans. (Four seats are currently vacant.)

Republicans said earlier this year that both of the New Mexico congressional districts held by Democrats are on their list of targets.

Medicaid renewal delays balloon as HSD gets control of SNAP backlog

Tens of thousands of Medicaid recipients in New Mexico are not receiving their health benefits on time, according to numbers from state government. As of February of this year, more than 48,000 Medicaid cases up for renewal are not being processed by the state Human Services Department (HSD) on time, according to a federal court filing in April citing HSD’s own numbers. And that number of Medicaid renewal delays has only grown to more than 59,000 as of May 10, according to Maria Griego, a staff attorney with the New Mexico Center on Law and Poverty. “They’re pretty bad,” Griego said of the delays. While the number of New Mexicans who haven’t received their Medicaid benefits on time has been expanding, HSD erased a large part of the backlog of renewal applications for the federal Supplemental Assistance Nutrition Program (SNAP), formerly known as food stamps.

State blames five-month bungling of Medicaid case on ‘computer glitch’

Last month, 82-year-old Viola Weir received a letter from the state that rejected her request for Medicaid benefits to pay for nursing home care. The letter from the New Mexico Human Services Department (HSD) said she had not provided the state agency with “the mandatory documents we need to decide if you can get benefits.” As a result, the department denied Viola Weir her Medicaid benefits. The very same letter also said her income levels and assets met the qualifications to receive such care. That’s according to documentation that Tom Kovach, Weir’s son-in-law, sent to NM Political Report from HSD, the state department which processes federal benefits. To Kovach, the letter didn’t make sense.

Feds’ sting ensnared many ABQ blacks, not ‘worst of the worst’

For three days Yusef Casanova hunted for methamphetamine and a gun. On June 4, 2016, a friend met a man in the heart of a hardscrabble area of Albuquerque pocked with pawn shops but dotted with well-loved front yards. They stood outside the Allsup’s convenience store at Zuni Road and Kentucky Street SE. The stranger wanted meth, firearms; the friend brought Casanova in. Like Casanova and his friend, the man was black.

Jeff Apodaca officially announces bid for governor

The son of a former New Mexico governor announced his plans Tuesday to follow in his father’s footsteps. Jeff Apodaca, a former media executive and son of former Gov. Jerry Apodaca, told NM Political Report he wants to “turn New Mexico around” in early childhood development, job creation and health care. “I’m not running because of any legacy,” Apodaca said. If elected, Apodaca, a Democrat, said he would work to diversify New Mexico’s economy so the state is less dependant on oil and gas. Not only could New Mexico use wind and solar power for its own purposes, Apodaca said, but the state could power other states using renewable energy sources.

NM’s power structure‚ then and now

Thanks to Gov. Susana Martinez’s vetoes of the higher education and legislative budgets, hostilities between the governor’s office and legislators over taxes and next year’s budget are playing out statewide, and daily in the headlines. Soon, the two parties will be facing off in the New Mexico Supreme Court over those two line-item budget vetoes. On the surface, the battle is over the budget. It also raises deeper questions about power and control: Can one person and a handful of executive office staffers and advisers wield ultimate power over the 112 legislators elected from communities across the state? But beneath the layers of campaigns, elections and public debates, there are also powerful people, companies and industries at work behind the scenes.

The year’s most important election you didn’t know about

This spring has already been a busy one for water managers. The Rio Grande and its acequias and irrigation ditches are currently full and forecasters predict more snow for the mountains this weekend. Unlike many years over the past two decades, when water managers wondered how to spread out water deliveries to farmers and growers so everyone makes it through the growing season, this year the Middle Rio Grande Conservancy District (MRGCD) is watching for a different problem, one born of high water levels—the pressure on levees. “It’s feast or famine,” said Mike Hamman, chief engineer of the district, which delivers water to irrigators from Cochiti dam to Bosque del Apache Wildlife Refuge. It’s also election season in the district.

Report: Anti-Semitic incidents on the rise in NM

Anti-Semitic incidents in New Mexico, as well as the rest of the country, increased dramatically during 2016 and the first quarter of 2017, according to an annual audit from the Anti-Defamation League. The group’s Audit of Anti-Semitic Incidents reported seven incidents in 2015, 11 in 2016 and seven in 2017 through the end of March. Those this year included two widely publicized bomb threats at the Jewish Community Center of Greater Albuquerque. ADL also cited threats to a local website called ABQ Jew and an incident in an Albuquerque parking lot where a woman allegedly spit on a Jewish woman’s car and told her to “get ready for the next exodus” because of the election of Donald Trump. Suki Halevi, the ADL New Mexico regional director, also cited an interview on KSFR public radio with Christopher Bollyn, a conspiracy theorist who has called 9/11 “a massive Zionist Jewish crime.” The interview, which ADL said was apparently favorable to his point of view, occurred last summer on “Camp Lovewave,” a program that KSFR has since discontinued.

Trump review of national monuments includes two in NM

On Wednesday, President Donald Trump signed an executive order directing U.S. Department of the Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke to review national monument designations, including two in New Mexico, made under the Antiquities Act since 1996. “We’re now getting something done that people thought would never get done, and I’m doing it in honor of you guys,” Trump said during the signing ceremony, calling out a number of Republican lawmakers, including Utah Gov. Gary Herbert and Utah Sen. Mike Lee. In particular, Trump recognized Utah Sen. Orrin Hatch, saying “Believe me, he’s tough. He would call me and say, ‘you gotta do this.’ Isn’t that right, Orrin?