Tempests and fisticuffs: The history of NM’s open U.S. Senate races

U.S. Sen. Tom Udall announced last month that he will not seek a third U.S. Senate term. The attention quickly turned to who would be Udall’s replacement. So far, U.S. Rep. Ben Ray Lujan has said he will run, and Attorney General Hector Balderas said he won’t. It’s easy for political reporters to get caught up in the races. But a look back in history can be instructive as well.

Federal government to accelerate Customs and Border Protection redeployment amid migrant surge

“Federal government to accelerate Customs and Border Protection redeployment amid migrant surge” was first published by The Texas Tribune, a nonprofit, nonpartisan media organization that informs Texans — and engages with them — about public policy, politics, government and statewide issues. President Donald Trump’s administration said Monday it will begin returning more migrants to Mexico after they apply for asylum in the U.S. and ordered Customs and Border Protection officials to speed up the redeployment of agents to help the Border Patrol process a growing surge of migrants arriving at the border. Last week, Customs and Border Protection Commissioner Kevin McAleenan said 750 CBP agents would be pulled from their regular positions at the ports of entry in El Paso, Laredo, Tucson and San Diego to assist Border Patrol. On Monday, Department of Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen M. Nielsen told CBP to accelerate the reallocation and consider reassigning more officers. “CBP is directed to explore raising that target, is authorized to exceed it, and shall notify the Secretary if reassignments are planned to exceed 2,000 personnel,” the DHS said in a news release.

Luján: ‘I’m running to be your next United States senator’

U.S. Rep. Ben Ray Luján is running for Senate. The six-term congressman from northern New Mexico announced his candidacy for the open U.S. Senate seat in a video from his family farm in Nambé on Monday morning. “I’m running to be your next United States senator,” Luján said. “I’ve been humbled by all of the outreach telling me to run and it’s been an honor to serve you in the House, where we’ve accomplished a lot together.”

After listing some of his accomplishments, including that he “led the effort to win back the House,” the Democrat turned his attention towards the Senate. “To move forward, we’ve got to fix the Senate, where Mitch McConnell stands in the way of progress,” he said.

Tracking the methane boom

On a late March weekend, State Land Commissioner Stephanie Garcia Richard headed out to the Permian Basin, to visit oil wells on state trust lands. These are wells that churn out profits for corporations, build up the state’s general fund from taxes and royalties and send money to schools and hospitals. Looking through a special camera that detects emissions of volatile organic compounds, Garcia Richard also saw that the wells are sending methane and other pollutants into the air. “There are seemingly innocuous pieces of equipment, tanks, pipes, and then you look at it with the FLIR camera and you can see these clouds of emissions,” the commissioner said. “We went to some older operations, some newer operations, some [wells operated] by some smaller companies, some by larger companies.”

Medical panel approves opioid use disorder for cannabis, DOH expected to approve

A medical advisory panel on Friday said, for the third time, opioid use disorder should be a qualifying condition for medical cannabis—but this time the cabinet secretary tasked with final approval is expected to agree. The New Mexico Medical Cannabis Advisory Board voted unanimously to add opioid addiction to the list of 22 conditions already allowed. Only four other states allow patients to use cannabis to help alleviate symptoms of opioid use disorder. Dr. Laura Brown, the board’s chair, signaled that the Department of Health is changing course when it comes to medical cannabis under newly appointed Secretary Kathyleen Kunkel. A Medical Cannabis Advisory Board meeting on March 29, 2019.

If Trump’s border wall becomes reality, here’s how he could easily get private land for it

On March 15, President Donald Trump vetoed Congress’ attempt to stop him from declaring a national emergency to build a wall along the United States’ border with Mexico. His construction plans still face court challenges. But if the effort survives, you can expect this to happen in the near future: The federal government will begin seizing private land to build the wall, a process known as eminent domain. It’s a fundamental power, laid out in the Fifth Amendment. The government can take your land to build public works, but it has to pay you “just compensation” — the amount that a willing buyer would pay a willing seller to purchase the property.

Lujan Grisham signs bill invalidating counties’ right-to-work laws

Supporters of right-to-work legislation in New Mexico were dealt a big blow Wednesday when Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham signed into law a bill to prohibit counties from passing their own right-to-work laws. Compulsory union fees in the public sector was struck down by the U.S. Supreme Court in June 2018, but private sector unions can still require workers to pay union fees. It’s against the law for all unions to require workers to pay dues, but they can collect fees to pay for the wage and benefit bargaining. With the governor’s signature, House Bill 85—sponsored by Democratic Reps. Daymon Ely of Albuquerque and Andrea Romero of Santa Fe—invalidates resolutions passed, over a span of about 14 months in 10 New Mexico counties and one village, that barred union membership as a condition of employment.

Board to look at possible big changes to medical cannabis program

A series of possible changes to the Medical Cannabis Program could take place in New Mexico, pending a signature from the governor and decisions from the state Department of Health. DOH officials are in a holding pattern of sorts, waiting for Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham to decide whether or not to sign a key medical cannabis bill and to hear recommendations from the Medical Cannabis Advisory Board regarding what conditions qualify for medical cannabis use. Update: Medical panel approves opioid use disorder for cannabis, DOH expected to approve

Lujan Grisham has until the end of next week to decide on Senate Bill 406, which would  clarify the state’s medical cannabis law. But on Friday a medical panel will hear what the public wants when it comes to expanding qualifying conditions. Public Petitions

The Drug Policy Alliance and other groups have long proposed that medical cannabis may help combat Opioid Use Disorder or severe addiction to opioids, which has been a problem in New Mexico for decades.

Luján ‘seriously’ looking at running for Senate

Ben Ray Luján wants New Mexicans to know he’s seriously contemplating running to replace Tom Udall in the U.S. Senate. Emphasis on “seriously.”

Luján is in his sixth term in the U.S. House, and he’s watched other New Mexico representatives move on to other positions. Martin Heinrich won election to the U.S. Senate in 2012. Both Steve Pearce and Michelle Lujan Grisham ran for governor in 2018. Now with Tom Udall leaving the Senate in 2020, Luján may vacate the same seat his predecessor left over a decade ago to once again follow his path to the Senate.

Who might run to replace Tom Udall in the Senate?

After U.S. Sen. Tom Udall announced he was not seeking a third term in office, speculation immediately began over who would run to replace him in 2020. Hours after Udall’s announcement, Larry Sabato’s Crystal Ball moved the seat from “Safe Democratic” to “Likely Democratic.” That means the political prognosticating outlet believes something out of the ordinary would have to happen for Democrats to lose the seat. While Udall and his colleague in the U.S. Senate, Martin Heinrich, each won their seats in races without an incumbent, it is exceedingly rare for that to happen in New Mexico. So it’s no surprise that the list of Democrats who could run to replace Udall is lengthy, even after Albuquerque Mayor Tim Keller took himself out of the running. Some high profile political figures that have either said they are considering a run, or are said to be considering a run are below.