The New Mexico Department of Corrections does not have a current policy that would allow inmates to breastfeed their children, despite a judge’s order last year to put one in place. While Corrections implemented a lactation policy, it only covers access to electric breastfeeding pumps, a department spokesman told NM Political Report. Despite the order, the spokesman said in-person breastfeeding only applied to one woman. Last June, inmate Monique Hidalgo sued the Corrections Department to be able to use an electric breast pump and breastfeed her then-newborn daughter, Isabella, in-person. The injunctive order handed down last August by state District Court Judge David K. Thomson ordered the department to allow inmates to breastfeed their children.
New Mexico’s personal wage growth continues to lag behind the country as a whole and the region. The latest numbers from the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis, compiled by the Pew Charitable Trusts, shows that through the 2nd quarter of 2018, New Mexico’s personal income has grown just 1.1 percent since the Great Recession. That’s compared the national average of 1.9 percent. Looking at just the most recent year, through the end of the 2nd quarter of 2018, New Mexico also saw just a 1.1 percent growth. The West is home to many states with the largest growth rates, both since 2007 and in the most recent year.
All week, we look for stories that help New Mexicans better understand what’s happening with water, climate, energy, landscapes and communities around the region. Thursday morning, that news goes out via email. To subscribe to that weekly email, click here. Here’s a snippet of what subscribers read this week:
Late last week, we covered groundwater contamination at Cannon Air Force Base, which is part of a nationwide problem at U.S. military bases worldwide. Earlier this year, the U.S. Department of Defense announced that activities at 126 military bases had contaminated groundwater with per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, a class of human-made chemicals, often referred to as PFAS’s.
Republican congressional candidate Yvette Herrell filed a suit Tuesday, asking a judge to order the impound of absentee ballots in a key southern New Mexico county after she lost to Xochitl Torres Small in last week’s election. Herrell filed the suit in state district court and asked the court to order State Police to take control of absentee ballots and associated documents from Doña Ana County. She also wants an investigation into “reports of chain-of-custody issues and other improprieties” though she provided no evidence of problems.
The Doña Ana County Canvassing Board unanimously certified the results of last week’s election hours before Herrell filed the suit. In the filing, Herrell claims she was “stripped of [the] title” of winner of the election because of the results from the Doña Ana County absentee ballots. Some media outlets had already projected Herrell to win, but at least one, the Albuquerque Journal, did not know of the absentee ballots.
Republican Yvette Herrell campaigned for the 2nd Congressional District on a Trump-like platform—pro-border wall and speaking about illegal immigration—and appeared alongside Vice President Mike Pence and White House counselor Kellyanne Conway. And after narrowly losing the congressional race to Democrat Xochitl Torres Small in Tuesday’s election, Herrell showed up on President Donald Trump’s favorite TV network Saturday. The state legislator told a Fox News host that she isn’t conceding to Torres Small, and she questioned the counting of absentee ballots that provided the final margin of victory for her opponent. Herrell spoke on “Justice with Judge Jeanine,” a program Trump himself appeared on before. According to Herrell, an hour after some media outlets called the race and she gave her victory speech, the Secretary of State’s office called and said, “They had magically found 4,000 ballots that had not been counted.” She said about an hour and a half later, the office said there were an additional 4,000 ballots.
All eyes were on Doña Ana County Wednesday night, as elections observers waited for county election workers to tally thousands of absentee ballots. When the county released the results for the 2nd Congressional District race on Wednesday night, the 6,411 to 1,847 margin gave Democrat Xochitl Torres Small a lead larger than the likely number of provisional ballots left. Many asked why it took election workers in Doña Ana County so long to count the votes. It came down to a lack of workers and an unforeseen influx of absentee votes. The county released the results of 8,350 absentee ballots Wednesday night (only 8,258 of which included votes for the razor-thin 2nd Congressional District race).
Fresh off re-election, New Mexico Rep. Ben Ray Luján is seeking a position in U.S. House leadership. The day after Democrats took control of the U.S. House of Representatives, Luján announced he now wants to become Assistant Democratic Leader, the fourth-highest position in Democratic leadership. For the last two election cycles, Luján was chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, which helps elect Democrats to the U.S. House. Currently the New York Times reports Democrats won 27 House seats, for 22 total seats, with 17 races, including one in southern New Mexico, undecided. With the majority, Democrats will elect a Speaker of the House, opening up another leadership position.
Democrats swept statewide races on Election Day, and will control not just the governor’s office and all of the executive agencies, but also independent state agencies that oversee everything from state funds to state lands. Democratic incumbent Tim Eichenberg easily won the race for State Treasurer over Republican Arthur Castillo and Democrat Brian Colón defeated Republican Wayne Johnson for State Auditor. In the three-way race for Attorney General, Democratic incumbent Hector Balderas beat Republican Michael Hendricks and Libertarian Blair Dunn. And another Democratic incumbent, Maggie Toulouse Oliver defeated Republican Gavin Clarkson and Libertarian Ginger Grider to hold on to the Secretary of State seat. The closest statewide race on Election Day was for State Land Commissioner.
Voters are reporting long lines in some areas of the state, including at Rio Grande High School in Albuquerque and at a polling in Anthony, New Mexico. While some see long lines as a good sign that many people want to vote, Charles Stewart of the MIT Election Lab says it’s a sign that things aren’t working correctly. “If you value the time of voters, inordinately long lines are not a good thing,” he told NM Political Report. He cited a presidential commission that said if a voter is waiting for more than 30 minutes to vote “then it’s too long.”
“It’s getting to be a habit in New Mexico,” Stewart said. Phil Nickel reported that the line at the high school was approximately 250 people when he arrived at 5:45 p.m. NM Political Report spoke to him at about 6:35, and he was still in line, waiting to vote.