An end-of-year back-and-forth is riling up the Democratic primary race for governor. The spat began after a former Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute intern alleged she was fired after revealing she was transgender. Michelle Lujan Grisham is currently the head of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus. The CHCI and Lujan Grisham denied knowing that Riley Del Ray was transgender and that the CHCI fired her for other reasons. Jeff Apodaca, another Democratic candidate for governor, called for a congressional ethics investigation into Lujan Grisham over the allegations earlier this week.
A federal judge said U.S. Rep. Steve Pearce can use money raised for federal office in his campaign for governor, giving his campaign a big boost. The court order means that Pearce’s campaign coffers will grow by nearly $1 million, perhaps putting his campaign at over $2 million cash on hand. Pearce had $911,000 cash on hand in his last campaign finance report six weeks ago. The preliminary injunction also means that New Mexico Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver cannot enforce state donation limits to the funds Pearce raised for his federal campaigns. “The Secretary of State and her team are reviewing the details of the judge’s decision and will then consider next steps,” Secretary of State spokesman Joey Keefe said.
A top Democratic gubernatorial candidates says a Lt. Gov. candidate should step down because of sexual harassment claims from a decade ago. Michelle Lujan Grisham told the Associated Press she believed State Sen. Michael Padilla, D-Albuquerque, should not run for the state’s second-highest position because of the claims.
In New Mexico, the governor and lieutenant governor of major parties are each nominated separately in party primaries, then run as a ticket in the general election. The allegations date back to before Padilla’s political career, when he worked for the city of Albuquerque at the city’s 911 call center. Padilla faced a suit in federal court from five women for creating a hostile work environment and sexual harassment. Padilla resigned, but denied the allegations.
The U.S. House of Representatives passed a bill with a provision that could have a big impact on three national forests in southern New Mexico. Lawmakers voted 232 to 188 to pass the Resilient Federal Forests Act of 2017 Wednesday. The final bill included an amendment sponsored by New Mexico Rep. Steve Pearce that will exempt certain forest thinning, logging, watershed improvement and habitat restoration projects from reviews required under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and the Endangered Species Act. Speaking on the House floor, Pearce said thinning and logging activities in New Mexico and across the western United States have been “drastically reduced,” contributing to the size and severity of wildfires. “The best way to restore our forests while preserving their ecosystems is the creation of restoration projects that will return them a healthy density,” Pearce said.
A new poll shows Michelle Lujan Grisham has a strong lead in the Democratic gubernatorial primary. The poll by The Majority Institute (TMI) found that 75 percent of likely Democratic primary voters support Lujan Grisham, lapping the field. Ten percent support Jeff Apodaca, three percent Joe Cervantes and two percent Peter DeBenedittis. According to the poll ten percent of likely Democratic primary voters are undecided. Rick Palacio, a managing partner with TMI, said the poll was not paid or conducted for by any candidate or committee “but was part of a larger research project.”
“We regularly conduct research on a variety of topics nationally and in various states throughout the country,” Palacio said in an email to NM Political Report.
With a big gubernatorial race on tap in 13 months, two high-profile candidates reported Monday each bringing in more than $1 million in contributions in the last six months. Michelle Lujan Grisham announced raising nearly $1.4 million since her last campaign finance report in April. The campaign finance period was between between April 4 and October 2. Lujan Grisham’s campaign reported these came from nearly 6,500 contributors. Lujan Grisham’s campaign reported these came from nearly 6,500 contributors.
A national outlet says New Mexico has a very good chance of flipping from a Republican governor to a Democratic one. In fact, National Journal predicted this week that New Mexico is the second-most likely state to elect a governor from a different party than the incumbent in the coming year. Gov. Susana Martinez, a Republican, cannot run for a third consecutive term because of term limits. From National Journal (story is behind a paywall): Martinez’s favorability has faded as the economy stagnates in the Democratic-trending state. Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham, a former state Cabinet official backed by EMILY’s List, is the front-runner for the Democratic nomination and general election next year.
U.S. Rep. Steve Pearce announced Monday that he is running for governor. Pearce becomes the first Republican to announce a run for the position and is taking his third crack at a statewide office after previously losing in two U.S. Senate races.[perfectpullquote align=”right” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””]The state’s best environmental coverage. [/perfectpullquote]A launch video highlights his time in New Mexico, since a child, and his pledge to help the state recover from its economic problems.
“My commitment is that I’ll work hard every day, bringing jobs back to the state, fixing a broken education system and relieving the poverty that we know is possible to relieve,” Pearce says in the video. Pearce reiterated those points in a press call Monday afternoon. He called it “heartbreaking” that New Mexico is at the bottom of so many lists and asserted that New Mexico has everything it needs to be successful but “we just need to manage it better.”
Management, and his business experience, is something Pearce touched on repeatedly, including when talking about education.
Joseph Cervantes is the fourth Democrat to declare a 2018 run for governor. An attorney with a background in architecture, Cervantes has served in the state legislature representing Las Cruces for 16 years, first in the House of Representatives before winning an election in the Senate in 2013. Cervantes is considered a moderate Democrat from his time in the Legislature. He even once attempted to oust then-Speaker Ben Lujan with a coalition of Republicans and some Democrats. NM Political Report caught up with Cervantes just days into his campaign office to speak about how he wants to approach the state’s highest political office.
New Mexico’s gubernatorial race is trending blue according to a prominent news outlet that analyzes elections. The Cook Political Report changed its ratings for eight gubernatorial elections Monday, moving New Mexico and four other states toward Democrats, two states closer to Republicans and one away from an independent. New Mexico was moved from a toss up to “Lean D.” According to the outlet’s rating system, “lean” races “are considered competitive races but one party has an advantage” while toss ups “are the most competitive races; either party has a good chance of winning.”
New Mexico is one of two races with current Republican governors where the race is likely to tilt Democratic. New Jersey, with unpopular Gov. Chris Christie leaving, is considered “likely D,” which means it is not currently competitive but could become so at some point. Gov. Susana Martinez is unable to run for a third consecutive term.