As Trump speaks, Democrats rally miles away

While the city of Rio Rancho prepared for President Donald Trump’s appearance in Rio Rancho, Democrats held a unity rally in Old Town Albuquerque at Tiguex Park. Hundreds of supporters listened to Democratic elected officials and others slam Trump and his agenda. They also rejected the idea that Trump could win New mexico and be the first Republican presidential candidate to win the state since George W. Bush in 2004. Related: Trump rallies in Rio Rancho, vows to flip NM in 2020

Supporters held signs calling for Trump to be impeached, calling for action on gun violence and to protect abortion access. Albuquerque Mayor Tim Keller kicked off the event.

Could Toulouse Oliver be part of a Senate ‘Squad?”

New Mexico’s primary elections are still more than eight months away, but that hasn’t slowed down candidates for U.S. Senate. Both the Republican and Democratic primaries have multiple candidates already, but arguably the Democratic race is the closest watched so far. 

Democrats will choose between U.S. Rep. Ben Ray Luján, who is walking away from the high ranking position in U.S. House leadership of Assistant Speaker of the House to run, or Maggie Toulouse Oliver, New Mexico’s Secretary of State. Luján has a financial advantage so far and secured endorsements from U.S. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, U.S. Rep. Debra Haaland and the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee. But Toulouse Oliver said she believes New Mexicans care less about what friends in high places think.     

“We have our own local leaders that we look to and we’re very independent-minded,” Toulouse Oliver said.  “While I respect those decisions and respect Congressman Luján for getting that support for himself, I don’t think that it’s going to be even a remotely deciding factor at the end of the day.”  

Pushing the envelope vs. mainstream

Toulouse Oliver didn’t grow up with a high-ranking state legislator as a parent and doesn’t have the institutional knowledge of Congress — two things Luján can boast.

Luján supports an impeachment inquiry

U.S. Rep. Ben Ray Luján announced Monday that he supports an impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump. Luján is the longest serving current member of the New Mexico House delegation and is the number four member of House leadership as Assistant Speaker of the House. The Democratic congressman said in a statement that it is “not a position I’ve reached lightly.”Luján’s support of impeachment is notable not only because of his position in House Democratic leadership, but because he is a close ally of Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi. Pelosi has opposed impeachment proceedings even as a majority of the House Democratic caucus supports such a push and has instead argued Democrats should continue investigations into Trump. 

Luján cited Trump’s failure to act on reports that the Russian government would target elections systems in the U.S. and findings in the report by Special Counsel Robert Mueller as reasons why he supported moving forward with an impeachment inquiry against the president. “The report detailed sustained and frequent attempts by the Trump campaign to establish ties to the Russian government and an eagerness to benefit from hacked information stolen from our fellow Americans,” Luján said.

Ben Ray Luján aims to connect with voters across the state

On a quiet Saturday morning, just as an early morning rain had stopped and the clouds drifted away, a pile of inflatable rafts sat piled under a tree at La Llorona Park in Las Cruces. Soon, about a dozen teenagers trickled into the park, ready to float about 3 miles down the river with U.S. Rep. Ben Ray Luján. 

Luján’s district is about 300 miles north of the public park, named after a folklore character associated with rivers and children, that butts up against the Rio Grande. Luján wasn’t there on official business, but instead to engage with young people from other parts of the state not within his congressional district as part of his campaign for U.S. Senate. 

Luján’s name is likely familiar to those who even casually follow political news. Earlier this year, he was tapped to become the assistant Speaker of the House, the fourth-highest rank in Democratic leadership. His father, Ben Luján, served as the New Mexico Speaker of the House and many have speculated that if Ben Ray Luján stayed the course in Congress he might be in line to succeed U.S. Rep. Nancy Pelosi as Speaker of the House.

Luján slams Trump for racist tweets

During an appearance on Fox News on Sunday morning, U.S. Rep. Ben Ray Luján slammed Donald Trump for a series of tweets he made, telling four Democratic representatives, “Why don’t they go back and help fix the totally broken and crime-infested places from which they came, then come back and show us how it is done.”

Screenshot of tweets by President Donald Trump on July 14, 2019. The four Democrats Trump appeared to reference—Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Ilhan Omar, Rashida Tlaib, and Ayanna Pressley—are all women of color. The four are also among the most liberal members of the chamber and frequent critics of Trump. Luján reacted with surprise when “Fox News Sunday” host Chris Wallace read part of Trump’s Sunday morning tweetstorm to him at the end of the interview. “Chris, that’s the first I’m hearing of that.

Luján throws support behind Medicare-for-all bill

U.S. Rep. Ben Ray Luján announced Tuesday that he supports Medicare-for-all. The Assistant Speaker of the House, the fourth-highest position in Democratic leadership in the chamber, made the announcement as he seeks the Democratic nomination for U.S. Senate. His opponent in the primary, Maggie Toulouse Oliver, supports Medicare-for-all. Luján told NM Political Report between votes on Wednesday that he supports the legislation because it emphasizes “that healthcare is a fundamental right, not a privilege for the few.”

Toulouse Oliver said on Twitter she is glad that Luján “has come on board with the latest issue I’ve supported from Day 1.” Luján signed onto the bill sponsored by Washington Democrat Pramila Jayapal.

Delegation on Mueller statement, possible impeachment

Robert Mueller, the special counsel who investigated President Donald Trump, spoke publicly Wednesday morning for the first time since he began the investigation in 2017. In his short statement, he said, “If we had had confidence that the president clearly did not commit a crime, we would have said so. We did not, however, make a determination as to whether the president did commit a crime.”

Mueller also said, “the report is my testimony” and that he would not provide any additional information to Congress. After Mueller’s televised statement, NM Political Report asked all three of New Mexico’s members of the House and both U.S. Senators these questions:

Has the Senator/Representative read the full report?Does the Senator/Representative feel that the House should begin impeachment proceedings?If not, why? And what, if any, other steps should be taken?

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.

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.

NM Environment Review: Cannon AFB, double drilling & wolf news

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:

• This week the New Mexico Environment Department issued a Notice of Violation against Cannon Air Force Base over water supplies contaminated with toxic chemicals from the base.Then, this morning we learned that Sens. Tom Udall and Martin Heinrich and Rep. Ben Ray Luján met with Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson (also, a former New Mexico representative) to discuss the contamination. (As we’d previously reported, Luján first reached out to Wilson back in mid-October…) According to a joint statement from Udall, Heinrich and Luján, “As we discussed with Secretary Wilson, the Air Force must do more to address this serious issue with the urgency it demands.