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.
U.S. Rep. Ben Ray Luján, a Democrat, entering his sixth term in office, was unanimously elected the Assistant Democratic Leader for the next Congress. In a statement, Luján said he was “honored” to be selected for that position, which makes him the number four Democrat in the House. “As Assistant Democratic Leader, I will welcome ideas from all corners of our Caucus to build our agenda, protect our majority, hold the Trump administration and Congressional Republicans accountable, and make a positive difference in people’s lives,” the congressman said. “Just like the midterm elections, the road ahead won’t be easy. But I’m confident that if we are all willing to come to the table, listen, ask the hard questions, and put in the work, we will successfully meet this moment.”
Luján led the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, a group tasked with electing Democrats to the U.S. House, throughout the past two election cycles.
Friday evening in Clovis, the U.S. Air Force is scheduled to host a meeting about groundwater contamination below and near Cannon Air Force Base in eastern New Mexico. Details about the meeting were publicly released Tuesday, Nov. 6, on Election Day. This summer, the Air Force announced it was sampling groundwater wells for traces of harmful chemicals found within firefighting foam used at the base from the 1970s until last year. The testing was part of a nationwide effort by the military: 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, that includes perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS).
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 kept two U.S. House seats Tuesday night. And in a third, hotly contested race, the Republican leads, but thousands of uncounted of votes in a key county could flip things. The 2nd Congressional District race still isn’t over, thanks to approximately 8,000 absentee ballots whose results haven’t been posted. Out of those, 4,000 are yet to be counted. And, as journalist Heath Haussamen noted, approximately 1,000 provisional ballots also remain.
A new poll shows good news for Democrats in New Mexico’s two top statewide races and a close race for a hard-fought congressional race in southern New Mexico. Emerson College released their second round of polling of likely voters in New Mexico, and the poll showed Democrat Michelle Lujan Grisham leading Republican Steve Pearce 53 percent to 44 percent in the gubernatorial race. The two are involved in an expensive race that has included millions of dollars spent on TV ads from both sides in the hopes of replacing Susana Martinez as governor. Martinez, a Republican, cannot run for a third consecutive term. A previous Emerson College poll conducted in August showed Lujan Grisham leading Steve Pearce 42 percent to 40 percent.
Congressional candidate Xochitl Torres Small once again dominated fundraising in the federal races, according to the latest campaign finance reports, covering Oct. 1 to Oct. 17. The Democrat seeking the 2nd Congressional District seat reported raising nearly $950,000 in those 17 days. The hefty campaign finance haul brought the water attorney’s total tally to over $3.8 million for the open congressional seat.
Editor’s note: This week, NM Political Report will publish Q&As with candidates for U.S. House, U.S. Senate and governor about their policy platforms regarding a range of topics, including abortion, contraception, LGBTQ issues and domestic violence. For links to all of our stories, see here.
The following is from a Q&A with Ben Ray Luján, the incumbent Democrat in the 3rd Congressional District. NMPR: If re-elected, how will your beliefs about the separation between government and religion guide your work in Congress? Ben Ray Luján: I’ve always believed you have to put people first in all your decisions. It’s the way that I was raised, treating people with respect and dignity, fighting for access when it comes to affordable and universal, quality healthcare, [which] makes such a difference in people’s lives.
Althea Yazzie, from McKinley County, said it was a slow build toward her support of Medicaid buy-in. But when her grandson was born premature and her son and his wife were stuck with an unexpectedly large bill, she started advocating for the option. That option would allow people to pay a premium, like for private insurance, to buy into Medicaid or a Medicaid-like program. Earlier this year, the state Legislature passed a memorial authorizing a study into the viability of Medicaid buy-in for the state. Supporters say this would not only save money for those buying in, but also for the state and hospitals.
New Mexico Democrats outstripped their Republican counterparts in congressional fundraising and have at least five times the amount of cash on hand in the races for two open seats. That’s according to campaign finance reports filed to the Federal Election Commission earlier this week. The reports included money raised from April 1 to June 30 which included the primary election. This year’s elections in New Mexico feature two open-seat races, as their incumbents instead are facing off in this year’s gubernatorial election. In the 1st Congressional District, Democrat Michelle Lujan Grisham is leaving the seat after three terms. She won the Democratic primary for governor this June.