Sanders: Trump campaign ‘based on racism,’ ‘sexism,’ ‘dividing us’

Between campaign rallies in Colorado and Arizona for Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders stopped in Albuquerque to spoke at a short rally for the Democratic nominee for president. Coming off his loss to Clinton in a contested race for the Democratic presidential nomination, Sanders focused his speech on policies on which both he and the former U.S. Secretary of State agree. The independent U.S. Senator from Vermont also spent much of his 30 minutes criticizing Republican nominee Donald Trump, whom he called “racist,” “xenophobic” and “sexist.”

“We cannot support a candidate who is running a campaign based on racism, based on sexism, based on dividing us up,” Sanders told a crowd of roughly 1,000 people gathered Tuesday in the middle of the University of New Mexico campus. “That is not acceptable.”

Sanders listed off Clinton’s stances on issues like campaign finance reform, climate change, raising taxes on the wealthy and immigration. For example, Sanders said he and Clinton both support doubling federal funding for community health centers and forgiving student debt on doctors and health care workers who commit to practicing in underserved areas after graduation.

GOP targets key seat in Rio Rancho in bid to take control of Senate

One of the key districts New Mexico Republicans need to take the state Senate back sits just north of Albuquerque in Rio Rancho, where incumbent Democrat John Sapien faces GOP challenger Diego Espinoza. Sapien, an insurance salesman who is running for his third term, won both the 2008 and 2012 elections on narrow margins—by just 121 votes and 161 votes respectively. Sapien’s latest challenger, Espinoza, has so far outstripped him in fundraising, gathering roughly $153,000 as of press time compared to Sapien’s $126,000. Both speak of job creation as the top priority of their candidacies. But each have different solutions.

SOS dismisses ethics complaints against Espinoza

Secretary of State Brad Winter cleared the Republican candidate seeking to fill his seat of six allegations filed against her in an ethics complaint last month. Those six allegations, filed by state Democratic Party Treasurer Robert Lara, accused candidate Nora Espinoza of multiple violations of the New Mexico Campaign Reporting Act. Lara, an attorney, previously told NM Political Report that he filed the ethics complaint as a private citizen and not on behalf of the Democratic Party. While Winter dismissed all of the allegations, his office did give guidance to Espinoza on addressing some issues. “Although we do not find any violations of the [Campaign Reporting] Act, the Espinoza campaign is cautioned to ensure that all campaign reports submitted in the future accurately reflect the name and purpose of all expenditures and in-kind contributions,” Winter wrote.

Dems criticize GOP VP nominee ahead of NM visit

Two Democratic legislators aired grievances against Republican Vice Presidential nominee Mike Pence one day before his scheduled visit to New Mexico. During a small press conference Monday morning in Albuquerque’s Civic Plaza, State Sen. Jacob Candelaria, D-Albuquerque, addressed Pence’s social conservative views by calling him “perhaps the most anti-LGBT nominee for national elected office we have seen in modern history.”

“His policies in Indiana have legalized hatred, have legalized discrimination, and at the end of the day those are the things that we do not accept in New Mexico,” Candelaria, who is openly gay, said. “That’s not who we are as a state.”

Candelaria was referring to Indiana’s controversial “religious freedom” law which Pence, the state’s governor, signed last year. The Indiana law prohibits the state from “substantially burden[ing] a person’s exercise of religion.”

The religious freedom law drew national attention after critics bemoaned it for allowing businesses to legally discriminate against LGBT people on the basis of religion. Amid the backlash, Pence and legislators soon amended the law to add protections for “sexual orientation” and “gender identity.”

Candelaria and state Rep. Sheryl Williams Stapleton, D-Albuquerque, also took aim at the economic policies of Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, whom Pence is running with on the ticket this November.

Prominent Republican backs recreational pot, but will party?

Darren White’s view on marijuana changed drastically in the past two decades. Nearly 20 years ago, he resigned from then-Gov. Gary Johnson’s administration after Johnson backed marijuana legalization. Now, White not only backs Johnson, he’s come around to Johnson’s point of view on marijuana legalization (with some caveats). Related: See why White is backing Johnson for president

White isn’t alone among Republicans (yes, White remains a Republican despite backing the Libertarian Party nominee for president). A recently-released poll by YouGov found that a narrow plurality of Republicans back marijuana legalization: 45 percent to 42 percent.

NM Auditor, HSD launch probes into SNAP fraud allegations

State Auditor Tim Keller announced Friday an investigation by his office into allegations that the state instructed employees to commit fraud on federal food stamp applications. Keller wrote on Twitter that he “has opened a case to look into the allegations of food assistance application fraud by HSD.”

A spokeswoman for the state auditor said he opened the case after learning about the allegations that came up in federal court. The news came one day after five Human Services Department employees testified that the department instructed them to falsify emergency applications for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits. HSD officials wanted employees to add fake assets to several emergency SNAP to cut down the department’s high numbers of overdue emergency applications, according to the multiple testimonies. Federal law requires those who qualify for emergency SNAP benefits to receive benefits within seven days of applying.

Jeff pays fine, will be on primary ballot

Former state Rep. Sandra Jeff will make it on the ballot for state Senate this upcoming primary election in June after all. Jeff came to an agreement with the Secretary of State’s Office on Monday—nearly three weeks after that office disqualified her from the ballot for not paying a fine for filing a late campaign finance report from an earlier campaign. Jeff, a Democrat, is challenging Sen. Benny Shendo, D-Jemez Pueblo, for the party nomination this year. Her attorney Zach Cook told NM Political Report that she agreed to pay “a nominal amount” of roughly $100 to the Secretary of State’s Office to get on the ballot. Part of the deal involves Jeff not having to concede that the fine was legitimate.

Here’s how ABQ city council candidates spend money

As Albuquerque’s October city elections approach, campaign finance reports are trickling in. The latest period for campaign reports covers July 17-Aug. 13. Four city council seats are up for election, only two of which have more than one candidate. We’ll start with Pat Davis, who we’ll disclose here helps raise money for New Mexico Political Report through his role as Executive Director of ProgressNow New Mexico to keep our operations running but exerts no control over our editorial content.

Haaland elected new state Democratic Party Chair

State Democrats elected Deborah Haaland as their new state party chairwoman on Saturday, making her the first American Indian to serve the post. Haaland, a candidate for lieutenant governor with Gary King’s failed gubernatorial run last fall, was elected on a 214-168 vote during the state Democratic convention in Albuquerque. She defeated Richard Ellenberg, who served as chairman of the Santa Fe County Democratic Party until recently. Haaland, 54, begins her new job right away. She’ll serve a two-year term.