The next legislative session could echo 2003

An incoming Democrat is replacing a Republican in the governor’s office, and will get to work with a large Democrat majority in the Legislature. The new governor will have a large budget surplus and many potential projects to fund, both those sought by legislators and by the governor. No, this isn’t a preview for next month’s legislative session, the first with Michelle Lujan Grisham as governor, but a look back at 2003. When Democrat Bill Richardson replaced Republican Gary Johnson, “it was like a dam burst,” former State Sen. Dede Feldman said, speaking of the laws enacted. In the 2003 session alone, 439 bills became law, compared to 110 the year before.

Heinrich headed for a second Senate term

U.S. Sen. Martin Heinrich will serve a second term in Washington D.C. after a significant win against Republican Mick Rich and Libertarian Gary Johnson. Heinrich gave his acceptance speech to a crowd of supporters and alongside his wife and two sons. “In the face of a president who defies so much of what we stand for as Americans, I will continue to stand with you,” he told the crowd. He said he will continue to oppose a border wall between the United States and Mexico that “our border communities do not want and do not need.”

A Senate race that was largely assumed to go to Heinrich, saw a twist when one of the rounds of musical chairs in the Libertarian Party of New Mexico included a swap-out from New Mexico Land Commissioner Aubrey Dunn to Johnson, a former New Mexico governor. Dunn had been polling mostly in single digits with Rich and Heinrich splitting most of the votes.

Torres Small raises big money once again in 2nd Congressional District race

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.

Political endorsements may have little sway on undecided voters

Thousands of New Mexicans have already voted and Election Day is only weeks away. Which means politicians around the state are in high gear spreading their respective messages through commercials and campaign events. But one tactic many politicians are also using to signal undecided voters is endorsements from high-profile politicians. A New Mexico political scientist said those major endorsements will impact the election but it’s not entirely clear how much it will help or hurt campaigns to get a stamp of approval from a former U.S. president, a New Mexico governor or a sitting U.S. Senator. University of New Mexico political science professor Lonna Atkeson told NM Political Report those endorsements only go as far as the endorser’s approval rating.

Democrats hold big cash advantages in federal races

While Democrats led the way in fundraising in the latest quarter, federal campaign finance reports filed Monday show, one candidate considerably outraised the rest. NM Political Report first reported that Xochitl Torres Small, a Democrat seeking the 2nd Congressional District seat, raised over $1.9 million yesterday. Her fundraising total was $650,000 more than all three candidates for U.S. Senate combined raised in that same time period. Torres Small spent over $1.3 million and finished with $1.1 million cash on hand for the final few weeks of the race. Her opponent, Republican State Rep. Yvette Herrell, raised $564,000 and spent $245,000, leaving her with $419,000 cash on hand for the final stretch.

Mr. Johnson wants to go to Washington

LOS ALAMOS, N.M. — Libertarian U.S. Senate candidate and former two-term Republican governor Gary Johnson is killing time outside a Starbucks in Los Alamos between campaign events. Technically he shouldn’t  be here at all—or, at least not running for office. On election night in 2016, Johnson told NM Political Report he was done with politics after his second presidential run.  Asked about that night, Johnson answers the question he knows is coming next. “I can’t be believed,” Johnson interrupted sarcastically.

Rich, Johnson still support Kavanaugh but want to hear from accuser

Following an allegation of sexual assault, the confirmation of U.S. Circuit Judge and Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh became more controversial. Now some Democrats, including New Mexico’s two senators, want an investigation into what happened between Kavanaugh and college professor Christine Blasey Ford at a party in high school, where Ford alleged Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her.. New Mexico U.S. Sen. Martin Heinrich, a Democrat, issued a statement this week calling for an FBI investigation. “The sexual assault allegation made against Judge Kavanaugh deserves a thorough, professional investigation by the FBI before proceeding with any vote on his nomination to the highest court in the land,” Heinrich said. Heinrich is facing reelection this year and his two challengers both previously said they would vote to confirm Kavanaugh if given the chance.

Poll: Dems lead in two key statewide races

Democrats are ahead in two of New Mexico’s most important races, according to an Albuquerque Journal poll. The poll’s results, released Sunday, showed 50 percent of likely voters would support Democrat Michelle Lujan Grisham and 43 percent for Republican Steve Pearce. The two are looking to replace Susana Martinez, a Republican who is term-limited and cannot run for a third consecutive term. Both Lujan Grisham and Pearce are U.S. representatives, leaving their positions for the statewide run. Pollster Brian Sanderoff told the Albuquerque Journal that Pearce needs more support in the Albuquerque metro area, which holds a large percentage of the state’s population, if he wants to close the gap.

On the (hiking) trail with Heinrich

Last weekend, U.S. Sen. Martin Heinrich and his wife Julie pulled up to an Albuquerque trailhead and were greeted by a group of eager supporters with hiking poles and hydration packs at the ready. Almost immediately, Heinrich became an impromptu trail guide, educating his constituents on the different native plants along the trail and which animals use them as food sources. At least twice, unsuspecting hikers recognized the affable sportsman who has worked in Washington, D.C. since 2009. One family hiking towards the top of the trail passed the Heinrich entourage on its way back to the trail head. As the two groups converged, one woman looked at Heinrich and asked, “Is it really you?

Candidate Q&A: Gary Johnson, U.S. Senate candidate

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 Gary Johnson, the Libertarian nominee for U.S. Senate. NMPR: If elected, how will your beliefs about the separation between government and religion guide your work in the U.S. Senate? Gary Johnson: Well, that they should be separate, period. They have to be, and that’s of course Constitutional.