A southern New Mexico county commissioner appeared to take personal shots at the mother of a female activist and constituent on Facebook Wednesday night. Screenshots from progressive activist Johana Bencomo show comments from Democratic Doña Ana County Commissioner John Vasquez, saying Bencomo’s mother asked him for “wierd (sic) favors” from the commissioner. In a time of #MeToo and public discussions regarding treatment of women by men in positions of power, Vasquez may have put himself, the county commission and the state and local Democratic party in an unwanted spotlight. Bencomo said Vasquez’s personal shots came after she commented on a post he made criticizing other politicians for endorsing candidates seeking election in 2018. “I just simply asked a question,” Bencomo told NM Political Report.
Oil and gas industry revenues pay a huge share of the money that goes into the state budget. And lobbyists for big oil companies pay a huge amount of campaign contributions to New Mexico politicians. An analysis of lobbyist expense reports filed in recent days with the New Mexico Secretary of State’s Office shows oil companies dominate the list of the largest donors to campaigns and political committees since last October. By far the biggest contributor among lobbyists in the new batch of reports was the Austin, Texas-based Stephen Perry, Chevron USA’s state government affairs manager for Texas, New Mexico and Oklahoma. Perry listed $183,250 in contributions.
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 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.
New Mexico Attorney General Hector Balderas announced Tuesday that he will not run for governor next year, ending months of speculation. Balderas, a Democrat, made the announcement in a statement to media where he highlighted work he has done in his first term as attorney general. “It has been an honor to serve New Mexico and I plan on running for re-election next year in order to continue to fight for our state,” he said. In addition to mentioning prosecuting “more than 100 cases of internet crimes against children and human trafficking” and recovering more than $6 million in Medicaid fraud cases in 2016, Balderas noted his more recent efforts against the Trump administration. “Since the November election, my office has a new responsibility—to stand up for New Mexico against President Trump,” Balderas said.
Another New Mexico Democrat announced his run for governor. Peter DeBenedittis issued a press release Monday detailing his campaign platform. One major point DeBenedittis highlighted in his announcement is that he is a political outsider. “Year after year we’ve seen Democrats talk like they really want to help people during the primaries, then they run to the center for the general election,” DeBenedittis said. “And then if they win, many completely forget what they’ve campaigned on.”
Last year, DeBenedittis gained some attention with his campaign to raise state alcohol taxes to increase state revenue.
The son of a former New Mexico governor announced his plans Tuesday to follow in his father’s footsteps. Jeff Apodaca, a former media executive and son of former Gov. Jerry Apodaca, told NM Political Report he wants to “turn New Mexico around” in early childhood development, job creation and health care. “I’m not running because of any legacy,” Apodaca said. If elected, Apodaca, a Democrat, said he would work to diversify New Mexico’s economy so the state is less dependant on oil and gas. Not only could New Mexico use wind and solar power for its own purposes, Apodaca said, but the state could power other states using renewable energy sources.