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.
Donald Trump’s shock firing of FBI Director James Comey Tuesday led to comparisons of former President Richard Nixon and the infamous Saturday Night Massacre. Comey was leading the agency investigating allegations that some of Trump’s political advisers colluded with the Russian government during the 2016 presidential election. “While I greatly appreciate you informing me, on three separate occasions, that I am not under investigation, I nevertheless concur with the judgment of the Department of Justice that you are not able to effectively lead the bureau,” Trump said in his letter to Comey. It is unclear what three times Trump is referring to, and the New York Times reported White House officials did not elaborate. The administration cited Comey’s handling of the investigation of Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server as a reason why he was fired.
The Democrats in New Mexico’s congressional delegation want to end “lunch-shaming” nationwide. The members introduced legislation in both the U.S. House and U.S. Senate to end the practice. The Anti-Lunch Shaming Act would ban schools from singling out children for their parent’s inability to pay for school lunch. Some schools make children whose parents can’t afford lunch wear wristbands or stamps on their hands or perform extra chores. Earlier this year, New Mexico became the first state in the nation to outlaw the practice.
House Republicans passed a sweeping health care bill that could reshape the American healthcare system for the second time in less than a decade. If passed by the Senate, the bill would put hundreds of thousands of New Mexicans at risk of losing their health coverage. The legislation passed today, the American Health Care Act, is the culmination of years of criticism by Republicans of the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare. The bill to replace the ACA passed on a 217-213 vote. Only one of New Mexico’s representatives, Republican Steve Pearce, voted for the legislation.
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.
U.S. Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham introduced a bill Friday that would amend the Social Security Act to include some married, same sex couples that currently do not qualify for survivor’s benefits. Named for an Albuquerque resident, the Anthony Gonzales Equality for Survivors (AGES) Act, the bill would add alternatives for those who were not married for the minimum nine months in order to receive their deceased partner’s benefits. Related story: ABQ widower from same-sex marriage denied social security benefits
While keeping the nine-month requirement, the bill would allow applicants to provide “a sworn affidavit that the widow or widower was in a domestic partnership with such individual throughout the 9-month period ending on the date of the individual’s death.”
The bill’s namesake said Lujan Grisham’s office called and told him the congresswoman introduced the bill. He didn’t, however, know his name was included. “I’m shocked,” Gonzales said when NM Political Report called for comment.
Anti-abortion advocates from across the country held a press conference in Albuquerque Wednesday morning denouncing New Mexico’s flagship university for its fetal tissue donation practices. Among those who spoke at the event were Rep. Marsha Blackburn, R-Tennessee, New Mexico Rep. Steve Pearce, a Republican and Washington D.C. attorney Catherine Glenn Foster. Blackburn, who chaired the controversial congressional Select Panel on Infant Rights, said she came to “join my colleague in the House [of Representatives] and those in New Mexico that have worked on the issue of life.”
The Select Panel released a report in January faulting the University of New Mexico for lacking protocols to “ensure the survival of infants who show signs of life following extraction from the uterus.” It also scrutinized UNM’s relationship with Southwest Women’s Options, an abortion provider that has donated fetal tissue to the university for scientific research. Supporters of abortion rights, as well as minority Democrats in the Select Panel, have dismissed the report and the panel’s investigation for using “McCarthy-era tactics” to conduct “an end-to-end attack on fetal tissue donation and women’s health care.”
Pearce contended that “the laws are clear” and that “we’re simply stating, ‘Do not violate the law.’”
The Select Panel made 15 criminal referrals for its research of abortion providers and educational institutions across the country, including to New Mexico Attorney General Hector Balderas. To date, Balderas has not acted on the referral to his office.
The Congressional Hispanic Caucus won’t stop its criticism of Donald Trump’s immigration policies. That’s the word from Michelle Lujan Grisham, the New Mexico lawmaker who heads the caucus, which is made up of Hispanic members of Congress from around the country. All are Democrats (the Congressional Hispanic Conference is made up of Republican members). Department of Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly told members of Congress to “shut up” or change the law after his department faced criticism from members on its deportation practices. “If lawmakers do not like the laws they’ve passed and we are charged to enforce, then they should have the courage and skill to change the laws,’’ Kelly said earlier this week at George Washington University, according to reports.
Candidates for the Albuquerque mayoral election filed their campaign finance reports over the weekend. The financial reports shed some light on which privately-financed candidates have raised the most money and from whom they’re getting their contributions. Right now, 16 official candidates are running for the city’s top office, but only four have raised significantly large amounts of money. Brian Colón Former Democratic Party of New Mexico Chairman and one-time candidate for lieutenant governor Brian Colón leads the pack in fundraising. Most of his $350,000 haul came in large donations from business owners and executives.