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.
Two election analysts say that New Mexico’s gubernatorial election is among the most-likely in the nation to switch parties. Politico and The Washington Post each recently highlighted the top ten gubernatorial races to watch. New Mexico ranked second for Politico and first for the Post. Incumbent governor Susana Martinez, a Republican, is term-limited and cannot run for a third consecutive term. She leaves office with low popularity and her party faces a headwind in the first general elections after the election of Donald Trump.
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.
If Congress fails to reauthorize a popular health insurance program, it will cost the state big money. But unlike in some other states, New Mexico’s children won’t lose health insurance. The Children’s Health Insurance Program, or CHIP, lapsed on Sept. 30. Since then, Congress has failed to agree on renewing the federally-funded program.
The tax bill Congress is considering could blow up New Mexico’s budget—as early as next year. New Mexico Senate Finance Committee chair John Arthur Smith, D-Deming, and House Appropriations and Finance Committee chair Patricia Lundstrom, D-Gallup, sounded the alarm with a letter to members of the congressional delegation and Gov. Susana Martinez. The two wrote the state could lose nearly $600 million in federal funding in the coming year, including over $430 million in federal mineral leasing payments. This is money the federal government pays to states for oil and gas drilling and coal mining on federal lands within their borders. “Loss of FML revenues, which primarily fund public education in New Mexico, would have a devastating impact on the state’s budget and would wipe out the reserves our state has struggled to rebuild,” the two legislators wrote.
A top Democratic gubernatorial candidates says a Lt. Gov. candidate should step down because of sexual harassment claims from a decade ago. Michelle Lujan Grisham told the Associated Press she believed State Sen. Michael Padilla, D-Albuquerque, should not run for the state’s second-highest position because of the claims.
In New Mexico, the governor and lieutenant governor of major parties are each nominated separately in party primaries, then run as a ticket in the general election. The allegations date back to before Padilla’s political career, when he worked for the city of Albuquerque at the city’s 911 call center. Padilla faced a suit in federal court from five women for creating a hostile work environment and sexual harassment. Padilla resigned, but denied the allegations.
Some resources from national Democrats are trickling into New Mexico in an attempt to swing the state’s 2nd Congressional District from Republicans to Democrats. The national party is doing that as many predict a “wave” election for Democrats, and a chance to return the majority in the U.S. House of Representatives to Democrats. To do that, Democrats will need to win in traditionally-Republican districts and retain all their own districts. This puts New Mexico on the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee’s radar. Next year’s election will see two New Mexico congressional districts without an incumbent running for reelection.
The U.S. House of Representatives passed a bill with a provision that could have a big impact on three national forests in southern New Mexico. Lawmakers voted 232 to 188 to pass the Resilient Federal Forests Act of 2017 Wednesday. The final bill included an amendment sponsored by New Mexico Rep. Steve Pearce that will exempt certain forest thinning, logging, watershed improvement and habitat restoration projects from reviews required under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and the Endangered Species Act. Speaking on the House floor, Pearce said thinning and logging activities in New Mexico and across the western United States have been “drastically reduced,” contributing to the size and severity of wildfires. “The best way to restore our forests while preserving their ecosystems is the creation of restoration projects that will return them a healthy density,” Pearce said.
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.