Beleaguered BLM office faces decisions on oil leases near national park

In September, the U.S. Bureau of Land Management will hold a sale on almost 200 drilling leases for 89,000 acres in Chaves, Eddy and Lea counties. About a dozen of those leases are within a mile of the boundary of Carlsbad Caverns National Park. The National Parks Conservation Association hopes the BLM will defer the parcels nearest to the park, in critical cave and karst areas and in other places with environmental concerns or wilderness characteristics, said Ernie Atencio, the nonprofit’s New Mexico Program Manager. “They heard our request to that effect, and they might even agree and prepare the paperwork for it, but that’s another decision that has to come down from D.C. and no longer in the hands of local managers,” he said. Since 1923, when President Calvin Coolidge signed the executive order creating what was then called Carlsbad Cave National Monument, the region has been transformed, largely due to oil drilling in the Permian Basin.

Pearce: Sessions ‘Forgot the chorus’ of ‘lock her up’

New Mexico’s Republican gubernatorial candidate wants the U.S. Department of Justice to hold 2016 presidential candidate and former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton accountable for an email scandal that dates back to nearly a decade ago. Without offering many details, U.S. Rep. Steve Pearce, who is giving up his congressional seat to run for New Mexico governor, said in a radio interview last week he does not think the DOJ—specifically U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions—is doing enough to take Clinton to task for the way she reportedly handled classified email messages while Secretary of State. The host of Mornings with Mike Winters in Roswell asked Pearce about “the status of ‘lock her up,’” which supporters of President Donald Trump chanted at rallies leading up to the 2016 election. The chant, which appeared at a Trump rally as recently as last week, refers to Clinton. “Yeah I don’t know exactly what happened to Jeff Sessions when he got appointed in as Attorney General but he has suddenly forgot the chorus there,” Pearce said.

Poll: Lujan Grisham leads Pearce

A new poll shows Democrat Michelle Lujan Grisham has a double-digit lead in the gubernatorial election. The poll, conducted by SurveyUSA for KOB-TV, found Lujan Grisham led Republican nominee Steve Pearce 51 percent to 38 percent, with 3 percent backing Libertarian candidate Bob Walsh. The poll asked likely voters who they would vote for if the election were held today. Lujan Grisham leads both among women—55 percent to 36 percent over Pearce—and men—47 percent to 30 percent over Pearce. The poll shows Walsh with the support of 5 percent of men and 2 percent of women.

Pearce and Lujan Grisham talk education plans

The Democratic and Republican candidates for governor outlined their plans for education in the state for a crowd of educational advocates on Monday. While both U.S. Reps. Michelle Lujan Grisham and Steve Pearce seemed to agree there is plenty to fix in the state, their starkest differences came down to state-funded, early childhood education. Their speeches were part of the annual New Mexico Voices for Children Kids Count conference in Albuquerque. Democratic nominee Lujan Grisham told conference attendees she supported tapping an addition one percent from the state’s land grant permanent fund to fund a long term, sustainable early childhood education program.

NM could see tax on internet sales after Supreme Court decision

A U.S. Supreme Court decision may open the door to the taxation of more internet sales in New Mexico. In a 5-4 decision Thursday, the U.S. Supreme Court said states could tax sales on internet purchases from companies that do not have a physical presence in a state. The decision overturned a 1992 decision on catalogue-order companies that was later interpreted to include internet sales. The New Mexico Legislature passed a bill that would apply the state’s gross receipts tax to internet sales in 2017 as part of a suite of tax changes. That would bring in, by a conservative estimate, $20 million annually for the state.

Poll: Lujan Grisham leads Pearce in governor’s race

A new poll shows that Democrats lead in statewide races, while Republicans are currently in the lead in the race to keep the 2nd Congressional District seat vacated by the Republican incumbent. KOB-TV first reported on the poll, which was released by Carroll Strategies Wednesday morning. The poll by Carroll Strategies shows Democrat Michelle Lujan Grisham leads 50.5 percent to 42.1 percent, while Libertarian Bob Walsh pulls in 3.1 percent (it isn’t clear yet if Walsh will appear on the general election ballot). Four percent of voters are undecided. Incumbent Susana Martinez, a Republican, cannot run for a third term because of term limits.

DCCC poll shows close race in 2nd Congressional District

The Democratic campaign arm that seeks to flip the House released polling Tuesday that showed the race for the 2nd Congressional District in New Mexico is close. The memo, released by the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, shows Republican state Rep. Yvette Herrell leads Democratic water attorney Xochitl Torres Small 45 percent to 43 percent in the Republican-leaning district. The release also looked at polling in ten other congressional districts. A memo, credited to DCCC chairman and New Mexico’s U.S. Representative in the 3rd Congressional District Ben Ray Luján, says the polling shows Democrats will be competitive in districts even where President Donald Trump won in 2016. This includes New Mexico’s 2nd Congressional District, which Trump won 50.1 percent to 39.9 percent.

Lujan Grisham cruises to victory in Democratic gubernatorial primary

One of the less-surprising moments on Tuesday was when U.S. Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham won the Democratic primary for governor. A recent Albuquerque Journal poll showed Lujan Grisham more than 40 points ahead of former television executive and son of a past New Mexico governor, Jeff Apodaca. On Tuesday night, election numbers showed Lujan Grisham with more than 60 percent of the vote against Apodaca and state Sen. Joe Cervantes. “You guys are awesome,” Lujan Grisham said to supporters Tuesday night during a victory speech in Albuquerque. In the last several weeks, the race became increasingly contentious when Apodaca’s campaign criticized Lujan Grisham’s role in a private company that manages the state’s high risk insurance pool.

Lessons governor candidates can take from education reform

When Gov. Susana Martinez was sworn into office nearly eight years ago, she had this to say about educating children in New Mexico: “Nothing we do is more indispensable to our future well-being or will receive more attention from my administration than guaranteeing our children a quality education.”
New Mexico had received an “F” for K-12 achievement on a national education grading report. Fast forward eight years. As she winds down the final year of her second term, New Mexico earned a “D-” for K-12 achievement from Education Week’s Quality Counts report — and our overall grade actually sunk from a C to a D, dropping from 32nd to 50th out of the 50 states and the District of Columbia. There’s more to learn about that progress — or lack thereof — in trying to improve education in New Mexico, other than “it’s hard.” Turning around a system as large as public education is like turning an aircraft carrier. It’s going to take a lot of pushing and it won’t turn on a dime.

Pearce: Fix education before expanding pre-K

New Mexico In Depth is speaking with the candidates for New Mexico governor on the issues of early childhood, child wellbeing and education. Steve Pearce of Hobbs represents southern New Mexico in Congress and is the sole Republican nominee.  This Q&A has been edited for length and clarity. Sylvia Ulloa: What would early childhood education look like in a Pearce administration. And, if you are supportive of those programs, how would you expand them to smaller communities? Steve Pearce: Before even talking about early childhood, I think it’s essential that we get an understanding of where the state is.