Tempests and fisticuffs: The history of NM’s open U.S. Senate races

U.S. Sen. Tom Udall announced last month that he will not seek a third U.S. Senate term. The attention quickly turned to who would be Udall’s replacement. So far, U.S. Rep. Ben Ray Lujan has said he will run, and Attorney General Hector Balderas said he won’t. It’s easy for political reporters to get caught up in the races. But a look back in history can be instructive as well.

Udall will not run for reelection to U.S. Senate

U.S. Sen. Tom Udall announced Monday that he will not run for reelection to the  U.S. Senate in 2020, saying, “The worst thing anyone in public office can do is believe the office belongs to them, rather than the people they represent.”

He said in a YouTube video, with a transcript on Medium, that he feels in his final two years in office he will be able to “get so much more done to help reverse the damage done to our planet, end the scourge of war, and to stop this president’s assault on our democracy and our communities” without running a campaign for what would have been a third term. Related: Who might run to replace Tom Udall in the Senate? Since his election to the U.S. Senate in 2008, Udall has pushed for environmental legislation and for legislation to overturn the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision. The announcement by Udall opens up a Senate race in a state that increasingly leans Democratic. Democrats won every statewide office and all three congressional seats in 2018 and hold majorities in both chambers of the state legislature.

Udall leads Senate effort to reverse Trump’s emergency declaration

U.S. Sen. Tom Udall is leading the bipartisan effort to overturn President Donald Trump’s national emergency declaration. The New Mexico senator says the president overstepped his constitutional powers. Udall and Maine Republican Senator Susan Collins announced the legislation to block Trump’s national emergency declaration. In early February, Trump declared a national emergency to divert billions of dollars from the U.S. Department of Defense to construct a border wall. In a floor speech Thursday, Udall positioned the bill as not about the border wall, but about the powers that Congress holds over the disbursement of money.

Groundwater contamination devastates a New Mexico dairy – and threatens public health

For
months, Clovis dairy farmer Art Schaap has been watching his life go
down the drain. Instead of selling milk, he is dumping 15,000 gallons
a day – enough to provide a carton at lunch to 240,000 children. Instead of working 24/7 to keep his animals healthy, he’s planning
to exterminate all 4,000 of his cows, one of the best herds in Curry
County’s booming dairy industry. The 54-year-old second-generation dairy farmer learned last August that his water, his land, his crops – even the blood in his body – were contaminated with chemicals that migrated to his property from nearby Cannon Air Force Base. See all of NM Political Report’s coverage on PFAS contamination.

Poll: Low approval ratings for Martinez when she left office

Gov. Susana Martinez left office with low approval ratings, according to Morning Consult.

Meanwhile, both of New Mexico’s U.S. Senators’ approval ratings remained over 40 percent, with a high amount of voters with no opinion. The pollster found Martinez’s approval rating among all registered voters in her final three months in office was just 35 percent, while 49 percent disapproved of the Republican’s job performance. That was the ninth-highest disapproval rating among all 50 governors in the same time period. In her final year in office, Martinez’s approval rating remained in the mid-30 percent range. Senators

Martin Heinrich easily won re-election to the U.S. Senate in a three-way race in November, defeating Republican Mick Rich and Libertarian, and former New Mexico governor, Gary Johnson.

NM Environment Review: Cannon AFB, double drilling & wolf news

All week, we look for stories that help New Mexicans better understand what’s happening with water, climate, energy, landscapes and communities around the region. Thursday morning, that news goes out via email. To subscribe to that weekly email, click here. Here’s a snippet of what subscribers read this week:

• This week the New Mexico Environment Department issued a Notice of Violation against Cannon Air Force Base over water supplies contaminated with toxic chemicals from the base.Then, this morning we learned that Sens. Tom Udall and Martin Heinrich and Rep. Ben Ray Luján met with Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson (also, a former New Mexico representative) to discuss the contamination. (As we’d previously reported, Luján first reached out to Wilson back in mid-October…) According to a joint statement from Udall, Heinrich and Luján, “As we discussed with Secretary Wilson, the Air Force must do more to address this serious issue with the urgency it demands.

Feds fail to prosecute crimes in Indian Country

In 2017, the U.S. Department of Justice declined to prosecute more than a third of cases referred to them in Indian Country. That’s business as usual according to a new report by the department. The report reveals that U.S. attorneys’ offices left 37 percent of referred cases from Indian Country unprosecuted in 2017 — a figure slightly up from 2016 and steady with data since 2011, after then-President Barack Obama signed the Tribal Law and Order Act into law. The percentage continues to plateau despite funding for tribal law enforcement from the Trump administration. Lawmakers like Sen. Tom Udall, D-N.M., see the department’s prosecution rate as failing members of federally recognized tribes.

Federal politics unite unlikely coalitions at the border

The last two years of the Trump administration have been challenging for both environmental and immigrant advocacy groups at the border. Renewed calls to build a $25 billion wall that would cut through important wildlife habitat for species like the jaguar and the Mexican gray wolf, combined with the impacts of ramped-up militarization in border communities, have increasingly united conservationists and social justice activists. This newfound collaboration is especially strong in Las Cruces, in southern New Mexico. This story originally appeared at High Country News and is reprinted with permission. Here, in the Borderlands, groups like the faith-based organization NMCAFé and the American Civil Liberties Union Regional Center for Border Rights have long worked on immigration reform and fought for immigrant rights at detention facilities.

Poll: Martinez approval rating remains low; Senators’ tick up

Susana Martinez will be leaving office in three months, and she remains unpopular among New Mexico voters according to a recent poll. Meanwhile, the state’s two U.S. Senators still have more support than opposition, but their approval ratings remain under 50 percent. Martinez’s approval rating stand at 36 percent among registered New Mexico voters according to Morning Consult, while her disapproval rating is at 54 percent. This is barely changed from numbers released in July. The Republican governor’s disapproval rating remains sixth-highest among all governors.

New Mexico senators speak out over order they say would hamper nuclear safety board

New Mexico’s senators are asking Congress to block a Department of Energy order that would limit a federal board’s access to information about nuclear facilities and could hinder its ability to oversee worker health and safety. In a letter sent Wednesday to the leaders of a Senate appropriations subcommittee, Democratic Sens. Martin Heinrich and Tom Udall also asked their colleagues to block impending staff cuts and a broad reorganization at the Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board. New Mexico is home to three of the 14 nuclear facilities under the board’s jurisdiction: Los Alamos National Laboratory, Sandia National Laboratories and the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant. “We feel strongly that these two matters facing the [safety board] and its future must be suspended while Congress and the public have time to review and offer constructive feedback” on how to maintain and improve the board, the senators wrote to Sens.