ABQ radio station owner considering a run for Senate

On any given weekday afternoon in Albuquerque just after 4 p.m., on KIVA-FM, listeners can hear the brief hit song from the late 1990s, You Get What You Give, followed by the booming and conservative voice of Eddy Aragon. Aragon makes it very clear he stands far to the right on the political spectrum. 

Now, after four years of owning and operating the station that airs his daily show, Aragon said he’s considering running for U.S. Senate—with a stress on “considering.” 

“You have to imagine the tremendous sacrifice that I have to consider,” Aragon said. “Being off during the year Donald Trump is running in 2020, that’s a sacrifice to my radio station.”

But he said enough people asked him to consider running that he decided in October to explore the idea. 

Tipping things toward a possible run for Aragon is the field of candidates poised to run against U.S. Rep. Ben Ray Luján. Luján announced earlier this year that he would run for Senate after U.S. Sen. Tom Udall said he would not seek another term next year. Up until several weeks ago, Luján faced New Mexico’s Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver in the Democratic primary.

Could Toulouse Oliver be part of a Senate ‘Squad?”

New Mexico’s primary elections are still more than eight months away, but that hasn’t slowed down candidates for U.S. Senate. Both the Republican and Democratic primaries have multiple candidates already, but arguably the Democratic race is the closest watched so far. 

Democrats will choose between U.S. Rep. Ben Ray Luján, who is walking away from the high ranking position in U.S. House leadership of Assistant Speaker of the House to run, or Maggie Toulouse Oliver, New Mexico’s Secretary of State. Luján has a financial advantage so far and secured endorsements from U.S. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, U.S. Rep. Debra Haaland and the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee. But Toulouse Oliver said she believes New Mexicans care less about what friends in high places think.     

“We have our own local leaders that we look to and we’re very independent-minded,” Toulouse Oliver said.  “While I respect those decisions and respect Congressman Luján for getting that support for himself, I don’t think that it’s going to be even a remotely deciding factor at the end of the day.”  

Pushing the envelope vs. mainstream

Toulouse Oliver didn’t grow up with a high-ranking state legislator as a parent and doesn’t have the institutional knowledge of Congress — two things Luján can boast.

Mick Rich is running for Senate again

New Mexico commercial contractor Mick Rich is taking a second run for Senate. Rich told NM Political Report early Friday morning that he was running again in 2020. 

Rich said he has “learned a lot” since his last attempt to represent New Mexico in Washington D.C. Rich’s Senate campaign in 2018, when he lost to Martin Heinrich, was his first attempt at elected office. “As we approach the 2020 election cycle, we have acted on that learning,” Rich said. “Rather than rush to announce for an open seat, we have recruited a top-notch campaign team and have begun to contact major donors.”

The Senate seat is open because Sen. Tom Udall opted not to run for a third term. Udall’s announcement earlier this year set off speculation on who would run to replace the longtime elected officeholder.

Mr. Johnson wants to go to Washington

LOS ALAMOS, N.M. — Libertarian U.S. Senate candidate and former two-term Republican governor Gary Johnson is killing time outside a Starbucks in Los Alamos between campaign events. Technically he shouldn’t  be here at all—or, at least not running for office. On election night in 2016, Johnson told NM Political Report he was done with politics after his second presidential run.  Asked about that night, Johnson answers the question he knows is coming next. “I can’t be believed,” Johnson interrupted sarcastically.

Rich, Johnson still support Kavanaugh but want to hear from accuser

Following an allegation of sexual assault, the confirmation of U.S. Circuit Judge and Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh became more controversial. Now some Democrats, including New Mexico’s two senators, want an investigation into what happened between Kavanaugh and college professor Christine Blasey Ford at a party in high school, where Ford alleged Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her.. New Mexico U.S. Sen. Martin Heinrich, a Democrat, issued a statement this week calling for an FBI investigation. “The sexual assault allegation made against Judge Kavanaugh deserves a thorough, professional investigation by the FBI before proceeding with any vote on his nomination to the highest court in the land,” Heinrich said. Heinrich is facing reelection this year and his two challengers both previously said they would vote to confirm Kavanaugh if given the chance.

Challenge of Aubrey Dunn candidacy dismissed

A state district judge dismissed the legal challenge of State Land Commissioner Aubrey Dunn’s candidacy for U.S. Senate. The challenger, Bernalillo County voter Steve Gendorn, filed a “voluntary dismissal” in Santa Fe district court, asking the judge to cancel the upcoming scheduled hearing, with no explanation why. Gendorn originally filed the suit on February 20—four days after the deadline to challenge candidacies—alleging that Dunn’s qualifying petition signatures were invalid because he failed to list a proper address on his petition forms. The suit also alleged that a number of petition signatures were from voters who were either not registered as Libertarian or not registered voters at all. The challenge was not filed by Dunn’s Republican opponent Mick Rich, but Dunn implied to NM Political Report that Rich had something to do with it. “Mick Rich is wasting the court’s time with an actual political stunt and wasting New Mexican’s time with his non-starter candidacy,” Dunn said.

The Hard Hat and The Beast: Mick Rich crisscrosses the state looking for votes

Just after 10 on a bright, but chilly Wednesday morning, Mick Rich strolled into a retro-looking coffee shop on historic Route 66 in Tucumcari. Making his way to the back of the restaurant, where the walls and windows were covered in “Mick Rich for Senate” campaign signs, he introduced himself to diners. “I’m Mick Rich and I’m running for Senate,” he said to a few people eating bacon, eggs and stacks of pancakes. Pushing 6 feet tall and bald, Rich made a point to stop at every table, both on the way in and out. After less than an hour talking to about 15 people in Tucumcari, and with a cinnamon roll to go, Rich climbed into the back seat of “The Beast,” a four-ton rig, wrapped with the words “Mick Rich for Senate” and an attached living space, for the two-hour trip to Las Vegas, NM.

Udall calls for ‘swift’ investigation after reports Trump revealed classified info

U.S. Sen. Tom Udall criticized President Donald Trump Tuesday after the Washington Post revealed that the president disclosed classified information to Russian officials during a meeting in the Oval Office last week. On the Senate floor, Udall said the latest news calls for a “swift” and independent investigation. “The White House and President Trump face another crisis,” Udall said. Udall went on to criticize Trump’s firing of former Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates and FBI Director James Comey. “The only rational explanation is that he has something to hide,” Udall said.

Heinrich calls for more protection of faith-based community centers

Two U.S. Senators, including one from New Mexico, want a Senate committee to address the high number of threats and attacks across the country against community centers, namely Jewish Community Centers. New Mexico U.S. Sen. Martin Heinrich, along with Republican U.S. Sen. Dean Heller of Nevada wrote a letter requesting a Senate Homeland Security Committee hearing about  the high number of bomb threats aimed at religious community centers across the country. “In the first two months of 2017, 100 bomb threats have already occurred, including two in Albuquerque and one in Las Vegas, and have forced the evacuations of hundreds across the country,” the senators wrote. Related: ABQ Jewish Community Center one of over a dozen targeted with bomb threat and ABQ Jewish Community Center again part of wave of bomb threats

The two senators also urged the committee to help move forward a bill they are cosponsing to allocate more money to the Department of Homeland Security, specifically to  protect faith-based community centers. “Faith-based community centers should be sanctuaries and open, inviting places for our citizens, and no American should feel unsafe at these centers,” their letter read.

Senate passes NCLB overhaul with NM Senators’ support

Both New Mexico senators voted in favor of a No Child Left Behind replacement Wednesday, following unanimous support last week on the same bill from the state’s Congressional delegation. Democrats and teachers unions have widely praised the Every Student Succeeds Act for taking away federal oversight of accountability from standardized tests. Under No Child Left Behind, the federal government could withhold money from schools that scored low on the Adequate Yearly Progress reports, which were made from standardized test scores. The new bill, which cleared the House of Representatives last week, leaves this type of accountability measures to the states. “It gives states the decision on high stakes testing, which unfortunately in our state the governor wants,” Albuquerque Teachers Federation President Ellen Bernstein said in an interview.