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.
Women dominated contested congressional races in the Democratic and Republican primaries on Tuesday. Former Democratic Party of New Mexico Chairwoman Deb Haaland won the 1st Congressional District Democratic primary election late Tuesday night. Haaland picked up more than 40 percent of the votes in race with five other names on the ballot. About three hours after the polls closed, Haaland addressed her supporters packed into a small business space in Albuquerque Nob Hill, which also serves as her campaign office. “I am honored by all of your presence here,” Haaland told the crowd.
New Mexico’s 2nd Congressional District isn’t the safe territory it used to be for Republicans, according to election handicappers. Most experts have put the Republican stronghold in the “Likely Republican” category. This is both because of the national environment—there are many more competitive Republican seats compared to Democratic seats—and the fact that the incumbent is not running for reelection. U.S. Rep. Steve Pearce is instead running for governor. The Cook Political Report offers the most aggressive prediction.
New Mexico state Rep. Yvette Herrell of Alamogordo and former Hobbs Mayor Monty Newman secured their places on the Republican primary election ballot for the state’s 2nd Congressional District race. That spot is currently held by U.S. Rep. Steve Pearce, the lone Republican running for governor. At the party’s state pre-primary convention Saturday, Herrell won the votes of 58 percent of delegates in the southern New Mexico district, and Newman won almost 26 percent of the vote. The other three candidates failed to reach the 20 percent threshold for automatic inclusion on the ballot, but can still secure a spot by gathering additional petition signatures within 10 days. Afterwards, Herrell said she’s grateful for the support and will continue “praying” and “working hard” as she’ll still face Newman and likely others in the primary.
The president pro tem of the New Mexico Senate on Wednesday called for the resignation of the five regents of New Mexico State University, saying they had arbitrarily stripped powers from Chancellor Garrey Carruthers. The regents voted Monday to prohibit Carruthers from hiring and firing people in executive or coaching positions at the main campus in Las Cruces and on NMSU’s branch campuses. This triggered a strong response from Senate President Pro Tem Mary Kay Papen, D-Las Cruces. She stated in a letter of complaint to the regents that they had inappropriately and perhaps unlawfully delegated their responsibilities to one person while taking away authority from Carruthers. Papen’s reference was to regents board Chairwoman Debra Hicks, who was empowered by the rest of the board to make interim appointments.
At the end of every legislative session, there are dozens of bills that die on the House or Senate floor. When asked what happened, legislative leaders invariably shrug their shoulders and say, “We just ran out of time …” Which is true. But in the days and weeks that lead to the last moments of a session, lawmakers eat up untold hours — joking around, talking sports, engaging in ceremonial activities and spending time on legislation that doesn’t have the force of law. Call these activities “time bandits.”
Aubrey Dunn announced he will not run for reelection as state land commissioner and will instead run for congress in the state’s 2nd Congressional District. Dunn, a Republican, made the announcement Tuesday. U.S. Rep. Steve Pearce, also a Republican, announced earlier he will forego a run for an eighth term in office and instead run for governor. Dunn is so far the second Republican to announce candidacy for the seat, following state Rep. Yvette Herrell of Alamogordo. Other Republicans have said they are considering a run, including state Sen. Cliff Pirtle of Roswell.
In a late-night surprise Wednesday in the House of Representatives, Rep. Jim Trujillo, D-Santa Fe, who has missed most of the legislative session because of a heart operation, showed up to help pass a proposed constitutional amendment that would take an extra one percent of interest earnings from New Mexico’s $20 billion land grant permanent fund to help pay for early childhood education. The House voted 37-32, mostly along party lines, to pass House Joint Resolution 1, a vote which had been delayed for more than a week, partly because of the Santa Fe legislator’s absence. Trujillo, a long-time advocate of the proposal, received a standing ovation when he walked into the chamber immediately before the House ended a three-hour debate. Related: Education chiefs fail to appear at hearing
The measure now goes to the Senate, where the road is expected to be much rougher. The proposal is certain to meet resistance from the Senate Finance Committee, chaired by Sen. John Arthur Smith, D-Deming, a longtime opponent of taking extra money out of the land grant fund.
Republicans and Democrats on Monday threw their support behind a proposal to collect gross receipts tax from major internet retailers such as Amazon and eBay. Legislators have considered several similar proposals in recent years, but backers of House Bill 202 hope that the state’s budget crisis, a changing legal landscape and bipartisan support will send this measure to Republican Gov. Susana Martinez. She has steadfastly opposed all proposals to raise taxes. But other Republicans who have been similarly wary of anything that sounds like a tax increase said during a meeting of the House Business and Industry Committee that they see the bill as ensuring fairness for small businesses competing with internet companies that do not have to pay the state’s 5 percent gross receipts or local taxes. “It’s really just closing a loophole,” said Rep. Monica Youngblood, R-Albuquerque.
A proposal to boost New Mexico’s maximum annual payout of tax incentives for film and television productions moved forward Friday afternoon with a do-pass recommendation from the House Business and Industry Committee, despite legislators’ vexation over a mathematical error in the bill’s text. Legislators of both parties expressed support for New Mexico’s growing film industry, though some cautioned against the perception that the state might prioritize these incentives while lawmakers struggle with pressing budget concerns. “We just cut education twice — in the special session, we just cut it a few weeks ago, and we’re getting ready to cut it again,” said Rep. Tim Lewis, R-Sandoval. “Three times. My constituents are like, ‘Can we at least freeze the film industry in these difficult times?'”
However, backers of the bill characterized the proposed increase as an investment by the state and an adjustment for inflation.