June started with elections and ended with NM Political Report breaking some news. In between, Barack Obama and his family came to New Mexico to look through Carlsbad Caverns.
We know that it’s difficult to keep up with all the New Mexico political stories (NM Political Report and our staff of three published over 100 stories and opinion pieces this month alone), so here is a recap of the top stories from NM Political Report for June, 2016.
Voters went to the polls on June 7 and we were there for all the stories. We looked at all the results of key primaries.
The most-read story came from an extremely close race for the Democratic nomination for Bernalillo County commissioner. In that race, APS school board member and actor Steven Michael Quezada, best known for his role in Breaking Bad, won in a three-way primary.
In other stories, only one incumbent legislator lost a primary, and that was an Albuquerque state representative who got her position through appointment by the Bernalillo County Commission. On the presidential level, Hillary Clinton narrowly defeated Bernie Sanders in New Mexico, while Donald Trump easily won the Republican primary. Los Alamos County Republicans, known for being more moderate than others in the state, voted for Trump but only with barely over 50 percent.
Feds investigate SNAP
The federal government slammed the food benefits application process for SNAP, formerly known as food stamps, in New Mexico. They called for a detailed corrective plan from the state Human Services Department to fix the litany of problems. HSD, meanwhile, provided the plan.
Later in the month, the New Mexico congressional delegation and the USDA called for a federal investigation into the handling of the state’s food benefits program. Shortly after this, news came out that the USDA’s inspector general was, indeed, looking into the problems with the benefit process.
The were revealed as part of a federal court case, one that NM Political Report has been covering for weeks.
UNM possible job losses
The fallout from the takeover of the UNM Health Sciences Center by the UNM Board of Regents continued. Despite claims by one of the regents that nothing would change for employees, NM Political Report learned that the university is looking at possibly eliminating positions.
The attempt to take “salud” out of the email addresses of UNMH employees and others, meanwhile, proved controversial. Late in the month, UNM announced a delay to the proposed change.
No records of ‘party fund’
When NM Political Report asked for receipts and other documents from the governor’s contingency fund, the same fund used for the infamous holiday party, we were told the documents did not exist.
This, according to state officials and open government groups, is in violation of the state’s Inspection of Public Records Act.
Tragedy struck in mid-June when a shooter killed nearly 50 patrons in an Orlando LGBT club on Latin night.
New Mexico leaders and others reacted to the shooting and expressed their condolences. The next night, mourners held a candlelight vigil in Albuquerque.
The shooting led to renewed calls by Democrats for votes on gun legislation. House Democrats staged a sit-in, one that the two Democrats from New Mexico joined participated in; and U.S. Senators Martin Heinrich and Tom Udall joined in.
Secertary of State race hits general election
Secretary of State candidate Nora Espinoza worked with a group closely aligned with the Church of Scientology to pass a bill, which became a law, on psychotropic medications. She then appeared in two videos praising the Scientology-backed group for their work on the issue.
Meanwhile, Espinoza didn’t spend much of the money she raised for the general election even as her Democratic opponent, Maggie Toulouse Oliver, started an advertising blitz. We looked at the two strategies.
Later, Espinoza said Toulouse Oliver should have reported a 2014 donation from a New Mexico-based PAC to a federal PAC. Neither PAC was associated with Toulouse Oliver’s 2014 campaign and one campaign finance expert said she wasn’t sure why Espinoza’s campaign believed Toulouse Oliver’s campaign should be responsible.
- Albuquerque’s City Hall was placed on lockdown on June 13 after reports of an active shooter. There was not an active shooter, and the next day police revealed it appeared to be an attempted robbery attempt. The man who broke into the city treasurer’s office himself actually called police, pretending there was an active shooter.
- A congressional panel looking into abortion providers wants the Attorney General to investigate an Albuquerque abortion provider for allegedly breaking state law. The provider says the panel is misreading the law and says they comply with all federal and state laws.
- The State Auditor warned the Department of Health about delays in approving applications for medical marijuana patients, delays which far exceeded the 30-day deadline put in state law.
- New Mexico once again ranked 49th in child well-being and actually dropped to 50th for education.
- Every superdelegate in New Mexico announced support for Hillary Clinton.
- As part of the celebration of the 100th anniversary of the National Parks Service, President Obama brought his family to Carlsbad Caverns for a quick tour.
- A national organization slammed Albuquerque Public Schools for proposed changes to the audit system in the state’s largest school district. APS defended the changes.
- Bernie Sanders supporters chanted “Bernie or Bust!” at a Democratic state convention.