A Eunice resident, Gardner has spent the past few years fighting a proposal to store high-level nuclear waste in southeastern New Mexico.
“I was born here in Eunice, New Mexico, and have lived through a lot of ups and downs, oil booms and busts,” Gardner told NM Political Report. “But never have I ever felt that we needed an industry as dangerous as storing high-level nuclear waste right here.”
Gardner, who co-founded the Alliance for Environmental Strategies, is part of a groundswell of opposition to a project currently under consideration by the federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) that would see the world’s largest nuclear waste storage facility be built along the Lea-Eddy county line.
Holtec International, a private company specializing in spent nuclear fuel storage and management, applied for a license from the NRC in 2017 to construct and operate the facility in southeastern New Mexico that would hold waste generated at nuclear utilities around the country temporarily until a permanent, federally-managed repository is established. The license application is making steady progress in the NRC’s process, despite the pandemic.
Proponents of the project tout the estimated $3 billion in capital investments and 100 new jobs that it would bring to the area. But opponents — including the governor of New Mexico, most tribal nations in the state, state lawmakers, 12 local governments and a number of local associations — worry that the proposed interim storage facility would become a de facto permanent storage solution for the nation’s growing nuclear waste.
In a historic defeat, Neomi Martinez-Parra won Senate District 35, defeating state Senator Sen. John Arthur Smith who has held the seat for 32 years. Martinez-Parra’s win did not come as a surprise Wednesday. She pulled ahead of Smith in the Democratic primary late Tuesday night and appeared to be the presumptive winner. She won by 500 votes. She received 2,793 votes to Smith’s 2,293 in unofficial results.
The state Department of Health announced 122 additional cases of COVID-19, including 25 new cases among those held by federal agencies at the Otero County Prison Facility. The state also announced eight additional deaths related to the disease. As of Wednesday, New Mexico had found 8,140 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 375 deaths related to the disease.
Of the newly announced deaths related to COVID-19, all came from residents of San Juan or McKinley counties. The state provided some information on each case, but did not disclose a specific underlying condition. A male in his 60s from McKinley County who was hospitalized and had underlying conditions.A male in his 70s from McKinley County who was hospitalized and had underlying conditions.A second male in his 70s from McKinley County who was hospitalized and had underlying conditions.A female in her 80s from McKinley County who was hospitalized.A male in his 80s from McKinley Countywho was hospitalized and had underlying conditions.A female in her 60s from San Juan County who was hospitalized and had underlying conditions.A male in his 60s from San Juan County who was hospitalized and had underlying conditions.A female in her 80s from San Juan County who was hospitalized and had underlying conditions.
Tuesday night proved to be a night of historic upsets against state Senators who have long held onto their seats. Much of the action was on the Democratic side, though it appears two Republican incumbents also lost their primaries. State Sen. John Arthur Smith, after 32 years in the state Senate and the most powerful legislator as chair of the Senate Finance Committee, is extremely likely to lose to grassroots challenger Neomi Martinez-Parra. Smith represents SD 35. He more than doubled Martinez-Parra in donations.
Democrat Teresa Leger Fernandez won the seven-way Democratic primary on Tuesday.
As of 2 a.m., Leger Fernandez had 41.89 percent of the vote, while her closest competitor, former CIA officer Valerie Plame, had 22.95 percent of the vote.
The Associated Press projected Leger Fernandez as the winner shortly before 11 p.m.
“This is a win for communities, families and workers all across our district, and I am grateful for the trust that voters have placed in our campaign’s vision for Northern New Mexico. Even in a time when we must continue to stay physically distant and so much tries to divide us, this campaign has always been about interconnectedness and coming together,” Leger Fernandez said in a statement. Related: Herrell wins GOP primary, will face Torres Small again for CD2 seat in general election
Leger Fernandez is an attorney and activist from Santa Fe who emphasized her roots in the district during her campaign. Fernandez received the support of a number of national organizations, including EMILY’s List and the Planned Parenthood Action Fund. She was often overshadowed on a national scale by Plame, whose ads showcasing her driving skills helped get her national attention and fundraising support.
The primary campaign was dominated by attacks between Herrell and oil and gas lobbyist Claire Chase. Chase came under fire in the early days of the campaign for social media posts made in 2015 and 2016 that were critical of President Donald Trump. Chase has since praised Trump for his “fearless leadership.”
Related: Progressive Democrats defeat incumbents, with some races still pending
Chase took more vots in Chaves and Eddy counties, but fell behind Herrell in Doña Ana County and Lea County. Chase garnered 31.62 percent of the vote as of 2 a.m. Wednesday to Herrell’s 44.77 percent.