Amendment to tap the Land Grant Permanent Fund passes by wide margin

Constitutional Amendment 1, which will allow an increase from the Permanent Land Grant Fund distribution by 1.25 percent, won by a large margin. As of 9:45 p.m., the votes in favor were 349,579 to 146,969 opposed. Those in favor carried the vote by 70 percent. Angie Poss, spokesperson for Vote Yes for Kids! Constitutional Amendment 1, a group that has been working to convince voters to vote in favor of the amendment, said by phone that the celebration at Hotel Andaluz in downtown Albuquerque, after a decade-long fight, was joyous.

How a new governor could impact reproductive policy

If Republican nominee Mark Ronchetti wins election, he can still impact reproductive rights policy, even without being able to pass his priorities through the Legislature with Democratic majorities. Ronchetti has campaigned on an anti-abortion policy. During the Republican primary, his campaign website said he believed “life should be protected – at all stages.” In a commercial in September he said, that if elected, he would support a voter referendum on banning abortion after 15 weeks. But in July, Albuquerque megachurch pastor Steve Smothermon said Ronchetti told him privately that, if elected, Ronchetti still intended to ban abortion. Ronchetti’s campaign denied it. 

Related: Pastor says Ronchetti would seek to ban abortion

Smothermon reiterated the claim to his congregation in October, saying that “he told me exactly what I said.”

Ronchetti’s campaign did not respond to a request for comment.

Albuquerque Legacy Church pastor maintains Ronchetti will ban abortion 

Albuquerque Legacy Church Pastor Steve Smothermon said for a second time that GOP candidate for governor, Mark Ronchetti, told Smothermon he would ban abortion if elected. Ronchetti’s campaign denied the allegation when Smothermon initially said he and Ronchetti had talked “for hours” and that Ronchetti had told him during an earlier part of his campaign that he would ban abortion if elected. Smothermon announced this during a church sermon in July. Ronchetti’s campaign did not respond to a request for comment regarding Smothermon’s second allegation made before his congregation in October. But Smothermon insisted to his congregants, “I assure you, he told me exactly what I said.”

Democratic Party of New Mexico Communications Director Daniel Garcia questioned Ronchetti’s trustworthiness in response to the pastor’s remarks.

Assistant House Speaker stumps for Stansbury over reproductive rights

U.S. House of Representatives Melanie Stansbury, a Democrat who represents New Mexico’s 1st Congressional District, held a rally with Assistant House Speaker Katherine Clark, from Massachusetts on Thursday. The rally, which took place at an office building on the east side of Albuquerque, was part of an effort to whip up voter support in New Mexico. 

It was the second visit to Albuquerque by a high profile Democrat this week. On Tuesday, Vice President Kamala Harris held a talk about reproductive rights with Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham, another Democrat who is up for reelection in November. Stansbury made connections between being what she called a “pro-choice” candidate with also believing in science and democracy. Stansbury did not refer to her Republican opponent by name, but she is facing a challenge from Republican Michelle Garcia Holmes.

VP Harris visits NM to talk reproductive rights

Vice President Kamala Harris said during an event in New Mexico on Tuesday that the fight around reproductive rights in the United States will affect women all over the world. Harris stopped in Albuquerque to talk with Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham and University of New Mexico Professor and Chair of the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology and Family Planning Fellowship Director Dr. Eve Espey about protecting reproductive rights. The moderated discussion took place in front of a packed house of about 250 people at the University of New Mexico’s Keller Hall in the Center for the Arts and Arts Museum. Harris said people around the world watch what is happening politically in the U.S. She said former German Chancellor Angela Merkel leaned over during a conversation about Russia and China and asked Harris about what is happening with voting rights in the U.S.

“My fear on this issue is that dictators around the world will say to their people who are fighting for rights, ‘you want to hold out America as the example?’ Look at what they just did; be quiet,’” she said. “I highlight the significance of this moment and the impact, which not only directly impacts the people of our nation but very likely impacts people around the world.”

 Harris highlighted her mother’s career, saying that her mother was one of the very few women of color researching breast cancer in her era.

Heinrich, Luján urge ICE to terminate contract with CoreCivic over Torrance County Detention Facility 

A group of six U.S. Senators, led by Senator Martin Heinrich, signed a letter urging the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement to terminate its contract with CoreCivic for its operation of the Torrance County Detention Facility. The Democrats’ letter is in response to the Department of Homeland Security Office of Inspector General follow-up report in September that ICE had not fully addressed 10 of the 14 OIG recommendations to improve conditions at the facility. The OIG report recommended the detainees be relocated from the facility. This is the second time this year the OIG has made that recommendation. In March, the OIG released its initial report, based on a surprise visit in February, recommending the immediate relocation of detainees due to “inhumane” conditions.

New report says newly naturalized citizens in New Mexico galvanized to vote

A new report found that 15,064 newly naturalized citizens live in New Mexico and that they have the potential to impact elections in the state. The report, titled New American Voters in New Mexico, was produced by a group of organizations that work with naturalized citizens. It says that President Donald Trump’s win in 2016 galvanized many to become naturalized citizens. Juan Avila Campuzano, a spokesperson for Somos Un Pueblo Unido, said Lawful Permanent Residents, also known as “green card holders” who lived sometimes for decades with green cards become naturalized citizens after the 2016 election. “It was a catalyst for many,” Avila Campuzano said.

New Mexico Democrats hold abortion rights rally in Las Cruces

With 23 days before the November election, New Mexico Democrats held a rally with Planned Parenthood and NARAL Pro-Choice America national leaders in Las Cruces on Saturday to discuss the importance of abortion rights. Close to 300 people attended the rally at Albert Johnson Park, next to Las Cruces City Hall. Democrats campaigning for office included former Las Cruces City Councilor Gabriel “Gabe” Vasquez, who is challenging incumbent Republican U.S. Rep. Yvette Herrell for the state’s 2nd Congressional District seat, Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver, who is vying for a second term and Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham, who is also campaigning for a second term in office. Toulouse Oliver faces Audrey Mendonca-Trujillo, a Republican, and Mayna Myers, a Libertarian. Lujan Grisham is competing with Republican Mark Ronchetti and Libertarian Karen Bedonie.

DHS Inspector General again recommends closure of Torrance County Detention Facility

The Office of Inspector General for the Department of Homeland Security recommended for a second time this year that U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement close Torrance County Detention Facility. The OIG watchdog released the follow-up report the same week that 13 men began a hunger strike inside the facility located in Estancia. A lawyer with New Mexico Immigration Law Center said at least some of the men involved in the hunger strike were deported this week. Orlando de los Santos Evangelista, one of the detainees who told NM Political Report last week that he and the others were engaged in the hunger strike, said he and the others are asylum seekers. He said was fleeing gangs and corrupt police in the Dominican Republic.

DOH: Providers must test pregnant individuals for syphilis due to rise in cases

The New Mexico Department of Health renewed a Public Health Order this week to mandate that all medical providers test pregnant individuals for syphilis multiple times during the pregnancy. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported a nationwide increase in cases. New Mexico experienced an increase in cases between 2017, when providers found one case, and 2020, when New Mexico had 42 cases of the disease. Syphilis is easily treatable when detected but can complicate a pregnancy if left untreated. The New Mexico Department of Health will reintroduce a bill into the 2023 Legislature that would amend the Public Health Act to require providers to test for syphilis in pregnant individuals.