Legislative Newsletter: The race to 2024, so far

Want to get this in your email before it posts on the site? Sign up here. Hello fellow political junkies! The 2024 New Mexico General Election has heated up with more people announcing their candidacy for both federal and state offices. On Thursday, Greg Cunningham, R-Albuquerque, announced his intention for a rematch against District 29 incumbent Rep. Joy Garratt, D-Albuquerque.

Legislative Newsletter: Uncharted Territory

This is a copy of a weekly newsletter, and we are running the first few editions on the website. To subscribe for free, sign up here. Note: this was written prior to the governor’s public health order regarding firearms in Bernalillo County. Hello political junkies! An ongoing theme in all levels and branches of government lately is uncharted territory.

Watchdog groups file brief in congressional gerrymandering case

Some watchdog groups and redistricting experts filed an amicus brief in a case concerning New Mexico’s congressional redistricting maps on Aug. 14. The brief was filed in state judicial district court by watchdog groups Common Cause New Mexico, Election Reformers Network and the League of Women Voters New Mexico and it supports neither party in the case. The case concerns objections to New Mexico’s redistricted congressional maps that expanded the 2nd Congressional District into Albuquerque. That seat is currently held by former Las Cruces City Councilor Gabe Vasquez, a Democrat. 

Plaintiffs in the case, including the Republican Party of New Mexico, claim the adopted congressional map is gerrymandered against theirs and others’ votes which they state violates the New Mexico Equal Protection Clause, the brief stated.

Gerrymandering case will move forward

The New Mexico Supreme Court ordered the redistricting case alleging gerrymandering during the 2021 redistricting process proceed in district court. The Court gave the Fifth Judicial District Court in Lea County until Oct. 1 to resolve the case about how New Mexico’s 2nd congressional district was redistricted following the 2020 Census. At issue was that the district, which had previously only included the southern half of the state which tends to lead conservative, now includes part of Albuquerque which tends to lean liberal, which those opposing the redistricting say diluted the Republican’s votes. All three of New Mexico’s congressional districts are held by Democrats, a feat that has only happened two other times since the 1980s.

NM officials respond to U.S. Supreme Court redistricting decision

The U.S. Supreme Court rejected on Tuesday an attempt to exempt state legislatures from federal judicial review for redistricting issues. The Supreme Court rejected the “independent state legislature theory” in the Moore V. Harper (2003) case on a 6-3 vote. The theory states that state legislatures have “exclusive and independent authority” to draw federal congressional maps” based on the U.S. Constitution’s Elections Clause, the opinion states. “As an election official deeply committed to upholding the principles of democracy, I am thrilled by today’s Supreme Court decision in Moore vs. Harper,” Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver said.

Former GOP candidate faces federal charges for shootings of homes of prominent Dems

A federal grand jury indicted the man and two alleged co-conspirators who allegedly shot at prominent Albuquerque Democrats’ homes in late 2022 this week. Former Republican state house candidate Solomon Peña and alleged co-conspirators Demetrio Trujillo and Jose Louise Trujillo were charged on counts including conspiracy, interference with federally protected activities and using and carrying a firearm during and in relation to a violent crime, possessing a firearm in furtherance of such crime and aiding and abetting in all but the conspiracy count. U.S. District Judge Kea W. Riggs unsealed the federal court documents on May 31. In 2022, Peña ran for the state House District 14 seat against incumbent Democrat Miguel Garcia. Garcia won the race with 74 percent of the vote to Peña’s 26 percent.

"Vote Here" signs in front of the Otero County Administration Building on New York Avenue in Alamogordo.

New Mexico officials respond to the Dominion/Fox News settlement

New Mexico’s top election official praised the settlement by Fox News in a defamation case over lies told by the network over the 2020 election. On April 18, Dominion Voting Systems accepted a nearly $800 million settlement from Fox News in the defamation case against the cable channel giant. This came on the same day the defamation case was set to go to trial. The suit came following former President Donald Trump’s re-election bid failed and he then claimed the election was not properly conducted since he lost. “The historic settlement is a victory for Dominion Voting Systems just as much as it is a victory for our democracy and for voter confidence,” New Mexico Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver said Wednesday.

Former Congressowman Yvette Herrell, R-Alamogordo, announced her candidacy for the 2nd Congressional District at a rally April 10, 2023.

Herrell announces candidacy to win back CD 2

The battleground 2nd Congressional District race has begun with Alamogordo Republican Yvette Herrell announcing her candidacy at an event Monday night at the New Mexico Farm and Ranch Heritage Museum in Las Cruces. Herrell’s announcement comes mere months after she lost the seat in the 2022 general election to Las Cruces Democrat Gabe Vazquez. “We don’t have a seat at the table. We don’t have anybody watching out for our ranchers,” Herrell said. “We have got to work on every single level: county, state, federal, local.

Trump arraigned on charges in NY

Former President Donald Trump turned himself into authorities Tuesday, on charges relating to his paying hush money to adult film performer Stormy Daniels. Trump, 76, pleaded not guilty to 34 felony counts of first degree falsifying business records in New York Supreme Court for allegedly buying off information that could have portrayed him in a negative light. This included allegedly paying Daniels, another woman and a doorman through an intermediary during the 2016 election cycle as a means of keeping Trump’s affairs with the women quiet. Trump allegedly provided the money even though Daniels reportedly had been open about his affair with her in previous years. Court records state that Trump and others were complicit in a scheme that “violated election laws and made and caused false entries in the business records of various entities in New York.

Guv signs sweeping new voting rights bill into law

Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham signed a voting rights expansion into law on Thursday. 

HB 4 updates the state Election Code by expanding voting rights across New Mexico including the addition of the Native American Voting Rights Act and restores rights to formerly incarcerated felons. “For me, in particular, you know, New Mexico already is a state with expansive and productive voting rights access and protections, and that’s meaningful and I really want to say thank you to the state and all of the coalition members who have been clear about that,” Lujan Grisham said during the bill’s signing ceremony. “All the things that we have, to some degree, been able to take for granted, because we have good leadership… We cannot, in this climate, take that for granted that governors and secretaries of state and policymakers are going to be able to navigate it and we want to send a message to the rest of the country. That this is what voting protection and access should look like.”

More: Election reform bills pass Legislature

More than 50 organizations representing thousands of New Mexicans make up the coalition Lujan Grisham mentioned.