Our favorite stories of 2018

Note: This is part of our year-end series. See our top ten stories of the year. Matt’s favorite stories

NM Political Report is ending its fourth year (can you believe we’ve been around that long?) and looking back, I can see some stories that I’m very glad I was able to write. Some got a lot of attention—like taking an early look at what legislative races would be those to watch on election night. Interestingly enough, Democrats won five of the six races I had deemed “longshots” based on previous election results. I also looked at if 2018 would be a “year of the woman” in New Mexico.

2018 Top Stories #1: Lujan Grisham wins election

Governor-elect Michelle Lujan Grisham announced she would not seek reelection to Congress and instead run for governor well before 2018. Lujan Grisham defeated her Republican opponent Steve Pearce with a healthy ten point lead in November after beating her primary opponent Jeff Apodaca in the Democratic primary election by 60 points. Not surprisingly, much of the state’s political news focused on the gubernatorial race, which often became contentious both in the primary and general election. That contention was ever-present at the Democratic Party of New Mexico’s pre-primary convention, when one of Lujan Grisham’s former congressional staffers interrupted the congresswoman’s stump speech and was subsequently arrested. Despite winning by a large margin at that convention, Lujan Grisham’s opponents refused to drop out and accused her of cheating during her campaign.

2018 Top Stories #2: Haaland makes history

Note: All week we will be counting down the top ten stories of 2018, as voted on by NM Political Report staffers. See them all here as they come in! If there was a competition for the New Mexican with the most mentions in national news stories,  Debra Haaland would be a top contender. Haaland’s win received a lot of attention as she is the first Native American woman to represent New Mexico in Congress and one of the first two in the U.S.

Haaland came into the race as no stranger to New Mexico politics. A former candidate for lieutenant governor, Haaland was elected to by the Democratic Party of New Mexico to serve as the party’s chairwoman in 2015. Her competition that year was Richard Ellenberg, who succeeded her in that position, but was later ousted after his handling of accusations of sexual harassment within the party.

2018 Top Stories #3: Supreme Court Showdown between TX and NM

Note: All week we will be counting down the top ten stories of 2018, as voted on by NM Political Report staffers. See them all here as they come in! If New Mexico loses in the U.S. Supreme Court showdown against Texas over the waters of the Rio Grande, the state could owe a billion dollars or more and also be required to halt or restrict groundwater pumping. In the meantime, New Mexico has been spending millions of dollars fighting the lawsuit. Now approaching its seventh year, No. 141, Original: Texas v. New Mexico and Colorado, blew up out of a deal two irrigation districts signed with the federal government during the drought of the 2000s.

2018 Top Stories #4: Rio Grande runs dry, Elephant Butte Reservoir drops below 4% capacity

Note: All week we will be counting down the top ten stories of 2018, as voted on by NM Political Report staffers. See them all here as they come in! Throughout the different seasons, I visit various spots in the bosque along the Rio Grande in Albuquerque. In the winter I like looking for bald eagles and porcupines, and in the spring, it’s fun to see where spring snowmelt is saturating restoration projects or creating backwaters for fish habitat. Early in April 2018, when I visited one of my springtime spots on the west side of the river, the new grove of cottonwood saplings was completely dry and the river on one side of the island was little more than a trickle. The winter had been dry, the mountains low on snow.

2018 Top Stories #5: Torres Small wins 2nd CD race

Note: All week we will be counting down the top ten stories of 2018, as voted on by NM Political Report staffers. See them all here as they come in! New Mexico was the site of one of the closest and most hard-fought congressional races in the nation. Ultimately, Democrat Xochitl Torres Small pulled the upset and won the race for the state’s most conservative congressional district by just 3,722 votes. Outside political groups, such as PACs and Super PACs, on both sides poured millions of dollars into the southern-New Mexico race. And neither Torres Small nor Republican candidate Yvette Herrell had a free ride in the primary.

2018 Top Stories: Numbers 10-6

Note: All week we will be counting down the top ten stories of 2018, as voted on by NM Political Report staffers. See them all here as they come in! 10) Cannon contamination

This summer, the Air Force announced it was sampling groundwater wells for traces of harmful chemicals found within firefighting foam used at the base from the 1970s until last year. The U.S. Department of Defense found that activities at 126 military bases had contaminated groundwater with per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, a class of human-made chemicals, often referred to as PFAS’s, that includes perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS).Now, unsafe-levels of PFAS’s have been found in the groundwater below Cannon Air Force Base—and in wells that were tested off-base. The state of New Mexico issued a notice of violation against the Air Force and some members of the congressional delegation met with the Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson. -Laura Paskus

9) Progressives takes out moderates

Even before the general election, the state House was going to move to the left.