Poll shows leads for Democrats, including presidential, Senate race

A poll conducted for the Albuquerque Journal recently, with results released this weekend, showed a large lead for former Vice President Joe Biden in the presidential race and a sizeable, if smaller, lead for U.S. Rep. Ben Ray Luján in the U.S. Senate race. The poll—conducted by Research & Polling, Inc., the long-time pollster for the newspaper—also found leads for Democrats in the three congressional races, but the state’s southern congressional district was well within the margin poll’s margin of error. The Journal poll found a 15-point lead for Biden, 54 percent to 39 percent, over incumbent Donald Trump. In 2016, Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton won New Mexico 48.3 percent to 40 percent over Trump. But Libertarian nominee Gary Johnson, a former governor of New Mexico, had 9.3 percent of the vote.

Facebook’s political ad ban also threatens ability to spread accurate information on how to vote

Facebook this week said it would bar political ads in the seven days before the presidential election. That could prevent dirty tricks or an “October surprise” and give watchdogs time to fact-check statements. But rather than responding with glee, election officials say the move leaves them worried.

Included in the ban are ads purchased by election officials — secretaries of state and boards of elections — who use Facebook to inform voters about how voting will work. The move effectively removes a key communication channel just as millions of Americans will begin to navigate a voting process different from any they’ve experienced before.

“Every state’s elections office has a very small communications office that is doing everything that they can to get the word out about the election,” said Gabe Rosenberg, the communications director for Connecticut Secretary of the State Denise Merrill (who is not related to this reporter). “This just makes it a little bit harder, for, as far as I can see, no real gain.”

DOH order sets social distancing procedures for in-person voting

With Election Day less than two months away and early in-person voting beginning even earlier, the state set forward physical distancing requirements at polling locations for those who choose to vote in person. The new requirements in a public health order by the New Mexico Secretary of Health come as state election officials and the governor have encouraged voters to vote by mail through the state’s absentee ballot program. For those who choose to vote in person, things will look different than how they remember in past elections, owing to COVID-19 restrictions. Polling locations will only be allowed to have 25 percent of maximum occupancy at the location or four voters at any one time, whichever is greater. Polling locations located in mobile units will only be allowed to have two voters inside at a time.

Lujan Grisham contrasts Biden and Trump on environment during DNC speech from northern NM

Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham delivered remarks from a solar array in northern New Mexico, which were aired during the virtual Demcoratic National Convention on Wednesday night. Lujan Grisham spoke from the Kit Carson Co-Op’s solar array at Northern New Mexico College in El Rito—though the caption said it was in Albuquerque—about climate change and other environmental issues. And she said there was a clear choice between the two candidates this November. “We know time is running out to save our planet. We have the chance this November to end two existential crises: The Trump presidency and the environmental annihilation he represents,” Lujan Grisham said.

AG to sue Trump administration over postal service changes

New Mexico Attorney General Hector Balderas announced Tuesday he will file a suit against the Donald Trump administration for changes to the U.S. Postal Service, one of 20 attorneys general, all Democrats, who have announced they would sue the federal government. Also on Tuesday, Postmaster General Louis DeJoy announced he would suspend the controversial policies that have slowed down the delivery of mail until after the election. Matt Baca, the chief counsel with the Attorney General’s office, told NM Political Report that they would proceed with the lawsuit “to ensure absolute compliance with the law.”

The changes, which Balderas mentioned in his statement announcing the suit, include cutting overtime for postal staff and removing letter sorting equipment, which caused critics to say the actions were an attempt to slow the mail as the country moved towards an election with record numbers of mail-in ballots. “The postal service is a vital lifeline for rural New Mexico, and this action threatens to disproportionately harm our Indigenous communities, from their daily living to their ability to participate in our democracy,” Balderas said in a statement. “I am asking the courts to step in and supervise this process to ensure that the federal government is working with states, including our Secretary of State, to ensure these services are delivered in the way our Constitution mandates.”

The suit said that the Postal Service made the changes in excess of its authority and did not follow the proper procedures, which would require changes to go through the Postal Regulatory Commission.

Lujan Grisham to speak at Democratic National Convention

Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham will speak at the unusual Democratic National Convention next week, where former Vice President Joe Biden will formally accept the Democratic nomination. Lujan Grisham is one of the list of speakers announced, and will speak on Wednesday, the same night as Biden’s as-yet unnamed vice presidential nominee. Lujan Grisham was on the short-list of vice presidential candidates, but said in recent weeks that she hadn’t had recent conversations with the Biden campaign. Biden committed early in the process to nominating a woman to be his running mate. The convention will be held online this year, because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Group sending absentee ballot applications to voters

A group is sending absentee ballot applications to voters throughout the state. While the ballots are valid, they are still causing some to question whether they are official. The ballots come from the Center for Voter Information, which is affiliated with the Voter Participation Center. Previously, NM Political Report wrote about the VPC sending voter registration forms to tens-of-thousands of eligible but unregistered voters. Some people have reached out to NM Political Report after receiving the ballot applications in the mail with concerns if they are valid.

Governing with moxie: How Michelle Lujan Grisham got on Joe Biden’s shortlist

When Michelle Lujan Grisham was a representative in Congress, she often shared a commute with Beto O’Rourke. They met up on connecting flights to D.C., sometimes in the Dallas airport, sometimes in Chicago. 

O’Rourke, the former Texas congressman, recently recalled the conversations with his “good friend” Michelle, describing her “singular skill in getting you to laugh or take a step back from a really intensive conversation and remember that, hey, we’re all in the same boat here…I just found that to be so effective in building trust with people from both sides of the aisle.”  

This story originally appeared at Searchlight New Mexico and is republished with permission. Today, Lujan Grisham once again finds herself within arm’s reach of the national stage — this time as Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden’s possible running mate. Biden is vetting her alongside such high-profile figures as U.S. Sen. Kamala Harris and former National Security Advisor Susan Rice. Lujan Grisham’s place on the list is a testament to the political savvy and policy chops of the country’s first Democratic Latina governor.

Ethics complaint alleges group failed to disclose donors, and suggests connection to prominent lobbyist

Over the course of May and early June this year, a new group called the “Council for a Competitive New Mexico” (CCNM) spent over $130,000 on a media campaign supporting a group of incumbent state senators, most of whom would go on to lose as part of a progressive wave in June’s Democratic primary. The media campaign included several negative mailers and automated phone-calls against candidates opposing the incumbents while the public was left in the dark about who organized the group and who funded the media campaign. 

This story originally appeared at New Mexico In Depth and is republished with permission. Now, an ethics complaint filed this week with the Secretary of State’s office alleges that CCNM broke New Mexico’s election code by not disclosing its donors. 

Neri Holguin, campaign manager for two of the candidates who won during the June primary, Siah Correa Hemphill and Pam Cordova, writes that the group may have violated the New Mexico Elections Code by not reporting who paid for the negative advertising and phone calls against those candidates as well as others. 

“It was a deliberate attempt to make it as difficult as possible for voters to know who’s behind these hits on our candidates,” said Holguin in an interview. “They knew the rules enough to file as an independent expenditure (IE) and to list their expenditures, and so why not list contributors?”

“Voters need to know that, and we have no way of knowing that right now,” said Holguin. At the core of Holquin’s complaint is a new state law that triggers certain groups to disclose publicly and quickly who the donors are that paid for their electioneering activities if the costs are larger than a state-prescribed threshold. 

Holguin said she believes CCNM was created by a group of people, including prominent New Mexico lobbyist Vanessa Alarid–whom she mentioned by name in the complaint–that have used similar tactics in recent years to influence elections at the local and state level without disclosing publicly who is funding the activities in a timely fashion.Chevonne Alarid, the president of the nonprofit group, however, said disclosure isn’t necessary  until it files its annual report to the Internal Revenue Service.

Despite no corporate money pledges, Democratic federal candidates keep taking it

While every Democrat running for federal office in New Mexico this year pledged to not accept money from corporate political action committees, they still benefit from corporate giving. 

Funneled to their campaigns from intermediary PACs that gather corporate money and then redirect it to candidates for office, the donations shine a light on the complications Democrats face when attempting to distance themselves from corporate special interests while still raising enough money to run winning campaigns. Since the landmark Citizens United vs. FEC Supreme Court ruling in 2010– which opened political campaigns to unrestricted outside spending in elections by corporations, nonprofits, unions, and other organizations—a movement to enact reforms that would limit corporate influence in elections has grown, and found a home within the Democratic Party. One group, called End Citizens United, encourages candidates to pledge not to accept donations from corporate PACs. Federal rules already prohibit candidates from taking donations from corporations directly.