No plans to delay primaries, and SOS encourages vote by mail

At this point, the state of New Mexico is planning on conducting its primary elections in June as originally planned. That’s what Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver told NM Political Report Tuesday, even as other states delayed their primaries over fears related to COVID-19, a disease caused by a coronavirus. In fact, changing the election date would require changing the state law. Toulouse Oliver said weeks ago, she was conducting interviews with people lamenting New Mexico’s late primaries. Now, “it’s a tremendous advantage that we have plenty of time to plan and handle this situation,” she said.

A full slate of Senate primaries after filing day

Candidates for state senate filed paperwork Tuesday to run in their parties’ primaries later this year. 

The filings included several contested primaries, including two Republican members of the state House running against incumbents in the state Senate and other open seat races getting multiple candidates from each party. 

State Senators are only up for election every four years. Republican incumbents facing challengers in June

State Rep. David Gallegos filed paperwork to run for Senate in District 41 in southeastern New Mexico against incumbent Gregg Fulfer in the Republican primary. Then-Gov. Susana Martinez appointed Fulfer to the seat to replace Carroll Leavell, who passed away while in office in 2018. Gallegos has represented House District 61 since winning election in 2012. No Democrat filed in the deep-red district.

Challenges to House Democrats, crowded open seat races after filing day

State House hopefuls filed paperwork Tuesday to place their names in the June primaries. Nine incumbents, all Democrats, will face challengers in the primaries and most will face at least one foe in the November general election. Five more open seats will feature contested primaries, in some cases for both Democrats and Republicans. Candidates who win June’s primaries will appear on the November general election ballot. New incumbents face challenges

Two Democrat incumbents who will face opponents  in June were appointed this year to fill vacancies, so it will be the first time they face voters.

As presidential field narrows, still time for candidates to remove names from NM ballot

Democratic voters who cast their ballots early or by mail for candidates like Pete Buttigieg or Amy Klobuchar who dropped out before Super Tuesday were told they were out of luck in one sense: Once you cast your ballot, you don’t get another chance, even if your preferred candidate ends their run. This would be the case for primary voters in New Mexico as well, if voters cast their ballots early or by mail for candidates who later dropped out. The primary election day is June 2. There is still time, however, for candidates in New Mexico to avoid this problem by removing their names from the ballot. In New Mexico, the Secretary of State contacts each presidential candidate who initially made the ballot and informs them that state law says candidates who wish to withdraw from the ballot must submit paperwork saying this 63 days before the election, in this case by March 31. Unless a candidate does so, they will appear on the ballot in New Mexico. 

Earlier this year, the state’s presidential nomination committee certified eleven Democratic candidates for the state’s primary, which will be held on June 2nd. 

Michael Bennet, Joe Biden, Michael Bloomberg, Pete Buttigieg, Tulsi Gabbard, Amy Klobuchar, Deval Patrick, Bernie Sanders, Tom Steyer, Elizabeth Warren and Andrew Yang each qualified for the ballot at the time.

Egolf challenger drops out of the race

A candidate running to unseat New Mexico’s Speaker of the House suspended her campaign Monday, saying she would re-focus her efforts to combat climate change. 

But as NM Political Report’s Andy Lyman, reporting for the Santa Fe Reporter, discovered, Lyla June Johnston’s campaign came to an end about a month after her former campaign manager accused her of theft. 

Johnston told the Santa Fe Reporter that a police report that named her as a suspect in a fraud and embezzlement investigation had nothing to do with her decision to drop out of her race. 

Johnston said the case was based on a misunderstanding and that her former campaign manager got her property back after police got involved. 

After she called police to report the alleged crime, the campaign manager told the responding officer that she thought Johnston, along with another campaign worker, took the campaign manager’s personal belongings in retaliation for quitting Johnston’s campaign. 

The campaign manager told the officer she quit the campaign after Johnston disclosed that an old Facebook post from her past was being circulated online. The post, the campaign manager said, seemed to show Johnston admitting to, and asking forgiveness for, sexual misconduct from when she was a student at Stanford University. 

Johnston told the Santa Fe Reporter that she has long deleted the post, but that it was her attempt to talk about consent. 

“What I was writing about was that when I was a teenager, I kissed someone when we were both inebriated and, as teenagers, we normalize this behavior at parties,” she told the Santa Fe Reporter. “But I eventually rejected that mindset. Because now I know this means neither of us were able to consent. So, I was trying to start a conversation about consent that extends beyond the narrow legal definition.”

Johnston’s official announcement that she was ending her campaign cited “a disappointing legislative session” and her seven day fast as two events that made it “clear that our resources and energy will be better directed toward a grassroots, statewide effort to address the climate emergency.”

Johnston is outspoken against the oil and gas industry and has criticized politicians, including her former opponent, Speaker of the House Brian Egolf, of relying too much on financial returns from oil and gas extraction. 

Her exit from the race leaves Egolf without an opponent with just a few weeks left for legislative candidates to file for candidacy.  

The legislators (so far) who aren’t running for reelection

All 112 legislators are up for reelection this year. As of Monday, seven had already said they would not seek reelection. More could decide not to run before the March 10 deadline for major party candidates to make the primary ballot. Write-in candidates can file to run on March 17. Retiring House members

Rep. Abbas Akhil, New Mexico’s first Muslim legislator, announced last year that he would not seek a second term.

NRCC names two CD2 candidates to ‘contender’ status

Two Republicans seeking the 2nd Congressional District seat remain in the good graces of the national organization seeking to elect more Republicans to Congress. On Wednesday, the National Republican Congressional Committee added former State Rep. Yvette Herrell and oil lobbyist Claire Chase to the “contender” tier of the organization’s Young Guns program. According to the NRCC, those considered contenders are candidates who “have completed stringent program metrics and are on the path to developing a mature and competitive campaign operation” and are running in congressional seats “that appear favorable to the GOP candidate.”

“These hard working candidates have proven their ability to run strong, competitive campaign operations. We’re going to ensure these contenders are victorious in November by forcing their Democratic opponents to own their party’s radical socialist agenda,” House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy said. Herrell, who was the Republican nominee in 2018, said in a statement that the announcement “is yet another validation of the winning campaign that we are building.”

“We will continue working hard all across this district, taking nothing for granted as we earn the Republican nomination and then take back this seat from Nancy Pelosi’s puppet Xochitl Torres Small,” Herrell continued.

Filing day for federal candidates

Dozens of candidates filed to run for their parties’ nominations in statewide judicial and federal races on Tuesday. Candidates who make the official ballot will go in front of voters on June 2. The winners of those primaries will be in the general election on Nov. 3. The state will hold pre-primary conventions in March; at those conventions, candidates who receive a certain amount of support from party members at the convention will automatically make the primary ballot.

Campaign finance reports: Luján raised over $1 million

Of the nearly three-dozen federal candidates for four races up for grabs in November, Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Ben Ray Luján led the campaign finance race, raising just over $1 million in the final three months of 2019. He was followed by 2nd Congressional District Democratic incumbent Xochitl Torres Small, who raised just over $900,000. Torres Small has the most cash-on-hand of any federal candidate: More than $2.3 million. Luján has just over $2 million cash on hand. Torres Small does not currently have an opponent in June’s primaries, while Luján is heavily favored to win his primary against former city of Española finance director Andrew Perkins.

Egolf challenger Johnston begins 7 day fast on Capitol steps

The woman who is challenging the state’s Speaker of the House for his seat in this year’s elections began the first of seven days of fasting and public engagement on the steps of the Roundhouse in Santa Fe Monday. Lyla June Johnston, who will face Santa Fe Democrat Brian Egolf in the Democratic primary, will be unveiling the pillars of her seven-point “Seven Generations New Deal” platform each day of the “Fast for the Future” event. The campaign is focused heavily on addressing the climate crisis and protecting the planet for future generations. “It’s a seven day fast because we want policy to support the next seven generations. It’s a very long-view policy outlook,” Johnston told NM Political Report, something she believes is missing from our current political leadership.