Toulouse Oliver ends Senate run

Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver announced Tuesday that she is ending her U.S. Senate campaign. The Democrat announced her campaign in April of this year, a month after U.S Sen. Tom Udall announced he would not seek a third term. Toulouse Oliver said she was proud of her campaign and pledged to continue “protecting our elections from outside interference or voter suppression.”

She said her work as the state’s top elections official “protecting our elections from outside interference or voter suppression.”

Toulouse Oliver also endorsed U.S. Rep. Ben Ray Luján, now the lone Democrat in the race. Luján led Toulouse Oliver in fundraising in the most recent quarter. Luján said in a statement of his own that Toulouse Oliver “is a friend.”

“In this campaign, Maggie stood up for our values – like health care for all and addressing the climate crisis,” he said.

City of ABQ sends $211K bill to Trump campaign for costs surrounding rally

The city of Albuquerque tallied up the costs incurred during a September Donald Trump campaign visit and invoiced the president’s reelection campaign $211,000. Most of the costs came for paying for time off for city employees, who received paid time off after leaving early on Sept. 16 and coming into work late on Sept. 17 while the president spent the night in a downtown hotel. Other costs included services from the Albuquerque Police Department and for barricades.

Federal candidates raise big money ahead of next year’s elections

Some federal candidates continued to raise large amounts of money in the latest campaign finance reports. The campaign finance reports due on Tuesday included money raised and spent between July 1 and September 30. Democratic Senate candidate Ben Ray Luján raised the most money in the quarter, bringing in over $1 million. The U.S. Representative seeking to replace Tom Udall, who preceded him as as the representative for the 3rd Congressional District, has over $1.6 million cash-on-hand. Luján’s opponent in the Democratic primary, Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver, raised $205,000 and finished with $85,000 cash-on-hand.

Trump headed to NM this month for a campaign rally

President Donald Trump is headed to New Mexico later this month. The Republican president will make his first appearance in the state as president. He will travel to Rio Rancho, a conservative suburb of Albuquerque, and hold a campaign rally at the Santa Ana Star Center, a 6,000-seat arena that holds 7,500 for concerts according to his campaign website. The rally comes over a year before the general election and nine months ahead of New Mexico’s primaries, which come late in the campaign cycle. Trump is facing two primary opponents, former Massachusetts Gov. Bill Weld and former Congressman Joe Walsh, but is likely to win the primary with overwhelming numbers.

Could Toulouse Oliver be part of a Senate ‘Squad?”

New Mexico’s primary elections are still more than eight months away, but that hasn’t slowed down candidates for U.S. Senate. Both the Republican and Democratic primaries have multiple candidates already, but arguably the Democratic race is the closest watched so far. 

Democrats will choose between U.S. Rep. Ben Ray Luján, who is walking away from the high ranking position in U.S. House leadership of Assistant Speaker of the House to run, or Maggie Toulouse Oliver, New Mexico’s Secretary of State. Luján has a financial advantage so far and secured endorsements from U.S. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, U.S. Rep. Debra Haaland and the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee. But Toulouse Oliver said she believes New Mexicans care less about what friends in high places think.     

“We have our own local leaders that we look to and we’re very independent-minded,” Toulouse Oliver said.  “While I respect those decisions and respect Congressman Luján for getting that support for himself, I don’t think that it’s going to be even a remotely deciding factor at the end of the day.”  

Pushing the envelope vs. mainstream

Toulouse Oliver didn’t grow up with a high-ranking state legislator as a parent and doesn’t have the institutional knowledge of Congress — two things Luján can boast.

Elections Roundup

Note: This is an edition of the NM Political Report Elections Roundup, which comes out twice a month on Tuesdays (and will increase to ever week when elections near) as an email newsletter. Sign up to get the newsletter here. Quick hits

This week, U.S. Rep. Ben Ray Luján announced he supports impeachment proceedings against Donald Trump. See my story on it.U.S. Rep. Deb Haaland announced her support last week.Speaking of Haaland, after endorsing Elizabeth Warren for president, she has been a fairly active surrogate on behalf of the Massachusetts U.S. Senator, especially on Native issues.Andy wrote about how political parties can’t hold raffle fundraisers according to a state agency.It’s not officially a campaign event, but VP Mike Pence will be in Artesia this week.Any links you think I should include in the next edition? Email matthew [at] nmpoliticalreport [dot] com.

Ben Ray Luján aims to connect with voters across the state

On a quiet Saturday morning, just as an early morning rain had stopped and the clouds drifted away, a pile of inflatable rafts sat piled under a tree at La Llorona Park in Las Cruces. Soon, about a dozen teenagers trickled into the park, ready to float about 3 miles down the river with U.S. Rep. Ben Ray Luján. 

Luján’s district is about 300 miles north of the public park, named after a folklore character associated with rivers and children, that butts up against the Rio Grande. Luján wasn’t there on official business, but instead to engage with young people from other parts of the state not within his congressional district as part of his campaign for U.S. Senate. 

Luján’s name is likely familiar to those who even casually follow political news. Earlier this year, he was tapped to become the assistant Speaker of the House, the fourth-highest rank in Democratic leadership. His father, Ben Luján, served as the New Mexico Speaker of the House and many have speculated that if Ben Ray Luján stayed the course in Congress he might be in line to succeed U.S. Rep. Nancy Pelosi as Speaker of the House.

Mick Rich is running for Senate again

New Mexico commercial contractor Mick Rich is taking a second run for Senate. Rich told NM Political Report early Friday morning that he was running again in 2020. 

Rich said he has “learned a lot” since his last attempt to represent New Mexico in Washington D.C. Rich’s Senate campaign in 2018, when he lost to Martin Heinrich, was his first attempt at elected office. “As we approach the 2020 election cycle, we have acted on that learning,” Rich said. “Rather than rush to announce for an open seat, we have recruited a top-notch campaign team and have begun to contact major donors.”

The Senate seat is open because Sen. Tom Udall opted not to run for a third term. Udall’s announcement earlier this year set off speculation on who would run to replace the longtime elected officeholder.

Luján, Torres Small raise big money in 2nd quarter

U.S. Rep. Ben Ray Luján continues to lead the money race in the Democratic primary for U.S. Senate. The six-term congressman has over $1.1 million more money in his campaign account than his primary opponent, while outed CIA spy Valerie Plame narrowly led the fundraising in the latest quarter for the 3rd Congressional District race. At the same time, U.S. Rep. Xochitl Torres Small continued her impressive fundraising and now has over $1 million in her campaign account. Campaign finance reports for the 2nd quarter, which runs from April 1 to June 30, were due for federal candidates on Monday. While elections are not until next year, candidates will use campaign funds to hire staff and buy other campaign necessities.

Trump approval ratings in NM remain low, even as his campaign says they might target state in 2020

Even as Donald Trump’s campaign says it may target New Mexico in 2020, his approval in the state remains very low. That’s according to the latest polling from Morning Consult, which releases the presidential approval ratings at the state level each month. This month, Donald Trump’s approval rating stands at just 41 percent, while 56 percent disapprove of his job performance. Trump’s approval rating in New Mexico was 52 percent at the beginning of 2017 and peaked at 59 percent in April of 2017. But his approval rating has been lower than his disapproval rating in every poll since June of 2017.