Leaders from NM participate in Emily’s List virtual conference

Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham and U.S. Rep. Xochitl Torres Small spoke during the political action committee Emily’s List virtual conference this week, highlighting women’s accomplishments in politics. Lujan Grisham took a swipe at President Donald Trump’s “refusal to do the bare minimum,” during the pandemic as she highlighted the accomplishment’s women have made, particularly during the public health emergency. She cited governors Gretchen Whitmer, of Michigan, and Gina Raimondo, of Rhode Island, in particular, for their leadership during the pandemic and called New Mexico “a leader in electing women.”

“Almost a third of women of color who have ever served in any statewide executive office are from New Mexico,” she said in an online speech. “We have the opportunity this fall to send an all women of color House delegation to Washington, D.C. and we have the momentum on our side.”

Lujan Grisham was referring to Democratic candidates Teresa Leger Fernandez, who is running for the 3rd Congressional District seat currently held by U.S. Rep. Ben Ray Luján, Torres Small, the incumbent Democratic candidate running to keep her seat for the state’s 2nd Congressional District and U.S. Rep. Deb Haaland, another incumbent Democrat running to keep her seat for the 1st Congressional District. Torres Small spoke briefly about some of the difficulties of the Navajo Nation in New Mexico during the pandemic and how COVID-19 exposed inequities that have “existed since the birth of our nation.”

She cited the lack of water and lack of adequate living situations in the Navajo Nation as having contributed to the spread of the disease in the Navajo Nation.

Poll: Biden, Luján lead in New Mexico after primaries

A new poll, commissioned by NM Political Report and conducted by Public Policy Polling, found that Democrats lead in the races for U.S. Senate and president in the state and that voters in the state approve of Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic more than they do of President Donald Trump’s. Trump’s campaign has said they will target New Mexico as a potential pickup in his reelection effort, but polling across the country in recent weeks has shown presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden with a lead over the incumbent in key swing states. The poll found that Biden leads Trump 53 percent to 39 percent in New Mexico, with 8 percent unsure. Biden leads among Democrats, 80 percent to 14 percent, while Trump leads among Republicans, 85 percent to 12 percent. But Biden has a large lead among independents, 52 percent to Trump’s 30 percent, with 18 percent not sure. 

Biden has a large lead among Hispanic or Latino voters, 68 percent to 22 percent, while Trump leads among white voters, 53 percent to 41 percent.

Members of congress want answers on $3 million contract for possibly substandard masks for Navajo Nation

Members of Congress from New Mexico and Arizona sought answers about a $3 million contract given to a former White House staffer to supply masks to the Navajo Nation. The masks may be substandard, as the Navajo Nation deals with the highest rate of COVID-19 cases in the country. “The IHS facilities serving the Tribe are in dire need of PPE to combat the virus and ensure medical personnel are protected from potential exposure,” the lawmakers wrote. “Accordingly, we’re also concerned by reports that the federal contract to supply PPE to the Navajo IHS Service Area was awarded to a company established by a former senior official in the White House with limited competitive bidding and no prior federal contracting experience.”

Update: Masks sold by former White House official to Navajo hospitals don’t meet FDA standards

The letter, led by U.S. Sen. Tom Udall and U.S. Rep. Deb Haaland, requests a number of answers from Rear Admiral Michael Weahkee, the Director of the Indian Health Service. 

The Navajo Nation spreads across parts of New Mexico, Arizona and Utah. As of Tuesday, Navajo Nation health officials had confirmed 4,842 COVID-19 cases and 158 deaths related to the disease.

In historic vote, House impeaches Trump for abuse of power, obstruction of Congress

The U.S. House voted to approve two articles of impeachment against President Donald Trump Wednesday night. 

The House voted 230-197, with one voting present, on the first article of impeachment, abuse of power. That alleged that Trump used his powers as President to try to punish Joe Biden, a political opponent. The House voted 229-198, with one voting present, on the second article of impeachment, obstruction of Congress. That article alleged that Trump improperly impeded the investigation in a number of ways, including directing current and former officials to not comply with subpoenas from House committees. It’s just the third time in U.S. history that a president has been impeached, after Andrew Johnson in 1868 and Bill Clinton in 1998.

Pelosi announces House will move forward with articles of impeachment

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi announced Thursday that the U.S. House of Representatives would start drafting articles of impeachment against President Donald Trump over his withholding of foreign aid to Ukraine in exchange for investigating the son of a political rival. The announcement came after an investigation by the House, which began in late September. At the end of October, all three of New Mexico’s members of the House, all Democrats, voted to support the impeachment inquiry. The investigations included closed door meetings by House committees and more recently public hearings of the House Intelligence Committee and the House Judiciary Committee. Ben Ray Luján, the Assistant Speaker in the U.S. House of Representatives, supported the announcement.

Members of Congress pressure White House to fire Stephen Miller

Two of New Mexico’s U.S. Representatives signed onto a letter calling on President Donald Trump to remove White House Senior Advisor Stephen Miller from the administration in light of emails revealed by the Southern Policy Law Center in recent weeks. Reps. Ben Ray Luján and Deb Haaland signed the letter along with over 100 other members of Congress, all Democrats. Rep. Don Beyer, D-Virginia, took the lead on writing the letter. The emails, provided to the SPLC by Katie McHugh, a former Breitbart reporter who has since renounced her far-right political views, show Miller shared links from far-right, white nationalist websites, suggested Breitbart aggregate a story from the fringe website American Renaissance and expressed anger at removal of the Confederate flag after a shooting by a white supremacist.

As Trump speaks, Democrats rally miles away

While the city of Rio Rancho prepared for President Donald Trump’s appearance in Rio Rancho, Democrats held a unity rally in Old Town Albuquerque at Tiguex Park. Hundreds of supporters listened to Democratic elected officials and others slam Trump and his agenda. They also rejected the idea that Trump could win New mexico and be the first Republican presidential candidate to win the state since George W. Bush in 2004. Related: Trump rallies in Rio Rancho, vows to flip NM in 2020

Supporters held signs calling for Trump to be impeached, calling for action on gun violence and to protect abortion access. Albuquerque Mayor Tim Keller kicked off the event.

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.

Luján supports an impeachment inquiry

U.S. Rep. Ben Ray Luján announced Monday that he supports an impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump. Luján is the longest serving current member of the New Mexico House delegation and is the number four member of House leadership as Assistant Speaker of the House. The Democratic congressman said in a statement that it is “not a position I’ve reached lightly.”Luján’s support of impeachment is notable not only because of his position in House Democratic leadership, but because he is a close ally of Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi. Pelosi has opposed impeachment proceedings even as a majority of the House Democratic caucus supports such a push and has instead argued Democrats should continue investigations into Trump. 

Luján cited Trump’s failure to act on reports that the Russian government would target elections systems in the U.S. and findings in the report by Special Counsel Robert Mueller as reasons why he supported moving forward with an impeachment inquiry against the president. “The report detailed sustained and frequent attempts by the Trump campaign to establish ties to the Russian government and an eagerness to benefit from hacked information stolen from our fellow Americans,” Luján said.

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.