2020 elections usher in a wave of ‘firsts’ for NM

New Mexico voters embraced candidates in the 2020 elections that have historically been underrepresented, including women, in elected office. The state saw a slew of “firsts” this year. 

For the first time in the state’s history, New Mexico’s three seats in the U.S. House of Representatives will be held by women of color. And both Yvette Herrell, who will represent the state’s 2nd Congressional District, and Deb Haaland, who won reelection to the state’s 1st Congressional District, are enrolled members of Indigenous nations. Haaland is a member of Laguna Pueblo, and Herrell is a member of the Cherokee Nation, making New Mexico the first state in the U.S. to have two Indigenous Representatives. 

Teresa Leger Fernandez, who won New Mexico’s 3rd Congressional District, is Latina. 

Terrelene Massey, Diné (Navajo) and the executive director of Southwest Women’s Law Center, said she’s really excited to see more representation from women, especially women of color and Native American women. “I think they’ll provide different perspectives on the different issues they’ll be working on,” Massey said.

Ben Ray Luján wins U.S. Senate race

U.S. Rep. Ben Ray Luján will soon move across the Capitol Building and become a U.S senator. 

The unofficial results as of 11:30 p.m. Tuesday night, showed Luján with a five point lead in the U.S. Senate race against Republcian Mark Ronchetti, a former T.V. meteorologist. 

Just after the Associated Press called the race for Luján, he accepted the win in an online speech. 

“People here in New Mexico spoke loud and clear,” Lujan said. 

ABQ Journal poll: Biden, Luján with healthy leads, while southern NM congressional race remains close

The final Albuquerque Journal poll ahead of the elections showed large leads for Democrats in the race for president and U.S. Senate, as well as two of the three U.S. House races—but one House race is extremely close. The poll, conducted by Research and Polling, found a lead of 12 percentage points for Democratic candidate Joe Biden over incumbent Republican Donald Trump for president, 54 percent to 42 percent among those who are likely to vote or who have already voted. Most analysts have listed New Mexico as a safely or likely Democratic state on the presidential level. Democrats have won New Mexico’s five electoral votes in the last three presidential elections. The Journal reported Biden had large leads among women, Hispanic voters and moderates in addition to liberals.

Luján leads Ronchetti by 10 points in open U.S. Senate race

U.S. Rep. Ben Ray Luján maintained a double-digit lead in the race for an open U.S. Senate seat according to a poll conducted by Public Policy Polling for NM Political Report. The poll showed that Luján led Republican Mark Ronchetti 51 percent to 41 percent, with 3 percent saying they would vote for Libertarian candidate Bob Walsh. Six percent said they were not sure. Related: Biden with leads Trump by 14 points in NM

The open U.S. Senate race came after Tom Udall said he would not seek a third term. Udall was initially elected in 2008 and easily won reelection in 2014.

Candidate Q&A: Ben Ray Luján on environmental issues

This week, we’re running a series of interviews with New Mexico’s federal candidates, each of whom answered questions about issues related to our energy future, water scarcity and climate change. 

The following interview is with U.S. Rep. Ben Ray Luján, who is running for the U.S. Senate in a seat currently held by U.S. Sen. Tom Udall. Udall announced in March of 2019 that he would not run for reelection.  

Luján, a Democrat, has served as U.S. Rep. for New Mexico’s third congressional district since 2009. In 2019, he was voted  Assistant Speaker of the House by the House Democratic caucus. 

Luján also served on the state’s Public Regulation Commission from 2005-2008 and served as chairman of the commission from 2005 to 2007. 

Luján is running against former TV meteorologist and political newcomer Mark Ronchetti, a Republican, and Bob Walsh, a Libertarian. Ronchetti did not respond to multiple requests for an interview. You can read our Q&A with Walsh here. 

NM Political Report (NMPR): What energy future do you see for New Mexico and the United States?

Federal spending on children in decline, says child advocacy group

A national children’s advocacy group, First Focus on Children, reported Wednesday that federal annual spending on children is in decline. First Focus on Children held an online presentation with various speakers, including New Mexico U.S. Rep. Ben Ray Luján, a Democrat, to discuss some of the needs not being met at the federal level for children in the U.S.

The First Focus on Children’s Budget 2020 estimated that federal spending on children as a share of the federal budget reached 7.48 percent in 2020. First Focus on Children held its online summit on September 30 because Wednesday is the start of the new fiscal year for government agencies. The Trump administration’s budget proposal for FY 2021 would trim the federal share of spending in a single year cut of $21 billion to children’s programs on an inflation-adjusted basis. First Focus on Children President Bruce Lesley interviewed Luján and asked him what he is hearing from families as he campaigns in his bid to win the open U.S. senate seat.

Reactions from New Mexico officials to U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s death

U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg died Friday. She was 87. The vacancy her seat creates will now give Republicans the opportunity to try to place another conservative justice to the bench. President Donald Trump, reacting to two Supreme Court decisions in June that he didn’t like, tweeted that he would have a new list of conservatives to appoint to the bench by September 1. Within just a few hours of the announcement of Ginsburg’s death, U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said he would not wait to bring to a vote for a Trump appointee this election year, according to multiple media sources.

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.