New Mexico state Rep. Melanie Stansbury will soon officially become a U.S. Representative.
Stansbury won easily on Tuesday over three other opponents on the ballot in a special election: Republican Mark Moores, Libertarian Chris Manning and independent candidate Aubrey Dunn.
The special election was held in order to replace former congresswoman Deb Halaand after she was appointed and confirmed to the position of U..S. Secretary of the Interior earlier this year.
With 100 percent of precincts reporting, as of 11:46 p.m. Tuesday night, Stansbury’s votes accounted for 60 percent of all votes cast, while Moores had slightly 36 percent, Manning had one percent and Dunn had three percent.
Even though there were four candidates in the running, much of the unusually timed and expedited election cycle was largely focused on Moores and Stansbury. Both Stansbury and Moores are state legislators, Moores in the state Senate and Stansbury in the House, each serving moderate districts in Albuquerque. Two other candidates qualified as write-in candidates. At an event in Old Town Albuquerque, where Stansbury supporters gathered to watch the results, U.S. Rep. Teresa Leger Fernández rallied the crowd with chants of “¡Que viva Melanie Stansbury!”
In her victory speech, Stansbury spoke about tearing up when she saw Halaand sworn in as Secretary of Interior, signalling what Stansbury said is a movement towards progressive change.
Three candidates running in the race to fill the 1st Congressional district vacancy fielded questions on Tuesday night in the election’s first public forum. The New Mexico Black Voters Collaborative organized and moderated the forum, which took place just hours after a Minnesota jury found former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin guilty of murdering George Floyd.
Democratic candidate and current state Representative Melanie Stansbury, Libertarian candidate Chris Manning and independent candidate and former state Land Commissioner Aubrey Dunn took part in the forum. Republican candidate and current state Senator Mark Moores was notably absent from the forum. According to a press release from the Black Voters Collaborative prior to the forum, Moores originally agreed to participate but later withdrew.
Questions for the candidates mostly covered ongoing issues in the state and country and how they impact people of color. While the candidates kept a civil tone with one another, they still had different opinions on the issues.
When asked about police brutality towards people of color and the high rates of death at the hands of police, all three candidates said they were in favor of ending qualified immunity, a judicial doctrine that is often used to protect police from facing civil legal action.
Dunn said he thinks money towards police training should be a priority and that police who violate the law should be held accountable.
“I know we have a serious problem and we need to make it a priority and it’s gone for years,” Dunn said.
Manning said in addition to ending qualified immunity, he would like to see more trust from the public in the justice system.
“We also need to have faith in our system, that even those who are accused of the most egregious crimes, they get their day in court,” Manning said.
In about three weeks, registered voters in the 1st Congressional District can start casting ballots to fill the vacant seat. The rushed and non-traditional nature of this election could prove difficult for the candidates.
Complicating issues, the state is still recovering from the COVID-19 pandemic that emerged last year, meaning candidates may not see the normal kind of campaign rally turn-out and some will likely not hold in-person rallies at all. Of the candidates for the Albuquerque-area seat that NM Political Report spoke to, only one cited the expedited timeline as a possible challenge to their campaign. Others anticipated their biggest challenges will be getting the word out about their campaigns and raising money.
Melanie Stansbury, who currently serves as a Democratic legislator in the New Mexico House of Representatives, said the short election period may end up being her biggest challenge.
“It is a scramble to get out the vote and help educate the public to know that a special election is happening, to introduce ourselves to the broader community and make sure that people know the election is happening and when and how to vote,” Stansbury said.
Stansbury is currently serving her second term in the state Legislature, but previously worked in the White House as well as a U.S. Senate staffer.
Republican candidate Mark Moores also serves in the Legislature, as a state senator. Despite numerous scheduling attempts from NM Political Report, Moores could not be reached for an interview.
Aubrey Dunn, who is running as an independent candidate, seemed to agree that getting people out to vote would also be a challenge, but he said he thinks his biggest challenge will be fundraising.
During a hearing of the House Committee on Financial Services, Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham and other governors from across the country asked for more aid from the federal government because of the costs incurred from dealing with COVID-19, and said if none comes that the results would be dire. Lujan Grisham, speaking from New Mexico during the online session, described spending $400 million in direct COVID-19 costs including PPE and testing materials, $520 million in costs for K-12 education and much more indirect costs already incurred and an “exponential” loss in tax revenue because of the pandemic. “These are not static data points,” she said. “The pandemic is ongoing, the storm is raging and those winds of fiscal damage are not dying down.”
She said that without more federal aid to “replace and backfill lost revenue” the state would need to make “drastic, difficult cuts to essential services.”
Lujan Grisham said that aid needs to be sent to small businesses and local governments, noting that grants are better for small businesses since those in New Mexico largely cannot afford to add on more debt. She also said the state has delivered more than $2 billion in unemployment benefits, including emergency funds made available by the federal government, but that the trust fund that provides funding from the state is “depleted” and needs help to be replenished.
Surprise medical bills — those unexpected and often pricey bills patients face when they get care from a doctor or hospital that isn’t in their insurance network — are the health care problem du jour in Washington, with congressional lawmakers from both sides of the aisle and the White House calling for action. These policymakers agree on the need to take patients out of the middle of the fight over charges, but crafting a legislative solution will not be easy. A hearing of the House Ways and Means health subcommittee Tuesday, for example, quickly devolved into finger-pointing as providers’ and insurers’ testimony showed how much they don’t see eye to eye. “I’m disappointed that all participants that are going to be here from critical sectors of our economy could not come to find a way to work together to protect patients from these huge surprise bills,” Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.), the ranking Republican on the subcommittee, said in his opening statement. As Congress weighs how to address the problem, here’s a guide to the bills and what to watch.
At the start of the last Congress, one of the first votes House Republicans took was on a bill designed to unravel protections for workers exposed to chemicals like beryllium. Beryllium is one of the chemicals that poisoned my father’s lungs and caused his cancer. Watching House Republicans vote against the health and safety needs of people like my father in order to placate special interests left me sick. That first vote is indicative of the Republican party. Last Congress, House Republicans raised taxes on and stripped health care from working Americans all to satisfy their special interest donors.
Nancy Pelosi is returning as speaker of the House of Representatives amid a partisan standoff that has made it virtually impossible to move forward on major legislation requiring the support of both Democrats and Republicans. Now, she has a chance to fix at least part of the problem. Prodded by some House Democrats, in late November she agreed to establish a more open process for working on legislation and to allow more votes on amendments supported by both parties. The changes in rules, expected to come to a vote after the House reconvenes Thursday, will help set the parameters for Pelosi’s second stint as speaker. Historically, amendment votes have been critical to legislation, allowing in a variety of ideas.
Note: All week we will be counting down the top ten stories of 2018, as voted on by NM Political Report staffers. See them all here as they come in! If there was a competition for the New Mexican with the most mentions in national news stories, Debra Haaland would be a top contender. Haaland’s win received a lot of attention as she is the first Native American woman to represent New Mexico in Congress and one of the first two in the U.S.
Haaland came into the race as no stranger to New Mexico politics. A former candidate for lieutenant governor, Haaland was elected to by the Democratic Party of New Mexico to serve as the party’s chairwoman in 2015. Her competition that year was Richard Ellenberg, who succeeded her in that position, but was later ousted after his handling of accusations of sexual harassment within the party.
The nation’s opioid epidemic has been called today’s version of the 1980s AIDS crisis. In a speech Monday, President Donald Trump pushed for a tougher federal response, emphasizing a tough-on-crime approach for drug dealers and more funding for treatment. And Congress is upping the ante, via a series of hearings — including one scheduled to last Wednesday through Thursday — to study legislation that might tackle the unyielding scourge, which has cost an estimated $1 trillion in premature deaths, health care costs and lost wages since 2001. Dr. Leana Wen, an emergency physician by training and the health commissioner for hard-hit Baltimore, said Capitol Hill has to help communities at risk of becoming overwhelmed. “We haven’t seen the peak of the epidemic.
The U.S. House of Representatives passed a bill with a provision that could have a big impact on three national forests in southern New Mexico. Lawmakers voted 232 to 188 to pass the Resilient Federal Forests Act of 2017 Wednesday. The final bill included an amendment sponsored by New Mexico Rep. Steve Pearce that will exempt certain forest thinning, logging, watershed improvement and habitat restoration projects from reviews required under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and the Endangered Species Act. Speaking on the House floor, Pearce said thinning and logging activities in New Mexico and across the western United States have been “drastically reduced,” contributing to the size and severity of wildfires. “The best way to restore our forests while preserving their ecosystems is the creation of restoration projects that will return them a healthy density,” Pearce said.