2016 Top Stories #5: NM Dems buck national trend, retake House

As Democrats around the country were reeling from an unexpected loss in the presidential and many congressional races, New Mexico saw Democrats take back control of the state House of Representatives. Previously: Top ten stories of 2016: 10-6

This came two years after Democrats lost control of the House—where they held a majority for almost half a century. Conservative super PAC Advance Now New Mexico shelled out large amounts of cash towards unseating Senate Majority Leader Michael Sanchez. But some critics felt that the PAC didn’t spend enough time focused on on maintaining the majority in the House or unseating other Senate Democrats. Hatch Mayor Andy Nunez, a Republican, lost his legislative seat in southern New Mexico to Las Cruces City Councilor Nathan Smalls.

As Trump wins nationwide, Dems take House, expand Senate majority

In a disastrous night for Democrats nationwide that saw Republican Donald Trump win the presidency, the state party actually did well, retaking the House of Representatives and expanding the party’s majority in the state Senate. The scope of the advantage in both chambers isn’t yet known, as there could be up to four automatic recounts, two in each chamber. Democrats also won back the Secretary of State seat when Bernalillo County Clerk Maggie Toulouse Oliver easily defeated Republican Nora Espinoza. “What a difference two years makes,” Toulouse Oliver told a crowd of supporters Tuesday night, referring to her 2014 loss to Republican Dianna Duran. Duran resigned last year hours before pleading guilty to counts of misusing campaign funds, for which she spent 30 days in jail.

House committee passes three high-profile crime bills

A House committee spent about nine hours Friday from the early afternoon deep into the evening debating and listening to public testimony regarding three bills aimed at toughening violent crime sentences. All three bills passed the committee and two will head to the House floor next. The debate turned most heated when the committee discussed a bill to reinstate the death penalty. Sponsored by Rep. Monica Youngblood, R-Albuquerque, and Rep. Andy Nunez, R-Hatch, the bill focuses on those convicted of killing law enforcement officers or children. The legislation passed on a party-line vote.

Four GOP candidates get attention from national GOP group

A national Republican group highlighted four high priority state races in the upcoming elections. The Republican State Leadership Committee put four New Mexico races in their “16 in ‘16: Races to Watch” list earlier this week, including the high-profile Secretary of State race. Outside of the presidential race, election to replace Dianna Duran as Secretary of State is the lone statewide non-judicial race this fall. That race pits Republican State Representative Nora Espinoza against Democratic Bernalillo County Clerk Maggie Toulouse Oliver. The other three races on the list are legislative races.

UNM Regents approve hospital oversight takeover

University of New Mexico Regents voted 4-2 to change governance structure of how the university’s Health Sciences Center is run. The changes will effectively strip the HSC board of two voting community members. The HSC board of directors, which includes the two community members and five sitting regents, currently brings policies to the regents for approval. The change will make the new entity a subcommittee made up of three Board of Regents. NM Political Report first reported news of the proposed change last Friday.

Filing Day: Old faces, open seats and uncontested races

Filing day took place for candidates for many positions throughout the state—but the main focus is on state representatives and state senators. Two contested primaries with former legislators trying to return to the Roundhouse will likely receive a big amount of attention in the next two months. Related Story: Who’s running for House, Senate seats? Former State Rep. Sandra Jeff of Shiprock is back running for office, this time in the state Senate. Jeff will be taking on incumbent Benny Shendo of Jemez Pueblo in the Democratic primary  Senate District 22.

Here are the key legislative races to watch

Today is the day that candidates for state House and Senate file to say that they are, indeed, running. As candidates file their intention to run for public office, we decided to take a look forward a few months to what districts the two parties will be focusing on come November and the general elections. The top of the ticket matters. Two years ago, Republicans took the state House of Representatives for the first time in a half-century. That same election saw Gov. Susana Martinez, a Republican, trounce Democratic opponent Gary King by more than 14 points statewide.

Here are the legislators who are NOT running for reelection

Now that the legislative session is over and the dust is—mostly—settled, legislators now are turn their focus to the upcoming elections. While some candidates have announced their intention to take over the veterans that called it quits this year, the official count won’t be until after the deadline to file on March 8. Here’s who we know for sure is leaving this year, and a couple no one is sure about. House of Representatives
District 24 – Rep. Conrad James, R-Albuquerque confirmed last year on social media that he would not run for reelection. He later endorsed Dr. Christina Hall, an Albuquerque chiropractor, as his replacement.

House passes $6.3 billion budget, depends on transfers

The House of Representatives passed the state’s $6.32 billion budget Saturday morning amid falling oil prices. The bill passed on a 38-31 vote, with two Democrats joining the Republican bloc in voting on the bill. “We did the best we could with the revenues that are there,” House Appropriations and Finance Committee Chair Larry Larrañaga, R-Albuquerque, said when presenting the bill. Larrañaga said Medicaid, education, public safety, corrections and early childhood funding marked the top priorities. “Almost all of the increases are in five particular areas in this budget,” he said.

PHOTOS: First day of the session and Gov. Martinez’ State of the State

As most years, the 2016 Legislative session began with pomp and circumstance. Arguably one of the most crowded days at the capitol building, New Mexico lawmakers and politicos packed the House chambers to hear Gov. Martinez’ State of the State address.  

While Republican lawmakers mostly applauded Martinez’ legislative goals, Democratic leaders were busy taking notes.  

 

When Martinez wrapped up her speech, many lawmakers made their way through the chambers, meeting with the many guests, including Congressional delegates.  

 

Before the State of the State Address, Representatives and Senators introduced their respective special guests.