U.S. House of Representatives Melanie Stansbury, a Democrat who represents New Mexico’s 1st Congressional District, held a rally with Assistant House Speaker Katherine Clark, from Massachusetts on Thursday. The rally, which took place at an office building on the east side of Albuquerque, was part of an effort to whip up voter support in New Mexico.
It was the second visit to Albuquerque by a high profile Democrat this week. On Tuesday, Vice President Kamala Harris held a talk about reproductive rights with Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham, another Democrat who is up for reelection in November. Stansbury made connections between being what she called a “pro-choice” candidate with also believing in science and democracy. Stansbury did not refer to her Republican opponent by name, but she is facing a challenge from Republican Michelle Garcia Holmes.
The U.S. Department of the Interior announced on Monday that New Mexico is eligible for approximately $2.4 million in federal funding through the abandoned mine land section of a bipartisan infrastructure package that was signed into law in November. This funding is intended to help create jobs and economic opportunities for areas that have been dependent on coal mining. The law allocates a total of $11.3 billion for the Abandoned Mine Land program over 15 years and Monday’s announcement included $725 million of available funding for states, as well as Navajo Nation, during the federal Fiscal Year 2022. Federal fiscal years start on Oct. 1 and end on Sept.
See our entire countdown of 2021 top stories, to date, here. A Native American woman took the helm of the Department of the Interior, which oversees the Bureau of Indian Affairs, for the first time ever in March after being nominated for the post by President Joe Biden. The U.S. Senate confirmed Deb Haaland, a member of Laguna Pueblo and native New Mexican, as the Secretary of the Interior on March 15 on a 51 to 40 vote. Related: Haaland confirmed as Interior Secretary
Haaland previously served as a congresswoman representing New Mexico’s First Congressional District. She stepped down from that role upon being confirmed to her new position.
While environmental activists praise various aspects of the U.S. Department of the Interior’s newly released report on federal oil and gas leasing and permitting processes, some say the report is incomplete and fails to account for the impact fossil fuel emissions have on climate change. The department released the report to comply with an executive order President Joe Biden issued titled “Tackling the Climate Crisis at Home and Abroad.” This executive order directed the Department of the Interior to review leasing and permitting processes. The report was released Friday and consists of 18 pages.
The report includes recommendations such as raising royalty rates, charging more for rent and requiring higher levels of bonding.
While the recommendations are supported by the environmental advocates, many of whom have been pushing for such reforms for years, some say that the recommendations do not go far enough to address the climate crisis. “We’re sympathetic to the political gauntlet the Biden administration must run, but it had a choice to run it with power, speed, and agility. Instead, it’s running that gauntlet, weak, slow, and tentative,” said Erik Schlenker-Goodrich, executive director of the Western Environmental Law Center, in a press release.
President Joe Biden’s administration took steps today to begin the process of banning new oil and gas leases within a 10 mile buffer zone of Chaco Culture National Historical Park for 20 years. Monday, the president announced a series of initiatives focused on Indigenous communities, including the Chaco Canyon buffer zone. This came during the Tribal Nations Summit. The president instructed the U.S. Department of the Interior to initiate the process for withdrawing the area around the park from new oil and gas leasing for two decades. Over the last decade, Native American groups in both Arizona and New Mexico have been lobbying for protections of the sacred Chaco region from oil and gas development, leading to several congressional actions that temporarily deferred leasing.
Native American groups have been protesting fossil fuel production this week in Washington, D.C., in order to help shine a light on the connection between fossil fuel extraction and violence against Native women. Members of the New Mexico Coalition to Stop Violence Against Native Women (CSVANW) traveled to participate in the protest that began on Indigenous People’s Day in front of the White House to demand that President Joe Biden declare a climate emergency and end fossil fuel production. Many Native leaders from around the country are participating in the week-long protest. Angel Charley, Laguna Pueblo and executive director of CSVANW, told NM Political Report from the nation’s capital that “we don’t necessarily think of extractive industries as a violence against women issue.”
“It’s a connection folks aren’t making. We know that where these industries exist, there’s a heightened rate of sexual violence against Native American women, especially in the Dakotas in the Bakken region,” Charley said.
On Thursday, one of the first openly transgender people to seek a New Mexico legislative seat, Bunnie Benton Cruse, announced her intent to replace Rep. Melanie Stansbury for the state House. Stansbury is the Democratic nominee in the June 1 special election for the state’s 1st Congressional District, a seat Department of Interior Secretary Deb Haaland vacated when she left the U.S. House of Representatives to take the federal position. Benton Cruse will apply to the Bernalillo County Commission, which will decide who to appoint to HD 28 if Stansbury wins June 1 and leaves the seat. Benton Cruse said she went public with her intention to apply for the HD 28 seat before the June 1 special election because she believes Stansbury will win. Marshall Martinez, executive director of Equality New Mexico, called Benton Cruse’s decision to seek Stansbury’s seat “historic.”
“It really is super historic,” Martinez said.
The special election to fill the now-vacant 1st Congressional District will take place on June 1. Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver announced the date and said she would formally issue the special election proclamation on Thursday. The seat, which is centered in the Albuquerque area, is now vacant because Deb Haaland resigned earlier this week to become U.S. Secretary of the Interior under President Joe Biden. “Deb Haaland’s historic confirmation as the nation’s first Native American cabinet secretary is a proud moment for all New Mexicans, but it also kicks off another important election cycle of which every eligible voter in Congressional District 1 should be aware,” Toulouse Oliver said in a statement issued Wednesday. “Now that Election Day is set, I encourage anyone interested in seeking the office to familiarize themselves with the laws and procedures outlined in the Election Code.
Deb Haaland delivered her final speech in Congress on Tuesday. Haaland resigned from her congressional seat a day after her confirmation as Secretary of the Department of the Interior. “I thought I would have more time here, but we are called to service in different ways. Though I’m excited to become the first Native American cabinet secretary in history,” she said. “I’m also sad to leave this chamber.”
She won her second reelection in the 1st Congressional District last November, then President Joe Biden picked her to head the Secretary of the Interior.
With U.S. Rep. Deb Haaland’s confirmation as Secretary of the U.S. Department of the Interior, her replacement in Congress will be chosen through a special election that will be held later this year. State law says the Secretary of State must declare a special election within ten days of a vacancy. The election date will be held between 77 and 91 days after the declaration. Major party candidates will be selected by the party’s central committees in the district, based on party rules. Each party will inform the Secretary of State 56 days ahead of the election who will be that party’s nominee.